By Adam Levitan, Establish the Run
Special to Yahoo Sports
Best Ball is a unique format because every draft pick really does count. This is not normal, season-long fantasy, where we expect the bottom of our rosters to constantly churn. By the way, for you season-long players, Andy Behrens laid out his top fantasy draft bargains last week.
So, as is the case for season long, it’s also very important to enter a Best Ball draft with a plan for the late rounds. Below you’ll find the players with a Yahoo ADP of 120 or later (as of August 10) I’m targeting.
Note that you won’t find any RBs on this list. In Best Ball, we believe the optimal strategy is more of a “robust RB approach.” Mike Leone explained why Zero RB is not as effective in Best Ball here. Pat Kerrane has proven how sharply RB hit rates fall off after Round 10 here. If you’re wondering how many RBs to take in a Yahoo Best Ball draft, consult my position allocation article here.
1. Jalen Reagor, WR, Eagles — ADP 126.2
Last season, Carson Wentz threw for 4,039 yards and 27 TDs with a hobbled Alshon Jeffery, an overwhelmed Nelson Agholor, and an AAF player in Greg Ward as primary WR targets. This year’s WR weapons were looking better, but Jeffery’s recovery from Lisfranc leaves his status very unclear and FA addition Marquise Goodwin has opted out. That leaves 33-year-old DeSean Jackson (who has missed 17 games over the last two seasons), JJ Arcega-Whiteside (who couldn’t beat out street FAs for playing time last year) and Ward as target competition.
Jalen Reagor was one of our favorite WR prospects in this class, one whose statistics were depressed by some of the country’s worst QB play. If Reagor had gone to LSU or Alabama instead of TCU, his ADP would not be in the 120s. While the lack of offseason practices is a concern for any rookie, the scent of desperation on the Eagles is strong. We can project immediate opportunity, especially if he settles into the X role while Jackson handles the Z spot.
2. Noah Fant, TE, Broncos — ADP 126.8
We don’t often see athletes like Fant at the tight end position. He’s 6’4/249 with 4.50 speed and has a 98.3 percentile SPARQ score. That athleticism showed up at the NFL immediately with Fant averaging a respectable 1.52 yards per route run and 14.1 yards per reception (2nd-most among all NFL tight ends). Since 2010, only 10 tight ends have recorded at least 500 receiving yards as rookies like Fant did. Those tight ends include Evan Engram, Aaron Hernandez, Mark Andrews, Rob Gronkowski, and George Kittle. The Broncos did add serious target competition via Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, but Fant’s price reflects that. He’s already proven he doesn’t need massive volume to be viable.
3. Panthers Stack — Teddy Bridgewater, ADP 127.8; Ian Thomas, ADP N/A; Curtis Samuel, ADP 131.2
We need to get lucky and land the 1.01 if we want Christian McCaffrey as part of this stack, but all three of these late-round Panthers are strong values at their ADP and very stackable. Former LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady takes over an offense which projects to play fast and creatively while getting into shootouts to compensate for their bottom-barrel defense. Thomas enters his first season as the primary tight end and already has six games with 4+ catches in his part-time, two-year career. As discussed with Evan Silva on Podcast Episode 80, Robby Anderson’s arrival allows Samuel to run a higher-percentage route tree. Instead of running sideline clearouts, Brady can scheme the play-making Samuel into shorter-area space. That fits with Bridgewater’s preferred target depth anyway.
4. Allen Lazard, WR, Packers – ADP 131.1
A big part of playing wide receiver for the Packers is making sure Aaron Rodgers likes you. It sounds crazy, but Jeff Janis truthers found out firsthand. We know that Rodgers indeed likes Allen Lazard because he’s publicly caped for him at least three times. We also know the Packers like Lazard as they declined to add any real WR competition via free agency or the draft. Even Devin Funchess, who was signed to a throwaway deal, has opted out of the season.
The Packers project for a run-centric scheme this season as they trend away from Rodgers, but Lazard is staring at an every-down role with a quarterback still capable of generating spike weeks. As John Daigle noted, Lazard led all Packers pass-catchers in adjusted yards per pass attempt from Rodgers — even beating out Davante Adams.
5. 49ers Stack — Jimmy Garoppolo, ADP 125.4; Brandon Aiyuk, ADP 132.2; Jalen Hurd, ADP N/A
The 49ers were 29th in pass attempts per game last season, behind the three teams truly trying to Establish It: BAL, TEN, MIN. We can bet on at least some natural movement toward more pass-necessary game flows thanks to defensive regression and simply fewer blowouts. Most importantly, they’ve removed Emmanuel Sanders (now with Saints) and Deebo Samuel (foot, out at least a few weeks) from the pass-catching mix. Enter two very talented young players who are free in drafts, Aiyuk and Hurd. A team that starts RB in Round 1 and then George Kittle in Round 2 can easily target this stack.
It’s also worth noting that the 49ers start the season with perhaps the NFL’s best schedule for fantasy: vs. ARZ, at NYJ, at NYG, vs. PHL, vs. MIA.
6. Daniel Jones, QB, Giants — ADP 129.0
It’s rare for a rookie quarterback to show up with four dominant DFS games as a rookie. In fact, it’s rare for any quarterback. Danny Dimes had the same number of spike weeks in his 12 starts as a rookie last year (four) that Patrick Mahomes did in his 13 games last year. Jones’ underrated rushing ability and aggression in the pass game breeds fantasy upside — and one of the league’s worst defenses behind him doesn’t hurt.
Jones also gets all his weapons back healthy (Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton) after various pieces missed time last season. A brutal opening schedule will be tough to watch, but much like Josh Allen, the real-life football isn’t as important as the fantasy aspect with Jones.
7. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers – ADP 121.9
We can throw out all Steelers stats and tape from the 2019 season as they didn’t even try to run a professional offense following Big Ben’s elbow injury. If we zoom back to 2018, the Steelers were 2nd in pass/run ratio, and in 2017 they were 11th. Roethlisberger comes with major injury risk at 38 years old with throwing arm problems, but he also has 5,000 pass yards in his range of outcomes. If that happens, Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Eric Ebron, and maybe one of James Washington/Chase Claypool will all look grossly undervalued as well. Roethlisberger’s wide range of outcomes makes him fit better as a stack for the large-field tournament than a standalone play.
8. TJ Hockenson, TE, Lions – ADP 126.4
Hockenson’s disappointing debut can be rationalized in at least three ways. First, rookie tight ends seldom show up big in the box score (see Noah Fant notes above). Second, he battled shoulder, ankle, and concussion injuries. And finally, Matthew Stafford went down for the year after eight games. That shouldn’t preclude us from remaining optimistic about one of the NFL’s best tight end prospects in recent memory. In Stafford’s eight games, Hockenson drew a reasonable 4.75 targets per game and at least showed us he’s capable of spike weeks with the 6-131-1 line against the Cardinals in Week 1.
Andy Isabella, WR, Cardinals – ADP N/A: Blocked by the trio of DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald. But has 2nd-round draft capital, explosive tape in a small sample last season, and a coach willing to put four WRs on the field.
Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals – ADP 118.7: Tall task for a rookie to step in with no offseason. But has wildly underrated skill corps and gets Jonah Williams back at tackle.
Adam Levitan has been writing about Fantasy Football professionally since 2008 and is a two-time FSWA award winner. A podcast host since 2015, his podcasts have been downloaded over 5 million times.
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