The cheapest high-upside stacks in best ball

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It’s in my NBC Sports contract that I never -- under any circumstance -- have to write about elite NFL players.

That means I get to analyze not the best stacking options for your spring and summer best ball leagues, but the cheapest stacks -- quarterbacks and pass catchers who can piece together in the latter half of a draft, maybe even the last few rounds.

For the uninitiated, stacking a signal caller and one of his top pass catchers can maximize our roster’s fantasy points and double up on the success of a productive passing attack. Stacking is especially helpful in large-field best ball contests where we’re seeking variance at every turn.

Below are three cheap -- we’ll call them economical -- stacking plays for 2021 best ball formats, along with their average draft positions on each best ball site.

Justin Fields and Darnell Mooney

QB Justin Fields

Underdog ADP: 10.05 (QB17)

Best Ball 10: 12.08 (QB23)

Yahoo!: 13.03 (QB22)

FFPC: 10.02 (QB20)

WR Darnell Mooney

Underdog: 10.08 (WR52)

Best Ball 10: 11.01 (WR53)

Yahoo!: 12.01 (WR51)

FFPC: 13.03 (WR53)

This stack will be disqualified from cheap status if Bears head coach Matt Nagy does the right thing this summer and makes Fields his Week 1 starting QB. The uncertainty surrounding Chicago’s quarterback situation will only suppress Fields’ ADP for so long.

Beyond Fields’ tantalizing rushing upside in Chicago’s offense, he’ll (eventually) bring a downfield element the team lacked in comical fashion last year. That Fields is a superb deep passer is hardly a state secret. Last year at Ohio State, a whopping 709 of his 2,098 passing yards -- or 33.79 percent -- came from pass attempts that traveled at least 20 yards. Zach Wilson was the only QB in the 2021 draft class with a higher average depth of target than Fields, the most accurate downfield thrower in college football last season. In short, he’s deadly with the long ball.

Mooney, meanwhile, is a speedy downfield threat who fell victim to the Bears’ heinous quarterback situation in 2020. The 2020 rookie tracked down a measly four of his 20 targets of more than 20 yards with Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles under center. It’s tough to overstate how bad Chicago QBs were last season, though you may have some idea if you rostered Mooney or Allen Robinson. Trubisky, in fact, was the league’s worst downfield passer in 2020, completing an unreal six of his 33 attempts of more than 20 yards. Foles managed 17-for-41 on his deep balls -- hardly an upgrade over the since-banished Trubisky.

If you’re skeptical of Mooney’s downfield acumen, just look at how opposing secondaries dealt with him: He led the NFL in average coverage cushion (7.6 yards) last year, per Next Gen Stats. Enemy cornerbacks were keenly aware of Mooney’s penchant for burning secondaries.

Stacking Fields with Robinson is good practice too. Going all in on a potentially improved Bears passing offense would mean pairing Fields with both A-Rob and Mooney, the former offering more consistent fantasy production while the latter drips with the potential for what we in the industry lovingly call spiked weeks.

Mooney will be an immense value play until he’s not. I’ve seen the future, and in it, Mooney is an eighth round pick come August. The Fields-Mooney duo will never be cheaper than it is today.

Zach Wilson and Corey Davis

QB Zach Wilson

Underdog ADP: 13.05 (QB24)

Best Ball 10: 15.03 (QB30)

Yahoo!: 18.10 (QB33)

FFPC: 12.08 (QB28)

WR Corey Davis

Underdog: 9.07 (WR49)

Best Ball 10: 9.06 (WR48)

Yahoo!: 9.10 (WR45)

FFPC: 11.06 (WR47)

There are plenty of ways to galaxy brain Jets stacks in 2021. You could go with Davis -- who’s as likely as anyone to emerge as Wilson’s top target -- or you could pivot to Denzel Mims, available several rounds later. You could pair Wilson with fellow Gang Green rookie Elijah Moore, who was presumably drafted to supplant the ever-productive Jamison Crowder as the team’s slot guy.

The committed contrarian will stack Wilson with one of the above receivers and Chris Herndon, in hopes that Adam Gase didn’t ruin the once-promising, hyper-athletic tight end. I told you at the start: I don’t write about good players.

The Jets Offense could be a sneaky good environment for fantasy purposes as the team chases points and Wilson brings his freewheeling, aggressive quarterbacking to the pros. Wilson was tremendous as a purveyor of the deep ball last year at BYU. He completed 20-of-27 attempts that traveled more than 30 yards in the air, a sparkling 74.1 percent completion rate. By a hair, Wilson was college football’s best downfield thrower in 2020. Wilson had the ninth highest air yards per completed pass (8.9) last season, according to Sports Info Solutions.

Of course, Mims -- with his 15.5 yards per reception in 2020 -- profiles as the most likely New York wideout to benefit from Wilson’s deep ball acumen. Davis, meanwhile, looks like the favorite to see more consistent targets in a Jets Offense without a clear alpha pass catcher.

Wilson, like Trevor Lawrence, is assured of a full season, barring injury. That makes him a safer best ball selection than Fields and Trey Lance, both of whom might have to sit for some -- or all -- of their rookie campaigns. This assumes Wilson won’t be benched for one of his mom’s many incendiary social media posts.

Sam Darnold and Terrace Marshall

QB Sam Darnold

Underdog: 14.01 (QB25)

Best Ball 10: 14.10 (QB27)

Yahoo!: 16.03 (QB31)

FFPC: 12.01 (QB27)

WR Terrace Marshall

Underdog: 12.06 (WR51)

Best Ball 10: 14.04 (WR71)

Yahoo!: 17.03 (WR77)

FFPC: 17.01 (WR63)

Marshall, somehow a polarizing draft prospect, had the perfect landing spot, alongside former LSU offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who now calls plays for Carolina. Brady knows what he has in Marshall, who had an 85th percentile speed score and burst score and who scored 23 touchdowns over his final 19 games at LSU. Marshall and Robbie Anderson -- also a fine stacking option with Darnold -- could blow the top off opposing secondaries all season. Whether Darnold can connect with his downfield threats is another matter. Hence, the deflated ADPs of both Marshall and his QB.

Marshall, who averaged 15 yards per catch at LSU, steps into a Panthers receiving group missing Curtis Samuel’s 97 targets from a year ago. That D.J. Moore and Anderson profile as the team’s top-two receivers won’t preclude the rookie from giving us a spiked week here and there for the low, low cost of a late-round best ball pick.

Depending on Darnold to deliver the deep ball to Marshall takes a leap of fantasy faith. Darnold in 2019 was 31st in accuracy on throws of over 20 yards. In 2020, he found a way to be even worse. His yards per attempt on those passes (9.8) ranked 29th in 2019 and 36th in 2020 (8.1). Darnold’s best-ball appeal is that he’s the locked-in starter for an offense stocked with speedy, productive players, coached by a coordinator who seems to know what he’s doing. The Panthers are a year removed from landing three receivers inside the top-30 in fantasy points per game.

The most natural Darnold stacking options will be Moore, Anderson, and Marshall, though drafters who land Christian McCaffrey in the first round would do well to shut their eyes, hold their nose, and stifle their gag reflex if they’re rolling with a three-QB roster build and see Darnold available in the waning rounds. CMC should remain a reception machine at full health in 2021.