Since Best Ball came to Yahoo Fantasy this summer, it’s been a constant drafting endeavor. One of the benefits of the format is that you can experiment with a wide variety of roster builds while also diversifying your player portfolio.
On the other hand, some of us are obsessive. We convince ourselves of a story and we believe it must be true. We see something we covet and we throw caution to the wind to have it. I can get like that with players in drafts. After some self-reflection following an offseason full of best ball drafts, I’m coming clean. These are the players I can’t stop drafting at each range of the draft in best-ball formats.
For more on how I approach playing Best Ball, check out my tips article. If you’re unfamiliar with Best Ball, there are many benefits to playing the low-maintenance fantasy game. Interested? Sign up to play on Yahoo today!
Round 1 (high) - Alvin Kamara
I’ve been on record that Alvin Kamara should be the first player selected in every fantasy draft this year. Not everyone agrees with that thought process, but he’s a frequent selection any time we’re inside the top-three picks. Drew Brees’ pass attempts have declined in three-straight seasons and after he showed visible signs of decline late in 2018, it’s likely to hit four straight. The Saints offense should be more Kamara-centric this coming season and he’s already an elite receiver and touchdown threat.
Round 1 (turn) - Odell Beckham
If any player in 2019 is going to go absolutely wild and post a 20-touchdown season, it’s Odell Beckham Jr. Let’s not forget, this is a legendary talent. He ranks second in touchdowns per game since entering the league and is the best receiver off the line of scrimmage in the league. For the first time in his career, Beckham will play not with a corpse behind center but a legitimate gun-slinger. Baker Mayfield was sixth in deep passing yards as a rookie, despite not starting a full season. I am obsessed with Beckham’s ceiling.
Round 2 (turn 1) - Nick Chubb
Don’t hesitate for a second to double-up on Cleveland Browns at the Round 1 to 2 turn. The Browns have enough ingredients to push to be the best offense in the NFL this season. You want the feature back attached to a unit like that and without Duke Johnson in the mix, Nick Chubb will get the chance to be that unquestioned player for at least half the season. He may well never relinquish that title as an ascending young player who this front office invested significant draft capital in.
He proved he was a great back last year and he may well be better than Kareem Hunt. Even if he gives way slightly to the veteran when he returns, that sounds like a problem for “November You.” Worry about your hot start first and foremost.
Round 2 (turn alternate) - Michael Thomas
In fantasy football, we crave offenses that are highly concentrated. We desire those operated by efficient passers. Michael Thomas is the unquestioned lead receiver on a unit that has both. The Saints will be in more run-heavy game scripts in 2019 as Drew Brees declines and the defense improves. There are efficiency marks due for regression on Brees’ and Thomas’ stat sheet, but with nary a reliable option behind Thomas, Kamara and Jared Cook, the star wideout should still push for 150 targets and triple-digit catches. He’s a safe pick to pair with Beckham or Tyreek Hill on the turn.
Round 3 - Devonta Freeman
Devonta Freeman is a proven fantasy star with a RB1 overall and RB6 finish on his resume. He lost competition in his backfield for the upcoming season and it does not appear that Ito Smith or any of the other hangers-on behind Freeman on the depth chart will carve out the role Tevin Coleman left behind. That leaves Freeman to be the lead three-down back on an efficient offense that finished fifth in passing success rate last year. As long as he stays healthy, he’s a slam-dunk bargain.
Round 4 - Mark Ingram
Mark Ingram didn’t look like he lost a step last year, averaging 2.9 yards after contact per attempt and ranking 11th-most among backs with 100-plus carries — just behind Todd Gurley (per Sports Info Solutions). Here in 2019, Ingram will operate as the lead back in an offense that will push for the top-five in run play percentage. Ingram is no slouch as a receiver either, with a near-80 percent career catch rate. He offers top-20 upside outside of the first three rounds.
Round 5 - O.J. Howard
O.J. Howard has emerged as the clear favorite for me among the tier he inhabits along with Evan Engram and Hunter Henry. It’s easy to map out 90 targets for Howard even while getting Mike Evans to push 140 and Chris Godwin to clear 115. Tampa Bay’s passing tree is top-heavy and doesn’t offer anyone down the wideout depth chart or in the backfield to siphon targets. With Howard making up a strong part of this highly concentrated passing game, 90 targets are more than enough for a player with a career yards per catch average over 16 to hit pay-dirt on his ADP.
Round 6 - Will Fuller
One of the most explosive players in the game, Will Fuller is a difference-maker. Deshaun Watson maintained a 137.5 passer rating when throwing to Fuller last season, third-highest at the wide receiver position (per Sports Info Solutions). Of course, health is a worry for Fuller but if he’s your WR4 in a wideout-heavy start, you get to be exposed to all of his upside while being insulated from his risk. His vertical skill-set is a plus for best-ball but his skillset goes beyond that. Do not be afraid; the possible reward is worth it.
Round 7 - Curtis Samuel
If you haven’t already heard me make this case 300 times already this offseason, consider yourself lucky. Sorry the discount is gone on this player as we head into the regular season but Curtis Samuel is now properly valued as a Round 7 pick.
*whispers* I’m not actually sorry.
Round 8 - Sterling Shepard
God forgive me, I want to draft a New York Giant this year. Sterling Shepard is an underrated player and coming off a season where he cleared the 90th percentile in the primary metric from my Reception Perception series. He should be the favorite to finish alongside Evan Engram for the team-lead in targets. He’s one of the few receivers who you can paint a picture of a 120-target season outside the top seven rounds. His underneath skillset is a fit in this small-ball offense. Just over 71% of his 2018 receptions earned a first down, per Sports Info Solutions. I’ve been a Shepard truther since before he was drafted, so join me in shouting the favorite chorus amongst us fantasy freaks and geeks: “This is the year!”
Round 9 - Matt Breida
While Tevin Coleman has become a strong option in Round 5 for me, his running mate several rounds later is still just as appealing. I’m of the opinion Matt Breida was always the best pure runner on this team. With Jerick McKinnon out of the picture, for the time being, the 49ers rushing game gets much easier to project. It’s a backfield that churns out production, ranking fifth in yards from scrimmage last year. Breida has both standalone value and high upside in the event of a Coleman injury.
Round 10 - Tyrell Williams
Didn’t see this one coming but apparently, my view on Tyrell Williams exceeds that of the consensus. Going outside the Top-120 picks across the board, Williams is my WR40 in the same tier as players like Jarvis Landry, Corey Davis, and Marvin Jones.
Williams is legitimately good, shining especially in 2016 as a starting 1,000-yard receiver. He brings a versatile skill-set as a vertical threat with stunning ability to create after the catch. The Raiders carried the 12th-highest passing play percentage because they were often trailing in negative game scripts. That could be a theme again with a schedule that opens with the Broncos, Chiefs, Colts, and Bears before their Week 6 bye. It’s easy to project 80-plus targets for Williams.
Round 11 - Lamar Jackson
If I’m waiting on quarterback, and I often do, Lamar Jackson is my primary target. There is an appeal to several passers that go ahead of him but are off the top tier like Carson Wentz, Cam Newton, and Philip Rivers. They’ve all ended up on plenty of my teams. However, Jackson may have just as high a ceiling as any of these players.
As JJ Zachariason points out in his case for Jackson, since the 2000 season, we’ve seen eight campaigns of a quarterback clearing 700 rushing yards. Only one of those seasons concluded without the player finishing inside the top-five at the position. The Ravens won’t use Jackson as a designed runner as often as they did in 2018 but 700 yards still seems like a likely floor if he plays 16 games. Miles Boykin and Marquise Brown were my two favorite rookie receivers and Baltimore took them both. Willie Snead and Mark Andrews are underrated middle-of-the-field talents. There is enough here for Jackson to improve as a statistical thrower.
Round 12 - John Brown
John Brown was pacing for a top-24 fantasy finish and 1,000 yards in 2018 before Joe Flacco got hurt and the Ravens redesigned their offense for Lamar Jackson. He carried a 17.3 average depth of target during those nine weeks. Now, he’s paired with a quarterback who has no fear about chucking the ball down the field. Josh Allen threw 20-plus yards down the field on 19.7% of his throws as a rookie, more than any other starting quarterback.
Of course, that vertical ability makes Brown a no-brainer best-ball pick. He’s a lock to give you week-winning ability at least a handful of times at a major discount with this setup. However, if you’ve been following football the last five years and you don’t understand that Brown is a full-field route runner and more than just a deep threat, you have missed a few items. Going outside the Top-50 wide receivers for no logical reason, he’s a lock to outkick his ADP.
Late rounds - Round 13 to 15
Darren Waller — Another damn Raider. We’re light on young, athletic tight ends with breakout potential in the late rounds this year. It’s unlikely that Waller is this year’s George Kittle or whatever, but he at least comes with the physical tools and opportunity outlooks we want.
DaeSean Hamilton — Emmanuel Sanders’ return takes the air out of this balloon but Hamilton is still my pick for the second-best receiver on this roster. He caught five or more passes in all of the Broncos final four games last year once he earned a starting role. There’s a floor to look for here.
Marquise Goodwin — The veteran receiver is still in line for a starting role on this team. Goodwin’s chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo was real to close 2017. He’s a free high-ceiling at the end of your best ball drafts.
Kenny Stills — I can’t quit Kenny Stills. The long-time deep threat could be shipped out of town before Week 1 but is the ideal best ball target. If he stays in South Beach, there should be plenty of passing volume to go around with the Dolphins likely to be trialing early and often in 2019.
Final few rounds - Rounds 16 on
Miles Boykin — My favorite rookie receiver from the 2019 NFL Draft. Boykin looks like he will earn a starting role in the Ravens wide receiver corps. He is a Kenny Golladay-type talent and comes with a much better downfield profile and market share projection than most of the dregs that go off the board late in best ball exercises.
Rashard Higgins — The No. 3 receiver on the Browns offense, if this unit is going to push for a top-five campaign, some ancillary receivers like Higgins will matter. The former Day 3 draft pick caught fire when Baker Mayfield took over. That’s not surprising. Higgins is a precise route runner and Mayfield is the first timing-based quarterback he’s played with as a pro.