Best Ball Strategy and Draft Recap
I recently participated in a charity league Best Ball 10s Draft, supporting Disabled American Veterans. The draft was run by Dan Clasgens of GetSportsInfo.com and featured some very sharp drafters. It was a traditional Best Ball format with PPR scoring and started 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, and 1 DEF, with 11 bench players for a total of 20 rounds.
My plan going in was to draft 2-3 quarterbacks, 5-6 running backs, 7-8 wide receivers, 2-3 tight ends, and two defenses. (No kickers in this league.) Of course, I wanted to stack my QBs with pass catchers. For me, that means waiting a bit on QB because the opportunity cost of pairing combos like Mahomes/Kelce, Allen/Diggs or Hurts/Brown, is too high for me. I also planned to draft for upside, especially in the later rounds. I’m willing to take a risk and reach a little in Best Ball formats, especially if there’s only one payout per league.
I knew going in that I had the 4th pick. I was pretty set on the strategy of opening up with a WR-WR start. I even had visions of landing Justin Jefferson and Stefon Diggs with my first two picks. But as Iron Mike said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Here’s my pick-by-pick analysis of my draft.
Best Ball Strategy and Draft Recap
1.04 Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
The draft opened with a surprise: Bijan Robinson was the first player off the board, followed by Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. Although I hadn’t planned on taking an RB in the first round, I couldn’t pass up Christian McCaffrey. From week 8 onward last season, he averaged 19.5 fantasy points per game. He also scored a touchdown in nine straight games, including the playoffs. He totaled 1,880 yards in the regular season. Those are league-winner numbers!
2.09 Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys
By this time, 11 wide receivers were already off the board. I was hoping Diggs or Waddle would make it back to me, but neither did. So I pivoted and started RB/RB. I love Tony Pollard this year. Last season, playing behind Ezekiel Elliott, Pollard had a stretch between weeks 7-16 where he was the top fantasy RB in the league. He finished 10th overall, despite being 20th in snap counts at the position. As the lead back this year, Pollard won’t be restricted to Zeke’s leftovers and should feast until his heart’s content.
3.04 Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
Perhaps a bit of a reach, and maybe a little surprising I didn’t draft a WR here. Tee Higgins and Deebo Samuel were available, but WR is pretty deep this year and I don’t see either of those two as league winners this season. Instead, I opted for arguably the second-best TE in the draft. Andrews was the overall TE1 in 2021. He fell off a little bit last season, but the Ravens threw seven fewer pass attempts per game than they did the previous year. I expect the Ravens to run a more up-tempo offense under new OC Todd Monken, resulting in more pass attempts and more targets for Andrews.
4.09 Amari Cooper, WR, Cleveland Browns
I loaded up on WR in rounds 4-6, starting with Amari Cooper. Cooper isn’t exciting, but he’s durable, missing only five games in seven seasons. He was in a tough spot in a poor offense with Cleveland last season, but there’s been a lot written about the Brown’s new “pass-heavy” offense. I think a full season with Deshaun Watson will benefit Cooper and every other Browns receiver.
5.04 Drake London, WR, Atlanta Falcons
I struggled a little with my 5th round pick between taking Drake London and Calvin Ridley. I still struggle with it, but ultimately London seems to have the higher upside. As a rookie, he had an incredible 29.4% target share. He’s the clear alpha receiver, which gives him a slight nod over Ridley. London’s upside might be capped with Desmond Ridder behind center, but I’m happy to have him as my second receiver
6.09 Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
I ended my WR run with Tyler Lockett. He finished as WR16 last season and continues to exceed fantasy expectations every year. The addition of Jaxson Smith-Njigba could bring down Lockett’s 22.8% target share from last season, but he remains a solid WR3 with WR2 upside in a pass-heavy offense.
7.04 Deshaun Watson, QB, Cleveland Browns
Nine QBs were taken at this point and, for me, Watson had the highest upside of any of the remaining ones. After missing all of 2021, Watson was disappointing in his six starts with Cleveland last season. However, Watson has been tremendous in his career, finishing as a top-six quarterback in fantasy points per game four years in a row from 2017-2020. I’m counting on Watson regaining his form in his first full season as the Browns’ starter. I’ve also got my first QB/WR stack in Watson/Cooper
8.09 Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks
I decided to go back-to-back with quarterbacks. Kirk Cousins, Daniel Jones and Jared Goff were available, but I wanted another QB/WR stack, so I chose Smith to pair with Tyler Lockett. Everyone on earth expects Smith to regress from last season’s league-leading 69.8% completion rate and top-five QB finish, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to view Smith as a low-end QB1 this year. The Seahawks have upgraded their offensive line and added the top rookie WR in this year’s draft class. I don’t see this offense slowing down at all in 2023.
9.04 David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns
I drafted Njoku because I believe he has value as a flex, as well as being a good TE with upside. He also creates another stack option with Watson and a great backup for Andrews.
10.9 Samaje Perine, RB, Denver Broncos
Perine is one of my favorite targets in round 10. I’m hoping as much as anyone that Javonte Williams comes back and crushes it this year, but there’s no guarantee he will be ready to start the season opener. Perine should get a lot of usage even when Williams returns, though. Coming off an ACL tear, Williams should see a significantly reduced workload this season. Perine could stand out as a fantastic early-season flex option and a nice bye-week fill-in.
11.4 Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
I love the value of getting Michael Thomas in the 11th round. Even though it’s a long shot for Thomas to return to his glory days, there is still enough upside to take the risk of drafting him in the mid-rounds, especially in best ball formats. He’s still only 30 years old and, if he can stay healthy, he would have plenty of value in a Derek Carr-led offense.
12.9 Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Mattison in the 12th round feels criminal. At this point, we don’t know what the Vikings will do with Dalvin Cook, but it seems like they might release him, making Mattison the lead back. If that’s the case, Mattison has a league-winning upside.
13.4 Allen Lazard, WR, New York Jets
Lazard followed Aaron Rodgers to New York where he will be the #2 receiver behind Garrett Wilson. While it’s unlikely he will see 100 targets again, Lazard’s familiarity and trust with Rodgers should result in enough targets to be fantasy relevant.
- 14.9 Rondale Moore, WR, Arizona Cardinals
- 15.4 Devin Singletary, RB, Houston Texans
- 16.9 Buffalo Bills, DEF
- 17.4 Alec Pierce, WR, Indianapolis Colts
- 18.9 Darius Slayton, WR, New York Giants
- 19.4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, DEF
- 20.9 Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Once the foundation of my team was drafted in the first 13 rounds, I used the rest of the draft on players who could fill-in for bye weeks and who have at least some upside. My favorite pick is Brock Purdy in the 20th round. He was a solid fantasy producer last season and could become an important part of my team if Watson and Smith don’t meet their expectations.
In hindsight, there were a couple of things I could have done better. If I had drafted Justin Fields in the 5th round, my QB situation would be a little more stable. Instead, I drafted Drake London and had to reach a bit to get Deshaun Watson and Geno Smith. Speaking of those two, they have the same bye week, so I’m hoping Brock Purdy is good to go in week five. Overall, I think my team has a good blend of stars and upside and I’m happy with it.
Doug Burrell finished 2022 as Fantasy Nerd’s Most Accurate Expert in NFL Picks and Tallysight’s #1 ranked expert Against the Spread Expert out of 200+ experts. He is a veteran, a runner and an avid fantasy sports enthusiast since 1999. You can reach him on Twitter @dougwburrell.
Doug is a veteran, an avid runner, and works as a copywriter. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and three dogs. You can reach him on Twitter @dougwburrell.