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The Top Late-Round Best Ball Picks at Every Position - Footballguys

Bonnema identifies the best values at each position for best ball leagues. 

The set it and forget it nature of best ball leagues provides such an enjoyable format that making money on them almost seems trivial. You do, of course, want to put your best foot forward and hope to take first place in a few of these, just as you would in any fantasy league. To help you with that, be sure to read Justin Howe’s best ball primer. If you’ve never played this format and are considering jumping in, you should also consider taking advantage of this awesome DRAFT promotion that awards you a free Footballguys season-long pro subscription by simply depositing and playing $10.

Even if you don’t take advantage of that promotion, you most certainly should take advantage of the late-round players listed below. Per the consensus ADP rankings, everyone on this list falls short of the top-150 players, yet any one of them could help push your roster to the top of the standings by season’s end.

Quarterbacks

Case Keenum

Only Drew Brees logged a better a completion rate than Keenum last year, who finished the season with respectable fantasy numbers after taking over as the Vikings’ starter. From Week 6 on, he was the 10th-highest-scoring quarterback in the league thanks to a dynamic offense that featured Adam Theilen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, and a great offensive line. Keenum was far from dominant, but he did enough to lead his team to the NFC Championship, earning a two-year $36 million contract for his efforts.

That contract, however, places him behind a much less stable offensive line and a much more questionable offense. The Broncos won only five games last year despite playing in one of the worst divisions in football. The good news for Keenum comes in the form of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. A pair of thirty-something wide receivers may not strike a ton of confidence, but Thomas is still capable of producing at a high level, particularly in the end zone, and Sanders is a veteran who might thrive in the slot if rookie Courtland Sutton earns enough playing time.

Keenum made a living last year targeting Theilen and Diggs—both finished as top-20 wide receivers—suggesting that a heavy focus on the rushing attack isn’t in the cards for Denver in 2018. It’s also worth remembering that the Broncos’ senior personnel advisor, Gary Kubiak, was the one who gave Keenum his first job back in 2012 and now just handed him $18 million a year. That’s not exactly game-manager money. Expecting tons of volume would be foolish. But Keenum offers solid value as your third or even second quarterback in best ball leagues and allows you to target depth at other positions.

Tyrod Taylor

Any and all analysis of Taylor’s ability to play quarterback should begin with this debunking the Taylor myth piece written by Kyle Posey for Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Profile. Waldman notes in his convincing write up of Josh Gordon that Posey’s analysis offers several examples of “Taylor doing things that lazy analysis claims he can't.” Notably:

  • Reading multiple levels of the defense with patience.
  • Relocating receivers downfield after avoiding heavy pressure.
  • Pre-Snap/Post-Snap field reads that accurately spots illusions defenses try to present.
  • Quick decisions in compressed areas of the field.
  • Playing with a throw-first mentality.
  • Reading the entire field.

That should clear up most concerns that Taylor will lose his job to a rookie that’s reportedly not ready to compete, which then shifts the focus to Taylor’s new home in the Factory of Sadness. Amazingly, this edition of the Browns could surround him with the most talent of his career.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

A post shared by FLASH (@flash) onJun 6, 2018 at 5:16pm PDT

Gordon’s muscles aside, the Browns signed target-vacuum Jarvis Landry and still have former first-round picks, Corey Coleman and David Njoku, whose talents have been snuffed out by injuries and Cleveland Brown quarterbacks.

The Browns also have a duo of decent, potentially great, running backs in Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde, one of which is an elite pass-catcher and the other of which could lose his job once Nick Chubb gets up to NFL speed.

Of course, no logical person would crown this Browns’ offense a division-winner, but it’s certainly better than what Taylor had last year. In fact, Bill Barnwell of ESPN ranked them 13th in the NFL. The Bills were terrible last season, and Taylor still managed seven top-12 fantasy finishes, as many as Cam Newton and Kirk Cousins. Make no mistake about it, this is the most talent Taylor has shared the field with, and while he presents a challenge in typical redraft leagues, he offers one of the top values in best ball.

Running Backs

Matt Breida

While the excitement of Jerick McKinnon’s pairing with Kyle Shanahan’s offense has pushed the unproven running back into a dangerous ADP, Breida offers a high-upside handcuff (and then some) nearly 10 rounds later. His rookie season, though limited in terms of workload, flashed promises of an athletic runner who profiles as more than just a change-of-pace back. Meanwhile, McKinnon has never lived up to his mouth-watering SPARQ score and failed to take full advantage of lead duties last year after Dalvin Cook was injured in Week 4. If Latavius Murray can outplay McKinnon, seems Breida can as well. He offers top-15 upside if McKinnon falters for any reason.

Latavius Murray

Speaking of Murray, the Vikings’ backup proved his worth last year as a player capable of handling a full workload. From Week 7 on, he was the 14th highest scoring running back in all of fantasy football while anchoring an offense that afforded him the fourth most redzone carries. Of course, none of this matters if Cook picks up where he left off, but with the Vikings’ offense shaping up as one of the best in the league, the pie may be big enough for both of them, especially if Murray cements his role as the goal-line hog. He is currently being drafted as RB56, which ignores his RB2-upside.

Javorius Allen

Believe it or not, Allen was the 24th highest scoring running back in PPR leagues last year and came up just 8.7 points short of outscoring teammate, and current fourth-round pick, Alex Collins. The Ravens feature an elite run-blocking offensive line that paved the way for 84 redzone opportunities, sixth most in the league for the position, resulting in a pair of RB2s:

Player
Rush
RuYards
Yds/Ru
RushTDs
Targets
Rec
RecYards
Yds/Rec
RecTDs
Opps
Snaps
PPR Rank
212
973
4.6
6
37
23
188
8.2
0
249
378
19
154
592
3.8
4
60
46
250
5.4
2
214
465
24
Danny Woodhead
14
56
4.0
0
39
33
200
6.1
0
53
157
76
Terrance West
39
138
3.5
2
4
2
23
11.5
0
43
66
92

Collins led the group in opportunities (targets + carries), but Allen played more snaps by a wide margin. His 60 targets ranked as fourth most on the team, and his 46 receptions ranked 15th most among all running backs.

He shakes out as the favorite to win the passing-down role again this year thanks to Danny Woodhead’s retirement. Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, and Ben WatsonJoe Flacco favorites last year—have departed, leaving behind 225 targets for the offense to redistribute. Many of those will filter to additions Michael Crabtree and John Brown, but Allen should have no trouble logging a 50-catch season at a minimum. And it’s also worth keeping in mind that Collins comes with zero guarantees to retain lead-back duties, which means Allen could force a full-blown committee—exactly the kind of player and situation you want to target in this format.

Spencer Ware

As wise as it is to completely avoid players who come with major injury concerns before the season even begins, Ware’s ability as a pass-catcher in an offense that figures to lean on its running backs can’t be ignored. He missed the entire season last year thanks to a brutal knee injury late in the preseason, but he put his talents on display in 2016 when he plowed his way to over 1,300 combined yards and five total touchdowns en route to an RB16 finish, long before anyone knew anything about Kareem Hunt. Hunt, of course, should be the lead back—a high-volume one at that—but as long as Ware is healthy, he’ll offer RB2-potential and would immediately be one of the most valuable players in all of fantasy football should something happen to Hunt.

Wide Receivers

Tyler Lockett

The 61st wide receiver off the board happens to play with one of the best quarterbacks in the league and for a team that has struggled to develop a rushing attack since the departure of Marshawn Lynch. Lockett features blazing speed and may finally enjoy WR2 attention after Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham were allowed to walk. Lockett’s outlook for 2018 comes down to his health. If he can avoid the injuries that have suffocated his production over the last couple of seasons, he should have no trouble prospering opposite Doug Baldwin. Lockett’s game logs last year tell the story of a boom/bust player who’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and while avoiding those types in standard redraft makes sense, we should target them in best-ball leagues.

Keelan Cole

The Jaguars ran more plays per game than any other team last year. Unfortunately, only 51.1% of them were passing plays—the lowest rate in the league. Despite that and despite going undrafted, Cole earned a full-time role within the offense and turned into the most productive player on the team, outscoring all of his teammates in PPR points from Week 7 on except the quarterback, while also ranking 23rd among receivers league-wide. His presence as a slot receiver in 2018 should stay on theme, which extrapolated to a season-long pace returns a 1,100-yard, 5-score receiver—essentially the 2017 version of Mike Evans. Cole’s projections don’t come anywhere near those numbers, but his upside is higher than his teammates, most of whom are being drafted ahead of him.

Albert Wilson

The Chiefs underutilized Wilson and the Dolphins overutilized Jarvis Landry. That spells good news for Wilson who steps into the target-vacuum role that is Ryan Tannehill’s slot receiver. To be fair, getting excited about the Dolphins’ offense is sort of like going to the DMV: you don’t have to do it, but if you want a driver’s license, you have no choice. The same is true in best ball; it’s important to diversify rosters and take shots on players the crowd is ignoring. Wilson has a chance at a seeing upwards of 80 targets this year, especially if there’s any truth to the coaches’ excitement about his speed and versatility. He should at least match the production of Kenny Stills, who’s being drafted a full 120 picks earlier.

Tavon Austin

Stretching is good for you. And since you don’t have to worry about drafting a kicker in the last round, you can instead draft Austin. His career began in 2013 with a head-scratching trade that saw the Rams forgo multiple draft picks to acquire him, only to bust and end up being traded to Dallas five years later for a sixth-round pick. But he could see new life in a Cowboys’ offense that desperately needed an infusion of speed and versatility. Stephen Jones apparently loves Austin and thinks he could get a dozen or two touches per game:

That’s cute. Realistically, there’s a huge target void left behind with the departures of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Austin should soak up some of those, especially if the coaches use him as a receiver, a running back, and a return man. Whether or not he can parlay those touches into meaningful opportunities remains to be seen, but it won’t be surprising if he logs a few games this year with multiple touchdowns thanks to his versatility.

Tight Ends

Eric Ebron

Ebron’s hype has long overshadowed his skills. That hype finally got the best of everyone last year when he ended up being the eighth tight end off the boards and finished the season with a measly 53 catches for 574 yards and four touchdowns. What makes this year different? His ADP, for one. He’s now available in the bottom-feeder rounds with 17 tight ends going before him. He also flunked out of Detroit and landed in Indianapolis, where drafters wait with baited breath to see if Andrew Luck finally returns. If Luck returns, chances are one of the Colts tight ends, if not a pair of them, will enjoy a fruitful opportunity given the team’s lack of receivers beyond T.Y. Hilton.

Ben Watson

Watson enters his age-37 season reunited with Drew Brees—the quarterback that targeted him 110 times just two years ago. Even in Baltimore last season, a year removed from a torn Achilles, Watson managed 61 receptions (eighth most among tight ends) on 79 targets for 522 yards four touchdowns. In the industry, we call that TE1 production. In New Orleans, he has an even better opportunity to factor in as a monster endzone option for one of the league’s best quarterbacks. Players like him in a situation like this are why you can bypass tight ends during the early rounds.

Vance McDonald

The term “flash” should always fly the red flag in the minds of drafters because it indicates that a player has only “flashed” on certain occasions. McDonald has flashed here and there throughout his career after being drafted in the second round of 2013. But he has never bottled up consistency despite his size and athleticism. He also has never played on an offense like the Steelers, who have plenty of distractions for opposing defense. McDonald demonstrated just how effective he can be when given the opportunity during the Steelers’ lone playoff game last year when he caught 10 of his 16 targets for 112 yards. It’s impossible to say whether that was merely an outlier game, or if it promises more of the same in 2018. Either way, his services are available in the twilight rounds of best-ball leagues, and if he does happen to become a favorite target of Ben Roethlisberger while defenses are preoccupied with Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, McDonald oozes all kinds of upside.