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FBG Staff Roundtable: Best Ball Options

Discussing best ball quarterbacks and running backs with the Footballguys staff

In our initial Best Ball Roundtable, we tackled plenty of general strategy and outlook for such a draft. Today, though, we're speaking with Footballguys Jason Wood, Justin Howe, Dan Hindery, David Dodds, and Andy Hicks about specific quarterbacks and running backs to target.

 

Question #1: The QB1/QB2 Logjam

As usual, we’ve got a true crowd along the QB1/2 borderline, with as many as 14 passers projected to go between Rounds 9 and 13. (This is precisely why so many drafters prefer to wait at the quarterback spot.) Rank for us, if you will, the following options in a standard best ball format. While you’re at it, let us know if there’s another name you feel should slot into this tier.
 

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Ben Roethlisberger

Wood: Roethlisberger is another quarterback ideally suited for best ball. He’s going to have 4-TD games and 0-TD games, depending on whether the team is focused on Le'Veon Bell and the ground game that day. With Antonio Brown in his prime and JuJu Smith-Schuster breaking out, the only risk for Roethlisberger is the transition to a new offensive coordinator.

Howe: Jason put it best: his highs are going to make up most of the highs on this list. Especially at home, where Roethlisberger has averaged a stunning 26.7 points per game over the last 4 years.

Hindery: He may have the best group of skill-position weapons in the entire NFL, and the Steelers could have to win some shootouts with a defense that never recovered from the loss of Ryan Shazier.

Dodds: All the pieces are back on offense and their defense is worse. The Steelers could be in store for a lot of high-scoring contests.

Hicks: The only danger here is his propensity to miss games, but in the best ball format that is manageable with depth. A strong offense, a weak defense, and a QB who may have more freedom than in years past. He’s a safe player to anchor your best ball team around.

Matthew Stafford

Howe: He’s almost always a top-10 QB by season’s end, and he carries gobs of touchdown potential with Marvin Jones Jr and Kenny Golladay making hay downfield.

Hindery: Stafford is a solid option every year. If Golladay can take a step forward in his second season, Stafford will have an impressive trio of receivers to throw to.

Dodds: He finished sixth last year and Golladay could have an even bigger role. The Lions still don't have much of a running game.

Hicks: Matthew Stafford is that security blanket at QB that is almost always drafted below his ADP. In six of the last seven years he has finished between fifth and ninth in rankings and people still draft "upside" players like Mahomes over him. Get strong at other positions and take him later and you should do fine.

Jared Goff

Wood: Goff got a bit lucky last year, but the Rams upgraded the receiving corps further with Brandin Cooks, who along with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods give the young quarterback depth unlike most in this tier. Goff should have some forgettable games because of the Rams’ ability to win on the ground, but in best ball he’ll do enough in the other games to warrant rostering as a key piece of the puzzle.

Howe: I don’t love his system or his inconsistent fantasy production. But this is best ball, where his deep ball (generally top-10 leaguewide in 2018 by most deep metrics) and impressive supporting cast should again make for big weeks.

Hindery: The addition of Cooks helps, but with an elite running back and what could potentially be one of the league’s best defenses, Goff may have to be overly aggressive in most games. 

Dodds: The Rams are stacked on offense with the addition of free agent Cooks and the emergence of Kupp.  Goff finished 12th last year with fewer weapons.

Hicks: This offense could get scary if Cooks adapts well and the young tight ends in Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett can become big-time threats. Goff doesn't have to be Peyton Manning to put up points in this system, but if there is going to be a flaw with the Rams this year it could very well be Goff.

Jimmy Garoppolo

Wood: What “Jimmy G” accomplished as a 49er was remarkable. I’m not entirely sold on his supporting cast, but it’s no worse than it was last year when he was putting up big numbers. My faith in Kyle Shanahan and expectations for an offensive-minded draft make Garappolo worthy of consideration once the can’t-miss starters are done.

Howe: I’ve never liked the player, and I’m not overly impressed by his 49ers debut from a fantasy standpoint: 7 touchdowns across 5 starts and 270 attempts? Really? Still, there will be heavy volume in play here – this is Kyle Shanahan offense, and the 49ers led the league in dropbacks last season.

Hindery: Garoppolo looked fantastic down the stretch last season. The mediocre receiving weapons at his disposal lower his fantasy upside, though.

Dodds: He was on fire at the end of last year. The 49ers lack weapons, but I am a believer in his talent.

Hicks: As has been mentioned repeatedly, the 49ers lack weapons at the skill positions, and that has to hinder Jimmy Garoppolo's upside significantly. Even if a move is made in the draft, that is not likely to result in immediate production. Beware the hype here.

Philip Rivers

Wood: Father Time continues to serve these older quarterbacks well, and Rivers remains enticing given his efficiency and a litany of receiving threats. Rivers has been underrated for most of his career, and putting him toward the bottom of this tier is yet another example of this all-time great passer not getting his fair place in the pantheon.

Howe:

Hindery: Year after year, Rivers ends up a top-12 fantasy quarterback. He and the Chargers need Mike Williams and Hunter Henry to continue to improve to remain a QB1, now that so many young quarterbacks have emerged over the past 2 seasons.

Dodds: He just keeps getting it done. The offense looked better with Henry on the field, and Mike Williams still could emerge. The team found a capable backup RB with Austin Ekeler.

Hicks: He’s probably the safest option on this list; just keeps churning out reliable stats. A starting fantasy QB in 9 of his last 10 years and despite his likely ADP a good bet to do so again.

Andrew Luck

Wood: Luck’s health warrants caution, particularly in best ball formats. We don’t get to replace Luck if we draft him and find out his shoulder isn’t okay. As we do this roundtable, Luck still hasn’t thrown a football. It’s been 15 months and counting. That’s an issue.

Howe: I’ll bump him past the previous 3-4 names once I see him throw, or even hold, a football.

Hindery: Luck should be ready to start the season, but the potential reward given the lack of Colts weapons isn’t worth the risk compared to safer options with similar upside.

Dodds: Luck finished 4th at the position in 2016, but his injury situation makes him risky drafting today. If we know he is playing, he should vault to QB6 or higher.

Hicks: Now we are in crapshoot territory. You need solid options around him and may even need to take an extra QB if you get Luck in this format. That said, if he takes the field, he should be a top-six QB for as long as he plays. That alone is value... if he plays.

Jameis Winston

Wood: I was all in on Winston last year as a breakout and possible MVP candidate. It didn’t happen, and now it’s prudent to reset expectations. He’s still a young, talented player with his best years ahead. No one should be surprised if Winston is a top-five fantasy quarterback in a season or two.

Howe: If not for Dirk Koetter, I would love and adore this passing game. Even so, Winston throws to physical dominators on every level of the field and spent 2017 on pace for 4,911 yards and 28 touchdowns. The fact that he’s lasting to QB15 in early best ball drafts is shocking.

Hindery: Even in a down 2017, Winston still racked up big yardage totals. He had 325+ passing yards in 6 different games.

Dodds: Winston finished 18th over just 13 games last year. He’s likely not someone who can end up as a top-five quarterback, but he has a great floor if he stays healthy.

Hicks: This year tells us if Winston is going to be a true face of a franchise or a journeyman quarterback. The team has tried to keep stability around him, but if it is another underachieving season in Tampa Bay this could go south quickly. He does have a high ceiling, but if he has failed to learn and develop, then the organization will lose patience with him.

Matt Ryan

Wood: His 2016 was clearly the anomaly, as regression back toward historical norms happened in 2017. With Steve Sarkisian having trouble replicating Kyle Shanahan’s mastery, Ryan is reduced to a high-end QB2. His issue is never yardage, it’s touchdown production. And with Julio Jones being a subpar touchdown scorer given his target share, I’m not sure why we should expect much of a bounceback for Ryan in 2018.

Howe: He’s quietly been one of fantasy’s more ho-hum and overpriced QB assets every year. Aside from his world-beating 2016, Ryan has averaged just 1.48 touchdowns since 2013, and his volume has fallen off a cliff.

Hindery: Ryan racks up the yardage but red zone struggles keep his touchdown totals down.

Dodds: He’s very safe, but not a very sexy option. The Falcons don't run many plays in a season, logging just 971, 960, and 958 in the last 3 seasons.

Hicks: Ryan has had 6 top-10 finishes in his last 8 years. Unfortunately, he has missed the top 12 in 2 of the last 3. The year in-between he ranked 3rd. As others have pointed out, the problem here is touchdowns. He has only exceeded 28 touchdowns in a season twice in his career, and his upside has to be capped.

Patrick Mahomes II II

Wood: Andy Reid clearly believes in Mahomes and the upside is enticing. Yet, we haven’t seen it on the field when it counts. I don’t like relying on unproven commodities in best ball formats. Mahomes is a terrific high-risk, high-reward QB2 in redraft formats, but in best ball his downside is too concerning for my tastes.

Howe: I love the talent, but he simply can’t be prioritized above those names yet. It took a career year for Alex Smith, one of the generation’s underrated signal-callers, to produce on a palatable upper-QB2 level.

Hindery: I’m buying the hype on Mahomes, my highest-owned quarterback so far in best ball. He is going to put up solid numbers as a runner in addition to having immense upside as a passer with Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce to throw to.

Dodds: Alex Smith finished fourth in fantasy points in this same offense. Based on current ADP, I am landing this guy in nearly every best ball draft currently. I suspect his ADP will move up as the preseason progresses.

Hicks: People fall for hype players every year. Sometimes it pays off, most often it does not. Mahomes will probably have one of the biggest booms in recent years in the fantasy community and I would love to see him succeed, given the way he plays, but caution may be the best play. In best ball you can significantly mitigate the risk with other options, and if you truly believe in the kid, go wild.

Dak Prescott

Wood: Prescott was exposed last year, and the Cowboys haven’t done much to improve his situation. They signed Allen Hurns, but Hurns is nothing close to a #1 in a competitive fantasy passing offense. Dez Bryant was a shell of himself last year, but his departure still hurts the overall depth chart. If the Cowboys land two or three young receivers and tight ends in the draft, Prescott’s draft stock should rise a bit. For now, he’s closer to the bottom of this QB2 bunch.

Howe: His value doesn’t swing too much from Bryant’s departure, but I’m still just not sure he’s a good quarterback. I foresee a lot of 147-yard days in which his owners will be praying for fickle rushing touchdowns.

Hindery: The loss of Bryant could be a blessing in disguise. Prescott won’t feel pressured to force it to one player and can just concentrate on finding the open man.

Dodds: Someone will overpay for Prescott. I am not sold on the talent level around him (Terrence Williams is currently their #1 WR) and suspect the Cowboys will use Ezekiel Elliott a lot.

Hicks: He’s lost his best receiver in Bryant, and Jason Witten suits up for his 16th year. Prescott offers little upside for a best ball owner.

Marcus Mariota

Wood: I don’t understand why Mariota gets a pass for his inconsistent play and his injury history. The guy cannot finish a season healthy, and it’s not a series of fluky injuries. He’s a smaller quarterback who puts himself in harm’s way. Pass.

Howe: The injuries are maddening, but I have to expect some progression toward the norm after the guy threw just 13 touchdowns last year. He produced just half his career touchdown rate, which should bounce back near 22-25 to go with strong supplemental rushing totals.

Hindery: Mariota was bad last year, but a coaching change could rejuvenate his career and he brings added potential due to his athleticism.

Dodds: He always is getting nicked up based on his style of play. He can hit for big games, but missed weeks in best ball format can kill your season.

Hicks: In best ball, Mariota is a real concern. How many big games will he really have to beat out the hot and cold players you will have around him? Unless Corey Davis is what he was drafted to be and there are no other options, then Mariota is a best ball red flag.

Dodds: I also have Alex Smith and Derek Carr in this tier as well. All of these quarterbacks are locked into starting jobs and most have strong supporting casts as well. My general strategy will be to allow five of these to be off the board (plus the big names from earlier) before I take my first quarterback. I will then proceed to grab quarterbacks until this full list is exhausted (or I get three from this list).

 

Question #2: The Second Running Back Tier

Beyond the top tier of running backs (Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson), there’s plenty of debate as to how we should order and prioritize the next group.

Who are the next five names on your RB board?

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Do any of them deserve our attention before Antonio Brown in the middle of Round 1? What about DeAndre Hopkins a few picks later?

Wood: Yes, I would take Kamara or Hunt ahead of any wide receiver this year.

Howe: More often than not, I use a RB-heavy approach (forcing the issue at RB over the first 4-5 rounds) in best ball, so I’ve indeed passed on both for Kamara and Gordon in drafts. The rest… are a nose behind, and I’m lower on Fournette than others given that his ankle/foot woes are fairly long-term. But for the sake of diversification, I’ll mix that up here and there and opt for them if the names fall a certain way.

Hindery: In a full PPR format, I prefer Brown and Hopkins over the second tier of running backs. In the 0.5-PPR format on DRAFT, Kamara, and Fournette are on par with the top receivers. In larger league sizes (10 teams and up), locking up a top running back takes on more urgency due to the lack of depth at the position.

Dodds: I prefer Brown over all of these running backs, but have Kamara, Hunt, Gordon, and Fournette ranked above Hopkins.

Hicks: No to the first part, yes to the second.  At this stage I would take Hopkins ahead of Ingram and Hunt.

 

Question #3: Mid-Round Wide Receivers

Let’s say your goal is to draft RB-heavy over the first several rounds, then cobble together a WR stable in the middle and late frames. Give us your three favorite wideouts to target in the middle rounds (let’s say, 7-13 of a typical best ball draft), and explain what makes them so special they can carry you to victory as a group.

Wood: I don’t recommend waiting that long for a receiving corps in best ball; you need balance to win. However, there are plenty of mid-round receivers I find enticing. It starts with JuJu Smith-Schuster, who I think could be a true WR1 if something happened to Antonio Brown, and can push for top-15 honors regardless. I also find myself drafting Michael Crabtree in a ton of leagues as my WR3. He was Oakland’s best receiver, but Gruden wants to be Gruden and let the veteran walk. The Ravens — starved for receiver help — signed him quickly. He’ll lead the team in targets and get just enough to be an every-week fantasy starter. Other names falling too far are Alshon Jeffery, who is going to be healthy for camp, and Marquise Goodwin — who should be Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite receiver. Further down the ADP ranks are Paul Richardson Jr — who got #1 money from Washington this offseason, and Robby Anderson — who is a knucklehead but appears to have avoided major legal problems and will be the Jets’ top option. Two final names to consider, even later in drafts, are Allen Hurns — the default #1 in Dallas now, and Chris Godwin — who should become a full-time starter opposite Mike Evans this season. 

Howe: I’ve drafted a number of RB-dominant rosters thus far, and when I do, I find myself comfortable with a group of 4-5 guys from the following batch:

Larry Fitzgerald tends to fall to me far lower (often in the 6th or 7th) than any odds-on shot at 100 receptions should.

Crabtree is indeed the likely target leader in an offense that’s dropped back for 47 more passes than any other in football since 2015.

Pierre Garcon now has a quarterback and simply devoured Kyle Shanahan’s offenses in Washington.

Randall Cobb has actually led the Packers in targets over large chunks of the last two seasons.

Anderson brings great value (9th or 10th round, typically) as the Jets’ de facto WR1 and proven deep-ball artist.

Kenny Golladay always comes to me in Round 13 or 14 after churning out 0.37 PPR points per snap as a rookie. That’s a wild mark, but he has the profile to build on it.

Tyrell Williams dominated the Chargers’ wideout targets during Keenan Allen’s 2016 injury. This is a free-space pick over the last two rounds of most drafts.

Willie Snead IV is now a late-round stab with a change of scenery in a rebuilt WR corps that produces gobs of targets.

Hindery:

Chris Hogan has proven capable of having big fantasy games in the New England offense and is one of my favorite targets at his current ADP (99th overall on DRAFT). With Brandin Cooks in Los Angeles and Danny Amendola in Miami, Hogan projects to be almost an every-down player for the Patriots and one of the top targets for Tom Brady.

Garcon (ADP of 110) has huge potential in San Francisco. He was on pace for over 80 catches and 1,000 yards when he went down in his 8th game last season. That was with Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard throwing the football. With Garoppolo at the helm, Garcon is a great bet for top-20 WR production.

Marqise Lee (ADP of 127) is another nice depth option. He signed a big free agency deal to stay in Jacksonville as the top receiver. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns both moved on, and Lee should see 100+ targets. He has 9 games of 75+ receiving yards over the past 2 seasons. 

Dodds:

Marquise Goodwin – He can stretch the field and should emerge as San Francisco's #1 wide receiver.
Julian Edelman – Lots of turmoil with the Patriots this offseason, but a healthy Edelman should be drafted way higher than he is slotting right now.  
Devante Parker and Kenny Stills – Both Miami wide receivers should see a target bump with Jarvis Landry out of the equation. Grabbing these steady producers is the key to winning best-ball leagues.

Hicks:

Like David suggested with the Parker/Stills tandem, I’m looking for situations where one receiver may truly break out of an unsure situation now. Getting two or sometimes even three receivers from the same team is a serious option in best ball. Crabtree was mentioned and he fits the category. Other teams I would look at after the draft has shaken out: 
Buffalo – Depending on where Kelvin Benjamin is ranked he could fit, Zay Jones, definitely.
Chicago – Behind Allen Robinson there are plenty of names. Depending on how that shakes out, there could be an investment or 2 later
Dallas – Hurns has already been mentioned, but Deonte Thompson could be a late-round steal.
Green Bay – Aaron Rodgers makes stars out of his targeted receivers. I'm not convinced of Randall Cobb anymore, and the loss of Jordy Nelson will be filled by someone outside Jimmy Graham. Examine carefully here. 
L.A. Rams – The focus will fall on Cooks, but Woods was the man last year and may be undervalued.
Jacksonville - Watch Donte Moncrief carefully. Same with Marqise Lee.
New England – Hogan and Edelman have been mentioned, but I would throw Malcolm Mitchell and Jordan Matthews in a bit later.
San Francisco – Goodwin and Garcon have been mentioned and are excellent choices.  I don't think the 49ers have finished playing with this mix, though, and I think someone else will be a factor.
Oakland – Jordy Nelson is most likely to fit the category.

 

Question #4: Late-Round Tight Ends 

For those of us who like to punt our TE3 slot (or even TE2) all the way down the line, to the last few rounds of the draft, help us out. We’re generally looking for guys with decent but dirt-cheap paths to the field and/or the chance to produce disproportionate touchdown numbers. Give us three names we should watch as high-upside tight end plays we can typically find in the last two or three rounds.

Wood:

Jake Butt – The Broncos redshirted Butt coming off a bad ACL tear late in his final season at Michigan, but he reminds me of a young Jason Witten and I prioritized him in dynasty rookie drafts in spite of his injury. He should step into the starting role in Denver.

Ricky Seals-Jones – A new system, quarterbacks, and coaching staff make Seals-Jones’ TD-heavy breakout last year a risky bet to repeat, but the Cardinals haven’t done much to improve the tight end depth chart. As long as they don’t take one of the elite rookies early in the draft, Seals-Jones could be one of the three most targeted options on the roster at any position.

Jonnu Smith – Smith is stuck behind Delanie Walker, but his talent is undeniable. If Walker gets hurt, Smith can step into the starting lineup and be an effective best ball contributor.

Howe:

Jason Witten – He’s lasting far too long (often into Rounds 15 and 16) considering Yes, the Cowboys will add at least one impactful receiver this weekend, but Witten should be fitted for at least his recent role (87-111 targets in each of his last 5 seasons) and brings much more volume than we deserve this late in a draft.

Tyler Kroft, Cincinnati – Subbing for the perpetually-out Tyler Eifert last year, Kroft turned 62 targets into 7 touchdowns and a per-game TE15 finish. It wasn’t particularly fluky, either: Kroft stepped right into Eifert’s red zone role, drawing seven looks from inside the five-yard line. You never want to target a tight end handcuff per se, but Kroft comes in the final two rounds of drafts and should pay TE2 dividends – with some big weeks mixed in – if/when Eifert goes down. Rostering both is a sexy play, with Eifert often sticking on the board into Rounds 10 and 11 and Kroff a plug-and-play guy at the very end.

Luke Willson – Willson was always a tantalizing athletic prospect (a 93rd-percentile SPARQ score at his 2013 combine), but people quickly forgot about him as he languished on the Seattle bench. Likely to be handed a starting job at age 28, Willson looks poised to deliver at least something. The Lions’ is a more voluminous passing game then the Seahawks’ and while he won’t see Eric Ebron’s hefty target total, it was a high enough bar (5.9) that Willson should produce on a solid TE2 level.

Hindery:

For some reason, Trey Burton is still available late in drafts (ADP of 155 on DRAFT). He signed a big deal with the Chicago Bears and is poised to emerge from the shadow of Zach Ertz. Burton is a basically a big slot receiver and Matt Nagy has said he will use Burton in the same way he used Travis Kelce in Kansas City. He is the only tight end available late who I am at all excited about at this point. However, I do expect that to change after the draft. Dallas Goedert, Hayden Hurst and Mike Gesicki each have the offensive skillset to make an immediate impact if they land in favorable situations.

Dodds:

Vernon DavisJordan Reed has chronic feet problems that will likely never be right.
Butt – He missed last season due to injury, but has the talent to emerge as Denver's #1 TE.  He is flying way below the radar right now.
Jonnu SmithDelanie Walker will be 34 this year. I expect we will see a lot more looks for the talented Smith starting this season.

Rico GathersJason Witten will be 36 this season. On a team lacking play-makers, Rico Gathers could be a difference maker if he can stay healthy. He missed the entire 2017 season to injury after dominating in the first preseason games.

Hicks: Jonnu Smith has been mentioned a couple of times and with good reason. Walker has to cede time to him eventually and it starts this year.
Outside of him I like to look at younger players who have bided their time for a year or two and the established starter has departed in the off season.
Seattle has lost Jimmy Graham, and while Ed Dickson was signed, Nick Vannett was a third-round pick in the 2016 draft.
I also like one or both of the Rams tight ends in Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett to make a big impact. Whichever is still available late, grab them.
Other places worth looking at are Denver, Detroit and Houston.