Best Ball Rankings: WRs to Take a Stance On (Fantasy Football)
Best ball rankings should be used as a guide – a way to differentiate player A vs. player B in terms of who is more likely to be a successful draft pick in best ball formats. In reality, however, it’s important to understand strategy and roster construction in order to be a profitable Best ball player, which is what we’ve been discussing for the last couple of weeks on the Fantasy Footballers DFS Podcast. For more DFS strategy content, be on the lookout for more dropping soon in the DFS Pass, exclusively part of the 2021 Ultimate Draft Kit+.
For this article series, I’m taking a look at players that I’m higher or lower on than consensus. In the last two weeks, I discussed QBs and RBs in my best ball rankings who I’m taking a stance on in my best ball drafts. For this edition of this four-part series, let’s turn our attention to the wide receiver position. One quick note on the WR position in best ball – it’s the most volatile position on a week to week basis, but the data shows that it’s one of the more stable positions from a season-long outlook, giving us as fantasy players more likely to have success with taking a stance on a few standout players.
And finally, one last strategy note from Kyle’s Best Ball Win Rates article, we see the highest win rates at the WR position are with those selected in Rounds 3-8 of best ball drafts. As a result, I’m going to focus this article on WRs with an ADP in those rounds as it’s crucial to nail these picks to have success in best ball.
Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
The average draft position on the Bengals is interesting given that all three primary pass catchers (Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd) are being taken in the WR sweet spot in terms of highest hit rates at the position. The rookie out of LSU is going as the WR20 at the back end of turn of the third and fourth rounds, Tee Higgins is going as the WR26 in the fourth or fifth round and Tyler Boyd is going as the WR33 in the sixth round. Based on this ADP, the fantasy community seems to be a bit overconfident in their ability to project Ja’Marr Chase as the Bengals top fantasy producer at the WR position…I’m not so sure, or at least I’m not sure he separates this much from his teammates.
Last year, prior to Joe Burrow‘s injury, the Bengals let their rookie QB drop back at the highest rate in the entire NFL while Burrow ranked near the top of the league in pass attempts before going down in Week 11. Because Burrow is coming off a significant ACL injury (more on that in the Ultimate Draft Kit), it’s feasible to expect his rushing numbers to dip a bit in 2021, and if that’s the case, it’s possible we can project Burrow to throw enough to support three fantasy viable WRs.
Prior to Burrow’s injury, Tyler Boyd was fantasy’s WR18 while Tee Higgins was fantasy’s WR23, and that was with the corpse of A.J. Green averaging 8.4 targets per game. Now both are a significant value in best ball drafts based on the assumption that Chase will operate as Joe Burrow‘s alpha WR1. I’m not saying Chase won’t be Cincy’s best fantasy WR (I’ve drafted him a few times myself), but there’s the possibility for projection error here that the market is not factoring into the equation, especially considering he’s creeping up into the third round of best ball drafts. Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins could smash their ADPs and can easily be stacked with Burrow in best ball.
Robby Anderson, WR, Carolina Panthers
You may not find a bigger D.J. Moore stan on fantasy Twitter than yours truly, but the reality is that Robby Anderson is being undervalued in best ball drafts. Yes, anyone can argue that D.J. Moore is the more talented wide receiver, but we can’t forget that Robby Anderson put up some massive spike weeks last year in Carolina. Anderson posted nine top 36 fantasy weeks last year, including seven weeks inside the top 24, and that upside doesn’t seem to be factored into his current WR3 ADP. On Underdog Fantasy, Anderson is currently going as the WR32, while his teammate, D.J. Moore is going as the WR17 in the third round of drafts.
You can get Robby Anderson almost three full rounds later. Are we sure Robby Anderson won’t repeat his 26% market share we saw last year in Carolina? Yes, Christian McCaffrey is back and is sure to get his out of the backfield, but Mike Davis wasn’t exactly standing in the backfield just blocking last year.
The other issue here with the Carolina offense is that Anderson’s ADP seems to reflect the fact that Sam Darnold can’t support multiple fantasy viable wide receivers and to be fair, maybe he can’t. After all, his first few years in the league haven’t been anything to write home about. That said, there’s some uncertainty in Darnold actually being much better than what we’ve already seen during his days in New York. Adam Gase (insert ‘Number 2’ drop here) is no longer running the offense, and now Darnold actually has viable playmakers at his disposal.
From 2020 to 2021, Sam Darnold's situation may have improved more than any player in the league
*No Adam Gase
*CAR picked up 5th year option after passing on QB in Draft
*2020 "weapons" – Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder, aging Lev Bell
*2021 weapons – CMC, DJ Moore, Robby Anderson
— Matthew Betz (@TheFantasyPT) May 3, 2021
Plus, we can’t forget that Anderson and Darnold know each other well from their playing days together in New York. Darnold also posted a 7.7 average depth of target last year while Teddy Bridgewater posted a 7.1 mark in the same metric. It’s possible we see this offense push the ball down the field more this year. The bottom line – a lot has to go right for D.J. Moore to return value on his ADP. Less has to go right for Anderson to return on his, but admittedly, there is some risk in both pass catchers. Given the lower opportunity cost on Anderson, I’ll likely end up with more shares of him in best ball.
DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
I love DeVonta Smith, the prospect. However, I am not a fan of his current best ball ADP at 79th overall in the 7th round as the 36th wide receiver off the board. Smith steps into a situation where he’ll immediately operate as the team’s WR1, but will that be enough to return value at his current ADP? This offense is projected to be a bottom half of the league unit, and there’s a ton of change on the offensive side of the ball – a new starting QB, a new head coach, and a new offensive coordinator, to name a few of the variables at play.
Furthermore, when we think about Jalen Hurts as a fantasy QB, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Rushing the football. In Hurts’ three starts last year prior to the Week 17 tank job, he posted QB13, QB1, and QB12 finishes while averaging 79.3 rushing yards per game. It’s obviously a small sample size, so there’s definitely a possibility that Philly’s new coaching staff designs the game plan around throwing the ball more, but assuming this is who Jalen Hurts is, it’s difficult to get excited about any of the pass catchers on that offense as we know the data suggests that rushing QBs take production away from their teammates, at least when it comes to fantasy points.
When you combine this with the fact that we know rookie WRs have a low hit rate in fantasy in general, it’s tough for me to click the button on Smith in Round 7 over names like Will Fuller, Curtis Samuel, and Michael Gallup. As an Eagles fan, I hope I’m wrong.