Best Ball Arbitrage: Finding Values & Archetypes Later in Drafts

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Let me set the scene for you.

It’s the heat of the summer. You’re enjoying a nice drink on your back porch casually mentioning to your friends the time and investment you’ve made in a couple of speculative stocks. You explain the various markets you’ve dabbled since early May and the small gains you’ve made in such a short amount of time.

But here’s the kicker: you’ve taken advantage of the current market conditions and found similar performing stocks at rock-bottom prices. Like the sly dog you are, you whisper the word “arbitrage” into their ears as you lean back and take another swig of your Zima or Mike’s Hard Lemonade like the true rebel you are. Little do they know you are talking about the degenerate format of fantasy football known as Best Ball and your exposure rates. Cheers!

In the title of this article alone, you probably feel somewhat smart reading it. I trust you I’m not a stocks guy nor could I give you sound financial advice. But in Best Ball, the market (ADP) is everything and finding similar players and archetypes later in your drafts that could perform at 75-80+ percent of another player is such a fun endeavor. We want to load up on players with a potential to beat their ADP and give us near elite production compared to their higher priced positional compadres.

The goal is finding players at least 3-5+ rounds later with a potential to hit 75-80% of that production or more.

Editor’s Note: Check out Matthew Betz’s How BestBall is Changing in 2023 article for more on how the format is evolving this year.


Justin Fields– ADP: QB6/49.2

We’re going to start out hot. Fields was my highest rostered QB last year and this year I have completely reversed course. Last year the ADP (QB14) did not take into account his massive rushing upside but as a near top-48 pick, you are paying up in the top-4 rounds for someone potentially being drafted at his ceiling. In the Ultimate Draft Kit, we have him projected for just 21 passing TDs, making him a stacking partner I personally do not enjoy with DJ Moore and Cole Kmet. The rushing numbers will be there but can you find similar dual-threat production at a fraction of the price? The price tag with Fields leaves little room for error on a Bears team that simply isn’t ready to compete. Fields is talented but can we find similar TD and fantasy production later from QBs in perhaps undervalued fantasy environments?

  • Deshaun Watson (QB9/83.5)– Last year was a far cry from the QB who finished in the top-5 three years in a row before coming to Cleveland. In six games last year as a Brown, Watson ranked 31st in EPA per play and the Browns averaged 4.8 yards per play which would’ve tied for 29th in the league. Woof. But the Browns’ off-season moves are begging us to reconsider that the identity of this team might be forged through the arm of Watson. Elijah Moore is standing out in camp and David Njoku is one of our favorite stacking partners near pick 100. There is only a 33-point difference in Fields & Watson’s projection on Underdog’s site yet a three-round difference in their ADP. Watson routinely slips into the 8th round as one of the better values and the last QB I feel comfortable as my QB1 in 2QB builds.
  • Russell Wilson (QB18/132.6)– This requires a bit of faith (or stupidity) if you’re willing to see it. I laid out the case for Wilson bouncing back on a recent Fantasy Football Dynasty podcast but for Best Ball, I might be even more bullish. He had more top-5 finishes (spike games) than Daniel Jones, Justin Herbert or Kirk Cousins. It feels like Aaron Rodgers is getting a pass on a terrible season despite the fact he averaged fewer fantasy points per game than Russ. Sean Payton is going to fix some of the team’s clock management issues and hopefully fix the poo-poo platter plan Nathaniel Hackett tried to prepare last year. While Wilson is no longer capable of putting up 600+ rushing yards, if he returns to his career TD rate and adds 3-4 scores on the ground, the end-of-year discrepancy between Fields and Wilson might not be as far as you might realize.

Kirk Cousins– ADP: QB13/109.7

This isn’t rocket science. Cousins’ ADP is ahead of where he went the past two years (2021- 152.4, 2022-116.9) so while he feels like relatively the same player projection-wise, the field isn’t accounting for the replaceability of finding a Cousins-lite passer later on in drafts.

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  • Geno Smith (QB15/113.8)– Smith surpassed anyone’s expectations last year but for fantasy, his season needs some context. From Week 3 on, he had ten top-12 finishes (as many as Joe Burrow in that span), but he was more steady than putting up elite performances. He led all QBs in completion rate (69.8%) and TDs (14) of 20+ yards downfield. In fact, almost 50 percent of his passing TDs were of the deep variety. We shouldn’t take anything away from the Comeback Player of the Year but it’s hard seeing him repeat a top-5 year yet again. Luckily, you don’t have to pay that draft cost in 2023 and the team clearly wanted to outfit him with more weapons. I have him ranked as QB13 (three spots ahead of where I have Cousins) and while Geno will never run as much as you might want, he did average 21.5 yards per game last year as a nice little bump.
  • Derek Carr (QB19/146.0)– His ADP doesn’t necessarily match a QB who beat this ADP every year of his career. The weapons in New Orleans are more than adequate to make this offense the best in its division. Carr seems like a worthy QB2/QB3 especially if he goes at or after his current ADP and maintains similar production. He likely will not be asked to throw as much but the efficiency numbers could be there for him to finish with 3500+ yards and 25 TDs… a very Kirk Cousins-esque season.

Sean Gardner/Getty Images


Jonathan Taylor– ADP: RB4/16.8

No one is going to argue about Jonathan Taylor‘s pure talent as a runner. The situation in Indianapolis with a rookie QB is a different story. Our own Matt DiSorbo profiled Taylor alongside rookie QB Anthony Richardson asking the question, Are Dual-Threat QBs a Problem for RB Teammates? The TLDR version is yes. It lowers their ceiling yet Taylor’s RB4 price tag isn’t completely baking in the downside or the possibility he ends up as a low-end RB1. As an early 2nd round pick, that type of outcome is disastrous when constructing your roster for Best Ball. Recreating Taylor is about looking for RBs with paths to double-digit TDs while also recognizing the check-down targets might be coming down for Taylor. In Richardson’s pre-draft Rookie Profile write-up, I noted that he looked “a bit rushed on short-area throws, especially on screens. In my notes from the Utah game, I wrote “these screens came out at 100 mph”. The numbers back this up with the lowest completion percentage (80 %) in this class on plays classified as screens.

  • J.K. Dobbins (RB18/56.8)– Entering a contract year at 24.5 years old, Dobbins should be healthy and ready to go as Matthew Betz detailed in our Injury Report. “Two Legs”, as he’s affectionately known on the podcast, has averaged 5.9 yards per carry in his career. He still has a lot of football left in him and the Ravens offense could be a juggernaut in 2023 with Lamar Jackson and new OC Todd Monken. He averaged 99 rushing yards and 11.6 fantasy points over his final four games, which were without Lamar Jackson. He’ll likely never see more than 35 targets in a season but the TD equity and potentially high-powered offense makes him a fine RB2 to target as a 40-pick discount from Taylor.
  • David Montgomery (RB27/87.1)– The TD equity for Montgomery is what I’m chasing. The departed Jamaal Williams (aka JWilly aka King Pelvic Thrust) set the record for carries inside the 5-yard line last year and you could actually argue he was inefficient with those despite cranking out 17 total rushing scores. Despite the drafting of Jahmyr Gibbs, Montgomery is going to make noise inside the red zone as his frame can take the pounding. I love investing in RBs with good offensive lines that might be depreciated in value because of perceived competition. In the UDK, we have Montgomery projected for over 260 opportunities and a good seven spots ahead of his Underdog ADP. It wouldn’t shock me at all if Montgomery and Taylor end up with roughly the same number of total TDs at the end of the year.

Rhamondre Stevenson– ADP: RB9/26.9

The dude was a league-winning pick last year and I need to give props to my co-host Matthew Betz for pounding the table for Rhamondre all summer. He seized hold of the Patriots backfield last year and never let it go. Among RBs, he saw the 3rd most targets, 4th most receptions and evaded the 3rd most tackles. He was a revelation as a late round RB as the RB8 from Week 3 on. But the playoffs were not so kind with three finishes outside the top-40 to end the year. The lack of competition for touches (especially after James Robinson was released) is driving up the price as he’s now at RB9 after being RB13 post-NFL Draft. He’s being drafted at his ceiling (in my opinion) so are there cheaper RBs with similar 3-down skillsets that can beat their current ADP and end up in the ballpark of being an RB1?

  • Alexander Mattison (RB20/64.7)– We extensively detailed Mattison’s ADP rise on the most recent Fantasy Footballers DFS & Betting podcast discussing how to approach him in tournaments. Give that episode a listen for our full breakdown. He averaged 23+ touches and 18+ fantasy points in games without Dalvin Cook over the last three years giving you an idea of the RB1 he can be.
  • Cam Akers (RB23/76.7)–  Akers went from fantasy darling, to out for the year, to plodding Super Bowl champion to in the doghouse for most of 2022. Yet he was reborn from Weeks 13-18, averaging 16.4 fantasy points per game as a Stevenson’esque workhorse. He was seeing 70+ percent of the snaps which historically ripe territory for RB1 status. The Rams only added 7th round pick Zach Evans to the mix making Akers once again a tantalizing dice roll for 2023. Sean McVay recently came out saying he would be a “central figure” for the Rams.


Amon-Ra St. Brown– ADP: WR10/13.8

I haven’t exactly been the biggest Amon-Ra supporter since he was selected in the 4th round by the Lions in 2021. Maybe I was a spreadsheet bro fixated on the failed careers of so many other Day 3 WRs but I’ve definitely eaten crow over and over again for my Sun God takes. He is an essential part of the Detroit offense and a PPR machine. However, on a 0.5-point site like Underdog, so much of his draft cost is baking in the TDs going his way yet again. At the 1/2 turn,

  • Keenan Allen (WR19/36.9)– I jokingly refer to Amon-Ra as a Keenan Allen “wanna-be” and while most of that is just good humor, he sets up as a clear arbitrage play for the Sun God. What if you knew you could bank 100 receptions and 1,000 yards right now? That’s cooler than cool; it’s ice cold. Keenan Allen has ice in his veins as a dependable target for one of the league’s best offenses. His role in the slot is secure, allowing him to remain near elite for fantasy football a bit longer than other WRs in his age bracket. Pair him with a more volatile WR1 and reap the rewards of one of the safest floors in fantasy football.
  • Chris Godwin (WR28/54.2)– Chris Godwin isn’t as exciting of a selection as he’s been in the past, but he’s still just 27 years old and posted a 22.2% targets per route run number in year one off the ACL. He should be more explosive this season, and we’ve got a big sample of Godwin being a great fantasy WR. At his current ADP, I’m in on him as a WR2 or 3 for your team.

Gabe Davis- ADP: WR41/77.5

Listen, I get it. 2022 was disappointing for Gabe the Gabe. Among 78 WRs who saw 50+ targets last year, Davis ranked 50th in yards per route run and 67th in yards after the catch per reception. He also eclipsed 70 receiving yards just four times all season, making him an extremely TD-dependent player last season. Can we find high yards per reception players with likely 50-60 catches and a shot at 6+ receiving TDs later in our drafts? You bet.

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  • Van Jefferson (WR66/147.2)– This is about availability and Van Jefferson will probably be running a ton of wind sprints in 2023. He projects as the WR2 on this team which might not mean a ton but when you compare to the rest of the teams, it’s the latest of any team’s 2nd receiving option outside of the Patriots’ Tyquan Thornton. He’s up there in my exposure as a WR I like in Round 14/15.

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

  • Darius Slayton (WR85/202.0)– This sounds ugly. I get it. But Slayton quietly is going to be the highest-paid WR on the Giants roster and his boom/bust nature is very “Gabe the Babe-like. What if I told you from Weeks 5-17, Darius Slayton’s 17-game pace was 101 targets, 67 receptions, and 1,050 yards? It’s not the sexiest pick but his big-play ability is what keeps him on the field for this team. From a pure routes perspective, there are few WRs past pick 200 that can compete with Slayton especially with recent news of rookie WR Jalin Hyatt slowly adjusting to the NFL.


T.J. Hockenson– ADP: TE3/50.9

Betz and I extensively discussed Hockenson as one of our biggest fades of the year. His TE2 season last year was a bit deceptive relative to the field and apart from two blow-up games, he wasn’t a must have player in Best Ball. His ADP is out of control as someone near the 4/5 turn. He’s a high floor TE that needs 7+ TDs to truly reach a fantasy ceiling, a total he’s never hit in his career. Take the discount for players that have arguably the same ceiling (or higher) than Hock.

  • Dallas Goedert (TE6/72.2)– This feels a bit like cheating but. Dallas Goedert is the last among the elite TEs that I would feel fine in 2TE builds.  Jalen Hurts and Goedert have a clear connection as the pair ranked 3rd in QB rating per target among TEs and 3rd in yards per team pass attempt. It would not shock me if he had an outlier TD year and finishes inside the top-3 at the position. I’m perfectly in line with where he’s being taken in the 6th round.
  • Pat Freiermuth (TE10/106.2)– Freiermuth’s ADP is also outside the top-100 and he makes a strong TE1 in 3TE builds or someone we feel fine bringing as a TE2. QB Kenny Pickett’s 1.8% TD rate was historically low last season, and that should improve in year two. If that happens, Freiermuth should be a beneficiary and finish higher than the TE8 as he did last season. He’s got the athletic profile and role we look for in breakout TEs.

George Kittle– ADP: TE4/59.9

He’s a highlight machine and we love watching the passion he plays the game with. But, this is fantasy football folks and Kittle’s end-of-season run with Brock Purdy was likely a bit of an outlier when you consider his entire career. He had seven TDs over the final month compared to averaging four TDs per season in the previous five years of his career. He’s as volatile as they get which can be fun when he’s on a roll but regression can hit you like a ton of bricks. There are a lot of mouths to feed in this offense with a scheme that’s historically been very run-heavy. It’s a small sample size, but George Kittle‘s numbers with Deebo in the lineup are notably much worse. In 10 games where Deebo has missed, Kittle is averaging three more half PPR points per game, and last season, Kittle’s surge in production came with Purdy under center, not Trey Lance. Jimmy G is gone and Purdy is recovering from a serious elbow injury. All of that is a lot to swallow at TE4. Can we find other athletic TEs with similar top-5 upside later in our drafts?

  • David Njoku (TE9/103.5)– The Chief is one of the athletic TEs this year I’m targeting near pick 100 as his ADP remains relatively low. In 2022, David Njoku set a career-high in receptions (58) and quietly ranked 2nd among all TEs in red zone targets. He could see a spike in TDs if Deshaun Watson returns to a fraction of his former self. If you miss out on the elite tier of TEs and plan on punting off the position, Njoku seems like a good safety net.
  • Chigoziem Okonkwo (TE12/130.6)– Any TE going after let’s say TE7 or TE8 has a massive range of outcomes, and the difference between the TE12 and the TE16 in fantasy is negligible. Why not shoot for upside with our TE selections? Tennessee looks like a roster that’s in full rebuild mode after they cut several veterans to save money against the cap, and thus far in free agency, they haven’t signed any relevant pass catchers. Austin Hooper is gone clearing the way for Chig to take on a full-time role. Last season, he led all TEs who saw 25+ targets in yards per route run, which is a predictive stat when it comes to fantasy relevance at the TE position. A dynamic pass catcher who can create after the catch, Chig’s athleticism is worth betting on at this ADP. We think he creeps inside the top-12 by the time the summer comes around. You can watch me give my pro-Chig argument on the Footballers Top-10 Things to Remember episode back in March.


Jim duggan says:

You named some football players!

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