Best Ball League Winners for 2022 (Fantasy Football)
The term ‘league winners’ gets thrown out a lot, but what does it actually mean when it comes to Best Ball? Kyle and I talked through that concept and gave our league winners at each position on the most recent episode of the Fantasy Footballers DFS Podcast.
When trying to find league winners, we’re looking for guys who can have a high advance rate and a high win rate. It’s easy to say Josh Allen is going to be a league winning QB because of his ceiling and upside, but as Kyle pointed out in his QB Best Ball Tiers and Targets article, the opportunity cost is so high on a guy like Allen, that he has to be other worldly to be a league winner. Similarly, Cooper Kupp is the WR1 in ADP, so it’s difficult to call him a league winner. The goal here is not to identify who could score the most points at their position – we’re trying to find players going later in drafts who can not only out-perform their ADP and provide real value to your best ball rosters, but smash their ADP. These are our 2022 league winners in best ball.
Our Criteria for League Winning QBs:
- Spike Weeks Galore – Can this QB give us 3+ weeks of 25+ fantasy points OR 7 weekly performances inside the top-10
- Elite Advance Rate¹ Above 20% – Last season a total of eight QBs accomplished this feat.
Tom Brady, ADP: QB9, 79.9 overall
Yes the Plant Man just lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement. Yes, Chris Godwin is going to miss some regular season games to start the year. But, the volume should be there for Brady and the Bucs. Yes, Antonio Brown left streaking across MetLife stadium. But, over the last two seasons combined, no team has attempted more passes than the Bucs, and we expect much of the same in 2022. Even if the efficiency dips a bit with Godwin working his way back to full strength, the volume should be there for Brady to yet again out-perform his QB9 ADP. If we’re looking for spike weeks from our QB, Brady checks all the boxes. No QB attempted more deep passes a year ago, and Brady led the NFL in pass attempts from inside the 10-yard line, giving him paths to not only huge yardage games but multiple 3+ TD performances. We don’t expect his advance rate to be around 30% like it was a year ago given that he’s going about 20 spots earlier in ADP, but we absolutely think Brady can top the 20% advance rate we’re looking for in best ball.
Kirk Cousins, ADP: QB15, 117 overall
After back-to-back QB11 finishes in fantasy over the last two seasons, betting on Cousins to out-perform his QB15 ADP seems like a safe bet. Why? Kevin O’Connell comes over from the Rams to transform this Vikings offense from a run first unit under Mike Zimmer to a pass first offense. Last year in the Rams’ system, Stafford attempted 601 passes, the most since his 2014 season. Watching Kirk Cousins put up similar numbers in 2022 should not surprise anyone, especially when he’s tied to elite playmakers in Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook. Last season, he had four spike games (25+ points) and a total of eight over 20 last year. Even a slight regression on those numbers can put him above the 20% advance rate number if his pass-catchers stay healthy. We love him as a QB2 for your best ball squad.
Trey Lance, ADP: QB11, 87.6 overall
The Trey Lance experiment from last season was a disaster. Best ball drafters fell in love with the potential upside of the rookie only for Lance to start two games, spending most of his 2021 season holding a clip board. Fast forward one year and Jimmy G is all but guaranteed to be off the roster, opening the door for Lance to explode in fantasy. It’s a small sample size from a year ago, but among QBs who started at least two games, no QB in football scored more fantasy points per drop back than the San Fran QB. And if you’re looking for a bigger sample size, let’s look at the last decade. QBs who have averaged 8+ rush attempts per game finished the season on average as the QB6. We love the upside Lance presents at QB11 and think he’s got a real shot to finish inside the top-5 at the position.
Our Criteria for League Winning RBs:
- Sustained Greatness – Can this RB give us 5+ Top-12 weeks?
- Some of the Elite Round 1 RBs need to fail
- Elite Advance Rate Above 22% – Last season, 9 RBs accomplished this
Antonio Gibson, ADP: RB23, 67.7 overall
Right now, it seems like all the news surrounding Antonio Gibson is negative – Brian Robinson was taken in Round 4 of the NFL Draft, and J.D. McKissic is back on the roster to steal obvious passing down work, but has the hate gone too far on a talented running back? Gibson is now going as the RB23, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see his ADP settle outside of the top-24 come August if we continue to get news that the Washington backfield will be a committee. Even so, this dip in ADP feels like an over-reaction for a player who’s finished the last two seasons as RB12 and RB10. When selecting Gibson as your RB2 or RB3, we aren’t expecting him to give us top-5 numbers that we were a year ago when he was a borderline 1st round pick at the 1/2 turn. Understanding that Gibson’s opportunity cost relative to last year is much lower, we’re willing to take shots on Gibson with his ADP in free fall. If he can finish somewhere in the RB15 to RB18 range, we like his chances of showing up on winning rosters.
Rhamondre Stevenson: RB38, 114.8 overall
The Patriots backfield is usually one that’s difficult to project given their historical committee approach and, that uncertainty usually leads to fantasy drafters passing on New England backs in favor of more predictable situations. In best ball leagues, we should be leaning into this uncertainty as we don’t have to predict when the spike weeks from each back. A year ago, best ball drafters who invested in Damien Harris were rewarded handsomely on the back of his 15 rushing TD. This year, we’re much higher on Stevenson being able to be a league winner at his RB38 ADP given his potential path to not only early down and goal line work, but also path to receiving work. A year ago, Stevenson ranked 8th among qualifying backs in yards per route run and now there’s a clear opportunity in the backfield to be the leading receiving. Brandon Bolden followed Josh McDaniels to Las Vegas, and James White’s serious hip injury may prevent him from playing this season. With Damien Harris stuck in his two-down grinder role, Stevenson is our best bet to take over this valuable role in New England’s offense.
Our Criteria for League Winning WRs:
- Is a double digit TD season in the range of outcomes?
- ADP outside of the top 24, on average
- Elite Advance Rate Above 22% – Last season, 15 WRs accomplished this
Allen Lazard, ADP: WR43, 88.7 overall
League winners in best ball usually come from ambiguous situations, and as of early July, the Green Bay WR room couldn’t be more ambiguous. If we can correctly identify the WR1 in an Aaron Rodgers offense, it could pay off handsomely in best ball formats, making Lazard a possible league winner. Davante Adams vacates over 30% of Green Bay’s 2021 targets and receiving yards, and more importantly, he vacates 11 receiving TD and 14 targets from inside the 10-yard line. As described above, we’re trying to find WRs who have paths to double digit TDs to give us those spike weeks we want in best ball. We know Aaron Rodgers is going to get his, and while we love both Packers running backs, their role in the offense is capped to some degree. One of the primary pass catchers will have to step up, and we love betting on Lazard to be that guy. Lazard hauled in 8 scores a year ago with Adams on the roster, meaning a 10+ TD season is in the range of potential outcomes. The Lazard King has played eight games without Davante Adams in his career, and in those games, he’s averaged 60 receiving yards. We think he’s got a great chance to vastly out-perform his WR43 ADP.
Chris Olave, ADP: WR48, 99.6 overall
The stars are aligning for a Chis Olave breakout campaign as a rookie. Michael Thomas is still recovering from his 2021 ankle surgery and doesn’t look close to 100%, and Alvin Kamara may miss six games this year due to a suspension. As a result, there’s paths to Olave leading the Saints in targets in 2022, even as a rookie. But what’s nice about Olave in best ball, is those are all best case scenario for his outlook. At WR48 off the board, if we can even get top-36 numbers from the rookie, he’ll be a high win rate player. Historically, rookie WRs tend to perform better over the back half of the year, so if we don’t get much from Olave early in the season, we can at least bank out a potential late season breakout when it matters most for our best ball rosters. Entering the NFL as one of, if not the, most pro ready wide outs, Olave is a guy we’re higher on than the market.
Our Criteria for League Winning TEs:
- Elite Advance Rate Above 20% – Last year, 10 TEs accomplished this, and 9 of the top 10 advance rates were after pick 150. This is primarily because the elite TEs didn’t return on their ADP investment. We’re not necessarily willing to write this in stone as there seems to be some variance associated with this finding.
- Is 7+ TDs on the table?
Dalton Schultz, ADP: TE6, 79.7 overall
Dalton Schultz was a massive win rate guy last year thanks ot his 204.6 ADP. Well, things have changed in a calendar year, and he’s now going off the board 80th overall. In order to be a league winner this year, he’ll have to at least match what he did last season. Even so, there’s paths to a top-3 TE fantasy season for Dr. Schultz. Dallas vacates 181 targets from their WR room a year ago, including an absurd 44% of their targets from inside the 10-yard line. Playing on an offense that projects to be top-1o in the NFL, Schultz is one of few TEs capable of hitting double digits in the TD department. In 2021, only two TEs ran more routes than Dalton Schultz, and with Michael Gallup recovering from his ACL to start the year, James Washington being a backup in the NFL and 3rd round rookie Jalen Tolbert as the only competition for targets behind CeeDee Lamb, Schultz should be heavily utilized in the Cowboys passing game. We love stacking him with Dak Prescott.
Gerald Everett, ADP: TE18, 162.0 overall
If you’re looking for a more in depth discussion on Gerald Everett, I’d check out Kyle’s article, “Gerald Everett & A History of TEs Coming Out of Nowhere for Fantasy Football.” The bottom line is this – we want late round TEs who have paths to vastly out-perform their ADP. How does that happen? We need those TEs to be part of high volume passing offenses with good to great QB play with a path to scoring several touchdowns. Sound familiar? That’s exactly what Jared Cook did a year ago when he played with Justin Herbert. Now, Herbert gets a TE who’s seven years younger and much more dynamic at this stage of his career than the veteran Cook. At TE18 off the board in the 14th round, we need Everett to basically do exactly what Cook did last year, but we think the ceiling is even higher at this stage of his career. We like him as your TE2 or TE3.
¹Advance Rates compiled from RotoViz Underdog Advance Rate App.