Players to Target in DRAFT Best Ball Leagues (Fantasy Football)
I’ve previously touted undervalued players and late-round targets in DRAFT Best Ball Leagues. The following players aren’t necessarily undervalued, and they aren’t restricted to the late rounds of drafts. Instead, they’re merely players I’m going to go out of my way to roster for the reasons I’ll discuss.
Kirk Cousins (MIN – QB): 77.0
I have a general aversion to drafting quarterbacks in the early stages of DRAFT Best Ball Leagues, though, I’m not entirely opposed to the dual-threat studs, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson (both add a lot more through the air than Cam Newton, so his exclusion wasn’t an oversight). Having gotten that disclaimer out of the way, I love Cousins as the ninth quarterback off the board, on average. Among quarterbacks who have played at least 10 games since 2015, Cousins ranks eighth in passing yards per game (274.5), fourth in completion percentage (67.02%), eighth in touchdown passes (81), seventh in Quarterback Rating (97.5), tied for fifth in yards per pass attempt (7.80), and sixth in adjusted yards per pass attempt (7.80), according to Pro-Football-Reference. He’s been a top-flight quarterback, and now he joins an offense that boasts one of the best one-two wideout punches in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and are complemented by solid ancillary pass-catching pieces such as tight end Kyle Rudolph and second-year back Dalvin Cook. He’ll have no shortage of weapons in a passing attack that’s an upgrade from his previous employer’s, and as an added bonus, he’ll play all of his home games indoors. As you can see on Cousins’ Pro-Football-Reference splits page, his passing numbers have gotten a lift playing in domes or retractable roof stadiums in his nine starts in those venues.
Alex Collins (BAL – RB): 56.3
Collins isn’t a running back without faults. His 8.1 yards per reception last year is good at first blush, but his 63.9% catch% is poor, and Football Outsiders (FO) ranked him 61st out of 61 running backs who caught at least 25 passes in DYAR and DVOA. Collins also received a dreadful receiving grade at Pro Football Focus (PFF), further cementing his status as a below-average receiver who’s probably better served with two-down duties. Having said that, he’s damn good as a runner. In fact, PFF gave him the highest run grade among backs. FO ranked him sixth in DYAR and third in DVOA out of 47 backs who rushed the ball at least 100 times. Even with his receiving shortcomings, Collins is underrated as RB23 in ADP. I’d outright rather have him than Carlos Hyde (37.6), Derrius Guice (42.6) — at least until we see where he lands in the NFL Draft –, Dion Lewis (44.7), and Jay Ajayi (46.1), and relative to their costs, I’d rather have him than Dalvin Cook (15.1), Derrick Henry (26.1), and Jordan Howard (27.2).
Rex Burkhead (NE – RB): 93.1
The aforementioned Lewis’ departure to the Titans opens up touches to Burkhead and others in the backfield. Burkhead offers the best blend of skills out of the backs, and he’s simply the best back on the roster. Among backs who carried the ball between 20-99 times, FO ranked him seventh in DYAR. He also earned an average grade overall at PFF and a strong grade as a receiver. Burkhead parlayed 9.4 touches (6.4 carries and 3.0 receptions per game) into 51.8 yards from scrimmage per game, and he had a nose for the end zone with eight scores (five rushing and three receiving) in 10 games. He’s a well-rounded back who’s tied to a juggernaut offense. He’s barely cracking the top 100 picks, and he’s only RB32. He’s slightly undervalued even when accounting for New England’s penchant for splitting up duties in the backfield. Furthermore, the varied usage of New England’s backfield is less problematic in DRAFT Best Ball Leagues than in traditional formats, making Burkhead all the more appealing in this format for his spike weeks.
Robert Woods (LAR – WR): 65.8
No longer held back in Buffalo’s pathetic offense, Woods shined in his first season with the high-flying Rams. PFF ranked him 15th overall at receiver. At FO, he ranked 20th in DYAR and 21st in DVOA out of 86 receivers who caught at least 50 passes. The 41st overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft put together a season that showcased why he was a high second-round pick a handful of years ago. He posted his impressive DYAR and DVOA marks despite missing four games. Using traditional statistics, Woods ranked 17th in receiving yards per game (65.1) and tied or 22nd in receptions per game (4.7) last season. Gamers seem to be reluctant to buy into his breakout because he’s WR28 in ADP. I’m buying into the breakout and believe he’s a top-20 receiver in a high-octane offense.
Rishard Matthews (TEN – WR): 135.6
Listen, I like Corey Davis’ potential. The fifth pick in last year’s NFL Draft has significant upside, but he also underwhelmed as a rookie. Gamers appear to be giving him a full pass on his ho-hum rookie season as he has an ADP of 89.8 and is WR37 in ADP. What about Matthews, though? Matthews is being selected nearly 50 picks later as WR55. In two seasons with the Titans, the former Dolphin has shown rapport with Marcus Mariota, and he’s averaged 3.9 receptions and 58.0 yards receiving per game while hauling in 13 touchdown grabs in 30 games. The advanced metrics and grades like him, too. PFF ranked him 32nd overall among receivers, and FO ranked him 19th in both DYAR and DVOA out of 86 receivers who caught at least 50 passes last year. He’s not the sexiest option, but his credentials scream top-50 receiver at least. Also, like all of the members of Tennessee’s offense in 2018, he should get a boost from a more creative offense that new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur will unleash on the league. LaFleur served as the offensive coordinator for the Rams last season, and the Rams led the NFL in scoring offense (29.9 points per game). Conversely, the Titans ranked just tied for 18th in scoring offense (20.9 points per game). The Rams didn’t play at a breakneck pace, but they ran more offensive plays than the Titans, and they did a much better job of creating big plays. The Rams ranked tied for sixth in yards per play (5.8), while the Titans ranked tied for 17th (5.2). Matthews represents a cheap piece of an offense that should be on the rise this year.