Best Ball Rookies to Target (2019 Fantasy Football)
Free agency and the NFL Draft are in the books now. Rookie minicamps are underway and NFL rosters are beginning to take shape. That means best ball drafts are in full swing. As the fantasy community adjusts pre-draft evaluations and rankings, understanding how team landing spot and draft capital affect rookie ADPs is vital to winning best ball drafts.
You can love/hate a player more than the consensus rankings and ADP, but it is inherently more difficult to project rookie impact given the uncertainty versus result-based performance from established players. That’s why rookie ADPs and results can hold the highest variance year to year and fantasy players tend to overpay for rookies based on collegiate production and hype. I’ll breakdown which rookies you should be targeting in best ball formats at this point in the year.
Josh Jacobs (RB – OAK): DRAFT.com ADP: 39.3 | Round 4
Jacobs was the first running back taken in 2019 draft when he was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the first round. His cost is rising into the early-fourth round coming off the board in the RB20 range. Oakland took Jacobs to be their three-down workhorse running back which will lead to plenty of volume and opportunity. The Raiders’ offense was more of a disaster than a success last year and saw a rotating backfield. They were down in a lot of games, which negatively affected game script for the run game, resulting in just the 23rd-most rushing attempts in the league last year at 24.2 attempts per game.
Although they were in the bottom third of the league, the number of attempts is in line with Gruden’s 24.5 rushing attempt average during his first coaching stint from 1998-2008. Playmaking has changed so much since then with increased passing volume, but Gruden is an old-school guy and will look to use Jacobs in every way possible. I’m buying at his current price, as he’s positioned to be the primary weapon in the Raiders’ backfield.
D.K. Metcalf (WR – SEA): DRAFT.com ADP: 109.7 | Round 10
Metcalf is currently being currently drafted as the WR40-45 in best ball drafts. That’s cheap for someone with his unique athletic profile and size (99th percentile SPARQ-x score). He has similar traits and strengths as Josh Gordon, who can stretch the field and exploit smaller corners with his size and speed. I’m expecting low receiving volume, but a high percentage of touchdowns, which makes him an ideal best ball candidate because he should be a player with high-scoring volatility week to week.
In best ball, your entire roster is in play every week and your score is determined by the highest scoring players. That luxury doesn’t exist in standard league formats where you will have to pick and choose which weeks to insert him into your lineup. Metcalf’s boom/bust profile works well in best-ball formats and I’ll be targeting him at his current price.
Darrell Henderson (RB – LAR): DRAFT.com ADP: 126.8 | Round 11
Sean McVay and the Rams traded up in the NFL Draft to select Henderson in the third round. A surprising pick to some, but the pick was also viewed as insurance with Gurley’s current knee issues. It’s been suspected that Gurley is suffering from arthritis in his knee, the same knee he tore his ACL in his final collegiate season. If that’s truly the case, Henderson is more than just an insurance policy and if you are unaware of his college production – 8.9 YPC in consecutive seasons — then he needs to on your radar.
The Rams’ offense is highly efficient and you can plug-and-play any RB, evidenced by C.J. Anderson at the end of last year. If Henderson gains lead back duties at any point in the season, he is immediately fantasy relevant. He is a low-risk, high-reward option given the price tag.
Deebo Samuel (WR – SF): DRAFT.com ADP: 178.6 | Round 15
The 49ers selected Samuel with the fourth pick in the second round to add to a weak WR corps. He was the do-it-all playmaker for South Carolina during his collegiate career, as he played both inside and outside and could immediately fill the slot receiver role in San Francisco. Kyle Shanahan was his coach at the Senior Bowl and fell in love with his playmaking ability, which bodes well for his playing time. There are a lot of mouths to feed in San Fran, but drafting a productive, electric player like Samuel in the last three rounds of drafts could put you over the top this year.
Jace Sternberger (TE – GB): DRAFT.com ADP: 212.8 | Round 18
Sternberger’s lone season at Texas A&M was an extremely productive one. He totaled 48 receptions for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Jimmy Graham experiment in Green Bay hasn’t lived up to expectations and they selected Sternberger in the third round this year hinting at a change. Aaron Rodgers has made it known that he prefers to involve the TE in the passing attack and Sternberger’s strengths are as a field-stretching, receiving tight end. Tying Sternberger to the Green Bay offense, combined with his late-round asking price, could prove to be a gratifying payoff.
Kyler Murray (QB – ARI): DRAFT.com ADP: 111.9 | Round 10
Hakeem Butler (WR – ARI): DRAFT.com ADP: 188.3 | Round 16
Andy Isabella (WR – ARI): DRAFT.com ADP: 188.4 | Round 16
I don’t expect Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid offense to translate to wins on the football field, but it should translate to fantasy wins with the expected offensive volume in Arizona this year. Murray is being drafted around QB12 in best ball leagues and that seems like his floor given his rushing ability and potentially high passing volume. If he proves to be a good fit in Kingsbury’s scheme, then the entire WR group should benefit. At the end of the draft, Isabella and Butler are low-cost, high-upside options in what could be one of the most prolific offenses.