Was this not one of the craziest NFL offseasons ever? A lot has changed, which is why my previous installment of this best ball article looks kind of obsolete now. You should no longer avoid the Packers’ Aaron Jones since Davante Adams was traded. Remove the Titans’ Robert Woods from that list, too, though you should still stay away from the other three players.
Before we get to this new batch of players to avoid, a quick reminder: I’m not suggesting you avoid these players entirely. I’m merely suggesting you avoid them at their current values. You should never completely take players off your board because they can still provide value at a certain point. For example, you’re about to find out why I don’t like Raiders running back Josh Jacobs at his current ADP (Average Draft Position). While I wouldn’t take Jacobs at his price, I’d certainly be interested in him three-to-four rounds later. Jacobs could be in a similar situation as Damien Harris and Devin Singletary — both of whom are typically being drafted three-to-four rounds after Jacobs.
When you’re drafting players, you have to weigh the possibility of a player finishing higher than his ADP or lower than his ADP. The later the draft goes, the more chances you can take on a player’s upside relative to the players around him. Conversely, that’s not to say you should avoid reaching on players entirely, either. The first piece of advice I give fantasy managers is to have fun. The second piece of advice? When in doubt, stick with your gut. If you truly love a player, go snatch him up. Although, data doesn’t typically support reaching for players. It’s smarter to draft relative to the board of available players.
So how does this all apply to your best ball team? Keep a close eye on how your league-mates are drafting. If a player you’re low on starts to fall, don’t let your predetermined stance on him cause you to overlook potentially good value. Alas, you shouldn’t be too eager to draft these five players in best ball this season…
Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
Underdog ADP: RB22
Nothing has gone well for Jacobs’ fantasy stock this offseason. The Raiders spent their second pick on running back Zamir White, who compares similarly to Jacobs as a non-receiving threat. They also added Brandon Bolden to the backfield with Kenyan Drake. Of course, the big acquisition was wide receiver Davante Adams. He’ll almost surely convince the new coaching staff to hand the ball off less. As for that new staff, Head Coach Josh McDaniels came from New England, which hasn’t been the friendliest team toward running backs in fantasy. Their running back by committee (RBBC) has infamously capped the upside of their running backs. Now, I’m not saying Las Vegas will fully implement that approach, but the signs suggest a lighter workload for Jacobs.
Considering the arrival of Adams and Jacobs averaged only one more target than Drake, Jacobs’ upside as a receiver has also weakened. You’re better off targeting the upside and career trajectory of Elijah Mitchell and A.J. Dillon. Regardless of how you feel about Mitchell and Dillon, they’re two younger backs who have shown no signs of falling off. You can also play it safer and draft at least two running backs prior to Jacobs’ projected range of selection.
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Commanders
Underdog ADP: RB23
Speaking of bad offseasons, poor Antonio Gibson. Following the 2021 season, it looked like Gibson could finally get Washington’s backfield all to himself. Unfortunately for him, the Commanders had other plans. They re-signed J.D. McKissic and drafted Brian Robinson in the third round. McKissic averaged 1.5 more targets than Gibson and ran about six more routes per game than Gibson, per PlayerProfiler.com. Meanwhile, TDN’s Washington Commanders czar, Ryan Fowler, thinks Gibson’s miscues have opened the door for Robinson to eat into Gibson’s role.
“With seven fumbles in just 30 games, ball security threatens Gibson’s future in Washington,” wrote Fowler. “His inability to take care of the football could ultimately limit his large workload moving into his third season in Scott Turner’s offense—you don’t draft Robinson not to use him, right?”
Like Jacobs, Gibson did produce some pretty big games, so we know Gibson is capable of RB1 performances. Also like Jacobs, Gibson’s value would be much more enticing if he were being drafted a round or two later. There’s just too much evidence to suggest a role reduction for Gibson, which severely caps his weekly upside. And even if Gibson maintains Washington’s RB1 role, Head Coach Ron Rivera doesn’t seem eager to give Gibson more than the 56.7% of snaps he saw in 2021. Running backs like A.J. Dillon, Elijah Mitchell and Kenneth Walker offer a higher ceiling at a justified price.
DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Underdog ADP: WR33
Smith is the classic case of being a good real-world player, yet not a good fantasy player. He only hit double-digit points six times in 2021. The rookie also scored just four touchdowns. Fortunately, Smith was Philadelphia’s No. 1 wide receiver since he led the team with 6.1 targets per game. That will almost certainly change in 2022 with A.J. Brown in town. I don’t need to tell you how good Brown was in Tennessee, so he should be the Eagles’ top receiver (again, I say “should” because nothing is guaranteed). The most logical path is for Brown to become quarterback Jalen Hurts’ favorite target like he was for Ryan Tannehill, thus relegating Smith to secondary receiver duties.
The big question mark in Smith’s projection stems from the development of Hurts. In the second half of last season, the Eagles did a good job rewriting their offense to maximize Hurts’ strengths and hide his weaknesses. Unfortunately for Smith, Hurts’ strength was not consistent passing. That can change, though. Hurts can take the leap as a passer in the offseason, thus convincing Head Coach Nick Sirianni to call more pass plays — no team had a lower rate of pass plays than Philadelphia last season. That would obviously mean more passes to go around, which could bolster Smith into becoming a viable WR2 in fantasy. However, those are a lot of “ifs.” The truth is Smith has a slim path to meeting his ADP, let alone even passing it. Even if Hurts and the Eagles open up their passing game more, Smith still has to compete for targets behind Brown and tight end Dallas Goedert. Wide receivers like Drake London, Russell Gage, Treylon Burks and Christian Kirk have easier paths to reaching their upside at lower prices.
Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Underdog ADP: WR60
It feels like every offseason, someone is out there hyping up Hardman. Please, make it stop. This likely isn’t the season where Hardman finally breaks out. He’s started all but two games in his three-year career, so he’s had ample opportunities to establish himself as the Chiefs’ secondary receiver behind Tyreek Hill. While Hardman’s receptions and receiving yards increased each season, his receiving touchdowns have decreased. With Hill in Miami, the door is wide open for a new star receiver to emerge alongside tight end Travis Kelce. Don’t be fooled into thinking the speedy Hardman will be Hill 2.0.
Albeit, none of Kansas City’s wideouts may take that crown, and understandably so. On the surface, Hardman may seem like a good value. His ADP labels him as the WR4 behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, Skyy Moore and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, respectively. Here’s the catch. Based on his ADP, Hardman is being drafted as a high-end WR5 for most best ball teams. That’s fine until you see who else is typically available. Jakobi Meyers, Jalen Tolbert and K.J. Osborn are just some of the wide receivers with lower ADPs who have a better chance of blowing past them. We don’t even know if Hardman will be the fourth-best pass-catcher on his own team. And wideouts like Jamison Crowder, Jahan Dotson and D.J. Chark may all have more defined roles in their respective offenses. Sure, Kansas City’s offense is rich with fantasy potential, but little suggests Hardman can finally capitalize on the opportunity in 2022.
Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders
Underdog ADP: TE4
Don’t get me wrong, Waller deserves to be a top-five tight end on draft boards. He’s a proven stud at the position who was last year’s TE3 prior to his Week 12 injury. Simply put, Waller is nearly guaranteed to see fewer targets in 2022. Aside from the uncertainties of a new offense helmed by McDaniels, the Raiders added the ultimate ballhawk in Adams. Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow’s emergence doesn’t do Waller’s fantasy stock any favors, either. Waller can still easily be quarterback Derek Carr’s second-favorite target en route to a TE1 finish.
I’m weary of Waller’s price because tight ends in best ball offer much more value than in most other formats. Tight ends like Dalton Schultz and Dawson Knox weren’t too consistent last season, yet they still offered multiple weeks as a TE1. Essentially, you should consider spending your earlier picks on positions with less depth. If you draft Waller at his ADP, you may miss out on a top running back or wide receiver. For example, you can pair a weekly starter in Breece Hall or James Conner with Dalton Schultz and Zach Ertz later. An alternative example is pairing Darren Waller with A.J. Dillon and Chase Edmonds based on ADP. It’s a safer bet to get TE1 performances out of guys like Schultz or Ertz rather than getting RB1 performances out of guys like Dillion or Edmonds. So again, Waller isn’t a bad selection. You just have a better chance at maximizing your roster by avoiding Waller at his ADP.
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