Best Players For Best Ball Fantasy Football Leagues
July 25, 2013 | C.D. Carter
Home run derbies aren’t won with screaming line drives striped into the outfield gaps, just as long drive contests aren’t won with solid 270-yard draws into smack in the middle of the short grass.
And so it goes with best ball fantasy football leagues. Throw out your back swinging for the fences, lash out at that golf ball sitting so pretty on its tee, and go for it all. Perhaps it’s best said this way: go nuclear in best ball leagues – you’ll destroy your opponents or yourself, and nothing in between.
Best ball leagues, for the uninitiated, automatically optimize your rosters every week, taking the highest output from every position and generating a weekly score. In other words, there’s no chance of you benching that wide receiver who converts two targets into two 50-yard scores.
The goal should be to stack your lineup with the highest of upside fantasy commodities. Forsake your ultra-conservative redraft approach and select players who come at a value and have the potential to far outperform their draft positions, even if usage questions and major injury risks swirl around them this offseason.
Here are the best boom/bust best ball picks as of July 26:
Robert Griffin III, WAS: Mock drafters have hedged on RGIII throughout the offseason, as even good news about his repaired ACL haven’t sent his average draft position through the proverbial roof. Healthy and upright, this is the guy who led all fantasy quarterbacks after eight weeks last season. He can still be had in the seventh round. I recently drafted him in the ninth round of a best ball league.
Uncertainty will suppress Griffin’s ADP for now. Take advantage while you can.
Jay Cutler, CHI: Cutler, whom you surely hate, was a top-three fantasy signal caller last time he threw the ball 60 times in a season. New head coach Marc Trestman’s offense is predicated on throwing, throwing, and throwing some more. Cutler will surpass that 600-attempt mark, and with the increased efficiency that all other Trestman quarterbacks have enjoyed, I think his ceiling is well within the top-10. His floor, of course, is a bit frightening, as a signal caller who hasn’t cracked top-12 territory since 2009.
Cutler can be had at the rock bottom price of a late-11th round selection.
David Wilson, NYG: Is there a fantasy commodity with a wider range of outcomes than the Giants’ second-year running back? I think he could just as easily end 2013 as a high-end RB3 as a low-end RB1. The Giants have sported timeshare backfields over the past six seasons, and with head coach Tom Coughlin promising to abide by a “hot hand” approach, Wilson could see a bigger workload than anyone projects.
Andre Brown, his backfield mate, has missed around 10,000 games over the past three seasons, so there’s that. Wilson is the 21st running back off the draft board, going in the early third round.
Giovani Bernard, CIN: The rookie enters a backfield with incumbent starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the undisputed King of Plodders who could start the season in a timeshare with Bernard. Then there’s this: “Having evaluated him and watched every game he played. … He has that skill set where I think he could play and be an every-down player,” Bengals running backs coach Hue Jackson said in an interview with Bengals.com. The Bengals have experimented with Bernard – who caught 92 passes as the Tarheels’ featured back in 2011-12 — split out as a wide receiver in offseason practices, and it’s clear that he could seize the starting gig with a nice start to the season.
He could also serve as a third-down back for the entirety of 2013. Bernard is being drafted near the middle of the sixth round. That’s seeming less and less likely, however, as Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said Jul 25 that Bernard could split carries 50-50 with Green-Ellis.
Josh Gordon, CLE: Mock drafters ran for the hills, weeping and screaming, when it was announced last month that Gordon would be suspended for the first two games of 2013. Fret not; Gordon will return thereafter and serve as the primary pass catcher in a suddenly vertical offense headed by Norval Turner, who’s a much better offensive coordinator than head coach. Gordon flashed elite potential last season in limited opportunities.
His ADP has plummeted to the bottom of the eighth round, where I think he represents one of the most obvious values of 2013. Gordon’s floor isn’t all that low either, making him safer than most guys on this list.
DeAndre Hopkins, HOU: The rookie who could finally take the long-empty mantle of Legit Receiver Opposite Andre Johnson has a fairly wide range of outcomes – from a first-year guy who doesn’t see many targets in a run-heavy offense to a physical force who burns secondaries as coverage schemes lean Johnson’s way. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub said in May that Hopkins would be “an added dimension to our offense.”
Hopkins is running with the Texans’ starters, so there’s little doubt he’ll be a starter come Opening Day. He has a tantalizing fantasy ceiling this year, and he’s being drafted at the beginning of the 10th round as the 42nd receiver off the board, behind low-ceiling guys like Jeremy Maclin, Greg Jennings, and Anquan Boldin.
Rob Gronkowski, NE: Perhaps the most vicious swing for the fences in best ball leagues, the surgically-repaired Gronk represents fantasy football’s most jaw clenching boom-bust prospect. Gronkowski, who finished second among fantasy tight ends despite missing four games in 2012 (take a minute to ruminate on that), may or may not be back for Week 1, and still carries the hefty price of a mid-fourth round pick.
Taking him there doesn’t mean you’re banking on Gronkowski playing all 16 games; it means you’re OK with him missing a few games and remaining the absurdly efficient fantasy asset he’s been for the past two seasons. You should certainly snag another tight end late as a Gronkowski fill-in should be miss a couple weeks. Gronk, you should know, averaged .61 fantasy points every time he ran a pass route in 2012. That’s ludicrous.
Dustin Keller, MIA: Update (Now Out For The Season) The new Dolphins’ tight end has thoroughly impressed so far in OTAs and training camp, proving to be Ryan Tannehill’s prime target. Keller, a top-10 fantasy tight end in 2010 and 2011, could be Miami’s lone red zone threat, as newly acquired Mike Wallace certainly doesn’t thrive inside the 20-yard line. Keller doesn’t have too much bust potential, since he can be had at the start of the 14th round.
Keller can be the seam stretcher that Tannehill lacked during his rookie season, so get Keller for cheaper than cheap while you can. I have a sneaking suspicion his ADP will rise as training camp and preseason slog onward.