Fantasy Football is as much a strategy game as it is a prediction game, especially in Best Ball tournaments on sites like Underdog Fantasy, DraftKings and Drafters. . But we ultimately have to make player selections in our drafts, and it’s important to evaluate every player selection based on the site that you are drafting them on. The below is A culmination of our best fantasy football & best ball picks for 2023 based on the Average Draft Position (ADP), scoring, lineup settings, and other rules for each Best Ball site.
In order to make our list of Core Picks, you need to meet a few different variables that are important for fantasy football drafters.
Probably the most important aspect of determining which players are the top fantasy football draft picks on each Best Ball site is their ADP. Players do not get selected in the same spot or even same round on every site, so players who may be overpriced on certain sites may end up as great picks on other sites.
Each best ball site (and fantasy football league) has their own specific scoring system. Because of that, certain players fit better into certain scoring systems. Alternatively, some players are bad fits for other scoring systems. Some sites have full point per reception scoring, some have half point per reception and others even have 1.5 point per reception scoring for tight ends only. Those nuances are very important to consider when determining our core picks.
We are mostly focused on Best Ball tournaments (like Underdog Fantasy, DraftKings, and Drafters) here, and not only do these platforms have different scoring, but they also have different tournament formats. The two main types of formats are cumulative vs. playoff, and it’s important to understand how different players fit into the different aspect of these formats.
*Updated Wednesday, July 27th, 10:52 AM ET*
Sam Howell, Washington Commanders
With QB pricing becoming as efficient as ever at the top of drafts and the elite QBs going off the board as high as the 2nd and 3rd round of drafts, that makes cheaper QBs with real upside more valuable than ever.
I’m a firm believer that the NFL just got it wrong with Howell letting him slide to the 5th round two years ago. On the 2022 NFL Draft Watch Party with our friends at Ship Chasing, I actually discussed with Shawn Siegele of RotoViz why it was foolish of the Steelers to take Kenny Pickett in the 1st round when they could get Howell a round or two later. Let’s be clear, Howell is not some perfect prospect, but he had 2 excellent seasons at North Carolina as a true freshman and sophomore. He followed those up with a slightly underwhelming junior year, but this is where he really developed his dual threat ability.
UNC lost a boatload of NFL players before Howell’s junior year and his supporting cast was very poor, which led to a lesser passing season than desired. But Howell put the team on his back, often through rushing, as he ran for 828 yards and 11 TDs in his final collegiate season. He’s probably a better passer than the field gives him credit for, and his Josh Allen-esque rushing style creates a huge ceiling. We saw how impactful that could be in his one start last year, where he produced nearly 20 fantasy points on just 19 pass attempts thanks to 35 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in a blowout win over the Cowboys.
Howell has operated as QB1 for the Commanders all offseason, despite the free agent signing of Jacoby Brissett, and every word out of a teammate or coach has been wildly positive about his performance and talent. But the fear of Brissett is keeping Howell’s ADP very cheap, and his skillset combined with a super talented group of skill players and new OC Eric Bienemy in town present a unique upside situation in this QB environment.
Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons
The funny part about best ball is that sometimes we have to set aside our personal player takes or evaluations and dive into advantageous situations in the market. I have made it know that I’m not a Desmond Ridder fan as a prospect. If we were just betting on the career performance of a player, I would probably not be the guy betting on Ridder. But best ball is a different game…
Despite the almost comedic run heaviness of his offenses, Arthur Smith essentially always manufactures very capable offenses. In particular, he has sneakily enabled QBs to be quite productive for fantasy. Ryan Tannehill was the QB9 in both 2019 & 2020 points per game, and the QB14 in 2021.
Even last year amid a woeful real life QB performance that led to him being benched, Marcus Mariota was the QB17 per game, just behind Justin Herbert, Tom Brady and Jared Goff.
Maybe Ridder is not a great real-life NFL QB, but we’ve seen average or even bad NFL QBs produce strong results for fantasy purposes with Arthur Smith, and he does offer the rushing upside we look for. He rushed for nearly 2,200 yards and 28 TDs in his 4 years of college, and the weaponry is not an issue for him with Atlanta. He’s surrounded by top 10 picks Bijan Robinson, Kyle Pitts and Drake London who can elevate his performance just as Derrick Henry, AJ Brown and Corey Davis (or Jonnu Smith/Julio Jones) did in Tennessee for Ryan Tannehill, but he goes around pick 200 in drafts.
JK Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
As of this writing, we are seeing a nice dip in Dobbins’ ADP, which is a perfect buying time. He was placed on the PUP list, but by all accounts it appears to be more a contract issue than an injury one. As we’ve seen with Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and other backs, Dobbins is not happy about his current contract. Luckily for us as fantasy players (not so much for these actual running backs), but there isn’t much they can do to alleviate the contract concerns. The Ravens also understand Dobbins is a key piece to their offense as they compete for the Super Bowl this year, so the risk of missing time is outrageously low.
Which leads into just how big of a smash he is at this price in our Best Ball drafts. As Jakob Sanderson outlined in a recent Spike Week show, Dobbins is one of the best talents at the RB position, particularly as a rusher, in the entire NFL. Even on one leg last year, he averaged 5.7 YPC, which was actually down from 6.0 YPC his rookie year. The Ravens have very little behind him at the position with just Gus Edwards, Justice Hill and the recently signed corpse of Melvin Gordon. When the season gets here, it’s going to be wheels up for Dobbins.
It’s particularly wheels up because of how exciting the Ravens offensive situation is when paired with Dobbins talent. Lamar Jackson is signed and healthy. Rashod Bateman is back alongside Mark Andrews, and they drafted another first round WR in Zay Flowers while also bringing in Odell Beckham. And that’s not all, as they are moving to a more modern, uptempo offense with new OC Todd Monken. Getting this level of talent in this offense at this cost is a home run in drafts.
Damien Harris, Buffalo Bills
It feels like Harris’ talent is being a bit overlooked, and the stars are sort of aligning here for a monster season. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss are gone in Buffalo, and Harris should form a 1-2 punch with James Cook. While I think we should classify Cook as the “lead back”, it’s not as straightforward as that. Cook is explosive and a strong pass game weapon, but he’s just 190 pounds and doesn’t profile as the guy you want taking a huge beating between the tackles and at the goal line. Which is where Harris comes in…
Harris was banged up last year and splitting time with Rhamondre Stevenson, but we saw his upside in 2021 where he ran for nearly 1,000 yards and scored an insane 15 touchdowns for the Patriots. The Bills and Josh Allen himself have communicated to us this offseason that they need to scale back the hits Allen is taking with his physical running style and goal line carries, and if anyone is going to step in and take those carries on this roster, it’s Harris. He ran for over 3,000 yards and 23 TDs in this exact role at Alabama, and we’ve seen him excel at it in a far less exciting offensive environment. You also have massive contingent value if something were to happen to Cook, as we saw two years ago when Devin Singletary was a best ball league winner down the stretch as the workhorse on the Bills.
Rashaad Penny, Philadelphia Eagles
Another elite rusher in an elite spot for rushing production that we are getting at a discount thanks to uncertainty. I understand Penny has been unable to stay healthy, and I understand the Eagles have a bunch of backs on their roster. But this is a former first round pick who has proven to be an elite rusher in the NFL. He has averaged 5.7 YPC for his career, including being over 6 YPC the last two years in Seattle, including leading the league in that metric 2 years ago. Talent and efficiency is not the issue, and those are the exact kind of bets that can hit in a way that win us tons and tons of money in best ball when the other things come together.
Yes, the Eagles have D’Andre Swift, Kenny Gainwell and Boston Scott, but none of those guys profile as elite early down rushers like Penny does. Swift is talented, but mostly as a weapon in space and receiver. Gainwell is similar and is a different profile than Penny at just 5’9 200 pounds. Scott is mostly a replacement level back who helps on special teams and provides depth. The one player who can fill a big need in replacing Miles Sanders is Penny.
Speaking of Sanders, he’s a less talented back than Penny who we just saw have a monster season in this role. Sanders ran for more than 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns last year as the early down rusher and clock grinder for the Super Bowl runner up. Sure, Penny has injury concerns, but that’s true of any running back, and that’s why we are getting such a massive discount on a player who is arguably the most efficient rusher in the league on the offense that enables the most efficient rushing even by pedestrian talents.
Fantasy Football is as much a strategy game as it is a prediction game, especially in Best Ball tournaments on sites like Underdog Fantasy, DraftKings and Drafters. . But we ultimately have to make player selections in our drafts, and it’s important to evaluate every player selection based on the site that you are drafting […]
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