If you’ve been listening to me ramble about NFL Best Ball for the last couple months, first of all I appreciate that you’re a sicko like me. But also you know that I absolutely lean much more heavily on strategic edges and roster construction edges in these ball tournaments than I do on individual players. A huge percentage of the player pool probably serves a purpose in at least some sort of team you might draft, so I find the “What’s your favorite 7th round pick?” discussions typically rather unhelpful. However…
We do also have to ultimately pick players for our best ball teams, and you’ll usually find that even when you are naturally diverse through your draft strategy and team structure you are still probably going to develop a core of a few guys at each position that become “Your Guys”.
I’m almost halfway into my Underdog Best Ball Mania portfolio, so I thought it was a fitting time to start discussing “My Guys” at each position. I wanted to start with WR because I find the position the most interesting. RB is so heavily influenced by what you do at the top of drafts, and the “onesie” positions of QB and TE have different dynamics, but since we are drafting so many more WRs, the guys you are higher on than the field tend to more easily creep to the top of your exposure list.
There are not a lot of situations where we get a WR who crushed the year before, ran terribly on TD regression, and might even be in a situation to get even more targets… and they’re way undervalued. But that’s Robby Anderson this year.
In 2020, Robby was the WR17 in half point PPR scoring, but he’s currently being drafted as the WR32. Even with Curtis Samuel in town and being perceived as a bad fit with noodle-armed Teddy Bridgewater at QB, he was 10th in the entire NFL in targets. The only thing that stopped him from truly setting the fantasy world ablaze was the lack of TDs. With 136 targets, Robby had just 3 TDs, largely due to the fact that Teddy led the Panthers offense to the 28th ranked red zone efficiency in the league.
Now Curtis Samuel leaves for Washington, replaced by rookie Terrace Marshall and journeyman David Moore. Teddy is replaced by former top pick Sam Darnold. And the coaching staff remains, particularly rising star OC Joe Brady, that unlocked insane volume and production for all the key pieces of the Panthers offense last year even with Christian McCaffery went down. I get it, you might be concerned that Adam Gase simply ruined Sam Darnold, but we just saw the “floor” with a weak QB last year. Darnold can’t really be much worse than Teddy, and I think it’s reasonable to expect Darnold to take a fairly big leap after escaping the dumpster fire Jets.
The best investments are the ones with super high upside and very low risk, and that’s ultimately what we have with Robby. We saw what happens when he runs terribly on touchdowns, plays with a bad QB, and shares targets with a bunch of other great weapons. Even if he takes a small step back from that production with all those issues, he’s still probably going exceed his current ADP (as we saw last year), which creates the lack of risk. But if he takes on an even greater share of the targets, improves his TD rate, or Sam Darnold improves his QB play, he can catapult himself into a top 10 WR.
And don’t forget the shower narrative with Sam Darnold. Guaranteed extra targets.
Every year we see 2nd year WR breakouts, and many times they come from spots we don’t expect. It seems everyone is really down on the Colts offense aside from Jonathan Taylor, and I certainly get that some of that is from market share uncertainty. But this was a team that was 9th in the NFL in scoring last year, maintained an elite offensive line, brought back Parris Campbell, and kept their backfield intact. Coach Frank Reich has proven that we should trust his ability to construct a quality offense, and Carson Wentz is still just two years removed from an MVP caliber season before injury.
Wentz was undoubtedly putrid last year, but he also unlocks a ceiling in this offense that guys like Phillip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett simply couldn’t. Reich coached Wentz in Philly and hand picked him as his next QB on a team trying to win right now, so I probably have a little more faith (maybe too much) that Wentz can return to at least competent form in Indy.
That could unlock a massive ceiling for Pittman, who is clearly a much better fit with an aggressive downfield thrower like Wentz than checkdown artist Rivers. A year ago, the Colts took Pittman 34th overall and their first pick in the NFL Draft. By most standards, he had a fairly underwhelming rookie season with just 500 receiving yards and 1.44 yards per route run, but I think he showed flashes, particularly in his 7 catch, 100 yard performance against the Titans.
For me, an underwhelming rookie season is not a concern, especially when a big bodied downfield threat like Pittman is playing with a QB like Rivers. What jumps out to me is that Pittman is the clear guy with both the player archetype and draft capital to take a huge leap to an “alpha” role in this Colts offense. The Colts have a bunch of smaller speedy receivers like TY Hilton, Campbell and Zach Pascal. With Hilton aging, and Campbell and Pascal simpy not being the archetype of alpha WRs, the opportunity is there for the taking for the 2nd year 6’4 225 pound Pittman. And these are the types of bets I want to be making.
At an ADP of WR48, there’s really not much risk. And I think these situations where the stars sort of align for a breakout of both a player and an offense are simply ones I want to be overweight on because the payoff is so massive. There simply aren’t 2nd year WRs with near 1st round draft capital AND a clear path to taking a large market share in an elite offense available in fantasy drafts. It just doesn’t really happen. But the combination of uncertainty amongst those 4 WRs, as well as the uncertainty around Wentz are keeping Pittman outside of the first 10 rounds after guys like Jaylen Waddle, Brandin Cooks and Antonio Brown. The payoff if Pittman hits a ceiling at that cost is the perfect type of bet to make in these $1 Million to first large field tournaments.
Either folks are really ignoring the fact that Hunter Henry is out of town or they’ve written off Mike Williams because of all his injuries over the year, but his upside this season is way too high for his current WR46 ADP.
In 2019, Williams posted his best season, a 1,000 yard season in 15 games averaging an insane 20.4 yards per catch. This was after an insane 10 TD performance in 2018 in a part time role. He was a fairly hot middle round draft pick last season because of that, as most expected the former 7th overall pick to take another huge leap last year. Well, that leap didn’t happen as he battled some more injuries and ceded targets to Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry and Austin Ekeler in the now fired Anthony Lynn led offense.
But there’s a new sheriff in town in LA, and that’s former Sean Payton under study Michael Lombardi as the new OC for the Chargers. We don’t want to be overvaluing coach speak, but Lombardi’s comments were pretty eye popping on Williams, and they align with what we see on the Chargers roster as well. Lombardi mentioned that Williams is playing the X position in their offense, which is the offense he helped run in New Orleans. Interestingly, that X position is the same spot Michael Thomas played for the Saints. Keenan Allen will certainly get his share of targets from stud 2nd year QB Justin Herbert, but with Hunter Henry out of the picture and being replaced by aging journeyman Jared Cook, a ton of targets are there for the taking for Williams.
Talent has never really been an issue, which makes sense considering he was the 7th overall pick, and we’re now entering a contract year for Williams for the narrative street folks out there. But we have an uber talented player with far less target competition, a new (and smart) OC that is telling us he plans to feature him, and a stud 2nd year QB behind a newly strengthened offensive line. You don’t see many players who have had 10 TD seasons on just 66 targets (2018) or 1,000 yard season on just 49 catches (2019). Cleary those provide evidence of the red zone and downfield ability, and all you need for a massive season from Williams is a little more consistency.
It’s just another spot where the stars sort of align to create this massive payoff opportunity. There are a myriad of reasons to believe Williams can take that step, including his coach literally telling us we should bet on it happening, and if that next step happens he will blow his ADP out of the water.
I think Gallup might be the most undervalued pick in all of best ball drafts right now. A clearly talented player, Gallup oozes upside in this Dak Prescott led offense, but he’s being drafted like an afterthought. He was the WR36 last year in half point PPR scoring despite playing without Dak Prescott for most of the year. He’s being drafted as the WR39 right now. Riddle me that, Batman.
The Cowboys offense was a fantasy goldmine with Dak at the helm, and although Gallup was a bit more of a boom bust option during those games, he showed the upside with a 6/138/1 game against Seattle. We also don’t want to get in the habit of just extrapolating last year’s results, particularly in a super small sample size, over to this year. There are already reports of Gallup moving around the offense in camp, including into the slot a lot more, and the coaches gushing about how good he looks. Typical training camp fluff, but it’s just evidence that things can change year to year for players, and Gallup could have a more diverse role this season.
Not to mention, we are talking about a player who recorded 66 catch, 1,100 yard, 6 TD season in 2019. The offense added CeeDee Lamb, but that shouldn’t bump Gallup down this far. The Carolina Panthers had 4 separate players record 1,000 total yard seasons… with Teddy freaking Bridgewater at QB. I’m certain Dak and this offense can support all 3 WRs. Maybe Amari and CeeDee really are much bigger pieces in the offense than Gallup (I’m not sure we should have confidence in that), but even if that’s true, the gap between their ADPs is still far too wide.
And what happens if Gallup ascends and earns more targets? Or if CeeDee or Amari get hurt? We’re talking about immense upside, both in sheer volume and fantasy production, in what might be the highest scoring offense in the NFL playing in weekly shootouts.
Continuing the point on payoffs and low risk/high upside, Gallup is the best example in the entire 2021 player pool. At an ADP of WR39 on Underdog, there is less than zero risk (is that possible?), and the upside is through the roof.
Seems like a good place to take a stand.