Three Early Best Ball Fantasy Football Values
With best ball drafts getting started in earnest on Yahoo!, The FFPC, BestBall10’s and more places, it is time to start taking these drafts seriously. Last year at RotoExperts, we had our definitive guide to winning Best Ball leagues which will certainly be coming back this year but early in the process, the best thing you can do is simply hammer players that are going to become more expensive as time passes.
The best way to win at these games is not to have a crystal ball (though having accurate, scientifically sound projections is extremely important) is to get ahead of market trends. Drafting players at their most expensive prices is rarely going to result in profitable teams. The three players featured in this article are being drafted at least a round (or more) later than they will be doing in August fantasy football drafts.
So what, big deal right?
Wrong, mon frere. If your goal is to turn a profit over the course of this offseason, getting ahead of ADP shifts is basically the name of the game. That isn’t as fun as just jamming players you love but at the end of the day, it is more fun to win money. These three wide receivers are all valued above where the market has them in our fantasy football projections and will be consistent hallmarks of good fantasy teams this summer.
Three Early Best Ball Fantasy Football Values
There was maybe some debate last offseason as to who was going to be the better player between D.J Moore and Curtis Samuel. That debate is now over. The Panthers signed Robby Anderson in free agency, in part due to the departure of Greg Olsen but also because Samuel did not prove trustworthy enough as a second WR. Moore, on the other hand, vaulted himself into an elite category of player.
These are all the players who have accumulated over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and had over 13 yards per reception before they turned 22.
We are talking about a historical amount of dominance. Moss and Fitzgerald are first ballot Hall of Famers. Hopkins and Evans are WR1’s year after year. Watkins, Gordon, Smith-Shuster and Cooper have all had their picadillos but certainly remain B+ comps. Essentially, no one who has ever followed D.J Moore’s first two years as an NFL player has been a “bust” other than Gordon who was not a bust for anything related to football reasons.
Right now, Moore is going as the 37th player off the board on FFPC per fantasymojo.com as the 10th wide receiver off the board. Not only will wide receivers in general get pushed up the board but I would anticpate that with Teddy Bridewater providing competent QB play and enough offseason hype, Moore will end up usually going in the second round of drafts.
The departure of Devonta Freeman, Mohammed Sanu and Austin Hooper from the Falcons 2019 roster has one large beneficiary: Calvin Ridley. Julio Jones is entering his age-31 season and recorded fewer than 1,400 yards for the first time since 2013 while also falling beneath nine yards per target for the first time ever in this career. It would not be surprising or illogical if the tide started to turn from Jones to Ridley.
Regardless of Julio’s status, Ridley is still primed to be a value as Hooper and Freeman vacated over a combined 150 targets. Hayden Hurst can only be kindly referred to as an NFL draft bust, though the Falcons did give up real equity to acquire him. They likely have 100 targets earmarked for Hurst but the team is devoid of a real third wide receiver (Russell Gage? Olamide Zaccheus?) and also just signed a running back in free agency who comes without knee cartilage. Gurley only saw 49 targets for the Rams last season despite starting 15 games and seeing 81 targets the year before.
Ridley himself is reporting “110%” health as injuries are what have limited him from completing truly studly fantasy seasons each of the last two seasons despite his elite per-game touchdown production. If Julio Jones suffers any sort of physical setback, Ridley has a WR1 season well within his range of outcomes. Furthermore, without Hooper and a reliable pass-catching running back, the Falcons might run the sort of hyper-concentrated offense that produces multiple WR1-adjacent seasons. Ridley will pretty solid be a third or fourth-round pick by the time August and September drafts roll around.
Mecole Hardman was not an A+ prospect when the Kansas City Chiefs took him in the second round of the 2019 draft. None of that matters now. Hardman barely played as a rookie and still made a massive impact whenever he was on the field. Per Pro Football Focus, Hardman played 529 total snaps and ran only 377 passing routes. On those routes, he basically played like an unparalleled force.
Since the NFL started keeping track of targets as official stat, no rookie player with at least 40 targets has averaged more yards per target than Mecole Hardman. pic.twitter.com/uMaDzSKeqB
— Davis Mattek (@DavisMattek) May 3, 2020
As you can see from the above embedded tweet, Hardman was off the charts as a rookie. There are a few reasons why he was so productive per target and not all of them point to his greatness, to be fair. Hardman played behind Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson for most of the 2019 season until the team got to the playoffs. He was mostly use in four-wide sets and nothing close to a full time player.
In median outcomes, that doesn’t seem to be the way things will shake out in 2020. Sammy Watkins is back on a mega-reduced salary and Blake Bell (who sneakily played 38% of the Chiefs offensive snaps in 2019) is now in Dallas. The return of Demarcus Robinson is problematic for projecting Hardman as a full-time player but at the least we could expect an increase to a 50-55% snap share for Hardman.
For those of us who are grinding best balls, Hardman is an ideal target. He plays in the best offense in football, offers extreme spiked week potential (six touchdowns on 41 targets), and should see progressively more snaps over the course of the year. With reports from the team that Hardman will be “starting” or running ahead of Watkins/Robinson, it would not surprise me if he ends up as a top 100 pick and he is going far later than that in every draft in May.