Best Ball Strategy: Late-Round Values & Stacks for 2024 Best Ball

Best Ball Strategy: Late-Round Values & Stacks for 2024 Best Ball

This article is part of our Best Ball Strategy series.

I previously looked at early ADP data to identify the best/worst values in the early rounds and then middle rounds of February best ball drafts. Now it's time to dig deeper and look at my favorite / least favorite picks with ADPs in the final six rounds (No. 169 and beyond). 

That will include some players that often go undrafted, as there are some guys outside the Top 240 (20 rounds x 12 teams) that probably shouldn't be. ADP data is averaged between Underdog and Drafters; most other sites either don't make the information easily accessible or haven't opened 2024 contests yet.

Quarterbacks

169. Geno Smith203. Russell Wilson
178. Daniel Jones208. Taysom Hill
183. Derek Carr212. Michael Penix
198. Will Levis227. Bo Nix
199. Bryce Young229. J.J. McCarthy

Best Values (QB) 👍

Russell Wilson - ADP No. 203

Wilson is the last guy available that will definitely be a Week 1 starter. It may not be for the Broncos, but some team or another will bite on a nine-time Pro Bowler who threw 26 TDs and only nine INTs in 2023. Wilson's other stats were mostly much less impressive, of course, but the combination of TD passes and rushing production (80-341-3) allowed him to rank 13th among QBs (eight-game min.) with 17.1 fantasy points per game, despite attempting only 29.8 passes. The list of quarterbacks that averaged less includes Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford, Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa. I wonder how

I previously looked at early ADP data to identify the best/worst values in the early rounds and then middle rounds of February best ball drafts. Now it's time to dig deeper and look at my favorite / least favorite picks with ADPs in the final six rounds (No. 169 and beyond). 

That will include some players that often go undrafted, as there are some guys outside the Top 240 (20 rounds x 12 teams) that probably shouldn't be. ADP data is averaged between Underdog and Drafters; most other sites either don't make the information easily accessible or haven't opened 2024 contests yet.

Quarterbacks

169. Geno Smith203. Russell Wilson
178. Daniel Jones208. Taysom Hill
183. Derek Carr212. Michael Penix
198. Will Levis227. Bo Nix
199. Bryce Young229. J.J. McCarthy

Best Values (QB) 👍

Russell Wilson - ADP No. 203

Wilson is the last guy available that will definitely be a Week 1 starter. It may not be for the Broncos, but some team or another will bite on a nine-time Pro Bowler who threw 26 TDs and only nine INTs in 2023. Wilson's other stats were mostly much less impressive, of course, but the combination of TD passes and rushing production (80-341-3) allowed him to rank 13th among QBs (eight-game min.) with 17.1 fantasy points per game, despite attempting only 29.8 passes. The list of quarterbacks that averaged less includes Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford, Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa. I wonder how much Wilson's ADP is being suppressed due to uncertainty about who to stack him with?

    

Rookie J.J. McCarthy - ADP No. 229

A lot of analysts/mock drafters have McCarthy as the fourth QB taken, safely inside the first round. Others seem to think that's senseless, pointing to his average arm strength or underwhelming college stats relative to guys like Caleb Williams, Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels. My guess is that the first group ends up winning out, at least when it comes to draft position. McCarthy may not have gotten the volume we'd expect from a top QB prospect, but he did complete 72.3 percent of his passes for 9.0 YPA while throwing just four interceptions in 15 games this past season en route to a national championship.

Sure, the undefeated season had more to do with Michigan's defense than McCarthy and the passing game, but the QB at least showed enough to make us consider the possibility that he could've put a differently constructed team on his shoulders. He's a former five-star recruit, mobile and 6-foot-3. Someone will draft him in the first round and put him on the field at some point in 2024.

The only QB with a lower ADP that I'd ever consider drafting this winter is Aidan O'Connell (No. 297)... who might actually end up losing his job to McCarthy.

                  

Worst Value (QB)👎

Daniel Jones - ADP No. 178

There are three big problems here, in addition to the ever-present issue of Jones simply not being that good. First, he may miss the start of the season. Second, he's unlikely to provide his usual rushing production upon returning from an ACL tear. Third, he might be replaced anyway, or at least face serious competition. I'd rather wait a round or two and bet on Bryce Young pulling a Year 2 Trevor Lawrence or Russell Wilson getting another starting job.

     

Running Backs

174. MarShawn Lloyd207. Tank Bigsby236. Israel Abanikanda
176. Elijah Mitchell210. Kenneth Gainwell244. Michael Carter
177. Gus Edwards211. Will Shipley246. Dylan Laube
179. J.K. Dobbins214. Alexander Mattison248. Cody Schrader
187. Ray Davis215. Jaylen Wright249. Ronnie Rivers
190. Rico Dowdle217. Ezekiel Elliott255. Kimani Vidal
193. Antonio Gibson225. Dillon Johnson257. Kareem Hunt
196. Dameon Pierce226. Chris Rodriguez259. Eric Gray
200. Justice Hill231. Samaje Perine260. D'Onta Foreman
204. Miles Sanders233. Frank Gore Jr.265. Ty Johnson
206. AJ Dillon  

Best Values (RB) 👍

Elijah Mitchell - ADP No. 176

Mitchell is the kind of guy I absolutely love in best ball. We know he'll be on an NFL roster and can project his depth chart standing with a high degree of confidence. He has one year remaining on his rookie contract, with the 49ers unlikely to prioritize RB depth this offseason. All he needs to make good on this ADP is for Christian McCaffrey to miss a few games. If McCaffrey suffers a serious injury early in the year, Mitchell could end up being one of the key pieces for total-points formats. If McCaffrey misses time in December, then Mitchell might be one of the key guys for playoff formats.

     

Antonio Gibson - ADP No. 193

In the final year of his rookie contract, Gibson had career lows for carries (65) and rushing yards (265) but career highs for targets/catches/receiving yards (48-389-2 on 59 looks). He'll now hit free agency a few months before his 26th birthday, having shown enough to at least get a job as a passing-down-focused / change-of-pace No. 2 RB. The difference between Gibson and most other guys with similar roles is about three inches and 25 pounds, which means he's more likely to take on a large workload if the starter ahead of him misses time. It didn't happen that way in Washington last season, but he'll have a new coaching staff even if he sticks around.

     

Ezekiel Elliott - ADP No. 217

Zeke went around 5-6 rounds earlier than this last offseason and ended up being a successful best-ball pick, with his seven performances of double-digit PPR points including a 27-spot Week 14 and 21-spot Week 16. He needed a Rhamondre Stevenson injury for that to happen, but things could go better earlier in the season if free agency pairs Elliott with a similar role in an offense that's actually competent. He averaged 4.0 YPC through 11 weeks as New England's No. 2 back, then dropped to 3.0 YPC over the final six games when Stevenson's ankle injury forced him into a high-usage role in a horrible offense.

      

Worst Picks (RB)👎

J.K. Dobbins - ADP No. 179

The track record of running backs coming back from Achilles' tears is absolutely brutal. They're usually medically cleared within nine months but simply aren't the same players thereafter. The recent success case is D'Onta Foreman, who didn't become relevant until three years after surgery (and even then was just a low-end starter / high-end backup). In Dobbins' case, it probably doesn't help that he had his previous two seasons marred by knee injuries.

            

Rookie MarShawn Lloyd - ADP No. 174

Rookie Ray Davis - ADP No. 187

Clicking around on Twitter and draft sites, it seems like Davis is everyone's favorite late-round pick. That's all good and well, but I'd rather wait a few more rounds and take the not-favorite late-round pick. Davis played for three different schools and will turn 25 halfway through his rookie season, so it doesn't mean as much that he beat up on a bunch of 19/20-year-olds at Kentucky in 2023.

Lloyd is also old for a prospect — he turned 23 in January — and never averaged more than 12.3 carries per game in three seasons between South Carolina and the other USC. I'm not seeing what separates him from many of the incoming rookie RBs with ADPs well into the 200s.

            

Wide Receivers

170. Xavier Legette202. Josh Reynolds238. Alec Pierce
172. Elijah Moore205. Malik Washington240. Allen Lazard
173. Zay Jones209. Noah Brown241. Johnny Wilson
175. Treylon Burks216. Ricky Pearsall242. Jalen McMillan
184. Trey Palmer219. Brenden Rice247. Luke McCaffrey
185. Jonathan Mingo220. Demarcus Robinson250. K.J. Osborn
186. Devontez Walker221. A.T. Perry253. Jauan Jennings
188. Roman Wilson222. Darius Slayton254. Rondale Moore
189. Andrei Iosivas223. Darnell Mooney256. Charlie Jones
192. Malachi Corley228. Tutu Atwell258. Jermaine Burton
195. Tyler Boyd234. Javon Baker261. Jalen Tolbert
197. Jalin Hyatt235. Michael Gallup266. Bo Melton
201. Rashod Bateman237. Michael Thomas268. Malik Heath

Best Picks (WR)👍

Tyler Boyd - ADP No. 195

This might seem like a boring pick, but Boyd isn't exactly the all-floor, no-ceiling entity that some might assume. He's 29 years old, and his decline in production was more about the Bengals having Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins than anything to do with Boyd aging or lacking skills. Boyd is now set to hit free agency for the first time and might end up being the No. 2 WR rather than No. 3 with his new team.

     

Darnell Mooney - ADP No. 223

Mooney was overstretched his first two seasons, quickly going from the fifth round to a No. 1 WR role on account of Allen Robinson's rapid decline and the Bears' lack of other options. The speedster then suffered an ugly angle injury Year 3 — with a fracture likely accompanied by ligament damage — and didn't look like the same guy Year 4 while drawing just 61 targets in 15 games. 

Mooney should look better in his second year back from the ankle injury, and his upcoming free agency provides the opportunity to land in a more passing-game-friendly offense. Actually, that might even happen in Chicago with Caleb Williams replacing Justin Fields, though I think the best fit for Mooney would be as a better version of Marquez Valdes-Scantling for the Chiefs.

      

Rookie Jermaine Burton - ADP No. 258

Burton never progressed to big-time production or a dominant target share, but there's nonetheless enough in his profile to justify a third/fourth-round selection this April. He was a four-star recruit who topped 400 receiving yards twice at Georgia and then twice again at Alabama, including as a true freshman in a run-first offense that also had George Pickens

In terms of yards per target or yards per route, Burton's production looks pretty similar to that of potential first-round picks Brian Thomas and Rome Odunze... and better than that of Keon Coleman and Adonai Mitchell. I wouldn't put Burton on the same level as Thomas — and certainly not Odunze — but he's probably closer to Coleman/Mitchell than most of the early draft analysis suggests.

        

Worst Picks (WR)👎

Elijah Moore - ADP No. 172

Moore again has the excuse of being held back by poor QB play, but it feels borderline dishonest on account of his 56.7 percent catch rate and 10.8 yards per reception in an offense in which Amari Cooper had basically the same catch rate (56.3 percent) but with 17.4 YPR... and TE David Njoku had basically the same YPR (10.9) but with a much better catch rate (65.9 percent). Even going back to his promising rookie year, Moore caught just 55.8 percent of passes and averaged 7.0 YPT, getting by on TDs (six in 11 games) and big plays rather than snap-to-snap consistency. 

The Browns really tried to make it happen last year, feeding him 104 targets and 903 snaps, but Moore produced far below the baseline of their passing game overall. There's not much reason to give him the same opportunity in 2024; at this point, the argument is all about speed (4.35 40) and age (24 in March) rather than what Moore has done on the field in the NFL.

       

Tutu Atwell - ADP No. 228

Atwell had a couple nice games early in 2023 but then fell off the map once Cooper Kupp returned and eventually was benched for journeyman Demarcus Robinson. It now seems likely that Atwell enters the final year of his rookie contract as only the fourth or fifth WR in Los Angeles; the Rams will either re-sign Robinson or draft/sign someone else to start alongside Kupp and Puka Nacua.

        

Tight Ends

171. Juwan Johnson232. Brevin Jordan
180. Ja'Tavion Sanders239. Tyler Higbee
181. Hunter Henry243. Greg Dulcich
182. Tucker Kraft245. Dawson Knox
191. Chigoziem Okonkwo251. Theo Johnson
194. Tyler Conklin252. Cade Stover
213. Davis Allen262. Donald Parham
218. Noah Fant263. Tanner Hudson
224. Gerald Everett264. Ben Sinnott
230. Noah Gray267. Jelani Woods

Best Picks (TE)👍

Chigoziem Okonkwo - ADP No. 191

Okonkwo came on strong at the end of 2024 with more than 30 yards in each of his final seven games. He averaged 3.7 catches for 46.0 yards on 4.9 targets in that stretch, up from 2.8 receptions for 20.6 yards on 4.3 targets over his first 10 games of the season. Okonkwo now enters his third NFL season in what should be a more pass-friendly offense under former Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, keeping the TE alive as a dark-horse breakout candidate.

       

Dawson Knox - ADP No. 245

Knox has a guaranteed $5 million bonus coming up this spring, in addition to the majority of his 2024 base salary ($4.9 being guaranteed). The Bills certainly won't release him, but they might try to trade him. If they do it within the first week of the league year, they'll avoid paying the roster bonus yet realize only $2.6 million in 2024 cap savings, with the upside being that Knox is off their cap sheet for 2025. If they wait until June 1, they'll save about $5.4 million against the 2024 cap but then have a $7.8 million dead money charge for 2025. Option C would be renegotiating his contract and then trading him. Either way, Knox is a sensible 20th-round pick given the possibility that he's TE1 for a different team come Week 1. The Bills, of course, have Dalton Kincaid and a tricky cap situation.

              

Worst Picks (TE)👎

Davis Allen - ADP No. 213

The fifth-round pick spent most of his rookie season sitting third on the depth chart, then had once nice game (4-50-1) Week 14 at Baltimore when both Tyler Higbee and Hunter Long (knee) were injured. Allen didn't do much else, and Higbee has a guaranteed $5.5 million bonus due this spring. In other words, the TE job figures to be Higbee's for at least one more year.

Late-Round Stacks

I prefer to focus on value / my favorite picks in the early rounds, and then shift more toward stacking in the middle/late rounds. Drafting guys a round or two ahead of ADP doesn't make as much difference projections-wise later in drafts, whereas doing so in the early rounds is more likely to leave us with a weak roster overall.

That said, it's best to have at least two team stacks sorted out before the late rounds when drafting at this early stage of the offseason. Many of the QBs with late-round ADPs are either rookies, don't have job security or may change teams this offseason. There aren't really a lot of options, but here are a couple where I'm pretty confident the players will be teammates...

QB Derek Carr (ADP 183) + TE Juwan Johnson (171) + WR A.T. Perry (221)

QB Will Levis (198) + WR Treylon Burks (175) + TE Chigoziem Okonkwo (191)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Donabedian
Jerry was a 2018 finalist for the FSWA's Player Notes Writer of the Year and DFS Writer of the Year awards. A Baltimore native, Jerry roots for the Ravens and watches "The Wire" in his spare time.
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