Best Ball Strategy: Middle-Round Values & Stacks for 2024 NFL Best Ball

Best Ball Strategy: Middle-Round Values & Stacks for 2024 NFL Best Ball

This article is part of our Best Ball Strategy series.

2024 best ball drafts are now running on numerous sites, giving us the opportunity to see ADP based on decisions made with money on the line. The week before the Super Bowl I wrote about some of the best/worst values and biggest surprises in the early rounds, covering the Top 72 in ADP (Rounds 1-6).

Now it's time to look at the middle rounds (7-14), spanning from pick No. 73 to 168. Next week I'll get to the late rounds, i.e., picks 169-240. I'll go position-by-position below, looking at the best and worst picks (in my opinion) while also discussing some stacks.

ADP is averaged from Underdog and Drafters. The numbers are very similar between the two sites, especially in the early rounds, but there are definitely certain players that make more sense on Drafters than UD (and vice versa). Drafters is full PPR and uses total accumulation of points (Weeks 1-17) to determine tournament winners, while Underdog is half PPR and uses a playoff format that makes Weeks 15-17 massively important. 

On Drafters, winning requires a dominant season start to finish. On Underdog, you can win by pretty good for 14 weeks and then beastly for the final three. For me, this means aiming for home runs with every pick on Drafters, while on UD I'm more likely to select "safe" players that are all but assured of having key roles if they're healthy come fantasy playoffs time.

Quarterbacks

75. Dak Prescott105. Tua Tagovailoa138. Kirk Cousins

2024 best ball drafts are now running on numerous sites, giving us the opportunity to see ADP based on decisions made with money on the line. The week before the Super Bowl I wrote about some of the best/worst values and biggest surprises in the early rounds, covering the Top 72 in ADP (Rounds 1-6).

Now it's time to look at the middle rounds (7-14), spanning from pick No. 73 to 168. Next week I'll get to the late rounds, i.e., picks 169-240. I'll go position-by-position below, looking at the best and worst picks (in my opinion) while also discussing some stacks.

ADP is averaged from Underdog and Drafters. The numbers are very similar between the two sites, especially in the early rounds, but there are definitely certain players that make more sense on Drafters than UD (and vice versa). Drafters is full PPR and uses total accumulation of points (Weeks 1-17) to determine tournament winners, while Underdog is half PPR and uses a playoff format that makes Weeks 15-17 massively important. 

On Drafters, winning requires a dominant season start to finish. On Underdog, you can win by pretty good for 14 weeks and then beastly for the final three. For me, this means aiming for home runs with every pick on Drafters, while on UD I'm more likely to select "safe" players that are all but assured of having key roles if they're healthy come fantasy playoffs time.

Quarterbacks

75. Dak Prescott105. Tua Tagovailoa138. Kirk Cousins
82. Justin Fields110. Trevor Lawrence143. Aaron Rodgers
85. Jordan Love112. Jared Goff150. Baker Mayfield
86. Justin Herbert114. Caleb Williams151. Deshaun Watson
90. Kyler Murray121. Jayden Daniels158. Drake Maye
93. Brock Purdy127. Matthew Stafford 

       

Best Values (QB)

Kyler Murray - ADP #90

Murray doesn't need to repeat his 2020 production — 3,971 yards and 26 TDs passing / 819 yards and 11 TDs rushing — to make good on a Round 9 ADP. He just needs to get back to what he did in 2021, which was similar passing numbers but with a dip to 423 rushing yards and five TDs in 14 games. Something in between would make him an absolute smash of a pick, so long as he doesn't miss too many games. He averaged at least 20 fantasy points in his full games three straight years (2020-22) and wasn't too far off last year with 18.9 points over eight games after returning from the ACL tear.

Adding Marvin Harrison to the Arizona offense obviously would help a lot, but the Cardinals have ample resources to improve Murray's supporting cast even if that doesn't happen, sitting on $42 million in projected cap space plus extra draft picks in Rounds 1 (27), 3 (71), 3 (90) and 5 (161). Chicago and Washington are the only teams with comparable 2024 draft capital.

    

Rookie Jayden Daniels - ADP #121

I'm no expert on college football or prospects, but I do know that Daniels won the Heisman this winter after piling up 3,812 passing yards, 1,134 rushing yards and 50 total TDs. He's also a Top 10 pick in every mock draft I've seen — and increasingly Top 5 — which means he'll likely be on the field quite a bit in 2024. Anthony Richardson had a Top-100 ADP last summer, and I figured Daniels would at least be close to that, if not quite on the same level. Instead, he's a full 2-3 rounds behind where Richardson went last year... and about five rounds after where Richardson is going this season. 

      

Rookie Drake Maye - ADP #158

While he can't match Daniels' speed, Maye is a probable top-five pick who also figures to score quite a few points with his feet. If sack stats are removed, the UNC product had rushing lines of 77-899-7 and 41-582-9 in his two seasons as a starter. Maye had about five times as many scrambles as designed runs, per PFF, and he should run for at least a few hundred yards per season in the NFL even if he's coached to scramble less often and throw to check-downs more frequently.

       

Worst Values (QB)

Jared Goff - ADP #112

I don't mind drafting Goff as part of a Lions stack, especially on sites with a playoff-based format. There's just not much chance of him considerably outperforming this ADP, considering he's in an offense that likes to run the ball and he isn't part of the rushing attack. Thirteen quarterbacks played at least eight games in 2023 and averaged more fantasy points than Goff, including a bunch of guys (Russell Wilson, Justin Fields, Justin Herbert)  that he obviously outplayed from a real-life standpoint.

     

Running Backs

74. David Montgomery108. Chase Brown140. Trey Benson
76. Rhamondre Stevenson119. Devin Singletary141. Khalil Herbert
79. Tony Pollard120. Roschon Johnson145. Kendre Miller
83. Joe Mixon122. Ty Chandler149. Bucky Irving
87. James Conner123. Zamir White155. Jaleel McLaughlin
88. Najee Harris124. Chuba Hubbard160. Braelon Allen
91. Brian Robinson125. Zach Charbonnet162. Keaton Mitchell
92. Raheem Mostert128. Blake Corum163. Audric Estime
95. Javonte Williams133. Jonathon Brooks164. Zack Moss
99. Jaylen Warren137. Jerome Ford166. Tyler Allgeier
100. D'Andre Swift  

Best Values (RB)

Rhamondre Stevenson - ADP #76

 Tony Pollard - ADP #79

 James Conner - ADP #87

It's tough to narrow things down and choose only a few RBs that offer the best value relative to ADP. There are a lot of options I like right now, which lends to the strategy of piling up WRs through the first 4-5 rounds and then using the middle rounds to pivot toward talented RBs who invite skepticism for one reason or another.

Pollard perhaps blew his big chance to be a high-end RB1, but he still had a decent season, and one with an upward trend. As much as I'd hate to use this as a victory lap, I completely faded Pollard last year, in part because I thought the potential impact from a serious January injury (broken leg) wasn't priced into his second-round ADP. He didn't miss any games but did suggest that the injury had impacted his explosiveness. Pollard is now scheduled for free agency and doesn't figure to get another franchise tag, but he probably did enough to get another shot as a No. 1 back, be it in Dallas or elsewhere.

Conner, meanwhile, did what he usually does. He missed a few games, but was somewhere along the RB1/2 borderline (15.5 PPR points per game - 13th) when he played. Conner has missed at least two games every season, yet never more than six. He's scored 35 TDs in 41 games with the Cardinals.

Then there's Stevenson, who spent last season in a 60/40 timeshare with Ezekiel Elliott in a putrid offense before missing the final five games with a high ankle sprain. While perhaps riskier than the other two guys mentioned here, Stevenson's combination of size (227 lbs.) and receiving skills (69 catches in 2022) suggests he might have a ceiling even beyond his 2022 production (RB7 in cumulative PPR points, RB11 in points per game). We don't really know what the Patriots offense will look like yet, but we do know that Stevenson is in a contract year, Elliott is scheduled for free agency and the team likely will have either a highly drafted rookie or a veteran offseason addition under center.

           

Rookie Blake Corum - ADP #128

Looking at ADP from past years, Corum definitely will be picked earlier than this if he's a second-round selection and should go right in this range if he's a third-rounder. It might be a weak RB class, but the fact that he's universally viewed as one of the three or four best guys from it should be enough to prevent Corum from slipping to Round 3.

         

Jaleel McLaughlin - ADP #155

With Javonte Williams going around the 8/9 turn and McLaughlin not even in the Top 150, it seems drafters are expecting (at least passively) someone else to be a big part of Denver's backfield in 2024. I think not, considering the team can clear $3 million in cap space by moving on from Samaje Perine and has the undesirable combo of a tough cap situation and many roster needs. The Broncos also have just six draft picks, having traded away their second-rounder. I actually like both McLaughlin and Javonte at these prices; the undrafted rookie outplayed the 2021 second-round pick this past season, but Williams could be much better in his second year after an ACL tear. Either way, McLaughlin is too cheap for a running back that took 107 touches for 570 yards as a rookie.

      

Worst Picks (RB)

Brian Robinson - ADP #91

Robinson has been mediocre through two seasons, both from a real-life and fantasy perspective. He's among the incumbent starters most likely to be replaced, and if not he'll likely end up in a committee with someone, regardless of whether the Commanders re-sign Antonio Gibson. Is anyone even confident that Robinson is better than 2023 sixth-round pick Chris Rodriguez (ankle)?

            

Ty Chandler - ADP #122

This might be my least favorite ADP at any position. The Vikings never wanted Chandler on the field, keeping two plodders (Alexander Mattison, Cam Akers) ahead of him until injuries forced their hand. Chandler then had one big game against a terrible Bengals run defense, before crashing the next week (17 rushing yards) and closing out the year in a timeshare with Mattison.

And while Mattison may not be much of an obstacle, his $2.75 million guarantee on his 2024 salary suggests he'll be around another year. My guess is that the Vikings bring someone else in and put Mattison back to second on the depth chart and Chandler back to third. I could maybe understand Chandler's price here if he'd been a Day 2 pick in 2022; but he was a fifth-rounder and still hasn't shown that he has the other skills to make the most of his 4.38 speed.

            

Wide Receivers

77. Christian Watson111. Khalil Shakir139. Gabe Davis
78. DeAndre Hopkins113. Marquise Brown146. Xavier Worthy
81. Brian Thomas115. Keon Coleman147. Quentin Johnston
94. Romeo Doubs117. Tyler Lockett148. Michael Wilson
96. Jameson Williams118. Jahan Dotson152. Adam Thielen
98. Diontae Johnson129. Adonai Mitchell156. Joshua Palmer
101. Jakobi Meyers130. Rashid Shaheed157. Marvin Mims
103. Courtland Sutton131. Jerry Jeudy159. Wan'Dale Robinson
104. Mike Williams132. Ladd McConkey165. Demario Douglas
106. Troy Franklin134. Dontayvion Wicks167. Ja'Lynn Polk
107. Josh Downs136. Brandin Cooks168. Curtis Samuel

Best Picks (WR)

DeAndre Hopkins - ADP #78

I've already discussed Hopkins a couple times this offseason, including in my recent article on 2023 stats that figure to regress. Long story short, Hopkins may still have gas in the tank and won't be in the same offensive system this year. Ideally, you'd like to see him get away from Titans QB Will Levis. But even if that doesn't happen, new head coach Brian Callahan (formerly Cincinnati's OC) could make the Tennessee passing game fantasy-relevant.

      

Rookie Troy Franklin - ADP #106

Recent years have been kind to small, fast WRs, with multiple trends favoring guys whose best assets are quickness and agility. Tougher enforcement of illegal contact and defensive holding certainly helped, as did the movement toward more quick passes. Franklin should be no worse than a second-round pick (and quite possibly a first-rounder) after catching 81 passes for 1,383 yards and 14 TDs at Oregon this past season.

     

Demario Douglas - ADP #165

Douglas became a starter Week 7 of his rookie year and accounted for 22.5 percent of New England's targets in his nine appearances from that point forward. Maybe it was a fluke based on a lack of competition, but if not, the sixth-round pick is a QB upgrade away from being a smash pick outside the Top 150. His efficiency numbers (62.0 percent catch rate, 7.1 YPT) don't look pretty... until you remember that the Patriots threw for just 6.1 YPA last year. Each of their 10 players with more than 15 targets finished at 7.4 YPT or worse

        

Worst Picks (WR)

Jahan Dotson - ADP #118

Dotson might prove a better fit with Kliff Kingsbury and a rookie than he was with Eric Bieniemy and Sam Howell. Still, I'd rather draft a rookie in this range or wait a bit longer and take someone (Quentin Johnston) who flopped in his first season. Dotson's massively disappointing sophomore campaign is a strong signal that he's probably not all that good, even if there were extenuating circumstances. If he does rebound, it'll likely be as a decent No. 2 WR, not as the lead guy that people like me thought he could be before this past season.

      

Michael Wilson - ADP #148

This is the type or profile I almost always avoid. Wilson wasn't a dominant college player, ran a 4.58 40 at the Combine, was old for a rookie (turns 24 in February) and then drew targets at a low rate relative to his playing time (15.4% TPRR, 15.7 percent target share) despite being in an Arizona offense with subpar receiving alternatives. He did well with his chances — 9.7 YPT, 65.5 percent catch rate — but on what was obviously a small sample (58 targets) given his lack of looks and absence from four games. I'm not even sure Wilson will be a starter in 2024, and if so it'll likely be as the second/third WR in an offense that also has TE Trey McBride gobbling up targets.

        

Tight Ends

73. Brock Bowers102. T.J. Hockenson142. Pat Freiermuth
80. David Njoku109. Dallas Goedert144. Darren Waller
84. Evan Engram116. Cole Kmet153. Cade Otton
89. Jake Ferguson126. Dalton Schultz154. Michael Mayer
97. Kyle Pitts135. Luke Musgrave161. Isaiah Likely

Best Pick (TE)

Darren Waller - ADP #144

Waller turns 32 in September and is coming off three consecutive injury-marred seasons. I certainly understand why he's going this late, but I'll happily take a shot on a guy who remains among the top target earners at TE on a per-snap/route basis. Waller finished out 2023 healthy and may end up with a new team next season (non-guaranteed $10.525 million base salary for 2024).

              

Worst Pick (TE)

Luke Musgrave - ADP #135

I wouldn't have believed you if you'd told me three months ago that Musgrave would be listed here. He's an extremely athletic second-round pick who looked good as a rookie at a position with a notoriously tough learning curve. The problem is that his kidney laceration opened the door for third-round pick Tyler Kraft, who isn't as athletic but looked more polished as a pass catcher and was slightly more useful for fantasy than Musgrave had been. 

On top of that, the Packers appear four-deep at WR with Jayden Reed, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Dontayvion Wicks. In other words, Musgrave has to compete for his snaps, and then has tough competition for targets even if he does beat out Kraft to get the lion's share of TE routes. For what it's worth, Kraft is going about four rounds later than Musgrave (ADP #182).

Mid-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.

Many drafters will pick QBs in the middle rounds to complete stacks with pass catchers they drafted early on. That's perfectly fine, and something I often do, but there are also instances where things don't quite fall that way or the strategy demands reaching for a QB you wouldn't draft otherwise. Here are some of my favorite alternatives; stacks that don't require an early draft pick at all.

QB Jordan Love (85) + WR Dontayvion Wicks (134)

QB Justin Herbert (86) + WR Joshua Palmer (156)

QB Jared Goff (112) + WR Jameson Williams (96)

Rookie QB Caleb Williams (114) + TE Cole Kmet (116)

QB Baker Mayfield (150) + TE Cade Otton (153)

QB Kyler Murray (90) + RB James Conner (87)

  

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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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