This article is part of our Best Ball Strategy series.
There's still plenty of time to draft more best ball teams with Week 1 not occurring until the second week of September, but the general direction of my 2022 portfolio has mostly been finalized with 18 teams logged. This article will go over my most-drafted players (>20%) and assess how the investments are shaping up with the season rapidly approaching, as well as mention how I plan to handle the mentioned players in remaining drafts.
MOST-DRAFTED PLAYERS (>20%)
KJ Hamler, WR, DEN (66.7%)
A smarter person than me would avoid this level of exposure, but probably half or more of the shares were acquired well before Tim Patrick's unfortunate injury, so the overall ADP cost of my Hamler investment might be less than what most recent buyers are bidding. Still, I remained a buyer even after the Patrick injury, so I suppose I should avoid Hamler from here. I might not, though, because I still don't think Hamler in the 12th is a meaningful risk in a best ball format, especially 0.5PPR best ball. Hamler is more of a big-play and touchdown threat than he is a volume one. With that said, it would be nice to see Hamler get into full-speed practice soon, because he might be headed for a slow start if not.
Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, DEN (55.6%)
Maybe it won't work for Okwuegbunam, but in the meantime he's Denver's second-best downfield seam threat with a quarterback who is at once dependent on downfield seam shots and conventionally projected to be among the league's touchdown pass leaders. No tight end has better size-adjusted speed than Okwuegbunam and he has been rapidly productive on a per-snap basis through two years – just as he was productive at Missouri in college – so risky or not I'm happy to take on this heavy exposure in the 12th/13th round range. If Okwuegbunam can't produce this year then the Broncos have a problem.
Travis Etienne, RB, JAC (50.0%)
Some are framing the Etienne/Robinson workload split as a zero sum game between the two but I think that's a major misunderstanding of what either player does. At around 200 pounds Etienne is not a candidate for much more than 180 or so carries, because he's a candidate to catch 60-plus passes. Robinson and Etienne basically play different positions, with Robinson the pure RB like Mark Ingram while Etienne takes the wideout-hybrid Kamara-type role. If someone thinks Etienne's price should drop because Robinson might be healthy soon, then I'll just take more Etienne.
Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, ATL (50.0%)
Patterson projects better in PPR than 0.5PPR, but I still took on heavy exposure on Underdog because he was regularly available in the 10th round. Coach Arthur Smith clearly considers Patterson a centerpiece of the Atlanta offense, and why wouldn't he after Patterson produced 2.55 yards from scrimmage per snap last year over 458 snaps. Austin Ekeler is the 1.01 of pass-catching specialist running backs and even he averaged 'only' 2.27 yards from scrimmage per snap over 688 snaps in 2021.
James Robinson, RB, JAC (50.0%)
Robinson is a good player and one who I used to get as late as the 18th round, so I'm thrilled to have 50 percent exposure, even as a heavy Etienne investor.
Parris Campbell, WR, IND (50.0%)
I would be happier with this level of Campbell exposure in full PPR – I'm admittedly only lukewarm on him in Underdog's 0.5PPR scoring. I absolutely believe in Campbell's talent, though, and I don't mean to understate the touchdown threat posed by a slot receiver with 4.31 speed. That Matt Ryan is my preferred QB2 might have broken some ties when I was on the clock.
Christian Kirk, WR, JAC (44.4%)
Kirk is maybe my single favorite target in the eighth round range. He was used incorrectly in Arizona, used too much outside and downfield, but with Jacksonville Kirk should mostly play in an underneath/intermediate slot role, which is much better suited to his traits. Kirk was a volume receiver underneath at Texas A&M and he has not once been used in that capacity yet in the NFL, until hopefully now.
Rashaad Penny, RB, SEA (44.4%)
Penny's injury history is real and there's no rationalizing it away, but I'm still content with this heavy exposure because I was often drafting Penny in the 10th round or so – often after people selected backups like James Cook and Ken Walker. Even if Walker is healthy he is not starting over Penny without a Penny injury, and if Penny isn't injured he's point blank one of the most uniquely dangerous runners in the entire league. A lot of people have trouble accepting that, and it's the main reason why Penny's ADP has been too low.
Elijah Moore, WR, NYJ (38.9%)
The Zach Wilson injury doesn't matter to me and Moore is clearly a star player in my opinion, so I'm content with this relatively high exposure even at the not-cheap price of the sixth round in most cases. Fingers crossed.
Trey Lance, QB, SF (38.9%)
I was fortunate enough to get the vast majority of my Lance exposure prior to the 49ers declaring him starter. Even then Lance wasn't cheap – you had to take him in the eighth round usually – but I'm both happy to have the Lance exposure and am also glad I don't feel compelled to acquire more shares if it requires a seventh or higher to do it.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, ARI (33.3%)
If my teams are competitive through six weeks then a 1/3 share of Hopkins reinforcements would be momentous. If my teams suck then my Hopkins exposure won't be able to save them. Considering I'm only playing in the BBM tournament, the risk from Hopkins' suspension doesn't really move the needle for me relative to his upside, which is WR1 production immediately upon return.
Julio Jones, WR, TB (33.3%)
I think I only drafted Julio once after his Tampa Bay signing, meaning most of my Julio shares are from around the 15th round. I only wish I had gotten him more at that price, but with the price jump I'm content to mostly leave him alone from here on out.
Isaiah Spiller, RB, LAC (33.3%)
Spiller has been the subject of concerning news lately – namely that Athletic Chargers beat writer Daniel Popper has observed Joshua Kelley seemingly running as the backup to Austin Ekeler in Chargers' practices – but even if this is reflective of the Chargers' depth chart I don't think it will hold. Kelley cannot play in the NFL. He's one of the most unproductive running backs in league history through 144 career carries (3.17 YPC), so if Kelley is the backup in Week 1 then I don't expect it to hold any longer than Week 3, if that. The Chargers can't afford to lose and to play Kelley is to lose.
Ronald Jones, RB, KC (33.3%)
Jones, like Spiller, has been the subject of concerning reports. Unlike Spiller's case, though, Jones has no obvious silver lining to the bad news. Jones has reportedly been running as the RB4 in Chiefs camp, predictably struggling with passing down formations, and as a result it seems like Jones could somehow not make the Chiefs roster. Whatever might be wrong with Spiller, there's no question that he'll make the Chargers roster. I can take on further exposure of Spiller but probably not Jones.
Marcus Mariota, QB, ATL (33.3%)
It's risky to invest in Mariota to any substantial extent, but since he still sometimes falls to the 18th round I'm curious to invest further. I'm a sucker for Mariota and the Falcons offense, not much way around it. I expect Desmond Ridder to take a redshirt.
CeeDee Lamb, WR, DAL (27.8%)
Justin Jefferson is my favorite to win the league receiving yardage title, but Lamb is my second favorite. He's a star waiting to happen and I'll gladly take on more exposure if I get the chance.
Saquon Barkley, RB, NYG (27.8%)
Barkley was at one point regularly available in the late second round, and most of my shares were from around that time. I'm still drafting Barkley when possible now, though, and will continue to do so as long as he continues to be available in the 12-to-16 range of the overall draft order.
Kyle Pitts, TE, ATL (27.8%)
I've said enough about Pitts at this point: I don't think there has ever been a player like him and I think he will cost a lot more in 2023 drafts. I want in now as much as practically possible.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, KC (27.8%)
A month or two ago I was worried I'd be overexposed on Smith-Schuster, but now I wish I had more shares. There's no conceivable way the Chiefs offense can run without him as its clear WR1.
Adam Thielen, WR, MIN (27.8%)
I do worry about the age and the decline/durability troubles that can come with it. But for years the public has underestimated Thielen's talents, which are absolutely Pro Bowl-level when healthy, so until he falls off I don't want to be among those fading him.
Justin Fields, QB, CHI (27.8%)
I don't consider Fields a liability at this exposure level, but I'd still like to lower it. As much as the best ball format insulates investors from the week-to-week volatility of Fields, I'm not sure his upside is high enough to warrant extended exposure risk.
Evan Engram, TE, JAC (27.8%)
Engram will always be some version of a bust as a former first-round pick, but his speed is real and he was super productive in college. With Trevor Lawrence I will continue buying Engram near the end of drafts.
James Washington, WR, DAL (27.8%)
Ouch. Granted, all or nearly all of my Washington shares were in the 18th round and all were certainly before his foot injury, but I'm not expecting anything from him this year. He's a (too) heavy receiver and that weight can't be easy on a broken foot recovery.
Davante Adams, WR, LV (22.2%)
Adams will likely lose target share percentage going from Green Bay to Vegas, but even more likely is Vegas increasing their tempo and thus offsetting any target share decrease with team target volume increase. Josh McDaniels called one of the league's most uptempo offenses in New England, and the Raiders have all the incentives to encourage the same approach in Vegas. The Carr-Adams connection from Fresno days doesn't matter to me – what matters is this is one of the league's best and most-targeted receivers in one of the league's most uptempo offenses. Even if he's inefficient I can't see Adams hurting his Round 1 buyers, regardless of format.
Tee Higgins, WR, CIN (22.2%)
I'm a fan of Ja'Marr Chase and wish I had more exposure, but Higgins is a near-equal to me. This is one of the league's 15 best receivers and he has Joe Burrow throwing to him with Chase potentially drawing most safety attention. Will draft more if given the chance.
DK Metcalf, WR, SEA (22.2%)
Be it Geno Smith or Drew Lock, Metcalf and the Seahawks are in for a QB downgrade. In Underdog's 0.5PPR scoring I still will consider Metcalf with minimal concern – he probably loses ground more easily in full PPR.
Antonio Gibson, RB, WAS (22.2%)
I don't know what to add about Gibson at this point other than that talent/traits do matter, and even if Gibson plays worse in the preseason than Brian Robinson, Washington will turn back to Gibson after Robinson leads them to scripted punts over and over. That's not to concede this Robinson thing happens at all – preseason really doesn't matter once you're in the second quarter of the Week 1 regular season – but Gibson's worst-case scenario is already exaggerated in his price, which sometimes falls into the start of the ninth round. I'll buy more if I get the shot in that range, but I have enough exposure otherwise that I don't need to target him.
Chase Claypool, WR, PIT (22.2%)
Claypool's talent is underrated, but his playing circumstances may be worse than I guessed initially. Ben Roethlisberger was so bad – so insanely bad the last two years – but Mitch Trubisky could and seemingly already has proven worse. Claypool's size and speed make him a candidate for a high touchdown percentage per target despite last year's low touchdown total, so I'll remain interested if he falls into the 10th round especially.
Matt Ryan, QB, IND (22.2%)
Ryan is not a star quarterback, but Carson Wentz is horrible and he threw 27 touchdowns in this offense last year. Because it features favorable field positioning and a dominant rush threat. Ryan may not be better than average, but he's so much better than the below-average Wentz point that he should still breeze his way to 30 touchdowns in my opinion. I wouldn't mind more Ryan exposure.
Devin Duvernay, WR, BAL (22.2%)
Duvernay was only a round-18 target to me, but he's been injured a bunch in camp while otherwise competing with James Proche and Tylan Wallace to unclear effect, which makes me worry about a committee for wide receiver snaps in Baltimore. Rashod Bateman would be exempt from that but Duvernay might not be, so I probably won't acquire any more.
Mo Alie-Cox, TE, IND (22.2%)
Alie-Cox is an Pro Bowler waiting to happen in my opinion. The catch, of course, is that his standout blocking is liable to drag his route count downward even with a three-down role, so Alie-Cox will probably need to be very efficient to offset mediocre target volume. Matt Ryan throws well to the slot/tight end, and MAC is a very big, very athletic target in that range of the field. The Colts will hopefully understand they can either feed MAC as a receiver or they can forfeit tight pass-catching production entirely. I still love MAC in the 18th round of Underdog best ball drafts, especially if I already have Ryan as my QB2.