Best Ball Strategy: Late-Round Underdog Targets

Best Ball Strategy: Late-Round Underdog Targets

This article is part of our Best Ball Strategy series.

This article will quickly run through a list of some of the best late-round picks available on Underdog NFL best ball drafts at the moment. The list will be limited to players with an ADP of 170.0 or later.

Marvin Mims, WR, DEN (171.0 ADP)

All the hype about Mims last offseason was correct. His results on the field showed as much. The only reason Mims didn't come through for fantasy investors last year was because his playing time was held back as the Broncos very consciously attempted to showcase Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton for trade market purposes while redshirting the then-21 year-old Mims.

Jeudy is gone now, and with his exit there's a clear void for Mims to claim for his own. Even with Josh Reynolds added in free agency, Mims should be the priority given that Reynolds isn't making obvious starter money. That, and the two basically play different positions. Reynolds is something like an all-purpose intermediate threat, whereas Mims holds a monopoly on all things downfield and probably most of the wide receiver screens.

Rather than the 362 snaps he played last year, expect Mims to push for 750 or more in 2024 and to be featured much more prominently in the route tree than he was while sharing the field with Jeudy, who drew one target per 5.5 snaps over the last two years. Sutton and especially Reynolds will not be picking up that per-snap slack.

Chuba Hubbard, RB, CAR (173.0 ADP)

Jonathon Brooks is doubtlessly the running back of the future for the Panthers, but is he their running back of the now? It wouldn't necessarily be a slam dunk even if Brooks weren't returning from a midseason ACL tear.

The issue is that there's reason to believe Hubbard is at least an equal to Brooks as a pure runner, and Hubbard might even be superior in that regard. Texas and Oklahoma State both played in the Big 12, yet Hubbard's rushing production in college was far superior to what Brooks posted. Hubbard ran for 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns in one season – the guy is clearly no bum. Brooks ran for 1,479 yards and 16 touchdowns in three years.

Brooks' clear advantage over Hubbard only exists for pass-catching purposes. Brooks should kick Hubbard to the bench on passing downs early or immediately, and that doubtlessly limits Hubbard's upside somewhat. At an ADP of 173.0, though, it's an immaterial concern. The Panthers will need to run the ball a lot to give shelter to the vulnerable Bryce Young, and they are dependent on Hubbard to see that through. Brooks' time will more so be after Hubbard walks in free agency following the 2024 season.

D.J. Chark, WR, LAC (204.6 ADP)

The disclaimer here is that I'm a longtime Chark truther, but I say it without shame. Chark has always been a reliable per-target return in the NFL, and we already saw him thrive as a WR1 even with the lowly Gardner Minshew at quarterback, in Minshew's rookie season moreover.

Durability has never been in Chark's favor, and he will never be a physical presence over the middle, but he's a monster downfield and his 4.34 speed can create yardage after the catch if he hits the open field. I expect Chark to start on the boundary for the Chargers, be it at flanker or the X rep. Joshua Palmer and Ladd McConkey should split the slot and flanker reps, making Chark the primary downfield threat in an offense with one of the NFL's best downfield passers in Justin Herbert.

Chark did well for the Panthers last year but had his playing time yanked for the historically ineffective Jonathan Mingo due to owner meddling. Jim Harbaugh has more use for wins than entertaining owner vanity, so Chark will stay in the Chargers lineup as long as he's healthy. It's admittedly difficult to utilize Chark in season-long ball, but with best ball he simply heads to your bench if he leaves a game early.

Bo Nix, QB, DEN (208.1 ADP)

Nix should be something like the Sam Howell of the 2024 best ball season, at worst. By that I mean there should be starts and, crucially, usage. Having turned 24 in February, Nix won't warrant time for breaking in, and Sean Payton doesn't have the time to spare anyway. Meanwhile, the Broncos should be losing and therefore throwing to catch up plenty, even if they would prefer to run the ball more.

Nix should not only throw a good 500-plus passes at this trivial price, but should also be a notable rushing producer. Nix ran well and often in college and that's really part of his game -- it wasn't just the Oregon or Auburn systems. A Jeff Garcia sort of outcome wouldn't be terribly shocking for Nix's career. Under no circumstances should Nix be going later than the likes of Bryce Young (200.0 ADP) or Daniel Jones (206.3 ADP).

Isaac Guerendo, RB, SF (212.1 ADP)

Guerendo is a rather boom-or-bust target but the upside is as plain as day. It's true that if Christian McCaffrey were to miss any time that Elijah Mitchell would be the first runner up, but Mitchell's durability troubles (knee specifically) have been persistent to the point that his availability could only be viewed as a bonus rather than something specifically expected.

If Guerendo sees opportunity in the Shanahan offense then he would likely thrive, for the same reasons that Mitchell and Raheem Mostert thrived before him. Guerendo is basically a Mostert starter pack, albeit at about 20 pounds heavier. With the blocking lanes the 49ers offense creates Guerendo could run almost blindfolded and still rack up big plays thanks to his 4.33 speed. This is not a Tyrion Davis-Price or Trey Sermon situation – Guerendo has actual talent.

Darius Slayton, WR, NYG (212.4 ADP)

Every offseason the markets look for a reason to ignore Slayton, and every year he just goes back out and reminds everyone that he's a totally solid NFL WR2. Slayton doesn't have the hands or the physicality to thrive in the middle of the field or on contested catches, but as a vertical-setting boundary wideout he demands the attention of the safety on that side of the field, lest he burn the boundary corner on a post or fly route.

Slayton is the real deal if only because he averaged around 10.0 yards per target the last two years, something borderline impossible to do with Daniel Jones at quarterback. His target volume limitations don't matter since Malik Nabers will be drawing the highest volume of targets, and likely heavily from the slot. The more Nabers plays in the slot, the more Wan'Dale Robinson gets frozen out of the offense. Even if Nabers lines up on the boundary with Robinson in the slot, Slayton is still clearly better for that second boundary rep than Jalin Hyatt, who didn't show anything as a rookie.

If the Giants were at all confused about where their real talent was at receiver last year then the last month of the season cleared that up as Slayton produced 321 yards and three touchdowns in the final four games. Slayton only needs about 70 targets to give you 700 yards, and there's pretty much no one else you can say that about for this range of the ADP.

Jelani Woods, TE, IND (213.7 ADP)

Although he's sort of a clunky tight end who only threatens very specific parts of the route tree, Woods is almost certainly a more effective receiver than Kylen Granson, who just wasn't any good as a pass-catching specialist in 2023.

Crucially, one of the areas where Woods projects especially well is down the seam, off of playaction. With a 4.61-second 40-yard dash at over 6-foot-7, Woods should be a uniquely challenging cover for defenses who will train their safeties to crash downward on the rushing threat posed by Anthony Richardson. If defenses want to sit back on Woods then they risk leaving one of their linebackers one-on-one against Richardson in the open field, which would probably be the last time they try such a thing.

If Woods can just draw something like 550 snaps then he should push for among the Colts' team lead in touchdown receptions. Michael Pittman is of course the heavy favorite to take the lead, but if Woods plays 30 or more snaps per game then I like his chances of finishing the year with six or more touchdowns. Woods produced three touchdowns on 318 snaps in his 2022 rookie season, and that was with the decrepit Matt Ryan at quarterback. Richardson and Shane Steichen will be leading the Colts to many more touchdowns than they scored that season.

Evan Hull, RB, IND (214.4 ADP)

Hull was a trendy projection to back up Jonathan Taylor in 2023 and that would have fallen through even without Hull's season-ending injury from Week 1, but Zack Moss and Deon Jackson are both off the Colts roster now. Trey Sermon, meanwhile, likely only played in 2023 because of Hull's injury.

While there was always clear reason to expect Moss to play over Hull, there's no such basis to assume Sermon has much or anything on Hull. That's particularly true with respect to passing-down functions, where Hull projects well and Sermon projects poorly.

Hull is such a standout pass catcher that there's a chance he provides some best-ball utility even if Taylor stays healthy all year, but in the event that Taylor misses any time I'd expect Hull to play at least 35 snaps to every 20 played by Sermon, probably something more like 40 to every 20.

Chris Rodriguez, RB, WAS (216.0 ADP)

Rodriguez is a little tough to roster given that he's risky as an RB5 and it's not always easy to make room for six RBs on a roster in an 18-round best ball draft, but he's clearly a better player than Brian Robinson and in my opinion Robinson will be on the bench by some point in the season's second half.

Austin Ekeler will hog all of the passing-down snaps, of course, and the lack of pass-catching opportunity limits Rodriguez's upside somewhat. Then again, Washington will probably need to run the ball more than most expect this year due to the passing limitations of Jayden Daniels. I expect that the Commanders will turn to the ground game early in the year to provide shelter for Daniels, but Robinson will fail in this capacity and they will look next to Rodriguez, who will succeed.

Rodriguez is plainly a better threat from scrimmage than Robinson is, and particularly if Robinson is fumbling like last year then there is no greater security or consistency in Robinson than there would be with Rodriguez. It might take desperation for Washington to give Rodriguez the keys, but the season is long and a couple weeks of Daniels/Robinson looking awful in September is enough to get the transition to Rodriguez in motion.

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Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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