Best Ball Strategy: Today's Late Picks, Tomorrow's Stars

Best Ball Strategy: Today's Late Picks, Tomorrow's Stars

This article is part of our Best Ball Strategy series.

This article will look at players who go in the mid rounds or later right now who have what it takes to be among the players that we draft in the early rounds in 2025. Some of these players are more inevitable than others, but each player has at least one scenario where they might end up being a top-50 fantasy pick in 2025. Each blurb will examine those scenarios and whether they warrant buying early on the player in question.

The players are listed in descending order of current ADP. Thanks to reader Evolsdog for the article idea!

Rome Odunze, WR, CHI (66.1 Underdog ADP)

This one is almost cheating – Odunze is already a stone's throw from the top 50 picks as it is, and moreover everyone knows it's only Keenan Allen that might possibly stop Odunze from getting there by next year. Indeed, Allen will be 33 by April, so Odunze should move into the top 50 next year almost regardless of what goes on in 2024.

I actually think Odunze is a slightly better prospect than Malik Nabers, so to me Odunze is absolutely in that Inevitable category. With that said, playing in Caleb Williams' offense should be a fairly enviable work situation for Odunze. In other words, Odunze needs no help becoming one of the most productive receivers in the NFL, yet he might have quite a bit of help.

I think the current ADP prices on rookie wideouts are overpriced almost

This article will look at players who go in the mid rounds or later right now who have what it takes to be among the players that we draft in the early rounds in 2025. Some of these players are more inevitable than others, but each player has at least one scenario where they might end up being a top-50 fantasy pick in 2025. Each blurb will examine those scenarios and whether they warrant buying early on the player in question.

The players are listed in descending order of current ADP. Thanks to reader Evolsdog for the article idea!

Rome Odunze, WR, CHI (66.1 Underdog ADP)

This one is almost cheating – Odunze is already a stone's throw from the top 50 picks as it is, and moreover everyone knows it's only Keenan Allen that might possibly stop Odunze from getting there by next year. Indeed, Allen will be 33 by April, so Odunze should move into the top 50 next year almost regardless of what goes on in 2024.

I actually think Odunze is a slightly better prospect than Malik Nabers, so to me Odunze is absolutely in that Inevitable category. With that said, playing in Caleb Williams' offense should be a fairly enviable work situation for Odunze. In other words, Odunze needs no help becoming one of the most productive receivers in the NFL, yet he might have quite a bit of help.

I think the current ADP prices on rookie wideouts are overpriced almost across the board, with Odunze being the one exception. With Nabers (26.2 ADP), Xavier Worthy (60.0 ADP), Ladd McConkey (69.3 ADP) and Keon Coleman (70.8 ADP) drafters are praying for historically unprecedented outcomes to make the prices make sense. With Odunze this for some reason isn't the case – Odunze clearly has the ability to provide the necessary returns, and you don't need to project injuries or anomalous outcomes to imagine the necessary conditions.

Out of the current rookie wide receivers, Odunze strikes me as pretty clearly the best value.

Jonathon Brooks, RB, CAR (86.3 Underdog ADP)

I think Brooks is overrated and I think the hyperbolic hype surrounding him is a consequence of the anti-intellectual RBs Don't Matter ideology that underpins any self-styled Analytics outfit. If RBs Don't Matter then the distinctions between RBs don't matter either, which in practice means voluntarily being unable to see whatever a running back might actually be. It's like the analytical equivalent of those deep-sea fish that go blind after millennia without light. If you truly have no reason to look then you truly will not see. When you stop being able to see, you start flattening all running backs into their demographic data rather than their traits as players, and so a huge number of people now believe Brooks to be equal or greater to any particular second-round pick running back. Thus, a person sees no difference between a Nick Chubb/Jonathan Taylor/Derrick Henry-tier prospect versus a Brooks or a James Cook. The discourse is getting worse, rapidly.

WITH THAT SAID, it's still obvious enough how Brooks will be a top-50 pick in 2025. By being a second-round pick the Panthers are all but committed to Brooks as an eventual starter, and pretty much any three-down running back will go in the top 50 regardless of their abilities, but especially when they have pre-loaded hype like Brooks.

I think Brooks will be a bust at his current ADP, because I think Chuba Hubbard will lead the Carolina backfield in from-scrimmage production, but Hubbard is on the last year of his rookie deal. Hubbard will more than likely be on another roster in 2025, at which point Brooks would have no remaining obstacles other than maybe the Panthers offense itself.

Brock Bowers, TE, LV (100.1 Underdog ADP)

No one is happy about Bowers ending up with the Raiders and there are doubtlessly certain limitations that come with quarterbacks like Gardner Minshew and Aidan O'Connell, but plenty of tight ends have posted big numbers with mediocre or worse quarterbacks. That's especially true when you're talking a YAC monster like Bowers. An otherwise blue chip tight end like Kyle Pitts is more of a downfield target who requires a quarterback capable of actually reaching a downfield depth with some semblance of accuracy and timing, but Bowers can take a primitive bootleg look in the flats and turn it into a first down repeatedly.

I think it's safe to say that if the Raiders need to completely marginalize Michael Mayer to make room for Bowers' numbers then they will do it without question. GM Tom Telesco is probably one of the 100 greatest scammers in the history of earth, but that's not the same as accusing Telesco of being dumb enough to think he'll keep his job if Bowers is a bust.

Trey McBride raked with Josh Dobbs at quarterback. Sam LaPorta was the TE1 with Jared Goff at quarterback. If Bowers is the real deal then even guys like Minshew and O'Connell won't hold him back. In fact, we'd have sooner reason to assume Bowers will be the only functional part of the Raiders passing game than we would assume Bowers to fail in 2024.

Nick Chubb, RB, CLE (130.1 Underdog ADP)

Chubb has been an enemy of the RBs Don't Matter crowd from the moment he showed himself for what he is – one of the very best players in NFL history and a pure runner only matched by the likes of Jim Brown. Chubb disproves the rotten hypothesis – he must be destroyed!

A lot of people are now hoping Chubb's career is over following his gruesome multi-ligament knee injury against Pittsburgh from Week 2 last year, but if it isn't then he'll be going much earlier than this in 2025. Chubb will probably miss at least the first six weeks of the season given that his ACL repair surgery was delayed to Nov. 14, but by then he'll be around a full year removed from that surgery.

Even if Chubb ends up missing the entire 2024 season, it would be foolish to count him out for 2025. Garrison Hearst returned from something worse than this, and Chubb has already returned once from an injury about as bad. Here's hoping he continues to be a thorn in the side of the anti-RB cartels.

Kendre Miller, RB, NO (140.5 Underdog ADP)

This situation could change in a hurry, depending on the status of Alvin Kamara. Kamara is too substantial of a player to leave Miller much room for a 2024 breakout, but if Kamara is on another team then this might become Miller's offense immediately. Jamaal Williams is just a meme, and a tired one.

Miller is largely a blank slate as a prospect, with just his excellent TCU production and his ambiguous 2023 rookie year production available as concrete facts. Miller did not do any pre-draft athletic testing otherwise, so the exact amount of speed he has at a given weight isn't known to the public. Generally speaking, though, players as productive as Miller was at TCU will also be productive in the NFL as long as their athletic tools grade better than 'below average.' Miller almost certainly is no worse than average as an athlete, and he might be more than that.

Stated more simply, while Miller is unproven there is reason to believe he will produce if given opportunity. If Kamara is out of New Orleans by this time next year, Miller will likely be in the top 50 of the ADP. If Kamara leaves New Orleans before this season starts then we might see Miller in the top 50 even before 2025.

Ricky Pearsall, WR, SF (143.5 Underdog ADP)

Pearsall is over-aged as a prospect, which is conventionally a concern given that older college football players simply play on a lower difficulty level than younger, less developed players. Particularly when a wide receiver only breaks out late in their career, when they have an age advantage, there's the risk that their production was explained by their age rather than their talent.

Upon applying stricter scrutiny, I think it becomes clear that Pearsall is exempt from this red flag. The reason is twofold: the first is that Pearsall already demonstrated plus production at Arizona State, well before he had been in college football long enough for the production to be explained by his age. The second is that Pearsall conclusively demonstrated elite athleticism at the combine. Rather than age, the evidence says that Pearsall's production was more likely the result of his skill set and athleticism than any age advantage.

If Pearsall is good generally then it's obvious how he could become a coveted fantasy asset with the 49ers. Kyle Shanahan is arguably the best playcaller in football, and Pearsall looks like the kind of talent who could produce in most or all offenses. This should be comparatively easy for Pearsall, given how much the 49ers tend to score.

The problem in the meantime is obvious enough: as much as the 49ers score a lot of points, and as much as they clearly mean to use Pearsall at some point as a first-round pick, the 49ers are still a run-heavy offense and one that has barely any room for targets after Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle get their share. Even a role player like Jauan Jennings will be difficult to displace.

The solution is equally simple, though: It's wheels up for Pearsall as soon as one of Samuel or Aiyuk is out of the way. If Pearsall inherits a 100-target projection for 2025 then he'll likely be going in the first four rounds of fantasy drafts by then.

Ben Sinnott, TE, WAS (166.9 Underdog ADP)

This one is simple. You see Sam LaPorta last year? What about Trey McBride? That's the way it might go with Sinnott.

Granted, it's not fair to specifically expect Sinnott to be as good as those two. Sinnott could prove himself fully worth the second-round pick the Commanders spent on him even if he falls short of the standards set by LaPorta and McBride. With that said, Sinnott has basically all the same positive indicators that would have led someone to single out LaPorta and McBride before last year.

Sinnott likely has the lowest top speed of the three (4.68-second 40 versus 4.59 for LaPorta and ~4.62 for McBride), but Sinnott also ran his 40 at five pounds heavier than LaPorta or McBride. The more interesting testing in Sinnott's case is the jumps (40-inch vertical, 126-inch broad jump), both of which outclass LaPorta and McBride. Sinnott also logged elite agility testing (6.82-second three-cone, 4.23-second 20-yard shuttle). Sinnott's athleticism grades as close to blue-chip, giving him an excellent tools grade as a prospect.

With Sinnott's tools grade accounted for, the only other concern is his skills grade. For that we look to production, where LaPorta and McBride certainly stood out themselves at the collegiate level. Good news: Sinnott raked at Kansas State. Indeed, all of LaPorta, McBride and Sinnott were the leading pass catchers on their respective squads. Not only did Sinnott lead Kansas State with a 19.2 percent target share, he did so at an extremely efficient rate (64.5 percent catch rate at 8.9 YPT in an offense that completed 61.8 percent of its passes at 7.5 YPA).

Chris Rodriguez, RB, WAS (216.0 Underdog ADP)

Technically this is a bold pick but I don't think it's that outrageous. It's not bold, for instance, to point out that Brian Robinson is well short of a starter-caliber running back. It's therefore a fairly safe suggestion, in my opinion, that someone other than Robinson will be starting for Washington in 2025.

The bolder part would be to predict that Rodriguez specifically would be the player starting at Robinson's expense. Perhaps it is, but we don't need to pretend that the NFL has any idea of how to evaluate running backs. If anything the league seems to be getting worse all the time. Rodriguez being a sixth-round pick to me is no deterrent in a league that drops Isiah Pacheco to the end of the seventh round in the same draft where Robinson and Tyrion Davis-Price went in the third.

Robinson is a 'power runner' with no anchor because of his upright build, and his lack of twitch robs any chance of elusiveness. No burst, no anchor, no pop. Nothing. Rodriguez is a sharp contrast with the ball.

Whereas Robinson is basically a scarecrow at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, Rodriguez has a better center of gravity at 6-foot, 217 pounds with a good downward lean. When Robinson runs he looks every bit the 6-foot-2, whereas when you watch Rodriguez he breaks down more like a 5-foot-10 running back. This allows Rodriguez to get under defenders' pads much better than Robinson, which when combined with Rodriguez's far superior explosiveness makes it a lot more difficult to get Rodriguez to the ground.

Look at how Rodriguez produced at Kentucky compared to Robinson's numbers at Alabama, both playing in the SEC. Robinson played on Easy Mode at Alabama and still finished his career with a weak 5.0 yards per carry at a touchdown rate of 5.3 percent over 545 carries. Rodriguez played in the much weaker Kentucky offense and averaged 6.2 yards per carry at a 5.4 percent touchdown rate over 592 carries. Rodriguez is a violent and explosive runner whereas Robinson is a passive and monotonous one.

For the love of God, just watch the two of them play. Rodriguez isn't even a fast running back but when you watch Rodriguez and then watch Robinson it's like watching the second guy run in molasses.

Anyway, if Rodriguez can send Robinson to the bench by November and peel off a string of productive starts then Rodriguez would have a good chance to enter the 2025 season as Washington's starting running back. If Rodriguez continues to produce at a high level then that could be enough to get him into the first 50 picks of 2025 drafts.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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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