NFL Best Ball Expert Survey: Preseason News Edition
Death, taxes, and preseason injuries. Our experts are all over news from training camp and preseason games, reacting to injuries, depth chart changes and personnel moves. Get the latest insight on the shifting NFL landscape as it pertains to best ball drafts.
Best Ball Expert Survey: Picks Edition
How does the Melvin Gordon news affect his ranking?
STLCards: I tend to be conservative in these situations, especially with players that require early-round picks. Throw in the fact that I’m naturally less excited about Gordon than the rest of the world in the absence of other circumstances and he’s essentially off my board now.
Beermakersfan: I was slightly worried about his overall workload, receptions and red zone work all taking a hit before this news so I have dropped him into the second round for now. We still have plenty of time for this situation to remedy itself, but if I’m drafting now I’m looking to others in that area of the draft. If he falls far enough, then I’ll take my chances.
Chris Gimino: Melvin Gordon was never going to even put his helmet on in preseason play, and this is the fraud of the century. With a stunning lack of leverage here, I expect him to suit up Week 1. I’m not lowering him in my rankings just because of this. That said, I was bearish on him to begin with and may further adjust him down anyway.
JSURab: I did drop Melvin Gordon in my rankings. He is not someone I was taking at his ADP before the holdout news. I prefer those top top four WRs over him in Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas and Julio Jones.
JoshADHD: It doesn’t affect my ranking at all. I think he’s blowing smoke and doesn’t intend to sit out the season. I also don’t have him ranked all that highly to begin with, and haven’t been drafting him much in my best ball leagues. This story is a non-factor for me.
How does Derrius Guice’s latest injury affect his draft stock?
STLCards: This depends on your risk tolerance. In the middle rounds, sometimes it’s easier to take a chance. I’ll bump him down about 5-6 spots in the RB rankings right now.
Beermakersfan: Guice is a guy I was once very high on, but the combination of the nagging injuries plus the offense likely not being very good has me looking elsewhere at that point in the draft to guys like Tevin Coleman, Darrell Henderson, Latavius Murray and the Seattle RBs.
Chris Gimino: I nearly crossed him off my board to begin with and I’m now fully out. I won’t even own one share.
JSURab: I was not very high on Guice to begin with this year coming off of that injury. I feel like they were going to ease him in anyways, but with this latest injury I did drop him another six spots. It’s really just a situation I am going to avoid unless he starts to drop too low in drafts.
JoshADHD: I was already avoiding the Washington offense this offseason, and this injury doesn’t give me a reason to draft Adrian Peterson or Chris Thompson. I would perhaps take a look at Bryce Love in the last round of drafts, but wouldn’t make him more than 15% of my portfolio.
Is Ezekiel Elliott Still a Top-Five Pick if He Holds Out?
STLCards: It’s close, but I will say yes as of now. Elliott doesn’t have as much leverage as Melvin Gordon, especially given his occasional off the field troubles. With two years left on his rookie deal, I don’t see the holdout extending to the regular season. However, this is definitely something to monitor closely.
Beermakersfan: Yes, because Zeke doesn’t have a ton of leverage in this situation. He has to report to camp by Aug. 6 to gain an accrued season, which allows him to be an unrestricted free agent after the 2020 season. Not only that, but looking at the Cowboys depth chart quickly shows you that Dallas almost has to make this work. I may move him behind the other stud RBs at some point, but for now Elliott remains my No. 1 player in drafts.
Chris Gimino: Yes. Running backs matter to the Jones family.
JSURab: I would say for now he is still top five. Zeke could easily finish the season as RB1 in fantasy. We never really know with these holdout situations, but the Cowboys and Zeke have been working on trying to make a deal for the last month.
JoshADHD: I would take any discount I could on Elliott. However, I don’t believe he’s a serious holdout consideration. For the sake of argument, though, if Elliott were to hold out of training camp, I would consider dropping him behind Alvin Kamara, but still ahead of Melvin Gordon.
Kalen Ballage is getting first-team reps. Is that a concern for Kenyan Drake?
Chris Gimino: No. Ballage was always going to take first-team reps, and this remains a potentially volatile split-duty situation. Ballage is a player to target deep in drafts if you fade RB early, but this particular news item should be considered #asexpected.
JSURab: Drake in the fourth round is just way too high of a price to pay. I see this backfield as split between Drake and Ballage. The Dolphins have one of the worst offensive lines in football, so it’s not a situation I want to invest in anyways. With this news, I expect Ballage will start to be selected earlier which will lead me to just fade this backfield in drafts.
STLCards: I’m always worried about Drake. We have absolutely no clarity on how this backfield is going to shake out. This news will probably bump up Ballage’s ADP quite a bit over the next few weeks, too. Drake was already going at point in drafts that was too much of a premium. As such, I’ll have limited exposure to both, though Drake becomes more appealing if his ADP starts to sag.
Beermakersfan: I’m not going to panic too early with training camp just kicking off. It is certainly eye opening, but I believe in the talent of Drake so I’m not moving him down my rankings. Ballage will certainly be involved but I still think Drake can outperform his current draft price. He put up 1,000 yards and 9 TDs in a super slow, terrible offense in 2018 and I think this offense will be much better than people expect in 2019.
JoshADHD: I’ve been worried the entire offseason. This starting RB job wasn’t a slam-dunk for Drake at all. Ballage has real talent himself, and deserves plenty of touches. I’ve been hammering Ballage in rounds 13-15 all summer.
Erik Beimfohr: I was always worried about Drake. I’ve been a fan of his talent, but the price has been way too steep for me to acquire a player with the volume and playing time questions marks he has on a team as bad as the Dolphins. Ballage has been the preferred target of mine between the two with his later round ADP, and I only expect that to continue moving forward.
What happens to LeSean McCoy’s draft stock if he’s released by Buffalo?
STLCards: It’s a giant wild card at this point, but I would almost give him a slight bump. His ADP is sagging right now, and there’s merit to the thought that he could end up in a better spot, even if he’s not getting 25 touches a game wherever he goes.
Beermakersfan: It would almost have to improve getting out of Buffalo, but it really depends on where he lands and how much opportunity we can project for him in his new offense. Still, tough to get too excited about a 31-year-old RB coming off a sub-600 rushing yard season.
Chris Gimino: It would likely rise, but the landing spot would matter a great deal as to whether we should fade the ADP rise. Buffalo is a fine spot for a back of any importance to rise up a depth chart as it stands. Why isn’t he Buffalo’s lead back if he’s such a good fantasy asset? The landing spot would really affect how we should act, as any meaningful threat to full-blown lead duties would make him unattractive.
JSURab: His draft stock will depend mainly where he ends up. Buffalo is not the best situation for an RB right now. We will just have to wait and see where he lands, but I’m still not overly excited.
JoshADHD: It can’t get much worse, can it? I’ve taken a healthy amount of McCoy when he slides into the 11th round (or later) depending on what type of build I’m constructing. I think this wholly depends on where he ends up, if he ends up anywhere at all. Best case scenario? Tampa Bay, Houston, or Kansas City. In those three cases, I’d expect him to become a third- to fifth-round pick overnight.
In what round does A.J. Green become a value?
Chris Gimino: I think you can select Green in best ball in the round 5-8 range depending on how many games you believe he will miss and your expectation on his effectiveness when he returns. I believe two games is fair, which in standard 12-team full season best balls would make him a target in round 6 or 7. That’s in the same area I have been targeting Christian Kirk, who I have at WR24 at the moment.
JSURab: We still don’t know the exact amount of time Green will miss, but I think two regular season games seems likely. I will now be moving him down to a sixth-round pick at WR29. I think in that range even if he misses two games he could still give you the production to provide value in that round.
JoshADHD: He becomes a value again in the sixth round, right around WR30. If his worst-case scenario is missing the first four games of 2019, I think you can liken him to 2018 Julian Edelman in terms of projection. Fewer than four games, and you’ve out-punched his draft slot by 2+ rounds.
Erik Beimfohr: I’d say about round 7, but I’m going to be pretty careful with Green moving forward. He’s still a great football player, of course, and I don’t think we should expect him to miss too many games from this particular injury. However, he’s about to turn 31 years old, has had some injury issues the last couple years, and we don’t truly know much about this injury yet. I’ll still be interested somewhere near the seventh round because he’s too good of a player to ignore, but I’m going to be cautious, especially because there are a lot of upside WRs I also like in that range.
Beermakersfan: I was very high on him as a value in the late third to early fourth round before the injury and now I have him ranked in the seventh round range. That’s where I start to feel comfortable with the reward meaning more to my team than the potential risk. He’s risky for sure, but also still possesses the upside to be a league winner in the middle-rounds if he’s back around Weeks 4-6.
STLCards: It seems like Green will miss one-to-three weeks of the regular season, so that would downgrade him around two rounds for me. That puts the late fifth or early sixth round as the “sweet spot” to draft Green. If you are thin at WR, the sixth round area seems like a value. If you are already heavy at WR, it would be a bit later.
Is Josh Gordon worth a draft pick, and if so, what round?
STLCards: I suppose you could consider it in the final rounds, but someone else will likely pounce before I am willing to do so. Have you ever seen the movie “Groundhog Day?” We’ve seen this movie before. As the old adage goes, “play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” Gordon is unlikely to be a fantasy difference-maker in 2019 even if he gets cleared at some point.
Beermakersfan: I do think he gets reinstated, so he’s a guy I have been drafting quite a bit in the last three rounds of drafts all summer. If he doesn’t end up playing, it is no different than one of my guys getting hurt. But on the positive side, if he does play you get one of the steals of the draft. All about your risk/reward tolerance and I’d rather swing for the fences and be aggressive on Gordon and try to hit a grand slam!
JSURab: We still don’t know when Gordon will be able to step on the field, but he is definitely worth a stab at the end of the draft. The Patriots need an outside receiver and Gordon can provide upside if he can stay on the field. To me he is worth a shot in the 17th or 18th round.
JoshADHD: Absolutely! I’ve been drafting Gordon frequently in rounds 16-18 as a “go for it” pick. His production in 2018 speaks volumes for his potential in 2019, pending reinstatement. It’s a high-risk move, but given ADP, it’s one that can tilt the balance in your league.
Who assumes D’Onta Foreman’s role in the Houston backfield?
STLCards: There is no chance we can make a reliable guess at anyone other than Lamar Miller at this point. He isn’t a sexy fantasy option in his own right, but this is shaping up to be another year where he thumbs his way into 200 boring touches. I won’t have many shares of anyone in this backfield.
Chris Gimino: You can only draft Miller. No matter who emerges, they have such a limited chance to be fantasy relevant on a team with a projected tough schedule that the answer does not matter. Karan Higdon and Damarea Crockett are competing for backup duties, and any hot takes on who is winning right now are grossly premature. Crockett is the gun to head pick from me at this moment, but I am able to make competitive best ball teams without dabbling in this situation.
JoshADHD: I don’t know if this player is on the roster yet. They lost usual suspect Alfred Blue to Jacksonville in free agency. My gut feeling is that they’ll monitor camp cuts for a couple players they like and sign one or both to compete with Miller.
JSURab: As of right now, the only person that I am giving a bump to is Miller. This locks down his role as the lead back seeing the majority of the running opportunities. Miller is not the most exciting fantasy option, but he does give you a safe option as the top ball carrier in a high-powered offense.
Beermakersfan: It is still way too murky of a situation to draft anyone else besides Miller at this point. I actually bumped Miller up a significant amount with this news and don’t see anyone challenging him for touches at the moment.
What is Duke Johnson’s value in Houston?
JoshADHD: Until we know more, he is only a complement to Lamar Miller. Look to the Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny dynamic in Seattle. I am hopeful that Houston releases Miller to fully install Johnson as the feature back, but the realist in me believes that this simply muddies the situation, and we should be happy with any shares of Johnson we acquired in the double-digit rounds prior to the trade.
STLCards: He’s going to have some value in Houston. D’Onta Foreman is gone, and this team has had a revolving door of backs over the last few years attempting to provide some relief for Miller. None have succeeded to this point. We know Johnson’s skillset as a receiving back, and there is no doubt Houston will carve out a nice role for him. He’s not necessarily a great handcuff for Miller owners, but this definitely bumps him up the board a few rounds. His outlook is more clear than it was in Cleveland.
Nathan Coleman: Johnson should at the least form a committee with Miller based on the mid-round trade compensation. The concern is the Texans ranked dead last in RB targets in 2018 and in the bottom six for the least three years. Miller still looms as an obstacle and the return of an emerging Keke Coutee will siphon away targets underneath. A tough schedule will mean more negative game scripts and passing opportunities, so there’s hope Johnson finds enough opportunity to be viable.
JSURab: Johnson gets a bump in value being in Houston. He is still gonna be the backup to Miller but he should take a good amount of the passing-down work. He will be a great check-down option and should also get a few carries as well. Johnson is a talented back who if given the chance could earn even more playing time as the season goes on.
Beermakersfan: Duke takes a huge leap in value with this trade to Houston. People may fail to realize this guy can be more than just a pass catcher, let’s not forget he’s a 210-pound running back. He immediately becomes the best running back on the roster and a serious threat to Miller’s workload. Houston faces one of the most difficult schedules this season and could be playing from behind a bunch, which only adds to the potential upside for Johnson. Don’t be shocked when he steals the starting job away from Miller sooner rather than later.
Do Antonio Brown’s antics have him sliding down your draft board?
Beermakersfan: Absolutely! This guy is a ticking time bomb that could explode at any second. It would not shock me to see him retire, quit on his team, or just be a shell of his former self. We know the talent is there which is why anyone would entertain drafting him, but there are just too many red flags for me to pull the trigger unless he slips into the middle rounds which isn’t going to happen. Let somebody else take on the headache.
JSURab: I was very high on Brown coming into this year and his antics definitely forced me to move him down a little in my rankings. I could easily see him walking away or quitting on his team mid-season. He’s obviously very talented and a lot of people will have the mindset to just let someone else take him, which will allow you to get Brown at a great value. If this happens I will take the risk for someone who has the potential to lead the league in targets.
JoshADHD: No more than he had already slid down by board due to his moving to Oakland from Pittsburgh. This latest nonsense is just that – nonsense. I am actively not drafting him this offseason, but if he happens to fall into the WR25 range, I’ll consider adding him to my rosters.
STLCards: Yes, you have to downgrade him a bit, though the most recent news is a bit encouraging. But even if he is a full go, he’s playing on a team with fewer weapons and something else could happen at any time during the year. I wouldn’t bother until the pick 25-30 range right now.
Nathan Coleman: I don’t have any interest in Brown at his draft price given the bevy of superior options such as Mike Evans, George Kittle, or Kerryon Johnson available for a similar cost. He’s not building chemistry with Derek Carr when he’s injured or missing in action, and his style of play doesn’t mesh with his new quarterback anyway, as Carr ranked outside the top 12 in both deep ball and air yards attempts the past two years.
How much does Jerick McKinnon’s injury elevate Tevin Coleman?
STLCards: This really solidifies the value for Coleman and Breida, though I expect both to be over-drafted in the near future. The 49ers will still use a committee approach. Coleman is the best bet for mid-round production.
Beermakersfan: Coleman is moving up my board every time I update my rankings. He is a perfect option for a WR-heavy start to a draft and remains way too cheap right now. I’m expecting this offense to be very good and Coleman should have a ton of opportunity, likely smashing his draft cost.
JSURab: Coleman is someone that I have been very high on and he is my highest-owned player in best balls. I wasn’t really worried about McKinnon, but the news provides even more clarity. Coleman should be in line for a big workload in a good offense. Getting him in the fifth or sixth round that is great value.
JoshADHD: I mentioned on Twitter this past Sunday that Coleman should be a third-round pick after reading about McKinnon’s issues in recovery. While I firmly believe in Breida as an asset in the Kyle Shanahan scheme, Coleman can potentially seize a bell cow role. I love his value in the fifth/sixth round.
Nathan Coleman: Coleman will not only see early-down touches but more than likely will garner the majority of red zone work in what is projected to be a top 10 offense. He is currently be drafted in the fifth round behind more ambiguous lead backs such as Sony Michel and Phillip Lindsay, despite a more secure role. Now is the time to grab shares of both Coleman and Breida before their ADPs spike up.
Are we concerned about Andrew Luck?
STLCards: Given his history, there’s certainly a mild cause for concern here. And there’s the fact that the difference between, say QB4 and QB12, really isn’t all that much come the end of the season. There really isn’t much reason to risk taking Luck right now, unless you are in a best ball league where you are pairing him up with Colts receivers. In that case, I’m still on board with taking him at or around his current ADP.
Beermakersfan: I worry a lot about it for a few reasons. First off, he has not been the fastest healer we’ve ever seen, the shoulder injury from 2015 coming to mind. There is also the fact that the Colts straight up lied to us about him the last time he had a significant injury (again, the shoulder). I have moved him down to QB12 for now until I have more clarity on his health. He wasn’t a guy I was drafting a ton to begin with as I prefer to wait until the later rounds for a quarterback. I have also downgraded T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack, Devin Funchess, Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle.
JoshADHD: There are simply other quarterbacks I’ve wanted at their respective ADPs versus Luck, so I haven’t drafted him more than a few times all offseason. We should exercise some caution if we want to draft him going forward. My intuition tells me that he’ll miss 2-4 games to open the season, which certainly affects his ability to pay off his current draft cost. I am holding off on him at this point until we have more clarity on his return.
JSURab: I’m a little concerned with Luck’s injury. After considering where he is being drafted I have been avoiding him anyways. The quarterback position is just so deep and with Luck’s injury history, the leg issue scares me. I’m always a believer in waiting on a QB so I will let someone else take that risk.
Nathan Coleman: Drafters considering Luck should be in wait-and-see mode for more news. He currently sits in the seventh round and missing any games would put his expected production behind similar QBs going later such as Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz, and Cam Newton.
Whose stock has risen the most in the two preseason games?
Beermakersfan: Really like what I’m seeing out of Darwin Thompson, Justice Hill and Sam Darnold. Darnold becomes a very solid quarterback option late in drafts and a cheap stacking option in the DRAFT Best Ball Championship. Hill will have a role right off the bat for Baltimore and my bold call is Thompson takes over the Kansas City backfield by Week 8.
JSURab: Justice Hill has had two really good weeks of preseason. He is someone I have been really high on in drafts the last two months. I’ve been getting him late but starting to see him get drafted earlier after this last week. Hill showed his quickness, power, and ability to break tackle in both games. I see his role growing as the season goes on, which is why I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being the lead back by end of the season.
JoshADHD: First is Michael Gallup. He’s made spectacular catches in his first two outings and produced on limited volume. I like how they’re using him in the offense, and Dak Prescott willingness to target him. Second, I’ll offer up Justice Hill. He has made mincemeat of backups to this point, racking up an absurd number of broken/avoided tackles across two weeks. That type of talent will be on the field more and more as the season wears on.
STLCards: Tony Pollard and Jalen Hurd. Pollard has looked like every bit of a feature back in his preseason duty so far, and the upside is there if Ezekiel Elliott surprises and sits out for some regular season games. I also like Hurd, who scored twice in the last game and is fully in the mix for a potential top three spot in a crowded San Francisco wide receiver group.
What undecided team role will have the biggest fantasy impact?
JoshADHD: For me, it’s how early Philadelphia trusts Miles Sanders as a lead back. Personally, I’ve been drafting him any time I can in the fifth-eighth rounds understanding that his potential in this offense is a top five RB. Will Jordan Howard have a role? I have zero doubt. Will it be a large enough role to defray Sanders’ upside? I don’t believe so.
JSURab: If Darwin Thompson wins the No. 2 running back job in Kansas City, he’s a guy who could push Damien Williams and possibly eventually take over the starting role. We haven’t seen Williams handle a full workload and he has already missed time with a hamstring injury this season. The Chiefs running back situation is one to monitor, especially given the success of head coach Andy Reid’s lead backs.
Chris Gimino: If we’re talking potential impact for the price point, then I am significantly more interested than the field in guessing at this WR situation in Baltimore. Miles Boykin is a 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound monster occupying the outside in an offensive with zero legitimate competition for a player of that archetype. Lamar Jackson has demonstrated better than expected capability as a passer this offseason, and part of that has involved developing some chemistry with Boykin. Draft him in any remaining Best Balls, and stash him on deeper 12- and 14-team high stakes leagues.
Nathan Coleman: The Steelers have a crater-sized hole with the exodus of helmet aficionado Antonio Brown. Pittsburgh currently ranks third in available air yards and sixth in targets, making their WR2 position a valuable commodity in fantasy. Sophomore James Washington has flashed in the preseason, but Donte Moncrief finds himself atop the current depth chart. Leading the league in pass attempts in 2018, the offense is fully capable of supporting another wideout opposite target magnet JuJu Smith-Schuster.
STLCards: There are a lot of viable choices here, but I’ll go with the second WR spot in Pittsburgh. James Washington has the ability to be a fantasy difference maker in 2019 if he garners a 70-80% snap share. This situation is still fluid, and perhaps Pittsburgh uses enough three-wideout sets to render Washington relevant regardless of the depth chart. His upside runs laps around Donte Moncrief, though, and it would be nice to see Washington as a full-time starter.
How are we approaching the Kansas City backfield?
JSURab: If I wanted a piece of this backfield in best ball drafts, I would stay away from Damian Williams in the third round and draft LeSean McCoy later. If I already have Williams on my team in season-long leagues, I would be trying to trade for McCoy to handcuff this backfield because Andy Reid’s running backs are very valuable.
STLCards: None of us know what Andy Reid is going to do. We can guess, but we won’t know for sure until we see how the first couple weeks play out. Williams will almost assuredly fall a few rounds, and I wouldn’t touch him in leagues that have yet to draft. McCoy makes sense as a late-round flier, but he will likely be over-drafted now. The only real back I would be interested in would be Darwin Thompson at the tail end of a draft. He’s talented, and it’s not like McCoy is a great bet to stay healthy in his 11th NFL season. If both Williams and McCoy get hurt, Thompson could still end up being a steal.
Beermakersfan: I still love attacking this backfield in best ball formats because you will get some huge spike weeks from all of these guys, but I tend to shoot for the cheaper options in a situation like this. Williams is no longer worth the second/third round price we were paying and is an easy pass for me at this point. If I can get a nice discount on McCoy in the ninth/10th round area I’ll take it, and Thompson in the double-digit rounds will be my main target here.
JoshADHD: If you don’t have any pieces at this time, draft the cheapest player (Thompson) and move forward. Otherwise, for those that already have Williams, I would only take McCoy at the right price (10th round or later).