2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball: First Round Underdog Fantasy Football Best Ball ADP
Kevin Tompkins breaks down the best first round NFL Best Ball targets whether you're selecting at the front end or at the back of the draft.
We’re in best ball mode here on Fantasy Alarm and Bettor Sports Network, and we have regular fantasy football best ball drafts being set up in our Discord with the Fantasy Alarm #FAmily! We’re hitting the fantasy football best ball coverage very hard now as we’re in the middle of the offseason here with fantasy football rookie landing spots solidified post-NFL Draft. Watching the 2023 fantasy football ADP shift from week to week will be fantastic as we will now be inundated with more rookie hype, plus a slew of new fantasy football projections and, of course, a whole new set of fantasy football rankings to study. Are you ready to crush your fantasy football best ball drafts?
Make sure you register for Underdog Fantasy by clicking here and using promo code “FANTASYALARM” so you can come draft with Howard Bender, Andrew Cooper, Britt Flinn, Jon Impemba, myself and other analysts.
If you missed the other positions in this series, check them out here:
- 2023 Fantasy Football: Best Ball Quarterback Targets
- 2023 Fantasy Football: Best Ball Running Back Targets
- 2023 Fantasy Football: Best Ball Wide Receiver Targets
- 2023 Fantasy Football: Best Ball Tight End Targets
2023 NFL Best Ball: The First Round
Last season’s average draft position (ADP) had a clear tier gap within the first round after the top-six of Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey, Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Austin Ekeler. After those six, sure, you could still draft elite names like Travis Kelce, Stefon Diggs, Dalvin Cook, and others, but it was a pronounced divide between the top and bottom six players in the 2022 first round.
This season, there’s much more of a gradual slide in the first round until Davante Adams. He’s the only first-round pick that I don’t think will be a first-round pick when we’re doing best ball drafts in August. I think that he’ll drop out for either CeeDee Lamb or Jonathan Taylor.
In standalone best ball drafts, have some fun and draft who you want! If you’re only doing a handful and you want exposure to certain players, you’re not really losing a ton of value by taking Travis Kelce or A.J. Brown at 1.02.
For tournament best ball, you can honestly select any player in the first three tiers or Bijan Robinson as the 1.01 because selecting somebody like Robinson as the top overall pick allows you access to unique second and third-round picks to pair with him that you wouldn’t normally have access to if you took him at 1.06-1.08; his typical ADP.
People will not hesitate to take Robinson at 1.01 to get unique with a start, like below:
Note: As a ZeroRB ideological drafter, I do not condone the use of not only light mode on Underdog. Additionally, I do not condone drafting two more running backs after this. Draft at your own risk.
I’m completely flexible, knowing no matter who I feel like selecting, my roster construction is going to be sound with these elite players. It’s not going to be like 2022, where I feel like I’m already behind the eight-ball if I don’t get a top-six selection.
Let’s break down these overall best ball tiers!
NFL Best Ball Tier 1
- WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
- WR Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
- RB Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers
You really can’t go wrong with any of these three players in any order. Justin Jefferson had half of his games as a top-five weekly finisher in PPR and finished as the second-highest point-per-game finisher of all non-quarterbacks at 21.7.
Despite serious target competition on his own team, the Bengals’ offense is very condensed at the top, and Ja’Marr Chase put up an almost 30% target share. 37% air yards share and was WR5 in fantasy points per game. Quarterback Joe Burrow followed up his star-making 2021 with an equally impressive 2022 with 35 touchdowns and putting up as many rushing touchdowns in his third season (five) than he did in his last two seasons while more than doubling his rushing yards (257) from the season before. He’s able to support two high-end wide receiver targets in both Chase and Tee Higgins.
Remember when everybody predicted Christian McCaffrey would get injured in 2022 because he had been injured the previous two seasons? We’re all bad at predicting injuries.
Well, as fate would have it, you’re not hurt until you are, and McCaffrey played all 17 games in 2022. If you took McCaffrey at 1.01 last season, you reaped the benefits. Plus, he was traded to the 49ers, which only enhances his touchdown-scoring upside. Was CMC the 2019 version? No, but he still had over 100 targets and scored 14 touchdowns. He’s the consensus RB1 in fantasy this year in redraft and here in best ball formats.
NFL Best Ball Tier 2
Tyreek Hill and Cooper Kupp are a slight step down from the top-three best ball picks, but they are still awesome in their own right. Hill led the NFL in deep targets last season and ended his 2022 with the most targets (170), the most receptions (119), double-digit touchdowns (10), and an absurd 31.6% target share. Making this even more impressive was that he put up this kind of season in his first season without Patrick Mahomes throwing him the ball.
Kupp played just nine games, but at the time of his injury, he had a 31.5% targets per route run (TPRR), a 31% target share, and would have led all wide receivers in fantasy points per game (22.4). The entire offense for the Rams collapsed without Kupp there to hold everything together, but as long as Matthew Stafford is slinging the ball, Kupp is going to be hyper-targeted.
Kupp had tightrope surgery on his ankle in mid-November, which uses a polyethylene cord to fuse the ends of his tibia and fibula instead of surgical screws to allow for the bones to set at their original position to heal properly. His timetable from that point was 8-12 weeks of bearing no weight on his leg but allowed a shorter rehabilitation time and regaining normal motion of the ankle. Kupp should be good to go for training camp and his usual allotment of targets and fantasy goodness should commence as scheduled.
NFL Best Ball Tier 3
Travis Kelce is the anomaly among tight ends, as he finished with 18.6 fantasy points per game, with the next highest being George Kittle at just over 13 points. To give you some perspective on just how dominant Kelce was across the tight end landscape. If you combined the TE8 and TE9’s scoring (Pat Freiermuth and Cole Kmet), they still would just equal Kelce’s production. Kelce has been TE1 in six of the last seven seasons, so you’re paying for positional value at tight end as well as year-in, year-out consistency. Plus, playing with Patrick Mahomes isn’t too bad.
The only concern with Kelce is age, as he’s going to turn 34 in the middle of the 2023 season, but as long as he’s on the run he’s on, where he hasn’t missed a game to injury in nine seasons, why fade him?
NFL Best Ball Tier 4
- RB Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
- WR A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles
- WR Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
- WR CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
- RB Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
- WR Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders
This is a bigger tier, and that’s because these players make up the back half of best ball drafts in most instances.
Bijan Robinson is ticketed for 300+ carries in the Atlanta Falcons offense as a rookie, and it’s not even that much of a hot take. Or even a warm take. It’s just a take, and it’s likely to happen as long as he’s healthy.
The Falcons had the second-lowest pass rate over expected (PROE) last season at -13.7% and had the highest raw run rate in the NFL at 51%. Given the Falcons spent the eighth-overall pick in this year’s draft on running back, which is considered one of the least important positions in the real-life NFL, and used their second-rounder on an offensive tackle, they’re telling us what they want to do. Run the ball into the Stone Age.
We’ve seen running backs go into the first round in fantasy in previous years, the last being Clyde Edwards-Helaire (womp, womp). Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott have lived up to the billing of rookie first-round running backs in fantasy football. Will Robinson be next in line?
If offseason hype clips are any indication, it’s a resounding YES.
Grouping A.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs, CeeDee Lamb, and Davante Adams together, they’re at another slight tier shift from the two previous tiers, but all are worthy back-half draft picks in best ball as the unquestioned alpha wide receivers of their offenses.
I have no issues with Brown, Diggs and Lamb as the alphas in high-flying offenses looking to score a ton of points. The Raiders scored a bunch of points last season as they finished top-eight in total points per game in the NFL, but with the Raiders going from Derek Carr to Jimmy Garoppolo, who hasn’t thrown a deep ball since the Eisenhower administration, it’s going to certainly affect Adams’ playmaking ability down the field. He’s the only player in this entire first-round grouping that I don’t believe should be in the first-round conversation.
Garoppolo had just ONE touchdown of 20+ air yards last season and Adams had NINE touchdowns of 20+ air yards. Something has to give here and it’s likely the latter coming down to meet the quarterback’s abilities, or lack thereof.
We’ve seen the positional shift from previous seasons, and where Austin Ekeler lands in best ball drafts as the 11th pick off the board in Best Ball Mania IV is pretty wild.
With eight wide receivers cracking the consensus top-12 on Underdog, Ekeler is kind of a forgotten asset, which is really wild considering he was last season’s RB1 and nobody has scored more touchdowns in the last two seasons than Ekeler. Perhaps it was the ambiguity of where Ekeler could potentially play outside of Los Angeles. It’s likely he remains a Charger, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him mix in more with the A.J. Browns and Stefon Diggs in drafts as we get into the summer.
OTHER FIRST-ROUND CONTENDERS
- RB Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
- WR Garrett Wilson, New York Jets
- RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
- QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
- QB Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
- QB Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
I don’t want to quite say it’s the “land of the misfit toys” with this group here. Still, it’s hard to see Jonathan Taylor in and out of the first round, but there are questions about his touchdown equity in the Colts' offense that just added a mobile quarterback in Anthony Richardson. As we know, the targets and the rushing touchdowns for running backs in offenses that feature a mobile quarterback are diminished because of the lack of opportunity for others versus the quarterback adding another decision point to his choices of what he can do when the pocket is compromised: running with the ball.
As for Wilson, he’s been a big riser since the Super Bowl ended. With the Aaron Rodgers to New York soap opera ending, he gets a huge quarterback upgrade, which raises the expectations of Wilson to be a fringe first-round player in his second season. Considering Wilson put up 1,100 yards and almost 150 targets with Zach Wilson, Mike White, and Joe Flacco, he could easily be a top-three fantasy receiver with an actual quarterback throwing him passes.
Saquon Barkley finished 2022 as RB5 in fantasy points per game and was a volume hog, logging the second-most touches among running backs next to Josh Jacobs. With still some ambiguity at the wide receiver position, Barkley should be able to keep his receiving volume with his elite rushing and makes a worthwhile pick at either the 1-2 turn.
Taking any of Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, or Josh Allen means you’ve likely got the 1.12, and you can easily pair a Hurts/Brown, Mahomes/Kelce, or Allen/Diggs stack in rare instances. I’d never advocate for taking quarterbacks that early, but if you’re feeling froggy, that would be the only instance in which I would entertain doing that. I just believe you’re giving away too much value in your draft by selecting a quarterback that high. Like I said before, though, if you’re not drafting a ton of teams and just want to get the players you want on your best ball teams, by all means. Football is supposed to be about fun at the end of the day!