With best ball draft season in full gear, it makes sense to look at a Best Ball Mania V team I recently drafted to analyze my strategy, what I did wrong, and what lessons we can learn.

This draft took place on June 6th, and I picked from the No. 5 slot.

I approached the draft intending to go running back early.

This differs from my usual approach, but I wanted to see how taking RBs early changed the feel of the draft, especially with running back prices decreasing almost across the board over the last month.

Ultimately, this is not my favorite team, but perhaps being a little uncomfortable is a good thing.

I also learned two lessons.

First, the middle ground at receiver is not appealing when compared to the running backs available at the same time.

These receivers still make more sense as the third or fourth option in a receiver-heavy build rather than breaking that up with a running back, but making the case for them gets more difficult when considering them the top receiver option on an RB-heavy squad.

I truly felt the RB-heavy start in the end game.

In the last few rounds, there are far more running backs with legitimate paths to fantasy usefulness than there are at receiver.

To be clear, some of those receivers will hit, but grabbing Jalen Tolbert (as I did) feels like more of a dart throw than the upside case for Jaleel McLaughlin.

I discussed both points along with some of the falling running backs with Howard Bender on the Sharp Angles Podcast.


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Round 1 Analysis:

  1. CeeDee Lamb
  2. Christian McCaffrey
  3. Tyreek Hill
  4. Ja’Marr Chase
  5. Bijan Robinson (Me)
  6. Justin Jefferson
  7. Amon-Ra St. Brown
  8. Breece Hall
  9. A.J. Brown
  10. Puka Nacua
  11. Drake London
  12. Garrett Wilson

As I said at the top, I intended to draft running back early, so that required me passing on Justin Jefferson a No. 5.

That did not feel great, but Bijan Robinson is the non-Christian McCaffrey running back I feel best about this season based on what he did last year on a somewhat limited share of the backfield work and a potentially improved offense.

Outside of my pick, I continue to be a little lukewarm on Puka Nacua in the first round, and while I am obviously in on the Falcons offense given the Robinson pick, that is also expensive for Drake London.

It is splitting hairs this early in the draft, but I would rather have Garrett Wilson given what he has shown with terrible quarterback play over his first two seasons in the league.

Round 2 Analysis:

  1. Marvin Harrison
  2. Jahmyr Gibbs
  3. Deebo Samuel
  4. Nico Collins
  5. Brandon Aiyuk
  6. Jonathan Taylor
  7. Chris Olave
  8. Saquon Barkley (Me)
  9. Jaylen Waddle
  10. Davante Adams
  11. Mike Evans
  12. Malik Nabers

This fell perfectly for my plan given I prefer Saquon Barkley to Jahmyr Gibbs and Jonathan Taylor.

The concerns about his touchdown share are valid given what we have seen from Jalen Hurts around the goal line in recent seasons, but this offensive environment is simply much better than anything he experienced in New York.

The falling running back prices show up in this round with Malik Nabers sneaking into the back of the second round.

Darren Waller is reportedly retiring, and the receiver group in New York is lackluster.

Still, there are a lot of receivers there including a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 third-round pick.

Nabers is very likely better than those guys and should be the No. 1 target, but it is fair to question how big that target share will end up being and how much it will matter in what could be a bottom-tier offense.

Round 3 Analysis:

  1. DeVonta Smith
  2. De’Von Achane
  3. Stefon Diggs
  4. Derrick Henry
  5. Michael Pittman Jr. (Me)
  6. D.J. Moore
  7. Sam LaPorta
  8. DK Metcalf
  9. Zay Flowers
  10. Kyren Williams
  11. Cooper Kupp
  12. Josh Allen

This is where going running back early starts to hurt.

I feel great about the top of my running back group, but having Michael Pittman as my No. 1 puts me behind the eight ball against most other teams.

Meanwhile, other teams were able to add Derrick Henry right before me and Kyren Williams after me, players closer to Robinson and Barkley than Pittman is to Justin Jefferson.

With that in mind, picking Pittman here was likely a mistake, one compounded by not getting Anthony Richardson in a couple of rounds.

I almost certainly should have just committed to the bit and taken Williams.

Or I should have given up any stacking dreams with Pittman and taken Cooper Kupp, who has a demonstrated ceiling to match those top guys I missed out on in the first round.

Josh Allen was the final pick in this round and the first quarterback selected.

Four quarterbacks were gone on average by that point in 2023 drafts.

Round 4 Analysis:

  1. Trey McBride
  2. Tank Dell
  3. Travis Kelce
  4. Jalen Hurts
  5. Lamar Jackson
  6. Tee Higgins
  7. Travis Etienne Jr.
  8. George Pickens (Me)
  9. Amari Cooper
  10. Isiah Pacheco
  11. Christian Kirk
  12. Mark Andrews

With the top of my receiver group shaky, I decided to lean into upside rather than safety for the most part with a notable exception in a couple of rounds.

Taking over as the No. 1 option and seemingly a great fit for what the Steelers likely want to do on offense, George Pickens fits that bill.

Of course, he will likely be forced to live on limited passing volume, and the quarterback situation remains murky even if it is likely to be better than last season.

But obviously Pickens would not still be around in the fourth if everything was perfect.

Travis Etienne is another example of a running back that is not really that far off Saquon Barkley even though he does come with some concerns, most notably his dramatic decrease in efficiency last year.

I’m not drafting running backs here anyway in my usual WR-heavy builds, but Etienne does help to illustrate the relatively smaller opportunity cost associated with passing on running back in the first two rounds.

Round 5 Analysis:

  1. Terry McLaurin
  2. Dalton Kincaid
  3. Josh Jacobs
  4. Kyle Pitts
  5. Marquise Brown (Me)
  6. Xavier Worthy
  7. Anthony Richardson
  8. Calvin Ridley
  9. Jayden Reed
  10. James Cook
  11. Geroge Kittle
  12. Keenan Allen

Marquise Brown also fits that upside mold as potentially the No. 1 receiver in Kansas City depending on what happens with Rashee Rice.

Brown gets knocked because his results have not been great as of late, but a startling 21.6% of his targets were deemed inaccurate during his time with the Cardinals.

Patrick Mahomes was fourth among qualified quarterbacks in off-target rate last season.

Josh Jacobs continues to fall, and that fall is understandable.

Among 68 qualified running backs last season, Jacobs finished:

  • 59th in yards after contact per rush
  • 46th in negative run rate
  • 65th in explosive run rate

Explosive run rate is the rate of runs that gain at least 10 yards. Jacobs did that on just 3.9% of his carries a season ago.

He also has viable competition in the backfield in third-round rookie MarShawn Lloyd.

All of that said, there is a case to be made for Jacobs by simply comparing him to Joe Mixon, another back who has had limited per-carry efficiency of late but remained a fantasy viable option attached to a good offense in Cincinnati.

In fact, Mixon might do the same thing again this year attached to C.J. Stroud in Houston.

Round 6 Analysis:

  1. Rachaad White
  2. C.J. Stroud
  3. Patrick Mahomes
  4. Joe Mixon
  5. Keon Coleman
  6. Chris Godwin
  7. Kenneth Walker III
  8. DeAndre Hopkins (Me)
  9. Rome Odunze
  10. Jordan Addison
  11. Brian Thomas
  12. Ladd McConkey

DeAndre Hopkins is a departure somewhat from my first three receivers in that he’s not the clear No. 1 nor attached to a good quarterback, but I think there is still some upside here.

As offseason chatter goes, the talk of the Titans leaning into the pass makes a lot of sense given the coaching staff they brought in (and for that matter the coaching staff they kicked out) and what they emphasized on offense during free agency.

On top of that, Hopkins showed he still has juice left last season.

He finished 18th in yards per route run among qualified receivers in part because of his target share in a nearly weaponless Titans offense, but he finished ahead of Davante Adams, Garrett Wilson, and Drake London in that metric despite similar situations.

If the Titans do lean into the pass, there will be targets for Hopkins even with Calvin Ridley also on board.

It feels worth noting Patrick Mahomes was the QB6 in this draft, which does make some sense given how tied to passing production he is, but we also all might be overreacting.

Round 7 Analysis:

  1. Alvin Kamara
  2. David Montgomery
  3. Evan Engram
  4. Christian Watson
  5. Jake Ferguson (Me)
  6. Aaron Jones
  7. Diontae Johnson
  8. Jaxon Smith-Njigba
  9. Rhamondre Stevenson
  10. Rashee Rice
  11. Jameson Williams
  12. Kyler Murray

Picking Jake Ferguson was a two-part decision.

First, we were getting to the end of where I feel comfortable at tight end.

Second, I wanted to set up something of a stack with Dak Prescott after missing out on Anthony Richardson.

Luckily, Prescott came back to me in the next round.

I might argue the dead zone of running backs starts after my RB4 Saquon Barkley, but we are squarely in it by this point in the draft.

That said, I can’t help but make a case for Aaron Jones, who proved what he had left in the tank at the end of last season and the playoffs.

I trust Kevin O’Connell to keep this offense afloat no matter who is at quarterback, and Jones has a chance to get more work than he has in recent seasons if he can stay healthy.

Round 8 Analysis:

  1. Jonathon Brooks
  2. Jaylen Warren
  3. Courtland Sutton
  4. D’Andre Swift
  5. Zack Moss
  6. Najee Harris
  7. Brock Bowers
  8. Dak Prescott (Me)
  9. Zamir White
  10. Jordan Love
  11. Joe Burrow
  12. Jayden Daniels

As mentioned above, I wanted to set up a Cowboys stack here with Dak Prescott, one I added to with Jalen Tolbert very late in the draft.

There are big concerns on the Cowboys offense, but if it is going to work again this year – Dallas was first in the league in points per drive last season – it will almost certainly be because of the passing game.

The receiver group is well and truly cooked by this point in the draft, which helps explain an RB-heavy round that finishes with a quarterback run.

Jayden Daniels is properly priced, so I do not need to make a strong case for him, but he is attached to a bad defense and has the ability on the ground that leads to high-end fantasy weeks.

Round 9 Analysis:

  1. James Conner
  2. Raheem Mostert
  3. Tyler Lockett
  4. Caleb Williams
  5. Khalil Shakir (Me)
  6. Curtis Samuel
  7. Mike Williams
  8. David Njoku
  9. Dallas Goedert
  10. Matthew Stafford
  11. Trey Benson
  12. Tony Pollard

I am very happy to draft Khalil Shakir this far behind Keon Coleman and even one pick ahead of Curtis Samuel.

Shakir was second on the team averaging 1.84 yards per route run last season with Stefon Diggs vacuuming up nearly 30% of the targets.

There are some likely unsustainable yards after catch and catch rates muddling that yards per route number, but he has at least shown he can make plays for an offense suddenly in need of them at receiver.

Trey Benson’s ADP continues to look way out of place to me, and I have not heard a particularly compelling argument to support it.

James Conner, who went at the top of this round, does miss time every season, but he was good last year.

Round 10 Analysis:

  1. Rashid Shaheed
  2. Josh Downs
  3. Tyjae Spears
  4. Romeo Doubs
  5. Brian Robinson Jr.
  6. Adonai Mitchell
  7. Javonte Williams
  8. Nick Chubb (Me)
  9. Tua Tagovailoa
  10. Gus Edwards
  11. Josh Palmer
  12. Devin Singletary

This Nick Chubb pick could completely blow up in my face, and the tone of his recent interview suggests he will miss time during the season.

Drafting two running backs very early allows me to take a shot on Chubb being a late-season hammer.

Because, frankly, if Robinson and Barkley do not hit, this team is dead on arrival anyway.

All Josh Palmer has done with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams out of the lineup is produce.

Sure, the passing environment is going to be different under the new coaching staff, but it seems like that needs to be said.

Round 11 Analysis:

  1. Justin Herbert
  2. Jakobi Meyers
  3. Dontayvion Wicks
  4. Chase Brown
  5. Jerry Jeudy (Me)
  6. Ezekiel Elliott
  7. Jared Goff
  8. Jerome Ford
  9. Brandin Cooks
  10. Dalton Schultz
  11. Austin Ekeler
  12. Blake Corum

Looking at the quarterbacks remaining, it was pretty clear I was going to target Deshaun Watson as my QB2, so I kept the Browns theme going with Jerry Jeudy.

Jeudy did not live up to his draft cost in Denver, and Amari Cooper was just as good as ever last season.

In fact, I am not that interested in Jeudy as a standalone option even at this draft cost.

But there is a world in which Cooper starts to fall off or gets hurt and Jeudy walks into the No. 1 role for Watson, who again I plan to draft later.

I understand drafting Jerome Ford here based on Nick Chubb’s situation, but he was not good last year, and the Browns brought in D’Onta Foreman in free agency.

Round 12 Analysis:

  1. Gabe Davis
  2. Jahan Dotson
  3. Rico Dowdle
  4. Ja’Lynn Polk
  5. Brock Purdy
  6. Zach Charbonnet
  7. Trevor Lawrence
  8. T.J. Hockenson (Me)
  9. Cole Kmet
  10. Pat Freiermuth
  11. Xavier Legette
  12. MarShawn Lloyd

With solid if not exciting Jake Ferguson already on the roster, I decided to swing for the fences with T.J. Hockenson, who I expect to miss time at the start of the season.

If he can come back healthy, though, he has been a high-target earner during his time with the Vikings at a position where that is very difficult to find.

Given my concerns about Josh Jacobs, this MarShawn Lloyd price looks like a steal, especially given some of the backs that came off the board ahead of him.

Round 13 Analysis:

  1. Darnell Mooney
  2. Ricky Pearsall
  3. Kendre Miller
  4. Ty Chandler
  5. Kimani Vidal (Me)
  6. Quentin Johnston
  7. Jaylen Wright
  8. Jermaine Burton
  9. Hunter Henry
  10. Roman Wilson
  11. Rashod Bateman
  12. Ray Davis

Kimani Vidal is an easy click for me, and I even reached for him here.

The most likely outcome is some combination of Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins leading this backfield just like the old times with Greg Roman back in Baltimore.

Still, this offense is going to run the ball regardless of who is available at running back, Dobbins’ injury history is well documented, and Edwards has been more of a complementary option throughout his career along with his own injury history.

Vidal is a pure home run swing, but it is one I am happy to take.

I have been out on Quentin Johnston since the pre-draft process last year and just sung the praises of Josh Palmer, but we might have taken things too far here.

That will be especially true if the new coaching staff recognizes how to use him and puts him in position to win after the catch.

Round 14 Analysis:

  1. Adam Thielen
  2. Kirk Cousins
  3. Demarcus Robinson
  4. Tyler Allgeier
  5. Luke Musgrave
  6. Wan’Dale Robinson
  7. Aaron Rodgers
  8. Deshaun Watson (Me)
  9. Troy Franklin
  10. Antonio Gibson
  11. Marvin Mims Jr.
  12. Bucky Irving

As mentioned above, I was targeting Deshaun Watson as my QB2.

Watson has not been a good real-life quarterback since joining the Browns, but he has averaged 26.4 rushing yards per game over the last two years to help with his floor.

That rushing ability could also help with a ceiling if he can more regularly find the end zone, which he did in Houston.

Ultimately, everything we have seen with the Browns remains a small sample, but there is at least some upside value at this draft cost even if Watson does not improve as a passer.

I am very wary of Rachaad White given how bad he has been through two seasons as a rusher, which makes Bucky Irving very appealing at this point in the draft.

Round 15 Analysis:

  1. Luke McCaffrey
  2. Malachi Corley
  3. Geno Smith
  4. Ben Sinnott
  5. Jalen Tolbert (Me)
  6. Tyler Conklin
  7. Jaleel McLaughlin
  8. DeMario Douglas
  9. Javon Baker
  10. Khalil Herbert
  11. Michael Wilson
  12. Juwan Johnson

I probably do not take Jalen Tolbert here without Dak Prescott on my roster, but I like to fill in stacks with upside options in the later rounds.

This is where the difference between late-round receivers and late-round running backs becomes clear, as mentioned in the introduction.

Khalil Herbert has just been good whenever given the opportunity, and it is not like D’Andre Swift has been a bastion of health throughout this career.

Round 16 Analysis:

  1. J.K. Dobbins
  2. Cade Otton
  3. D.J. Chark Jr.
  4. Drake Maye
  5. Isaiah Likely
  6. D’Onta Foreman
  7. J.J. McCarthy
  8. Elijah Moore (Me)
  9. Roschon Johnson
  10. Noah Fant
  11. Baker Mayfield
  12. Braelon Allen

This was a mistake on my part.

I felt weak at quarterback and wanted to add Justin Fields as a third, massive risk/reward option, but I thought I could wait another round.

I KNEW I could have waited another round on Elijah Moore, who I was only drafting to go with Watson anyway, and still took him here instead of Fields because it felt like less of a reach.

That is dumb thinking by a dumb man, and I finished with just two quarterbacks on the roster because of it.

Round 17 Analysis:

  1. Daniel Jones
  2. Chig Okonkwo
  3. Justin Fields
  4. Zay Jones
  5. Devontez Walker (Me)
  6. Jalen McMillan
  7. Jelani Woods
  8. Chuba Hubbard
  9. Tyrone Tracy
  10. Elijah Mitchell
  11. Rondale Moore
  12. Chase Claypool

Will the Rashod Bateman apologists be right for once?

Maybe, but taking a shot on Devontez Walker in the second-to-last round makes a lot of sense to me.

As mentioned above, I wanted Justin Fields, and I think he is one of the best upside options in the last few rounds at any position.

He does not have to be a good NFL quarterback to be a very good fantasy quarterback even within the constraints of an Arthur Smith offense.

Of course, he also could just ride the bench the entire season, so there is that.

Round 18 Analysis:

  1. Tre Tucker
  2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire
  3. Tank Bigsby
  4. Keaton Mitchell
  5. Kalif Raymond
  6. Bo Melton
  7. Tyler Boyd
  8. Colby Parkinson (Me)
  9. Dameon Pierce
  10. A.T. Perry
  11. Jonnu Smith
  12. Will Dissly

I feel pretty good about Colby Parkinson’s early-season role, which gives me some buffer as I wait for T.J. Hockenson to get back to full health.

We also see the upside difference between late-round backs and receivers in this round.

You can make easy upside cases for Keaton Mitchell and Dameon Pierce even if both are down this low for a good reason.