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Best Ball Draft Recap: Where Should Cooper Kupp Go?

By Matt Schauf | Updated on Mon, 22 Apr 2024 . 2:30 PM EDT
Cooper Kupp plays a key role in this best ball draft recap. Will he be a 2024 value or disappointment?

 

Can’t Wait to Draft for 2024? Neither Could I …

You know what? I did not care who won between the Chiefs and 49ers. I was too busy thinking about the 2024 roster I finished drafting Sunday afternoon.

Yep, I’m already drafting best ball rosters for 2024. In fact, Sunday’s completion marked my second entry so far into the FFPC’s $125 Never Too Early Best Ball Tourney – a tournament I’ve profited in for two straight years.

I’m excited about my chances this year, with this roster. And that’s why I’m recapping my full draft below. Even the pick I screwed up at the very end.

But first let’s hit a little site news …

 

Best Ball Season Officially Opens

You might have missed it because of Usher and his roller skates, but Sunday was a pretty big day on DraftSharks.com too …

We rolled out a BUNCH of new stuff for 2024, including:

The latter is a dynamic draft board that will sync directly to your draft, remove players as they’re selected and update pick recommendations.

Best Ball Draft Board Ready for Underdog Fantasy

If you’re ready to draft teams on Underdog Fantasy right now, then you’ll find the new Best Ball Draft War Room ready to sync and boost your drafting.

The new DWR pulls in up-to-date Underdog Fantasy ADP to help your in-draft strategy. We have also built in useful best ball tools for your upgraded War Room. Namely:

  • A stack finder highlights teammates of players you’ve already drafted, so you can more easily pair that QB with his pass catchers.
  • Best Ball Factor boosts players whose week-to-week volatility makes them more valuable assets in best ball formats than in lineup-setting redraft.
  • Upside Mode uses our ceiling projections to highlight the potential difference makers you need to find throughout the second half of your draft – or earlier if you decide to toggle it on.

TIP

You'll find FFPC listed among the best fantasy football sites in this 2024 review.

  

FFPC Best Ball Draft Recap

I did not have the help of the Draft War Room – or even our initial 2024 rankings – available for this draft. But that’s part of the fun of drafting so early.

Almost no one’s working off rankings this time of year. And even if you are, they’ll be altered in the coming months by free agency and the draft.

That’s why you need to have your best ball strategy sharp and be able to work through your biases. Do that, and this is the best time of year to find draft edges.

Gotta Know the Format

Before we hit the picks, it’s important to know what we’re drafting for:

  • Tournament field: 1,440 teams
  • PPR scoring with “TE premium” (1.5 points per TE reception)
  • Lineup: QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, TE, 2 Flex

The Picks

I picked 12th in the 12-team draft. It can be frustrating to wait through two rounds of selections between your turns, but I’ve always liked the 12-spot.

I find it minimizes the waffling between players. If you want a guy, take him. He’s probably not making it back to you. And if he does, you probably either over-valued him earlier or just learned that you can wait a little longer for him in other drafts.

1.12 A.J. Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
2.01 Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Brown was a fairly easy choice. He finished fifth among PPR wideouts in 2023. Only CeeDee Lamb and Tyreek Hill delivered more top-12 PPR finishes.

Taylor wasn’t so easy. Frankly, I didn’t love any options at that spot. In hindsight, I kinda wish I had taken Travis Kelce, who looks underrated in these early drafts (especially TE premium).

So why Taylor? I knew from my previous draft that I’d probably be comfy collecting from the WRs available through the middle rounds (which proved true starting at my next turn). And Taylor looked at least fine as the sixth RB off the board.

I figured pairing a WR and RB here opened up various paths for the ensuing rounds. That said, I’d also mix in some Garrett Wilson if facing this decision multiple times.

 

3.12 Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
4.01 Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

I would have stacked Jalen Hurts with Brown here, but he went one pick before. I won’t cry over landing Andrews as the TE4 in a TE-premium draft, though.

Should I have stacked Lamar Jackson with him at this turn? Maybe. That’s certainly a build I’d mix in if starting down this path multiple times. 

It was more of a decision here, though, because the high entry fee ($125) means I’ll be limiting my drafts.

Why Not Stack the QB Here?

Like I said, it wouldn’t be wrong to stack Jackson with Andrews at this turn. But here’s why I didn’t.

I like Cooper Kupp at cost.

He went 21st among WRs. You’ll find him 14th in our initial best ball WR rankings. Even if you don’t like him that high, you can’t ignore that his upside reaches to that range – especially week to week.

Kupp tied for 24th in PPR points per game last season, despite opening the year with a hamstring injury and spraining an ankle in November.

In 11 healthy regular-season games together, Kupp trailed Puka Nacua by just 1 target (95 to 94).

How much of an advantage would Lamar Jackson offer?

This draft would have found me selecting him as the QB3 within a round of Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts. Could he outscore either or both of them in 2024? Sure.

But Jackson has trailed both for three straight seasons, falling more than 2 points per game behind both over that span.

I don’t expect he’d give me enough of an advantage at this level vs. QBs I can get much later. And I expect this tournament will find plenty of Andrews-Jackson stacks, mitigating that potential advantage.

Kupp-Stafford stack more attractive at cost.

I figure I can probably stack Matthew Stafford with Kupp later in this draft. And that pair should be more correlated in its value/upside, because Stafford’s not a runner.

Further, waiting until later to draft my first QB will increase the upside of the Stafford-Kupp stack. If I take Jackson as the third QB overall, I’m banking on him giving my lineup more starter weeks than a QB1 I draft later.

Spoiler alert: I believe this decision played out perfectly. 

5.12 Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots
6.01 Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons

This was a tough spot. By 5.12, we had seen 13 RBs, 32 WRs, five QBs, and nine TEs drafted.

Had I liked the WRs available at this turn more, I’d have probably leaned that way. Terry McLaurin or Chris Godwin would have been OK. But I expected a run on RBs before my next turn and thus didn’t expect the WRs to look all that different by the 7-8 turn.

Why Stevenson? I like the PPR upside. But I wouldn’t argue him strongly over Aaron Jones, Kenneth Walker III, Tyjae Spears or Tony Pollard here. Any would be fine.

When in Doubt, Shoot for Upside

I already mentioned why I didn’t feel the need to grab my third WR here. But why a second TE already – especially with Andrews already rostered?

I don’t know what the rest of Pitts’ future holds. I don’t know who his QB will be this year. But I do know these things: 

  • He’s a 23-year-old athletic freak (4.49-second 40 time at 6’6, 245 pounds) who delivered the second-most receiving yards ever for a rookie TE.
  • He spent all last season affected by the knee he injured in 2022.
  • He sports upside well beyond TE10, which is where I drafted him.

The lineup in this format sports two flex spots, so you can play around with the positions a little more.

Don’t Fight the Value Your Draft Delivers

Having Andrews actually made it easier for me to take this shot on Pitts, because I don’t need him to hit quite as much. And if he does, he can enter the lineup alongside Andrews in any given week.

I didn’t enter this draft with a plan to get two TEs this early. But going this route frees me to collect at the other positions however they fall the rest of the way.

Drafters typically take at least three TEs and often four TEs in these FFPC best ball drafts. After Pitts, I don’t need to take any more. (Though I did snag one more late.)

7.12 Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers
8.01 Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

You might think these guys present a significant step down from the WRs I mentioned last turn … but do they?

Watson finished last season tied for 25th among WRs in expected PPR points per game …

  • Matching Terry McLaurin
  • Ahead of Tank Dell, Chris Godwin, DeVonta Smith, and Brandon Aiyuk
  • And 0.5 or less behind D.K. Metcalf and D.J. Moore

He’s much easier to take a shot on in best ball than a lineup-setting league. And he reached me at WR39 here.

Watson’s Underdog Fantasy ADP sits slightly lower than that (WR42). I like him a lot at cost, especially with a Jordan Love stack within reach.

Johnson? He’s fine. Probably not a difference maker for winning a tournament. But a solid value at least.

(Oh, and there was an RB run. After 13 of them went among the first 59 picks, another 12 left the board between my turns at 6.01 and 7.12.

Stacking Here Would Have Been Fine

I might look back on this draft at the end of the year and wish I had taken Love instead of Johnson. So why didn’t I? 

Only seven QBs had left the board to this point. These six went before my next turn:

  • Justin Herbert
  • Dak Prescott
  • Justin Fields
  • Jordan Love
  • Tua Tagovailoa
  • Brock Purdy

I hoped Love would make it back to me in the ninth, but I don’t think I would have played it differently in hindsight.

With more entries? Sure, I’d be OK with prioritizing Love a couple of times. (John Lennon said it’s all you need.)

9.12 Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
10.01 Marquise Brown, WR, ???

I can’t be mad about missing on Love when I instead wound up with Murray, a QB I still believe carries upside into the position’s top 6.

Disagree? Then you’re caught up in your recency bias.

Here’s how Murray has finished in points per game each season:

  • 2019: QB12
  • 2020: QB4
  • 2021: QB5
  • 2022: QB5 (minus his 3-snap injury game)
  • 2023: QB12

If Brown re-signs with the Cardinals, then I have absolutely stolen a stack here, at QB14 and WR46.

If he doesn’t, I merely have a high-ceiling QB and a value WR who’s going to a team that wants him more.

Don’t Be Afraid to Double-Tap QB

Generally, waiting for the 14th QB as your lead guy in a best ball lineup means you should at least consider drafting another quickly.

The advantage to drafting a stud QB early is you can ignore the position for most of the rest of the draft. The counter of waiting is to approximate that weekly QB production by pairing players from the low-QB1 to high-QB2 range.

I didn’t do that here for two reasons:
  1. A big part of Murray’s draw is the chance of landing an elite QB at a cheap price. If I get that from him, then I don’t need a backup as early.
  2. I want Stafford as my QB2 for the Kupp stack. He’d be fine here, at QB15. But I don’t need him. He’ll offer more upside and make the stack more valuable if I can get him later.

11.12 Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
12.01 Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams

It worked! Stafford gets to me here at QB20. That’s plenty late enough to support Murray’s upside and the stack value.

Remember: We want to leverage the value of those QB-WR stacks. But if you reach to get either piece, then you mitigate that value.

As for Lockett, he’s an easy value at WR53 (and my sixth wideout).

Check out the top three Seattle WRs in expected PPR points per game last year and their positions in this draft (which fell close to current ADP) ...

Player 2023 XPPG Draft Pos
DK Metcalf 24th WR24
Jaxon Smith-Njigba T-60th WR41
Tyler Lockett 31st WR53

13.12 Bucky Irving, RB, ???
14.01 Xavier Worthy, WR, ???

You should work some rookies into your best ball drafting, especially in these early stages. Their collective ADPs will rise once the NFL Draft provides landing spots.

The key is to not jump too early and risk overvaluing a rookie on limited info.

Here, I got Irving as the RB51 and Worthy as the WR59.

Bucky Irving Looks Intriguing

This RB class looks lackluster and unclear at this point. That’s helping the value on Irving, who went sixth among rookie RBs in this draft.

At first glance, you might not like that he’s sub-200 pounds. But he’s in the same size range as Kyren Williams, James Cook, and Christian McCaffrey – among others.

Irving also broke tackles well in college and caught 87 passes over the past two years, while averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

Xavier Worthy Profiles Well

Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze are shaping up as the clear top three among this year’s rookie WRs. Behind that, we have some sorting to do.

I took Worthy as the seventh rookie WR in this draft. I like that he broke out immediately, dominating Texas receiving with a 62-981-12 line as a true freshman in 2021.

He also has the downfield speed to present big-play upside even if he lacks rookie-year target share. That’s the main reason I leaned his way over Ladd McConkey here. But either would have been fine.

15.12 Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers
16.01 Miles Sanders, RB, Carolina Panthers

Easily my grossest turn of the draft, right? Well, that’s kinda the point.

I got here with only three RBs, including one rookie. Drafting Taylor and Stevenson fairly early means I should bank on them delivering and starting for my team most weeks. But I still need to fill out the corps.

These two arrived as RB56 and RB57. Both disappointed in 2023. But Mitchell turns just 26 in May and remains the handcuff to Christian McCaffrey. 

Sanders turns just 27 in May and would cost Carolina more to cut than to keep. So he should remain on a roster that lacks offensive answers.

Chuba Hubbard outplayed Sanders in 2023, but I don’t believe he’s a special player. Sanders should at least have a role in 2024 … in what basically has to be a better offense.

17.12 Elijah Moore, WR, Cleveland Browns
18.01 Jermaine Burton, WR, ???

Moore’s the WR version of Miles Sanders. At WR83, he doesn’t need an argument in his favor. Moore ranked 46th among WRs in expected PPR points per game last season – despite mostly garbage play at QB.

Burton’s my second rookie WR and – like Worthy – presents big-play upside.

Burton ranked top 3 in receptions, yards, and TDs as a true freshman at Georgia, and then remained top-3 in yardage on each of his final three college teams (one at Georgia, two at Alabama).

He averaged 18.0 yards per catch across four seasons in the SEC.

Rookie WRs Historically Trend Up During the Season

Historically, rookie WRs tend to start out a little slowly and then increase their production over the second half of the season.

That makes sense. You’re learning plays, learning defenses, learning your QB, and learning the league. With time, you should gain some comfort. (Just look at Rashee Rice’s 2023.)

Take shots on low-cost rookie wideouts, and you could land a player or two who happens to be peaking right when you need your team to win playoff weeks in the best ball tournament.

19.12 Jelani Woods, TE, Indianapolis Colts
20.01 Evan Hull, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Remember Jelani Woods? He’s a 6’7, 252-pound former third-round pick who posted an 89th-percentile 40 time for his position and looked moderately exciting after a solid rookie year.

But then he missed all of last season with hamstring trouble.

At TE36 here, he’s a low-risk, high-reward selection in a TE-friendly format.

 

Final Pick Was a Mistake

If you can, just tell your family that you need a few minutes to make your pick when the slow draft reaches your turn – even in the 20th round. If I had done so Sunday, I wouldn’t have handcuffed my last pick to my Round 2 RB.

Don’t draft handcuffs in best ball.

I don’t treat this as an absolute. Spending your final pick on the RB who would step in if one of your top guys goes down obviously isn’t going to kill your chances. Stacking Zack Moss with Jonathan Taylor this time last year, for example, would have worked pretty well.

But we’re not simply looking for things that can work when we draft these best ball tourney rosters. We’re trying to maximize that roster’s potential.

Maximum here includes Taylor staying healthy and Hull doing basically nothing. So I would have been better off taking a shot at some other lottery-ticket RB here.

I do like Evan Hull in best ball, though.

I would have liked this pick a lot more if I didn’t have Taylor, because I think Hull’s a terrific end-of-draft target. 

He’s likely to go barely drafted in best ball after losing almost all of his rookie season to injury. So if he hits for you, he’s not likely to help many teams in your tournament field.

Indy’s current regime drafted him in Round 5 last year after an impressive Scouting Combine and two workhorse seasons at Northwestern (417 carries, 88 catches).

If Zack Moss leaves in free agency and Taylor gets hurt again, Hull could be a revelation.

 

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