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Draft Strategy

What You Need to Know Before 2023 Best-Ball Drafts

By Matt Schauf 4:16pm EST 1/23/23


The FFPC has already opened drafting for 2023 best-ball tournaments, the 1st contest provider that I’ve noticed doing so.

Underdog has also had single-league drafts open for weeks, and will undoubtedly start launching early tournaments soon – with plenty of others on the horizon.

So with the 2022 NFL season nearly done, this seems a perfect time to take a look at some soft spots in early draft lists.

Note that I said “draft lists” and not “ADP.”

Underdog launched its 2023 drafts in early December, but only in the form of 3-, 4-, 6- and 12-person individual leagues. I’m sure a fair number have drafted in the month-and-a-half since. But I’m also pretty sure Underdog has seen nowhere near the volume – or vigor – that will hit once the tournaments get going.

There’s no doubt been some player movement from the original listings, but I’m sure not ready to treat that as a true average draft position ranking.

FFPC, meanwhile, has only just launched in recent days. So there hasn’t been time to develop an ADP. That should matter a lot for your drafting.

We don’t have 2023 fantasy football rankings out yet. Most people don’t. And anyone who has done rankings will face 2 significant revisions by May …

  1. The start of 2023 NFL free agency
  2. The 2023 NFL Draft

And there will, of course, be many other factors effecting smaller rankings adjustments along the way.

We do plan to have our initial fantasy football projections and the Draft War Room live in March to help you take advantage of less-prepared early drafters. In the meantime, though, beware of the “anchoring effect.”

The anchoring effect is a cognitive bias that for our purposes basically means you’re likely to be influenced in your player valuation and selection by previously introduced information.

For example, you might not believe Austin Ekeler should be the #2 player off the board in 2023 drafts. But the fact that he’s listed #2 in FFPC draft rooms at the moment might make it seem like you’re getting a good deal on him with the 8th pick in Round 1.

Maybe you are. Or perhaps his TDs regress in 2023 and he becomes a mistake anywhere in Round 1.

The point here is that where he’s listed right now will affect where he gets drafted, whether it should or not. And you’ll probably find more drastic examples than Ekeler as you work through early drafts.

Try not to let these early rankings of players influence your drafting too much. As we get further into early drafting, we’ll get more of a sense of ADP across draft sites. Yet even those can still be deceiving. Use them more as guides for where you can expect players to come off the board instead of where you should draft them.

The earlier you become aware of this anchoring effect and try to work against it, the quicker you’ll gain an edge on your draft competition.


Player Notes

Although we don’t want to be influenced by the player listings, it does help to be familiar with them. That will help us find some players who sit much lower than they should. It can also steer us toward guys who are better values on 1 site over another.

As you build your best-ball portfolio, it helps to not only look at player exposures on individual sites. If you don’t like how early a guy is going on Underdog, for example, you might find him at a better value level on FFPC (or elsewhere).

Given that those are the 2 we’ve locked in on here as open for early drafting, I ran through the lists for some early drafting notes – and compared player ranks for some relative early values.


FFPC

The FFPC draft room currently displays a player “Rank” column and ADP. I’m not sure exactly what the ADP entails at the moment, but it appears heavily influenced by 2022 ADP.

Based on “Rank,” you’ll find 4 RBs listed among the top 12 right now: Ekeler, Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry and Breece Hall. Travis Kelce and 7 wideouts join them to round out the top 12.

Some other interesting notes:

  • Bijan Robinson checks in 21st overall as the 1st incoming rookie. The next is fellow RB Jahmyr Gibbs at #89. Don’t expect to get a discount on Robinson at any point … though late Round 2 might prove to be a discount vs. his late-August ADP. Before the NFL Draft is a good time of year to get discounts on other rookies.
  • Josh Allen sits 1st among QBs (not surprising) at #36 overall. Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes follow close behind at #38 and #39, respectively. QBs often go earlier in these early best-ball drafts, likely because they offer more certainty vs. impending free agents and incoming rookies at other positions.
  • T.J. Hockenson sits 3rd among TEs at #30 overall in this TE-premium format. George Kittle follows at #42 overall.
  • Kyle Pitts checks in at just 60th overall. You commonly had to take him around the 1-2 turn in FFPC drafts by the end of last summer.
  • Travis Etienne (45th) and Dalvin Cook (48th) sit in Round 4 range at the moment.
  • Diontae Johnson and George Pickens appear back-to-back as WR30-31, both higher at the position than they currently sit on Underdog.
  • Miles Sanders and J.K. Dobbins reside at the 7-8 turn. Sanders is headed for free agency in March. Dobbins heads into the final year of his rookie contract.
  • Rashod Bateman sits at the bottom of WR3 territory, with an overall ranking that would put him in the middle of Round 8.
  • Are Pat Freiermuth (TE11), Greg Dulcich (TE12) and David Njoku (TE13) intriguing values … or the latest bait to get you believing that TE runs deeper than it really does?
  • The Browns’ passing game look pretty affordable here early:
    • Amari Cooper 54th overall (WR22)
    • Njoku 104th (TE13)
    • Deshaun Watson 108th (QB13)
    • Donovan Peoples-Jones 172nd (WR67)
  • TCU’s Quentin Johnston sits 3rd among rookies and 1st among incoming wideouts at #118 overall. USC’s Jordan Addison follows at #141, with Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba at #162 and LSU’s Kayshon Boutte at #167.
  • Brock Purdy sits 21st among QBs, just ahead of Russell Wilson.
  • Rookie QBs Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud rank 24th and 25th, respectively, at the position.


Underdog

Incoming rookies are not listed here yet. We’ll see when they get added. That alters some of what you’ll see vs. FFPC player ranks. But there are interesting things to note before we get to the direct comparisons …

  • Josh Allen sits #9 overall, behind Travis Kelce, 5 WRs and 2 RBs. There should be a bit more ADP at play here than on FFPC, with drafts open longer. It’s also worth remembering, though, that much of the drafting has been in 3-, 4- and 6-team formats. That makes it a lot easier to push top QBs higher.
  • Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes sit 13th and 14th overall, respectively.
  • Justin Fields checks in at QB6, behind the 3 already mentioned, Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow. Trevor Lawrence stands 6th among FFPC QBs currently, ahead of Fields.
  • You’ll find 8 RBs in the 1st 2 rounds (of 12-team drafting), with another 4 in Round 3. That last group includes Breece Hall, Joe Mixon, Travis Etienne and Nick Chubb.
  • T.J. Hockenson checks in 6th among TEs here, in the half-PPR format (compared with TE3 in 1.5-PPR on FFPC). Kyle Pitts sits 4th at the position.
  • George Pickens (WR35) slots ahead of teammate Diontae Johnson (WR41) on Underdog so far. Don’t be surprised if that holds – and perhaps even becomes the PPR norm.
  • Rashod Bateman sits even lower here, at WR39.
  • Underdog drafters are taking Evan Engram 13th among TEs by ADP so far. He opened 9th at the position on FFPC.


Key Differences

Target on FFPC

Comparing the FFPC Rank with Underdog ADP, these interesting players just might be going overlooked in FFPC drafts.

These aren’t guys you need to target. But if you do draft them, FFPC looks like the better place for value …

Calvin Ridley, WR, Jaguars
FFPC: 869
Underdog: 41.5
Difference: 827.5

WR16 on Underdog seems too early. FFPC drafters, meanwhile, will have to manually search to find him. That oughta suppress Ridley’s ADP.

Rashid Shaheed, WR, Saints
FFPC: 710
Underdog: 212
Difference: 498

John Metchie, WR, Texans
FFPC: 644
Underdog: 177.5
Difference: 466.5

Pierre Strong, RB, Patriots
FFPC: 654
Underdog: 208.5
Difference: 445.5

Tyquan Thornton, WR, Patriots
FFPC: 355
Underdog: 178
Difference: 177

Kyren Williams, RB, Rams
FFPC: 349
Underdog: 188
Difference: 161

Trey McBride, TE, Cardinals
FFPC: 340
Underdog: 196
Difference: 144

McBride looks particularly intriguing as a late FFPC selection, with the TE-premium format. Zach Ertz remains under contract, but he’s also 32 and coming off a double ligament tear in his left knee.

Gus Edwards, RB, Ravens
FFPC: 325
Underdog: 183.5
Difference: 141.5

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, ???
FFPC: 304
Underdog: 178.5
Difference: 125.5

Desmond Ridder, QB, Falcons
FFPC: 242
Underdog: 139.5
Difference: 102.5

Underdog drafters appear to be treating Ridder as though he’ll start for the Falcons in 2023. That’s an uneasy bet ahead of the NFL Draft.

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, ???
FFPC: 263
Underdog: 164
Difference: 99

Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
FFPC: 209
Underdog: 110.5
Difference: 98.5

Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Browns
FFPC: 172
Underdog: 78
Difference: 94

DPJ sits at the bottom of WR3 territory on Underdog, compared with WR6 range on FFPC.

Jaylen Warren, RB, Steelers
FFPC: 240
Underdog: 163.5
Difference: 76.5

Khalil Herbert, RB, Bears
FFPC: 171
Underdog: 94.5
Difference: 76.5

Underdog drafters have Herbert inside the position’s top 36 so far. That would be solid value if the Bears let David Montgomery walk and don’t draft another RB inside the 1st 3 rounds. Is the upside worth the risk here, though? Eh.

Jameson Williams, WR, Lions
FFPC: 139
Underdog: 68.5
Difference: 70.5

Williams already sits inside the top 30 WRs on Underdog, compared with WR54 on FFPC.

Alec Pierce, WR, Colts
FFPC: 195
Underdog: 132
Difference: 63

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins
FFPC: 113
Underdog: 54.5
Difference: 58.5

Tua checks in 9th among QBs in current Underdog ADP. He’s behind Geno Smith (QB13) in FFPC ranks.

Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys
FFPC: 165
Underdog: 110
Difference: 55

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
FFPC: 95
Underdog: 43.5
Difference 51.5

Deshaun Watson, QB, Browns
FFPC: 108
Underdog: 59.5
Difference: 48.5

Kadarius Toney, WR, Chiefs
FFPC: 148
Underdog: 105
Difference: 43

Elijah Moore, WR, Jets
FFPC: 152
Underdog: 114.5
Difference: 37.5

Nico Collins, WR, Texans
FFPC: 175
Underdog: 137.5
Difference: 37.5


Target on Underdog

Just like in the previous section, these aren’t necessarily guys you should draft on Underdog. But if you’re going to target them somewhere, the value currently looks better there.

Robert Woods, WR, Titans
FFPC: 116
Underdog: 191.5
Difference: -75.5

Michael Carter, RB, Jets
FFPC: 147
Underdog: 191
Difference: -44

Cam Akers, RB, Rams
FFPC: 69
Underdog: 109.5
Difference: -40.5

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Chiefs
FFPC: 119
Underdog: 156.5
Difference: 37.5

Rashaad Penny, RB, ???
FFPC: 142
Underdog: 179
Difference: -37

Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Eagles
FFPC: 132
Underdog: 169
Difference: -37

James Robinson, RB, Jets
FFPC: 163
Underdog: 198
Difference: -35

Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Falcons
FFPC: 126
Underdog: 161
Difference: -35

Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
FFPC: 19
Underdog: 53.5
Difference: -34.5

Najee Harris, RB, Steelers
FFPC: 26
Underdog: 60
Difference: -34

Skyy Moore, WR, Chiefs
FFPC: 120
Underdog: 153
Difference: -33

Aaron Jones, RB, Packers
FFPC: 20
Underdog: 50
Difference: -30


The Unranked

These guys sit among the top 250 overall on FFPC but don’t even carry an ADP on Underdog right now. They’re worth considering near the end of early drafts.

Jarvis Landry, WR, ???
Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Giants
Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Broncos

Landry endured an injury-limited, 25-catch season after settling for a 1-year deal with the Saints. He’s a low-ceiling fantasy option but still not super-old (30 until Nov. 28).

Hodgins and Okwuegbunam remain under contract for 1 more season. Interim HC Jerry Rosburg spoke as though he didn’t understand why Albert O didn’t get more playing time under HC Nathaniel Hackett, “I haven’t seen him much on the field this year, and I’m just curious as to why that was because he is a good-looking athlete.” We’ll see what the next coach thinks.

Hodgins emerged late in his 3rd NFL season, after arriving from Buffalo this year. He caught 4+ balls in each of the final 5 regular-season games and then hung an 8-105-1 line on the Vikings in the playoff opener. The Giants need to add WR help, but don’t be surprised if Hodgins retains a role.

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