This article is part of our Best Ball Journal series.
With the launch of UnderdogFantasy's Big Board pre-draft Best Ball tournament the race is on, and leagues are unsurprisingly already filling up quickly. Sign up for Underdog to receive a free 6-month subscription to RotoWire and first deposit match up to $100 with promo code RWNFL. Claim this special offer now at https://play.underdogfantasy.com/pc-MyVn4cbt6l.
The $10 contest arrives with a new twist from previous years, and one with major implications: the drafts are 20 rounds instead of 18 rounds.
As in prior years, the format does not feature kickers or defenses, meaning those two extra rounds tap much further into the QB/RB/WR/TE pool than in previous seasons. That the depth and scoring tendencies differ from position to position means the ADP at large could shift from the patterns that emerged in the 18-round era.
Specifically, the extra two rounds might change a lot for the quarterback position. Not only are quarterbacks going higher in general than in recent years – you were a Have Not if you lacked a Mahomes/Allen/Hurts/Burrow type of quarterback in 2022 – but the extra two rounds makes it easier to roster three quarterbacks without compromising your depth at running back, receiver and tight end.
This market shift could unleash a bit of an arms race at quarterback – the elites like Mahomes and Allen going as high (higher) than ever, but drafters who miss out on them now have the option of padding quantity at quarterback to make up for missing out on the top tier. We'll have to see where this dynamic leads the ADP, but in the two drafts I did so far quarterback was on my mind much more than previous years. Mahomes, Allen and Hurts were all gone in the first 19 picks, and Burrow went off the board at 22. It would drive me crazy to have an otherwise strong team that gets rendered non-viable because I didn't end up with proper quarterback depth, so I selected not only Allen in the second round, but Trey Lance in the ninth and Matthew Stafford in the 10th.
With that general observation out of the way, here is a brief list of Buys and Fades at the current ADP. Note, the markets on these players could shift in the upcoming days for no real reason, so always stay on your toes when you're assessing the market in your live draft.
Nick Chubb, RB, CLE (27.5 ADP)
Kareem Hunt is a free agent and was de-fanged even before his contract expired. The entire justification for Chubb ever exiting the first 15 or so picks was the presence of a Hunt as a presumed production drain. That no longer applies, so why should Chubb routinely fall to the end of the second round? If Deshaun Watson regains even 85 percent of the form that he showed in Houston then the Cleveland offense will go off and Chubb would accordingly be a candidate to lead the league in rushing yardage and touchdowns both while pushing for 50 receptions. A player like Kenneth Walker might be good, but Chubb is better by multiple magnitudes and doesn't have Rashaad Penny looming as a potential superior.
Deshaun Watson, QB, CLE (78.7 ADP)
Watson is almost certainly a scumbag but he's also likely one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league. His struggles with Cleveland in 2022 could easily prove to be due to a combination of poor weather and rust, only one of which could continue to be an issue in 2023. Watson goes later than quarterbacks like Dak Prescott and Trevor Lawrence while barely going ahead of Kirk Cousins. Lawrence could well be better than Watson, but if Prescott or Cousins outproduce Watson then he officially has a terminal case of the yips.
Devon Achane, RB, Rookie (158.3 ADP)
Achane is listed at a tiny 5-foot-9, 185 pounds but at that weight he could have speed in the mid-to-low 4.2-second range in the 40-yard dash. If Achane bulks up to 205 or so he should still be running well south of a 4.4. Particularly for a Track Athlete, Achane shows good running back fundamentals as a runner, including in traffic between the tackles. Achane is composed in traffic and does a good job of anchoring and driving his legs before contact. It's not often you see a Track Guy with the football mind that Achane has. He's the real version of the hype people tried to sell with Nyheim Hines, and he's going no later than the second round of the 2023 draft.
Kenneth Walker, RB, SEA (20.9 ADP)
Walker was very good as a rookie – almost the exact same player he was when he was so dominant at Michigan State – and clearly he will be one of the league's best running backs for years. This price is still insane. Walker is going ahead of some of his betters; not just Chubb but also Travis Etienne (28.5 ADP). There's no conclusive case that Walker is as good as Rashaad Penny – what happens if Seattle re-signs Penny? Walker is reduced to a 12-carry player many weeks, that's what. The idea that Seattle would add no running back depth aside from Penny would also be wrong if only because Walker is not a passing-down back and probably won't ever be one. Walker should probably be going at least two rounds later than this, and even that would prove an underestimation if Penny is re-signed.
James Cook, RB, BUF (92.7 ADP)
Some people are still clinging to this fantasy, apparently. Cook might well be some version of Good as an NFL running back, but even this optimist's theory falls short of whatever this current ADP supposes about Cook. No sub-200-pound back is accumulating volume unless they are blazing fast and able to avoid contact accordingly. Cook is barely fast by the standards of his prohibitively light frame – his size-adjusted speed variable is point-blank bad. Cook isn't a good bet to lead the Buffalo backfield in production from scrimmage, even with Devin Singletary a free agent. If Singletary leaves it just means the Bills need to find a new starter. Cook is not eligible, because as a starter he would wilt and break.
Chase Brown, RB, Rookie (178.2 ADP)
Brown was a very good collegiate back at Illinois and should have a spot in the NFL as a backup for a long time. He will likely not be a starter unless for injury replacement reasons, however. Brown currently goes ahead of running backs like Rashaad Penny, DeWayne McBride, Zach Evans, Israel Abakanida and others who are clearly better. Brown offers potential 4.45 speed at 215 pounds, but his production at Illinois was never explosive and his rushing touchdown count was meager for his yards-per-carry figure. While Brown's volume figures were high, he won't draw volume as an NFL running back unless he's far more threatening from scrimmage on a per-touch basis. Brown should be going in the 200s and could easily be a player who finishes the 2023 season with less than 300 yards from scrimmage.