Best Ball Championship Targets with Soft Schedules
The DRAFT Best Ball Championship dropped this afternoon, with $3,500,000 in prize money up for grabs and a $1,000,000 grand prize for the champion. The playoffs for the tournament will run from Weeks 13-15, with the finals in Week 16. That's a month of fantasy football where stacked teams will face off and preseason planning to find the best postseason matchups will pay dividends.
Many factors going into drafting a player, and the fantasy playoffs schedule may not be at the top of the list, but it's certainly something to consider when deciding between closely-ranked guys. Easy December opponents can provide a substantial edge to those who reach the playoffs, especially in a tournament of this size.
I'm focusing on the middle to lower tiers of each position, as draft decisions near the top of the player pool likely won't be swayed by playoff schedule. These are guys that should be considered if you wait on a position, or grabbed as bench filler with the idea that they could contribute down the stretch.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
DRAFT ADP since April 1: 143.6, QB22
There's plenty to dislike about Brady in 2019. He'll be 42 years old, lost a Hall of Fame tight end in Rob Gronkowski and a reliable receiver in Chris Hogan, and will likely be without speedster Josh Gordon for a chunk of the season. A full season from Julian Edelman and the addition of N'keal Harry will help, but for the first time in decades Brady isn't a surefire QB1.
The mounting negatives have pushed Brady outside the top 20 at the position, and he probably isn't someone you want before the double-digit rounds. His utility comes when selecting a second quarterback, a necessity in Best Ball given the format constraints and an opportunity to unlock upside in the fantasy playoffs.
New England gets Houston in Week 13, a team that gave up the fifth-most passing yards in 2018 and lost major contributors Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson from its secondary. The additions of Bradley Roby, Tashaun Gipson and Briean Noddy-Calhoun should help mitigate those losses, but this isn't a scary one. Kansas City will come to Gillette Stadium in Week 14, and only Cincinnati gave up more passing yards last season.
And speaking of the Bengals, Brady will get them in Week 15. No other team was bottom five in passing yards, touchdowns and sack percentage. Week 16 brings Buffalo, and literally no quarterback has owned a team like Brady has the Bills. His 30 wins against them are the most by any quarterback since the 1970 merger. That's the type of mojo you want for the championship.
Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens
DRAFT ADP: 42.5, RB23
Ingram has been a divisive name in the fantasy community arriving in one of the most rushing-friendly environments in the NFL, albeit dominated by Lamar Jackson. The sophomore quarterback will likely poach red zone opportunities from the Ravens' backfield and it's unclear how involved Ingram will be in the passing game, but several less-talented backs thrived here last season and his schedule should boost him above fellow back-end RB2s.
Ingram has a favorable playoff schedule, though the entire season is full of cupcake matchups. He gets a dream start of Miami (second-most rushing yards allowed) in Week 1 and Arizona (most rushing touchdowns and yards allowed) in Week 2, with soft squads in Cincinnati and Kansas City mixed in.
Baltimore opens the fantasy playoffs with two mediocre rushing matchups, San Francisco in Week 13 and Buffalo in Week 14. Both were average to below average defending the ground game last season and added to the defense side this offseason (San Francisco signed Kwon Alexander and traded for Dee Ford, Buffalo drafted Ed Oliver). Volume should see Ingram through less-than-ideal setups, especially in the potentially-snowy meeting with Buffalo.
Ingram's outlook improves greatly down the stretch, with the New York Jets in Week 16 and Cleveland in Week 17. The Jets added Quinnen Williams and C.J. Mosley, but that might not be enough to patch up a run defense that allowed 126.3 yards (sixth-most) and a touchdown per game. The Browns were one of the premier matchups for running backs in 2018, allowing the fifth-most rushing yards and one of only two teams to give up 20 scores on the ground.
Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans
DRAFT ADP: 84.4, WR33
Davis finished as WR27 in half-PPR (the DRAFT scoring system), and that's around where he's being drafted right now. His season was marred by inconsistent quarterback play, but he did have some blow-up weeks. Davis torched Philadelphia in Week 4 with a 9/161/1 line, then roasted New England in Week 10 with 7/125/1. Both were top five half-PPR performances.
Tennessee's fantasy playoff schedule is solid, and there are opportunities for those week-winning blow-up weeks. Indianapolis in Week 13 isn't great, but the Titans should throw plenty in a likely shootout. Oakland in Week 14 is excellent, as the Raiders allowed a league-high 36 passing touchdowns in 2018. Pro Football Focus ranked the Oakland secondary 31st at the end of last season and all the team did this offseason was add unspectacular DBs Lamarcus Joyner and Nevin Lawson.
Houston comes to Nashville for Week 15, and I touched on them above. The Texans aren't to be feared, and Davis hit them up for four catches, 96 yards and a score in their last meeting. Tennessee gets New Orleans in Week 16, a squad that gave up the fourth-most passing yards in 2018 and ranked 28th in PFF's secondary rankings.
Davis will have some lean weeks, but he's the type of WR3 who could provide WR1 numbers in the right setup. The Week 16 matchup is especially enticing and probably enough to elevate him over other wide receivers going in the middle rounds.
Chris Herndon, New York Jets
DRAFT ADP: 106.5, TE12
Herndon didn't get much action in the first month of the 2018 season, but from Week 6 on he was TE8 in half-PPR. With Sam Darnold continuing to develop and Le'Veon Bell on board to lead what should be a sold offense, Herndon is interesting regardless of playoff schedule. Like every other year, tight end drops off after the big three, so he's worth a look once the elite guys are gone.
The playoff schedule certainly helps, though. New York heads to Cincinnati in Week 13, and no defense gave up more points to tight ends last season, per Pro Football Focus (standard scoring). Miami arrives in Week 14, having tied for third in touchdowns allowed to the position. Herndon had the second-most yards in his career against the Dolphins in their meeting last year.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh in Weeks 15 and 16, respectively, aren't great matchups but they aren't bad ones either, as both gave up eight fantasy points per game to tight ends (standard scoring). Herndon's floating around at the back-end of TE1 tier, and he's worth a look over most of the players around him.