Best Ball Breakdown: Best Picks in Rounds 1-5
The NFL season may be over, but the draft season has just begun, with predraft best ball tournaments already in full swing. Underdog Fantasy has launched The Big Board contest featuring $1 million in total prizes and $200k to first. The contest requires a $10 entry fee (150 max) and consists of 112,800 total entries. For those looking for a more budget-friendly option, there is also The Little Board which is just $3 per entry (2 max). The Little Board is a much smaller field, with only 3,552 entries, but it still has a prize pool of $50k and $10k to first.
Regardless of your contest selection, there is money to be won and edges to gain by hopping into lobbies early. In this article, I’m going to highlight my favorite targets in Rounds 1-5, based on the current average draft position. You can stay up to date with the fluctuating ADP by using our free Underdog ADP Tool. First-time users can get a 100% deposit match up to $100 using the promo code “FTN.”
Round 1: Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
(ADP – 6.9, RB2)
One year removed from finishing as the RB2 in 2021, Austin Ekeler was even better last season, finishing as the RB1 overall and top-scoring non-quarterback. Ekeler posted a career-high 915 rushing yards in 2022 (he still doesn’t have a 1,000-yard rushing season) to go along with 12 rushing touchdowns. The most appealing part about Ekeler’s production was his usage in the receiving department. Ekeler eclipsed the century mark in receptions, catching 107 passes on 127 targets for 722 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Although his numbers are elevated by a 17-game regular season, Ekeler saw the fourth-most targets and second-most receptions by a running back in NFL history. He also led the league in yards after catch (863), with no other player within 150 yards. Even with a mid-first-round ADP, Ekeler still offers value after posting a 20% or higher advance rate in back-to-back seasons. There is an inherent risk in spending early draft capital on a running back, but Ekeler has shown the ability to stay healthy, missing just one game since 2021. He’s played 33 out of a possible 34 games over the past two seasons, which trails only Najee Harris (34 games) for most regular-season games played by a starting running back.
Round 2: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
(ADP – 14.9, RB5)
After being riddled with injuries over the previous two seasons, Saquon Barkley bounced back in a significant way in 2022, benefiting from the cultural change put into place by Coach of the Year Brian Daboll. One of the primary concerns for Barkley last offseason was his durability and a lack of certainty regarding his role, considering Daboll never utilized a workhorse back during his tenure in Buffalo. Barkley laid all the worry to rest, playing 16 games for the first time since his rookie season while setting a career-high in carries (295) and rushing yards (1,312). He also played a critical role as a pass catcher, leading the Giants in targets (76) and tying Richie James for the team lead in receptions (57). Although Barkley is a free agent, ESPN’s Giants beat reporter Jordan Raanan has said the belief is the two sides will likely be able to agree on a long-term deal done this offseason. If Barkley can continue to stay healthy, he could have an even bigger season in year two of Daboll’s system.
Round 3: Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
(ADP – 27.8, RB9)
Josh Jacobs was a league winner last year, posting an absurd 46% advance rate, first among all players drafted more than once. Jacobs plummeted down draft boards after playing in the preseason Hall of Fame, where the Raiders opted to rest most of their key starters. It also didn’t help that new head coach Josh McDaniel had been notorious for implementing a backfield committee during his time in New England and spent a fourth-round pick on Georgia running back Zamir White in the 2022 NFL Draft. Entering a contract year, though, Jacobs had his best season to date, setting a career-high in carries (340), rushing yards (1,653) and touchdowns (12). He led the NFL in rushing yards and had his best season as a receiver, catching 53 passes on 64 targets and 400 receiving yards. Although Jacobs does not have a 2023 team at the moment, returning to Las Vegas seems like the most likely outcome after the team recently opened up cap space by releasing Derek Carr. They also have the ability to utilize the franchise tag if the two sides cannot agree on a long-term deal. If Jacobs re-signs, he is going far too late, available in the third round. Even if Jacobs finds a new home, it’s fair to assume the team that signs him will utilize him in a workhorse role, given the asking price.
Round 4: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
(ADP – 37.5, WR17)
DeAndre Hopkins had a late start to the season after missing the first six games due to a PED suspension, but he did not lose a beat when he returned, averaging 16.65 half-PPR points in his next six games. Unfortunately, his production started tailing off from Week 14, when Kyler Murray tore his ACL on the opening drive. Still, Hopkins saw ample volume regardless of who was under center, finishing third in targets (10.67) and fifth in receptions (7.11) per game. There is no certainty on when Murray will return or if Hopkins will still be a Cardinal in 2023; however, Nuk has been QB-proof for the better part of his career and showed the ability to sustain elite-level production for at least one more season.
Round 5: Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
(ADP – 57.0, WR28)
Keenan Allen had difficulty staying on the field early in his career but turned things around, missing only two games in the previous five seasons before 2022. Unfortunately, Allen’s luck ran out when he tweaked his hamstring in Week 1, forcing him to miss the next five games. He tried to return in Week 7 but ended up aggravating his injury and missing the next two games. After 10 weeks of limited to no action, Allen finally made a triumphant return in Week 11 and closed the season with a bang. Over the last eight weeks, Allen led the NFL in receptions (60) while finishing second in targets (83), fifth in receiving yards (689), and tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns (4). Per the FTN Fantasy Splits Tool, Allen averaged 10.71 targets (26.96% target share), 7.86 receptions, 85 receiving yards and 0.57 touchdowns when he logged at least a 70% snap share.
His 15.97 half-PPR points per game were also fourth among all wide receivers. There is an increased risk of injury for Allen next season, who will turn 31 in 2023. However, the upside in the fifth round is undeniable for a player that was producing at a top-five level when healthy.