This article is part of our Best Ball Journal series.
As with the AFC article from earlier this week, these blurbs initially cite ADP numbers up to March 11. Post-FA ADPs refer to post-March 11 samples. You can read the AFC article here.
Latavius Murray, RB, NO (163.0 DRAFT, 173.15 BB10)
Murray was one of the best Zero RB targets even when it was presumed that he would re-sign with Minnesota – Dalvin Cook is not known for his durability – but going to New Orleans is a major boost to his projection given that he may inherit the Mark Ingram role that generally yielded RB2 utility. Ingram averaged 10.3 and 12.0 fantasy points per game in standard and PPR scoring last year, respectively, and in 2017 it was 14.1 and 17.8 points per game. Murray's pass-catching upside might match or sufficiently imitate Ingram's in New Orleans, as Ingram's career pass-catching efficiency (79.7 percent catch rate, 5.6 YPT) isn't meaningfully different from Murray's (79.0 percent catch rate, 5.5 YPT), especially when adjusting for how much more favorable New Orleans was for such functions in contrast to Oakland and Minnesota. Murray's post-March 11 ADP on DRAFT and BestBall10s currently ranks at 89.9 and 94.11 – far too late in both cases. I would much rather have Murray than some of the runners going ahead of him since March 11, including Josh Jacobs (58.89 BB10), David Montgomery (79.0 BB10), Jordan Howard (82.1 DRAFT, 83.67 BB10), and even my guy Rashaad Penny (68.8 DRAFT, 78.78 BB10).
Evan Engram, TE, NYG (71.4 DRAFT, 71.32 BB10)
The subsequent Golden Tate signing tempered the enthusiasm a bit, but going from Odell Beckham to Golden Tate is still a win for both Engram and teammate Sterling Shepard. Engram may present the more unique opportunity to capitalize, though, in a stratified tight end class that otherwise lacks viable targets in rounds 3 through 8 or so. Engram was going to cost you a sixth-round pick back then, but I don't think he was worth it. With Beckham gone I think Engram would have been worth the pre-March 11 prices, but I think I'm back out again now that his price rose in response to the Beckham trade (60.7 DRAFT, 65.11 BB10). I definitely prefer Engram over the more expensive Hunter Henry and especially Eric Ebron, but I find myself in the concerning position of Vance McDonald dependency in the ninth round in the event that I miss out on all of Kelce, Ertz, and Kittle in the first two rounds. Last year I either took Gronkowski in the second or the tandem of Ebron and Kittle toward the 10th/11th-round turn. This year it will be easier to hit on the early tight end targets and harder to cash in on the late options, but I'm optimistic that McDonald and Jack Doyle are my Ebron/Kittle of 2019. I try to target Ian Thomas and Gerald Everett as TE3s. With all of that said, Engram is probably my preferred target of the mid-round tight ends. Just don't draft Ebron at his tag for the love of God. Unless I'm in the league, in which case please buy Ebron very much.
Jordan Matthews, WR, SF (Unranked DRAFT, 240.92 BB10)
And now we must dive deep. Matthews shouldn't be looked at as more than a WR6, but I love his candidacy for that role at the moment. Primarily thought of as a slot receiver for some reason, Matthews can play there or outside in San Francisco, and at 6-foot-3 with 4.46 speed he would project just fine for the switch. The Garoppolo offense will go places if his knee cooperates, and as much as I love all of Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, and George Kittle, I think Matthews can carve out a handful of useful best ball starts even if that trio produces well in 2019. Goodwin missed time with injury last year while Kittle has a long history of getting nicked up, and Kittle's numbers otherwise were clearly a best-case scenario last year. Kittle's 10.1 YPT with a 9.9 YAC average is just bonkers, and if his YAC average drops to 5.0 it would lower his YPT to 7.0. Even something in between could be enough of a crack for Matthews to get his foot in the door, especially relative to the minimal demands of his current price.
Kevin White, WR, ARZ (Unranked DRAFT, 240.71 BB10)
Same caveats as Matthews, but even more so in this case. Whereas I'm optimistic about Matthews providing WR6 utility, I can only justify a White selection at WR7. Still, White's switch from Chicago to Arizona at the very least makes him a player worth monitoring, which wasn't the case when he was with the Bears. Kliff Kingsbury means to run an offense that will probably look like what the Buccaneers did last year, but with more tempo, so there will be targets to go around even after Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. I personally am high on Trent Sherfield as a prospect and consider him the favorite for the WR3 role, so I won't be buying White unless practice reports indicate he's ahead of Sherfield, but I can't blame anyone for taking a couple shots on White and his size/speed/pedigree, particularly in best ball payout formats where only the top team cashes.
Mike Boone, RB, MIN (Unranked DRAFT, Unranked BB10)
This is definitely a deep cut and might be best suited to tournament-style best ball formats given the significant chance that the Vikings add a formidable running back in the draft, but with Latavius Murray going to New Orleans it would seem that Boone is the tentative favorite to project as backup to the injury prone Dalvin Cook. Ameer Abdullah (former bust and chronic fumbler) and Roc Thomas (charged for marijuana possession recently) are the only other in-house candidates to play behind Cook. It is obviously true that the Vikings could draft a running back of some significant reputation yet, but in the meantime Boone has a chance to beat that runner for snaps anyway, and you can always get him in the last round. With 4.4 speed, a 42-inch vertical, and 139-inch broad jump, Boone could be a problem if he gets snaps.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, SF (47.7 DRAFT, 47.98 BB10)
A change of scenery might be best for McKinnon's fantasy prospects now that Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman are around (and Raheem Mostert re-signed for three years!), and that specific outcome is indeed plausible given that there is no guaranteed money remaining on McKinnon's contract. If he stays in San Francisco, though, McKinnon is just a wasted pick for whoever bought him at sticker price to this point. Breida, Coleman, and Mostert all possess burning speed and recent histories of standout production. McKinnon would need to fall to something like the 10th round or later before I'd take a look. If he gets cut or traded then we'll need to revisit this.
Jordan Howard, RB, CHI (67.5 DRAFT, 74.79 BB10)
An optimist may have instead listed free agent signing Mike Davis in the 'winner' section, but if Howard remains on the Bears roster then Davis' arrival is more likely to tank Howard's value than establish a whole lot on Davis' behalf. But to illustrate just how bleak I find things for Howard: I think it's more likely that Davis displaces Howard as the lead back than it is that Howard maintains his 2018 share of usage now that Davis is in the fold. Davis is utterly unremarkable and probably lacks vision, but he has good anchor at a low center of gravity and runs with a hot motor. That he's a good pass catcher is especially concerning for Howard, whose rushing strengths are undermined by the playcalling predictability his presence indicates to the defense. You know that's one guy who isn't hurting you on a dropback, but if it's Davis instead the defense needs to reconsider its whole approach up front. Davis in any case is indeed an interesting RB5 sort of target to me at his post-signing ADP of 151.3 on DRAFT and 179.22 in BB10s. If the Bears trade or cut Howard, there's a real chance Davis splits the work with Tarik Cohen even if the Bears add a rookie runner or two.
Jared Cook, TE, NO (84.5 DRAFT, 91.82 BB10)
Cook hasn't technically signed with New Orleans as of press time, but the outcome is all but assumed at this point. If Cook does leave Oakland for New Orleans I'm inclined to read it as a downgrade. The touchdown opportunity may go up, but Cook has bad hands and his size/speed is more easily utilized between the 20s than in the red zone. That means he might need to score his touchdowns from long range, which in a way would render him immune to the benefits of an offense that spends more time than most in scoring position. Cook is still very fast but even in last year's career year he barely eclipsed a catch-to-drop ratio of 8:1 with 68:8.
Most importantly, Cook's 68 catches for 896 yards and six touchdowns occurred on 101 targets last year. Saints tight ends saw 90 targets last year combined, and their leading player at the position, Josh Hill, returns after playing over 700 snaps. Even if Cook sees a lot of snaps at receiver – which he will absolutely need to to so much as play 600 snaps this year – it's difficult to see how he secures even 80 percent of his target volume from last year. Perhaps he finishes with eight touchdowns or some such figure, but his poor red-zone application makes it likely that Cook's touchdowns will occur in long-range sprees, meaning those eight touchdowns could happen in as few as three or four games, leaving you potentially with non-starter TE production for the other 13 weeks. And I'm not taking for granted that he scores eight touchdowns, either – last year's six touchdowns were as much as Cook had in the prior three seasons combined. I think I'd prefer all of Vance McDonald, Jack Doyle, and Ian Thomas over Cook even if the price is the same. The chances of Doyle or Thomas costing more than Cook at any point strike me as slim.