This article is part of our Best Ball Strategy series.
This article will look at my 21 teams to date in the Underdog Fantasy NFL Big Board tournament and discuss the players I've drafted the most times, as well as whether it was a good idea to have done so. This isn't advice as much as an attempt at transparency where I try to explain my thinking at the time, right or wrong.
These are the top 20 players I've picked most frequently, sorted by descending exposure percentage and tiebroken by descending ADP cost.
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Israel Abanikanda, RB, Rookie (71.4 percent)
We're still at the phase of the offseason where fantasy drafters take the liberty of drafting early and often without knowing much about who the rookies are. To the extent that they know who the rookies are, they often or usually just defer to the rankings of some mainstream personality or another. You're just going to have to trust me on this: Abanikanda is much better than a lot of rookie running backs who go rounds ahead of him and his price will rise both after the Pittsburgh pro day March 29 and after the NFL draft. After Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs and Zach Charbonnet the only remaining rookie running back who should safely go ahead of Abanikanda is Devon Achane (148.3 ADP).
Tyjae Spears (163.0 ADP), Sean Tucker (167.3 ADP), Roschon Johnson (171.4 ADP), Tank Bigsby (187.2 ADP), Kendre Miller (190.8 ADP) and Zach Evans (202.5 ADP) are all worse prospects than Abanikanda, and it might not be especially close after the Pittsburgh pro day. Chase Brown (213.2 ADP) is an excellent rookie value as well -- I should probably lower my Abanikanda exposure to 50 percent or so by diversifying with Brown as long as Brown can be had in the 16th or so -- but I also kind of want to keep drafting more Abanikanda. Hopefully I can find restraint.
Tyler Scott, WR, Rookie (71.4 percent)
Scott improved his 40 time from the already good 4.44 he ran at the combine, timing at 4.32 seconds at the Cincinnati pro day. Fellow draft-eligible wideout Tre Tucker was timed at 4.30 after a combine 4.40, so only 0.1 of Scott's 0.12-second improvement can be explained by the pro day, meaning there's reason to note his combine 40 as low as 4.42. Scott will be a second or third-round pick but the ADP seems to think he'll sooner go in the fifth. Whoops! I should probably scale back my exposure, but only for injury reasons.
J.K. Dobbins, RB, BAL (61.9 percent)
Abanikanda and Scott are both late-round rookies. Dobbins, by contrast, will cost a fifth or sixth-round pick. That makes Dobbins my arguably Biggest Purchase since he costs so much more to acquire than Abanikanda or Scott. Dobbins is simply going too late in my opinion – the Greg Roman offense is gone and Dobbins is a top-eight NFL running back. I shouldn't take on more exposure, unfortunately, because Dobbins costs too much to be taking on the sort of injury risk that I have with nearly-free players like Abanikanda and Scott.
Rashaad Penny, RB, PHI (52.4 percent)
I took nearly all my Penny shares in rounds 11 through 13, which is quite a bit later than he goes now. The Eagles offensive line will do that for a running back's fantasy market. Penny's durability can't be trusted, but in terms of talent he is better than Miles Sanders. If he stays healthy he will torch, simple as that, but I'll probably try to hold off for a while since I bought a bunch pre-Philly.
Chigoziem Okonkwo, TE, TEN (52.4 percent)
Okonkwo was going to see a big target count even before Austin Hooper left for Las Vegas, but Hooper leaving makes it a certainty. Treylon Burks and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine can only draw so many targets, and neither is as good of an athlete as Okonkwo, who drew 31 targets in the last 187 snaps of last year. Still, I should probably avoid further exposure for injury risk reasons. That's a shame, because I kind of want Okonkwo on every single team.
Calvin Ridley, WR, JAC (42.9 percent)
Trevor Lawrence is the truth, and Ridley is his WR1. I shouldn't take more but realistically I probably will if I get the chance. The Jaguars offense stack is one of the easiest to assemble and in my opinion is clearly priced favorably.
Van Jefferson, WR, LAR (42.9 percent)
I identified Jefferson as one of my favorite Glue Guy picks in an earlier article, but this is probably a bit more exposure than I meant to acquire. Jefferson and his quarterback both have durability concerns, and there's virtually no scenario where Jefferson offers real upside. He'll be a good off-the-bench asset at best, assuming he's cheap enough. I probably consider Jefferson Cheap Enough for further exposure if I'm taking him in the 18th or later. Still, I'd like to get him closer to 30 percent.
Rashod Bateman, WR, BAL (38.1 percent)
Bateman's deflated ADP is clearly a case of injury fatigue. Bateman has played very well in his two injury-shortened NFL seasons, but if he stays healthy he will easily outproduce his current ADP (85.0). I'm open to pushing for 40 percent if he continues to fall well into the eighth round.
Nick Chubb, RB, CLE (33.3 percent)
Chubb is probably my favorite pick in the second round, and he sometimes falls to the third. He goes too late. Chubb used to face skepticism because of Kareem Hunt, but now we bizarrely find Chubb facing enduring skepticism even with Hunt defanged and likely gone. If Deshaun Watson bounces back to Houston-like levels then Chubb will have a good starting quarterback for the first time in his career, and one that could put him within reach of the league's rushing title and rushing touchdown title. Until the price goes up give me more.
Deshaun Watson, QB, CLE (33.3 percent)
Watson seems like a genuine sociopath, so I'm not sure he's capable of feeling anxiety/yips like what it would require to explain his struggles in 2022. More likely is that Watson struggled with rust and an unfamiliar scheme after such a long suspension. Bad guy or not, he will likely be much more productive in 2023 and if he's so much as 85 percent of his Houston self then Watson will be on a lot of cashing rosters.
Joshua Palmer, WR, LAC (33.3 percent)
Palmer doesn't seem especially good but the Chargers are dependent on him for starter-like snaps and usage even if they don't get rid of Keenan Allen or Austin Ekeler. The Chargers pass obsessively and Justin Herbert is elite, so I think Palmer is clearly a high-floor pick with upside and one I don't mind pushing toward 40 percent.
Khalil Shakir, WR, BUF (33.3 percent)
Shakir will be a swing-backup type between Buffalo's boundary and slot reps, meaning he should be the first one up if Stefon Diggs or Gabe Davis were to miss time, but he might fit best in the slot. Shakir can play outside (4.43 40), but his short arms are less of an issue in the slot. The Deonte Harty signing, then, could be read as a concerning sign for Shakir, because at 5-foot-6 Harty primarily plays the slot. I'm still a big believer in Shakir as a prospect, though, and his swing-backup role in a top offense gives him much more upside than generally noticed. I won't specifically try to acquire more but I love taking Shakir and Harty on the same roster.
Devin Duvernay, WR, BAL (33.3 percent)
I love Duvernay and think he's a great value in general, but I should probably keep my exposure level closer to 20 or 30 percent. Or at the very least, I might need a moratorium against taking Duvernay before the 20th round for some time. In the 20th, though, the vast majorty of alternatives are clearly worse, and Duvernay is a good candidate to benefit disproportionatey by the arrival of Todd Monken, a real offensive coordinator.
Mike Williams, WR, LAC (28.6 percent)
I'm not a huge fan of Williams on the question of real-life football but in Underdog's best ball contests he's a player I often go to in the early rounds. Williams' average talent might lead his efficiency to lag somewhat, but his target volume is very high even when Keenan Allen is active, and there's no guarantee the Chargers keep Allen. A target leader on one of the league's most pass-happy offenses with a top-five quarterback has a high floor and ceiling almost regardless of the specifics otherwise.
Christian Kirk, WR, JAC (28.6 percent)
Kirk isn't always a great value in the late fourth, early fifth round, but I'm okay with acquiring more shares because I think there's a dropoff at receiver after Kirk (50.7 ADP) and Terry McLaurin (51.0 ADP). That, and the Jaguars passing game is one of the easiest to stack at the current ADP. If you take Ridley in the early third you can get Kirk in the late fourth and then Trevor Lawrence in the fifth, which is something I'll keep doing if I get the chance.
Dak Prescott, QB, DAL (28.6 percent)
Most but not all of my Prescott picks occurred after the Brandin Cooks trade, which I think greatly improved Prescott's outlook. I have enough exposure at this point that I probably won't draft Prescott without committing to a Dallas stack, ideally grabbing all three of Prescott, Cooks and CeeDee Lamb.
Zach Charbonnet, RB, Rookie (28.6 percent)
Charbonnet is a very good prospect and the general public is basically not aware. Charbonnet is worlds better than players like James Cook, Rachaad White, and Khalil Herbert, yet they have the higher ADP. I would love to continue acquiring shares of Charbonnet around the ninth/tenth-round turn -- it sure as hell won't be his price in 2024.
Kenneth Gainwell, RB, PHI (28.6 percent)
All of my Gainwell picks occurred before Rashaad Penny signed with Philadelphia. I don't plan to pick any more. With that said, I'm kind of glad I drafted him when I did, because I drafted Penny on most or all of the six teams where I have Gainwell. I would draft Gainwell in the 10th or 11th, then Penny in the 12th or 13th. If Gainwell and Penny prove to be the top two backs for Philadelphia then those six teams could have a nice, cheap base at running back between those two. I'm not sure how far I'd need Gainwell's ADP to drop before buying him again, but in the meantime I definitely won't take him over any of Damien Harris, Elijah Mitchell, Samaje Perine, D'Onta Foreman, Antonio Gibson or Devon Achane.
Michael Gallup, WR, DAL (28.6 percent)
I think I drafted all but one of my six Gallup shares before Dallas traded for Brandin Cooks. Gallup was an excellent depth target in the 14th-round range, but with Cooks there Gallup gets downgraded from a strong target to a merely justifiable one. I don't plan on picking more shares outside of any additional Dak Prescott teams I might draft.
Deonte Harty, WR, BUF (28.6 percent)
All six of my Big Board shares of Harty were acquired after he signed with Buffalo, usually around the 16th round. I like to draft Shakir and Harty on the same team, in theory to lock in a big percentage of the Josh Allen throws that don't go to Stefon Diggs or Gabe Davis. Harty was a high-ADOT target with the Saints who reliably produced high yardage after the catch. Ideal best ball depth even on a limited snap count. With that said, I probably shouldn't acquire too much more of either wideout.