Stacking Elite Rushing QBs In Best Ball

Jun 5th 2023

Hayden Winks

This isn't going to be a ground breaking column. Instead, it's more of a case study as we continue on with Galaxy Brain Best Ball Summer. The goal is to see how often the elite rushing QBs have multiple teammates who have spike weeks together because there appears to be a stacking premium in the ADP, so we don't want to pay for correlation that isn't as helpful as correlation with in-pocket QBs who have more passing stats.

2022 Philadelphia Eagles

Until Patrick Mahomes did Patrick Mahomes things in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl, it was hard to have a cleaner season than last year's Eagles. Jalen Hurts' passing TD rate jumped from 3.8% to 4.8%, while his yards per pass attempt improved from 7.2 to 8.0. Arguably just as important for fantasy, Hurts' completion percentage jumped from 59% to 67% while attempting more passes per game (30.6). All of that led to Hurts finishing as the QB1 and 11th overall player in fantasy points over replacement using Underdog Fantasy's Half PPR and weekly scoring format. Right now, Hurts is the QB2 and 23rd overall player in ADP, so there are reasons to be liking his price tag, especially as QB ADPs continue to sink throughout the Summer.

The difficult part with Hurts' ADP for most people is how to stack him properly, as A.J. Brown goes on the other side of the draft board in Round 1 and DeVonta Smith now goes ahead of Hurts in early Round 2. Let's see if we can crack the code on when to draft Hurts, while knowing stacking is important in best ball tournaments.

Including the NFL Playoffs last year, Hurts had 12 games of 5+ fantasy points over replacement with even Gardner Minshew adding another spike week in a spot start. Hurts had four (4) monster games with 15+ FPOR, which is why he goes so high in best ball. In three of these elite games, Hurts brought both Brown and Smith along for 5+ fantasy points over replacement. With how concentrated this offense is between these WRs, it's obvious that a double stack has some appeal. In fact, he had eight (8) games with a double stack spiking and another three (3) games with a single stack teammate hitting that 5+ point over replacement threshold. Whew.

For the Round 1 Brown drafters, the options in Round 2 are 1) go unstacked, 2) reach on Hurts by a few spots, or 3) reach on Smith by a few spots as a desperation that Hurts then falls way beyond ADP into Round 3. To me, the second choice is best, especially if this Brown/Hurts pairing becomes less drafted than Smith with Hurts. Here's why:

If we draft Brown in Round 1, we need him to really ball out, especially in the finals. If that happens, Hurts' odds of a spike week are much higher than Smith's odds of a spike week. In Brown's top five (5) biggest fantasy games last year, Hurts averaged 15.2 fantasy points over replacement, while Smith averaged just 4.8. In these Brown spike weeks, Smith's best game was 10.7 fantasy points over replacement, which isn't moving the needle all that much compared to what you'll want from your Round 2 selection in Week 17. Hurts, meanwhile, had four (4) games with that many fantasy points over replacement, including three (3) games with 16.8+ FPOR. QB/WR correlation >>> WR/WR correlation.

But what do we do at the Round 2/3 turn if we like the Eagles, as both Smith and Hurts are available? Straight up, I like Hurts more. He was the 11th overall player last year. Smith was the 36th overall player. Even if Smith took over Brown this year, Brown was 18th overall. The counter to this, of course, is that stacking matters a ton in best ball tournaments. Is it possible to build a spike week team with Hurts but without Smith or Brown? That's the risk if you take Hurts in Round 2 and hope that Smith lasts in Round 3. Let's dig...

In Hurts' best seven (7) games that all hit 10+ fantasy points over replacement, he had four (4) games with a double stack spike, two (2) games with a single stack spike, and one (1) game without a pass-catching spike week. Right off the bat, there's at least one game that threads the unstacked needle and another game where Round 18 Quez Watkins was the only spike week pass catcher. This year, it's possible that the easily-stackable Round 6/7 Dallas Goedert offers more spike weeks, especially if Brown or Smith miss extended time. Even if Hurts is completely naked (which isn't the goal or optimal in general), he can score enough points to justify a Round 2/3 selection while Round 1 Brown and Round 2/3 Smith don't score enough to justify their own price tags. In fact, it's easy to see a Round 1 Cooper Kupp, Round 2 Nick Chubb, and Round 3 Hurts team significantly outscoring an Eagles stack at those price tags. While stacking is very +EV, it's not the only thing that matters in best ball tournaments. Right now, the WRs on elite QB teams are priced up.

Conclusion: Jalen Hurts is a total baller, but it takes a lot of draft capital to pull off the double stack right now. If you can pair Hurts with Brown or Smith, then very good. If you draft Hurts without Brown or Smith for ADP value reasons, there are still easy paths for him to beat his cost without the obvious stack. There's also Goedert, Watkins, or RBs to pair with after Round 3 is over. We can expect the elite QBs to drop to the Round 2/3 turn, and I'll be buying.

2019 Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson only had two (2) games with 5+ fantasy points over replacement in 2022 largely because of his own injuries and a bad pass receiver depth chart. In 2019's MVP campaign, Lamar had 12 games with 5+ fantasy points over replacement, including 10 games of 10+ FPOR. When things are cooking in Baltimore, things are spicy in fantasy land.

Including the NFL Playoffs that MVP season, Lamar have five (5) spike week games with a pass-catching double stack that had at least 5+ fantasy points over replacement. Plus another three (3) games with a high-scoring single stack partner. A TE was involved with seven (7) of these games because Mark Andrews is very good and because it requires fewer raw receiving numbers to make a difference at that position. That's important with dual threat QBs offering fewer passing numbers in general.

Lamar's WRs haven't been all that fantasy relevant for the last half decade. In his 2019 MVP campaign, rookie-year Marquise Brown was his top WR. Hollywood had four (4) games with 5+ fantasy points over replacement, with just one (1) game over 10 FPOR. That was in Week 1 when Lamar and Marquise combined for 35.4 fantasy points over replacement, while Andrews contributed another 12.7. Beyond that game, however, Ravens WR scoring was very week. The other Baltimore WRs only had two (2) games of 5+ fantasy points over replacement; Willie Snead with +5.4 and Seth Roberts with +5.1.

Because Lamar was going off all year, RB Mark Ingram had himself quite the season. Ingram had five (5) games with 10+ fantasy points over replacement including a +23.4 points over replacement spike week. In those five big Ingram games, Lamar averaged a bonkers +16.4 fantasy points over replacement at QB, so their spike weeks were positively correlated because of how outlier of a season this was. This level of correlation is unlikely to hold up in 2023 with a new OC and better pass catchers in general, but it's still crazy to see the data.

Conclusion: This 2019 season is a best case version of 2023 expectations for the Ravens' pass game, as this season was Lamar's highest totals in pass attempts and passing touchdowns. When we have one of the most prolific dual threat seasons of all time like Lamar had in 2019, it's possible for dual threat QBs to carry weekly double stacks. It's easiest when the TE is including, especially when it's Mark Andrews, and if there's a defined No. 1 WR. The latter is unsettled right now, but the uncertainty has kept the price tag of Rashod Bateman relatively quiet. I love to double stack Lamar with Andrews and Bateman, but if I get stuck with a single stack, that's fine. Being overweight on Baltimore offers multiple outs to massive season-long and weekly ceilings.

2022 Chicago Bears

Justin Fields finished as the QB5 and 41st overall player in fantasy points over replacement using Underdog Fantasy's Half PPR and weekly scoring format. As you see in the chart above, Fields had two massive 40+ point games in Week 9 and Week 10, ultimately creating 24.8 and 22.5 fantasy points over the typical fantasy QB12 score in a given week. Spike weeks like that are why Fields is a 3rd or 4th round pick in best ball tournaments.

Last year's Bears didn't have the pass-catching fire power that this 2023 team does, which makes Fields' ADP pretty attractive right now. If DJ Moore or Chase Claypool or the new OL (or just a normal 3rd year leap) make Fields breakout as a passer, we're really cooking in best ball tournaments. The question is: what should we pay and expect from his pass catchers?

The Bears only had three (3) games from their WRs with 5+ fantasy points over expected FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR. That's shocking, especially since Darnell Mooney only accounted for one of them, with Velus Jones and Dante Pettis accounting for the others. Over the entire season, Mooney was the WR76 in fantasy points over replacement, yet he goes as the WR57 this year, so this would be an example of how stacking is pulling up an ADP that's hard to justify with #math, assuming the new target competition is bad news for Mooney's projection.

But the real debate is with DJ Moore at his WR26 ADP, given we typically have to spend 3rd and 4th round picks to complete this Chicago stack (at least for now). Moore is certainly way better than Mooney. In fact, Moore finished as the WR25 and 57th overall player last year as the Panthers' obvious top pass catcher, while the Panthers completed 2.5 more passes for 45 more yards per game than the Bears last year. That gap will at least close this year with Moore switching teams, with the upside for the Bears to finish as the 20th passing offense is things really improve. Moore had six (6) games of 15+ half PPR points with a max of 24.5 last year, so he had moderate but zero ludicrous spike weeks. That's what happens in bad passing offenses.

I expect Moore to have similar total numbers as he did last year, but how that exactly pairs with Fields' own spike weeks is a little more complicated. Fields' biggest fantasy games last year where his 178 and 147 rushing yard games because rushing production >>> passing production in fantasy. But when Fields has rushed for over 80 yards (8 career games) or rushed 10 times (10 games), he's yet to eclipse 191 passing yards or complete 20 passes. Will that entirely hold up long term as Fields develops? Absolutely not, but we have to admit that we're threading a needle for both Fields and Moore to be massive spike week players in the same game, at least at this cost. The same is true when it comes to double or triple stacking his pass catchers.

This won't help you with single-game correlation (like in Week 17 for example), but there is plenty of season-long correlation between Fields and his RBs. If Fields improves, then the RBs will have more positive game scripts and more importantly goal line opportunities. Even last year, the Bears' RBs had eight (8) games of 5+ fantasy points over replacement. If you have a lean on Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman, and Roschon Johnson then that's a good stacking partner with Fields, at least for regular season advancing.

Conclusion: I'm buying Fields at ADP, but I prefer to stack him with Cole Kmet or Claypool because it requires fewer raw receiving numbers for a TE to have a spike week, and it'll require fewer raw receiving numbers for a Round 16-18 WR selection to be worthy. If Fields and Moore become stackable in Rounds 4-5, then I'll be back in because Moore's moderate spike weeks are more justifiable at that price. Meanwhile, I will have almost zero Mooney, even on Fields teams because of my player projection on him versus his ADP. As a regular season bonus, I don't mind fire one bullet on any of the Bears' RBs in the double digit rounds. In general, Fields is definitely a QB that can be only single stacked if the board doesn't fall our way. He only had one spike week game with two pass-catchers eclipsing 5+ fantasy points over replacement, and only had one other game with one pass-catcher eclipsing 5+ fantasy points over replacement.

2022 Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen has finished as the 7th and 14th overall players in the last two years per fantasy points over replacement. He goes 26th overall right now on Underdog Fantasy, so I certainly have some interest, as his ADP continues to dip. Let's figure out how much stacking we need for a Round 3 Allen pick to be maximized.

Last year, Allen had five (5) spike week games with a pass-catching double stack that each had 5+ fantasy points over replacement. Plus another three (3) games with a single stack meeting that threshold. When Allen went off, Stefon Diggs had six (6) spike weeks, while Gabe Davis had four (4). Both of these WRs had their own 20+ fantasy points over replacement games, but Diggs was far more consistent with eight (8) games of 10+ FPOR. That's enough fantasy production to justify Diggs early in Round 1 in an attempt to stack Allen near his 25.5 ADP.

Beyond that, Dawson Knox had one (1) spike weekm Isaiah McKenzie had two (2), and the RBs sprinkled in for six (6) in total, with Devin Singletary edging out James Cook, 4-2.

Conclusion: This one is straight forward. Pair Diggs with Allen if Allen is available in Round 3, and you can even justify a reach in Round 1 for Diggs or a reach in Round 2 for Allen to pair this QB/WR stack. It's paid off multiple times in each of the previous seasons. Davis was miserable for large parts of last season, but even he had spike weeks that led to a WR27 finish in fantasy points over replacement using the half PPR best ball scoring. The TE wrinkle with Dalton Kincaid adds uncertainty to the stacks, but I'd recommend a double stack (sometimes a triple stack) with Allen whenever possible. I lean Diggs > Davis > Knox > Shakir > Kincaid with their price tags factored in. I'll for sure have some Diggs-Allen-Davis-Knox stacks.

2022 Kansas City Chiefs

I won't write up this entire team, but Mahomes had four (4) games with a pass-catching double stack going for at least 5+ points over replacement and another six (6) games with a single stack popping off. Travis Kelce was included in all but one of these elite spikes. This sample gets wider if we include RB Jerick McKinnon, who is more correlated to Mahomes than the normal RB.