Stacking is a table stakes to be a profitable best ball player in all formats, especially for Best Ball Mania and Weekly Winners on Underdog Fantasy. By drafting multiple players on one team, we have to get less things correct for our team to vault into the money at the top of our leagues. Last year, the Eagles, Jaguars, and Lions were great values through the air. Just drafting the WRs and QBs from those teams would’ve been enough to cash big. The goal of this column is to find those teams for the upcoming season….
As you’ll see, my favorite way to stack teams is to go QB-WR-TE. There is season-long correlation with the RBs, too, but there’s less to in single games, so it’s not a primary goal of mine to team-stack RBs. Double-stacking WRs is positively correlated in both season-long and single-game timeframes. I encourage QB-WR-WR stacks, especially on statue pocket passer teams. There’s a major difference in the odds that 2nd WR hits on the Chargers and Bears for example. This issue is managed best by going QB-WR-TE, as the TE needs fewer raw receptions, yards, and touchdowns to be a fantasy difference maker. A 5-70-1 receiving line from a TE doesn’t eat into the No. 1 WRs upside, yet would be a good score at best ball’s least important position. TE also happens to be the position most correlated to touchdowns, so I like to draft the QB that will throw a lot of touchdowns and hope to luck into my TE TDs later in the draft.
The Chargers’ lack of explosives last year should be solved in 2023. Most importantly, the poor injury luck from last season is unlikely to repeat. Justin Herbert played through lingering rib injuries and had post-season shoulder surgery. All Pro LT Rashawn Slater is expected to be ready for Week 1 after missing almost the entire season (14% snaps). And Keenan Allen and Mike Williams only played a quarter of the season together (22% snaps). All of this played into Herbert’s cringy, check-down offense.
Now Herbert can launch bombs to Big Mike (7th in adjusted yards per route run) and 1st-round rookie Quentin Johnston, who I think is being misrepresented. Johnston had rare yards after the catch numbers at TCU, but those were inflated by fluky big plays on some broken coverages. It’s hard to see Johnston being used underneath with Austin Ekeler, Keenan, and Gerald Everett already in place, so I see lots of corners, posts, and nine routes in Johnston’s future. That’s where he was at his best on tape in my opinion. He was inconsistent on in-breaking routes and as an X-receiver. Now he’ll play the Z, where he gets easier releases and more vertical routes. That could mean low volume for him individually (I'm not buying his mid-80s ADP), but I think that skillset really makes the Chargers very hard to defend. New OC Kellen Moore has a lot to work with and has a history of very aggressive play calling. I won’t be surprised if Herbert is universally accepted as a Tier 1 QB and fringe MVP this season.
New OC Todd Monken has a history of playing fast and throwing the ball a ton. Lamar Jackson has a history of balling out in a similar offense back at Louisville. More importantly, Lamar now has proper skill talent to warrant more play volume. Tacking on Mark Andrews back-to-back with Lamar is self-explanatory early in drafts, but figuring out which WR to double stack is harder to sort.
Rashod Bateman has the best combination of upside, size, and age compared to Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham. Bateman’s health has been an issue, but he’s taking cortisone shots to help his foot and is expected to be ready for Week 1. When healthy, Bateman has volume hog skills and 1st-round pedigree. Odell has a very similar skillset, but two ACL surgeries going into his 30s is difficult to overcome, though the Ravens certainly believe in him after giving him $15M this offseason and he has "no real limitations" early in training camp. Flowers is exciting as a 1st-round rookie, but his lack of size and somewhat gadget history at Boston College could keep him out of 2-WR sets. My preference is with Bateman, but I will gladly scoop Odell at cost with Lamar.
This Browns offense could surprise with how fast and pass-heavy they’ll be. The front office and coaching staff are very analytically backed, and they finally have the QB and pass catchers to abandon this balanced offense. To fully unlock their potential, Deshaun Watson obviously can’t play like he did in 2022, but it’s also unfair to use those brutal weather conditions in a small sample. Multiple years of top-10 play are a better indicator than last year's 6-game stretch, especially now that he has access to the Browns’ top-5 OL. Watson's skill group is highly complementary, too. Coming off a career year, Amari Cooper does a bit of everything at Z. Elijah Moore can be used creatively out of the slot and in the backfield. David Njoku was very productive in a breakout 2022 season, especially in the red zone. And Donovan Peoples-Jones can stretch the field as a low-volume X. Oh yeah, Nick Chubb is … wait for it… the best pure rusher in the National Football League. Now that Chubb projects for more receiving work, I definitely don't mind building Browns' passing stacks on Round 1/2 Chubb teams.
This offense has already done it before. This time won’t be nearly as pretty, but Matthew Stafford has mid-2010 Detroit Lions level of play volume in his projections. Coach Sean McVay has been extremely pass heavy and pacey when trailing during his Rams’ career, and he’ll be trailing a lot now that the defense has lost everyone except Aaron Donald. In short, the Rams will be playing Madden in 2023 -- simulate the defense, and go crazy passing on offense. Cooper Kupp has 1st overall player well within his range of outcomes even though he’s a mid-Round 1 pick. Tyler Higbee has gone on elite stretches because of volume, and he won’t have to stay into block as much this year now that the OT spots are in better shape. Training camp reports suggest that the Rams may mix in more 2-TE sets, which is totally fine for consolidating fantasy options on a team. A blocking TE on the field makes it even easier for Kupp, Higbee, and contract year No. 2 WR Van Jefferson to get targets.
The history of 2nd-year breakouts at QB extends for decades, and Kenny Pickett has more than just his own youth to take advantage of. Almost his entire skill group is on their rookie contracts still. From Week 12 on, Pickett was 2nd in PFF grade, 2nd in big time throws, 1st in turnover rate, 9th in pressure to sack ratio, 11th in runs, and 9th in EPA per play. He gets dubbed as a pocket passer because he is #white, but he plays closer to the Ryan Tannehill type as an underrated playmaker and scrambler. That opens some fantasy appeal for him individually, and he certainly has talent at WR and TE. Diontae Johnson is a positive regression superstar with TDs and deep targets. George Pickens has room for growth on in-breaking routes as their X receiver, after already owning on contested catches downfield. Pat Freiermuth is entering the prime of his career, and already has a 732-yard and a 7-TD season under his belt. If 1st-round rookie LT Broderick Jones can be a difference maker off the jump, then the Steelers have something to work with. It’s a cheap offense to get in general because the OC is boring.