If you’re jonesing for football, you’ve still got three months or so before the NFL kicks into action. But you can at least satisfy those pigskin cravings with some serious fantasy football prep. Heck, you might even start drafting soon. Either way, it’s a good time to get a head start.
Here, we’re going to be talking about best ball leagues. If you’re not familiar with the format, it’s pretty simple. You draft a team, and those are your guys all season long. There are no lineup changes, which is a nice break if you’re the forgetful type, because best ball automatically gives you the points for the top performer on your roster at that position. The catch is that you have to draft really well, and that means taking those later round picks seriously.
Already one of the toughest positions in fantasy football to draft, it’ll be important to keep your eyes out for some upside sleepers in the later rounds of the draft this year. Here are a few names to put on your draft board.
David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
After a promising sophomore campaign with the Browns in 2018, Njoku fell victim to the Browns being the Browns. He struggled with injuries after that season, and then the Browns decided to bury him on the depth chart when they brought in Austin Hooper in 2020. But this spring, Cleveland had one of its trademark changes of heart, let Hooper go and re-signed Njoku to a four-year, $56 million contract extension. A thinned out wide receiver depth chart should help his chances too.
Even while he was an afterthought on passes last year, the Browns still hit Njoku for four touchdowns. Not bad for a bit player. Now, he’s in line for a bigger role in Cleveland.
Irv Smith Jr, Minnesota Vikings
There was some, a little, excitement about Smith heading into last season, but a torn meniscus ended his season before it got started. In case you forgot about Smith, one reminder that’s enticing to fantasy football gamers is that he scored five touchdowns in 13 games, on just 30 receptions, back in 2020. A second-round pick in 2019, Smith checks all the boxes for a tight end prospect—a size and speed guy who played his college ball at Alabama.
You’re not likely to find Travis Kelce numbers from a tight end like Smith in the later round of the draft, but he’s got the potential to post the occasional big Sunday from time to time that’ll put you over the top.
Albert Okwuegbunam, Denver Broncos
The Broncos felt good enough about Okwuegbunam to have tossed Noah Fant into the Russell Wilson deal. He’s atop the depth chart now, and the Broncos have been pretty clear about wanting to use him as a weapon in the passing game. And why not? The guy’s 6-foot-5, 258 pounds and runs a sub-4.5 forty. He’s tough to defend, and showed that in limited work last season. He’s also got an actual good quarterback throwing him the ball this season.
Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
Just being a part of the Bears offense this season is going to cause a lot of fantasy football players to skip a player like Kmet. Understandably so. Chicago’s confused offensive approach and legitimate questions about Justin Fields is enough to put a cap on anyone’s production here. But Kmet had decent numbers last season, catching 60 passes on 93 targets for 612 yards. He did not find the end zone, but that’s bound to change this season. He’s one of the Bears’ few reliable pass catchers, and had a nice thing going with Fields last season.
Austin Hooper, Tennessee Titans
After two underwhelming years in Cleveland, it’s easy to write off Hooper, who once looked like he could join the ranks of fantasy football elite, or semi-elite. That’s probably not going to happen in Tennessee either, but he’s the best pass catching tight end the Titans have had since Jonnu Smith left town. The upside with Hooper is mostly his touchdown potential, but with a slimmed down group of receivers, there’s a chance he could have some respectable yardage numbers from time to time during the season.