7 min read

Chasing Steam: Which Best Ball ADP Rockets are Worth the Ride?

fantasy football best ball Romeo Doubs and Isiah Pacheco

Anyone participating in Underdog's Best Ball Mania 3, or any other best ball tournament, has experienced it. That player you've been drafting in the later rounds since May has now rocketed up the draft board and has an ADP in the middle rounds. You still like the player; you still think they have multi-spike-week potential. Their situation could still be considered undervalued. Do you keep drafting that player? Or should you let them go?

You don't need to be a best ball theorist to deduce that teams that draft a hot player now have a value disadvantage compared to teams that drafted that player earlier in the summer when their ADP was suppressed. Last year, it was disadvantageous to compete against earlier-drafted Darrell Henderson teams. People who drafted him at a high ADP after Cam Akers' injury were “playing from behind.” They competed against others who had drafted a different player at that ADP and Henderson late.

Chasing Steam

In gambling, there's a concept called "closing line value (CLV)." Betting a number that moves such that you could have gotten a better number is a negative closing line value (-CLV). For example, if you bet on the Giants +2.5 on Friday, and the line at kickoff on Sunday is +3.5, you lost value (-CLV). Conversely, if the Giants' line at kickoff on Sunday is +1.5, you gained value (+CLV). If you saw the line moving on Sunday and jumped on the bet anyway, that is called “chasing steam.”

We can roughly apply this concept to best ball drafts. The ADP you drafted a player at is analogous to a betting line, and the direction/amount it moves determines whether the value is positive or negative. Drafters who selected Henderson before Akers' injury in 2021 saw +CLV. Those who took Henderson after Akers' injury saw -CLV, having chased the steam. Not the greatest analogy, but you get the picture.

With the preseason now in full swing, some performances are turning no-names into freight trains. Let's sort through some of the noteworthy ADP risers and figure out who is worth chasing steam on.

Players (1-month Underdog ADP movement)

Romeo Doubs (+89)

Packers have reigning MVP Aaron Rogers slinging it, but to whom? Davante Adams’ departure leaves a gaping target hole in the offense. Allen Lazard is a perennial ancillary option. Old man Randall Cobb is a trusted target of Rodgers, but he is in the twilight of his career. Sammy Watkins is an underperforming journeyman. Second-round rookie Christian Watson looked the part at the combine, but he has been injured all training camp, losing precious reps with Rodgers. Enter Romeo Doubs, another rookie but healthy and drawing rave reviews from teammates and beat reporters alike.

Something to consider, though, is Rodgers’ history with rookie WRs. Eventual stars like Adams, Cobb, and Jordy Nelson were all neglected by Rodgers in their respective rookie years.

Rookie Year Stats

Player Receptions Yards Touchdowns
Randall Cobb 25 375 1
Jordy Nelson 33 336 2
Davante Adams 38 446 3

If you think that Doubs will be an immediate #1 WR for the Packers, then chase. However, history shows us how Rodgers treats his rookie receivers. The Packers are also a strong team in a weak division. They could lean on their excellent running back tandem of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Toward the end of his career, Rodgers could be more focused on a championship over statistical accomplishments. He also spoke of giving Lazard his chance at being the top dog. If Rodgers prioritizes winning, clock-control, and staying healthy this season, his passing stats will likely decline. With many mouths to feed and no bona fide stars, Doubs' situation is hard to trust.

Verdict: Don’t chase.

Isiah Pacheco (+77)

The Chiefs' running back hype carousel continues to spin, with the spotlight now on Isiah Pacheco. The rookie 7th-round size/speed freak is lighting up camp. He moves from one of the worst college offenses with one of the worst offensive lines to one of the best NFL offenses with one of the best offensive lines. Rutgers is not Kansas City, and we are about to see the difference on Sundays.

Pacheco is competing for an RB role against disappointment Clyde Edwards-Helaire, aging Jerrick McKinnon, and pass-blocking liability Ronald Jones. Not exactly stiff competition.

Pacheco is routinely running with the first team. He is already selected in the 14th round, but there is much more room to zoom. If he continues to impress or even wins a prominent role this preseason, we could see him rise into the single-digit rounds. The risk/reward is still decent. There is value left in the tank here.

Verdict: Chase steam.

Alvin Kamara (+14)

This one is simple: Kamara has the ability to finish with 2021 Austin Ekeler numbers. It all comes down to whether you think NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has it in him to pull a mid-season suspension. If yes - skip him; if no - smash “draft.”

With his court date postponed until the end of September, any negative case development could trigger a lengthy suspension for Kamara. The league is talking about at least six games, and apparently, the video of the altercation looks bad. Considering that his ADP never really dipped into “insane value” territory, your competitive disadvantage against drafters who bought the late-July dip is minimal. He is one of the few backs with RB1 overall upside, and his role hasn’t changed. If your armchair legal mind thinks he is safe from suspension this year, then pull the lever. All signs are currently pointing to him playing this season.

Verdict: Chase steam.

Julio Jones (+63)

One of the all-time great talents at WR, Julio is at the end of his illustrious career. In a last-gasp effort at an elusive championship ring, he joined forces in Tampa Bay with Tom Brady (the QB whose epic comeback in Super Bowl LI denied Jones a ring). Poetic, maybe. It would seem that Jones fits into a quasi-Gronk role since the big tight end is now retired (again) and presumably crushing beers on the beach somewhere.

The receiver room is very crowded. Jones’ old Atlanta teammate, Russell Gage, is now a Buccaneer, having been personally recruited by Brady. Perennial 1000-yard 10-TD machine Mike Evans is still the alpha. Chris Godwin has made a quick recovery from last season's ACL tear. Uninspiring tight ends occupy the Gronk-sized hole but don’t seem to have the capacity to fill it (including Cameron Brate, Kyle Rudolph, and Cade Otten). So there is potential merit to the “Julio replaces Gronk” mantra.

With many established mouths to feed and other newcomers clamoring for targets, is there enough upside to justify taking Jones in the 10th round? He is the same age as Gronk, three inches shorter, and had a similar catch rate last season (65% vs. 62%). However, there are performance gaps to consider. Compared to Gronk, Jones had a lower yards per route run (1.76 vs. 2.09) and fewer yards after catch per reception (3.61 vs. 6.36). Furthermore, Jones has a career-long track record of not finding the end zone. We also have to consider that Jones’ injury history is as infamous as Gronk’s. Given all these factors, he looks like a poor investment at cost. I would rather have upside WRs Tyler Boyd, Jalen Tolbert, or George Pickens in that range.

Verdict: Don’t chase.

(Data courtesy of Sports Info Solutions and Trumedia Networks).