Best-Ball Stacks: Pairing Receivers with QBs

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Best-Ball Stacks: Pairing Receivers with QBs

I’ve started to hit the BestBall10 drafts hard since the NFL Draft concluded, and I’ve honed in on my favorite quarterback-receiver “stacks” for the season. “Stacking” is one of my favorite strategies when I draft my quarterbacks and receivers in the mid-to-late rounds in best-ball formats. It’s been a popular (and winning) strategy in the DFS community for years. If you’re not familiar with stacking, it’s picking multiple players from the same team — or game for DFS — whose fantasy production is correlated.

You don’t need me to tell you that if a quarterback has a huge passing day (or season) then there’s a good chance his receivers also posted strong production. Stacking players from the same passing game does bring in more risk if the passing game fails to produce but the potential upside outweighs the downside for me.

Most best-ball contest payouts are heavily weighted toward the winner so I’m more willing to take on some risk for a chance at a big payoff since there’s no difference in finishing in fourth place or in dead last if my stacks don’t work out.

My Basic Stacking Strategy

I typically draft my quarterbacks first in my stacks before grabbing my receivers at similar ADP ranges or later to pair with my QBs. I never intentionally stack high-end receivers with my quarterbacks since I don’t look at the available quarterbacks until after the first six rounds unless Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson would fall past the top-40 picks or so.

For example, I’m not selecting DeAndre Hopkins in the second round this summer and then forcing myself to reach for Kyle Murray in the fifth round so I have a Murray-Hopkins stack. I have no problem stacking Hopkins and Murray if it happens organically, with Kyler falling to me in the seventh round when he happens to be one of the best players available.

In other words, I’m taking the best-player-available approach until after I take my quarterback, and then I’ll consider small reaches at receiver to create stacks with my QBs.

My three favorite mid-to-late-round quarterbacks last season were Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, and Carson Wentz. Stacking receivers with those first two quarterbacks rewarded me with plenty of best-ball titles. I almost always selected Michael Gallup after taking Dak and I picked Mark Andrews and/or Marquise Brown a ton after drafting Lamar.

On the flip side, my Wentz and DeSean Jackson combos showed the downside to stacking. I thought I potentially had something special after D-Jax exploded for 8/154/2 receiving on the Redskins in Week 1. D-Jax ended up playing just 15 snaps the rest of the season and Wentz’s season went downhill too without his top playmaker at receiver.

QBs I’m Drafting in 2020

I broke down my favorite upside quarterbacks this season in the first part of this series. I encourage you to give it a read if you’ve yet to do it to see how I identified which QBs I’m drafting this summer.

My Quarterbacks

ADP Data is from the month of May and courtesy of our partners at BestBall10s.

Kyler Murray (Ari, 70/QB3)

Dak Prescott (Dal, 73/QB4)

Deshaun Watson (Hou, 81/QB5)

Russell Wilson (Sea, 81/QB6)

Josh Allen (Buf, 94/QB7)

Matt Ryan (Atl, 104/QB8)

Carson Wentz (Phi, 111/QB9)

Daniel Jones (NYG, 121/QB13)

Matthew Stafford (Det, 124/QB14)

Ben Roethlisberger (Pit, 140/QB17)

Ryan Tannehill (Ten, 143/QB18)

Joe Burrow (Cin, 146/QB19)

Teddy Bridgewater (Car, 172/QB25)

Gardner Minshew (Jax, 181/QB26)

Now that I’ve pinpointed which quarterbacks I’m drafting this summer, it’s time to see which receivers I’m pairing with them to try to maximize the production for my best-ball teams.

Mid-Round QB Stacks

Deshaun Watson (Hou, 81) stacked with Will Fuller (Hou, 81), Brandin Cooks (Hou, 94), and/or Kenny Stills (Hou, 212)

I’m really starting to warm up to Watson as we get more distance from Bill O’Brien’s awful DeAndre Hopkins trade. This offense still has plenty of dynamic receiving weapons, and Watson is going to run a lot, if not more, with all the speed they have stretching the field. The Texans defense could also be a sieve this season, which could put the rock in Watson’s hands even more this season. Watson has been a QB to target the last three seasons when he’s playing from behind in negative game scripts. After Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, I think Watson has the third-best chance to finish as the QB1 if the Texans are chasing points more than ever before. The Texans have a 7.5 win total, which ranks in the bottom half of the league and is the lowest total Houston has had entering a season in the Watson era.

The Texans are moving ahead with a WR-by-committee approach this season, with Fuller and Cooks leading the way, and Stills and Randall Cobb also involved. Someone has to step into the 30% target share and the 34% air yards share left behind by Nuk, and I see Fuller as the 1A and Cooks as the 1B entering the season. I slightly prefer drafting Cooks because of his cheaper price and his better injury history, but Fuller does already have a downfield rapport with Watson. Stills will also be a boom-or-bust option like Fuller and Cooks, which is better for the best-ball format. I wouldn’t advise handcuffing WRs in most situations, but it might not be a terrible idea because of Fuller’s soft-tissue injuries and Cooks’ troubling concussion history. I didn’t include Cobb on my list of options because he doesn’t have enough upside potential for me even with an ADP of 205.

Dak Prescott (Dal, 73) stacked with Michael Gallup (Dal, 73), CeeDee Lamb (Dal, 102), and/or Blake Jarwin (Dal, 146)

It’s hard to believe but this Cowboys offense under new HC Mike McCarthy could be even better than last year’s edition. The Cowboys led the league in total offense (431.5 yards per game), and they finished sixth in scoring offense (27.1 points per game), which helped Prescott to finish as the QB3 last season by averaging 21.1 FPG. The Cowboys drafted CeeDee Lamb in the first round to give Dak the league’s most formidable trio at WR between Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Lamb. Dak will also be getting a passing upgrade since they’ve promoted Blake Jarwin and his big-play ability to the starting role.

If you draft Dak this summer, you’re going to have plenty of opportunities to stack him with his exciting young receivers. I paired Prescott and Gallup quite a bit last season with consecutive picks, and you could do it again this season near the sixth-seventh-round turn. Cooper is being overdrafted if you consider that Gallup finished just 8.2 fantasy points behind Cooper in their 14 games played together last season.

You can also wait a little longer to pair Dak with Lamb (102 ADP) and/or Jarwin (146). Lamb should be an upgrade over Randall Cobb this season after he averaged an absolutely silly 6.11 yards per route run out of the slot last season. He also led this year’s draft class in yards per target (15.1), and he finished behind only Brandon Aiyuk in yards after the catch with 10.7. Jarwin has a huge opportunity this season after the Cowboys gave him a big raise and they let Jason Witten and his 14% target share and his 16% reception share walk this off-season. Jarwin finished seventh in yards per route run (1.82) among 40 TEs with 30+ targets last season, and he’ll bring even more juice to this already potent passing attack down the seams and in the red zone.

Kyler Murray (Ari, 70 ADP) stacked with Christian Kirk (Ari, 90)

Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson made huge leaps to become the top fantasy quarterbacks during their second NFL seasons in the last two years. Everyone is looking for the next quarterback to make a huge leap this year, and many have ticketed Murray as the guy to do it this season as a sophomore. Murray finished as the QB12 in FPG (17.8) last season despite playing with a debutant NFL head coach in Kliff Kingsbury and an extremely limited cast, featuring Damiere Byrd and KeeSean Johnson. He averaged just 6.9 YPA last season, but his cast will be much improved this season after the team traded for DeAndre Hopkins, who has been a top-five fantasy WR the last three seasons.

A more consistent Kirk would also go a long way to pushing Murray toward the top of the position. Kirk was a popular breakout WR candidate last summer but he couldn’t deliver the goods, failing to score a touchdown in 12 of his 13 games last season. He won’t see a 23% target share again this season either with Nuk in town so he’ll need to be more efficient than 1.41 yards per route run last season (per PFF). I’m not actively targeting Kirk at his current ADP of 90 — I’m targeting Diontae Johnson and Brandin Cooks at that point — but a big season from Kirk could put Murray over the top as a fantasy option this season since he needs a legit #2 receiver to step up.

Lacks a Great Pair

Russell Wilson (Sea, 81) — Wilson has been a top-14 fantasy quarterback in each of his eight seasons, and the only thing holding him back from higher finishes is a lack of volume. With an uncertain backfield and a defense that’s been on the decline in recent seasons, maybe this is the year Pete Carroll unleashes Wilson. I’m only considering D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in drafts this summer from Seattle’s receiving corps, and they’re being selected two rounds before Russ. If Greg Olsen floats your boat, he’s available around 176 picks into drafts. I’d much rather draft some of the young TEs who could take leaps into stardom this summer rather than stacking a potentially washed-up Olsen to stack with Wilson.

Mid-to-Late-Round QB Stacks

Carson Wentz (Phi, 111) stacked with Dallas Goedert (Phi, 122), Jalen Reagor (Phi, 134), and/or DeSean Jackson (Phi, 154)

Wentz is going to put together a massive season in the near future, and I plan on cashing in when he does it. He plays with an aggressive, downfield approach and he now has the speed at WR that plays to his strengths. Wentz already had a potentially elite receiving back in Miles Sanders and a pair of stud TEs at his disposal. Wentz managed to finish in the top 10 in total FP (275.9) at the position despite the Eagles being down to Robert Davis and Greg Ward as their starting WRs in the Wild Card Round last season. I’m going to continue to draft Wentz aggressively until his massive season comes, which could be 2020.

You’re going to have plenty of chances to stack Wentz with his receivers, starting with TE Goedert before WRs Reagor and Jackson come off the board a little later. Goedert essentially played through a calf injury all of last season and he still finished as the TE12 in FPG (9.6). The Eagles drafted Reagor 21st overall to get him on the field immediately. He may have the most upside potential of this year’s rookie WRs if he can quickly become the #1 WR in an Eagles offense that’s clearly going to take more shots downfield. I’d much rather stack Wentz with Reagor and/or Goedert than with D-Jax at age 33 coming off a completely lost 2019 season because of his core injury. I can’t completely trust him to stay healthy for most of the season after he burned me last season, but he tantalized me last year with his Week 1 receiving line (8/154/2) against the Redskins.

Matthew Stafford (Det, 124/QB14) stacked with T.J. Hockenson (Det, 126)

I faded Stafford last summer with Darrell Bevell and his run-heavy tendencies from Seattle coming to town. It looked like a foolish move until Stafford went down with a season-ending back injury after Week 9. He was averaging a sizzling 20.8 FPG and he ended up finishing behind only Ryan Tannehill with an 8.6 YPA average. This passing attack has a chance to take another step forward with Hockenson another year older and with D’Andre Swift in the fold as a receiver out of the backfield. Stafford was averaging 40.0 dropbacks per game before his injury last season, and the Lions defense should have him chasing points again this season with their win total sitting at 6.5.

I have an affinity for drafting second-year receivers who didn’t live up to expectations as rookies, and Hockenson meets that standard this summer. Rookie TEs almost never do anything, but I’m expecting Hockenson to take a leap in his second season with a healthy Stafford. Our guy Greg Cosell actually couldn’t find a single weakness in Hockenson’s game when he broke down his Iowa tape in 2019. Stafford needs to stop wasting so many throws in the middle of the field to Danny Amendola this season. He had a 17% target share compared to Hockenson’s 13% share in games with Stafford last season. Our Adam Caplan said the Lions are planning on using him more as a movement TE this season. He ran a disappointing 40.1% of his routes from the slot with Stafford last season, which ticked up to 55.2% after Stafford went down for the season.

Josh Allen (Buf, 94 ADP) stacked with John Brown (Buf, 101)

The Bills improved Allen’s cast for the second straight off-season by trading for Stefon Diggs. He now has a formidable trio at WR with Diggs, Brown, and Cole Beasley, and second-year players Dawson Knox and Devin Singletary have the potential to develop into excellent receivers too. Allen has yet to complete more than 60% of his passes or top 7.0 YPA in a season, but that could change this year because of his excellent cast. If Allen can keep making improvements as a passer, it’s only going to boost his upside potential since he already has an excellent floor because of his rushing production.

I’m expecting Brown to regress this season after posting career-best reception (72) and receiving yardage (1060) totals. His 24% target share should dip quite a bit this season with Diggs in town. Still, Allen is going to have to take a major step forward as a passer to threaten for the QB1 spot, which means he’ll need to be a much better deep passer. Brown saw a catchable pass on just 37% of his targets of 20+ yards last year, and Allen finished dead last in adjusted completion percentage (30.9%) on deep passes last season (per PFF). Brown could pop for a couple of big games if Allen can make any kind of improvement as a downfield thrower.

Matt Ryan (Atl, 104) stacked with Hayden Hurst (Atl, 117) and/or Russell Gage (Atl, 230)

Ryan certainly isn’t a sexy pick inside the top-10 at the position, but he finished as a QB1 in FPG last season for the third time in the last four years. Ryan is once again on my QBs to target because he once again projects to be at or near the top in passing game volume. The Falcons attempted by far the most passes per game last season (42.8) after attempting the fifth-most in 2018 (38.6). It also doesn’t hurt that he has two studs at his disposal in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, combined with a potentially terrible running game and a porous defense. Sign me up for Ryan again this season.

Hurst, a 2018 first-round pick, is going to get his first real crack at being an every-down player, and he goes from being a reserve on a run-heavy team to a starter in a pass-heavy offense. Hurst flashed big-play ability in his limited chances last season, ranking 10th in yards per route run (1.69) among 40 TEs with 30+ targets last season. Austin Hooper left behind a generous 18% target share, a 15% air yards share, and a 20% reception share. Gage is also an option to stack with Ryan at the very end of your draft after he averaged 7.3 targets per game after the Falcons traded Mohamed Sanu last season. Gage isn’t typically a player I target in best-ball formats with his 9.1 YPR average, but it’s also impossible to find a player in the 20th round who had a 17% target share like he had after the Falcons sent Sanu packing.

Lacks a Great Pair

Daniel Jones (NYG, 121/QB13) — Jones showed an impressive ceiling last season by topping 28+ FP in four of his 13 games last season. He turned the ball over a ton as a rookie (23 times in 13 games), but he had to deal with a decimated skill group behind some shoddy pass protection. The Giants will hopefully stay healthier this season and they drafted LT Andrew Thomas fourth overall to give him more time. You can certainly pair Jones with Sterling Shepard (119 ADP) and Golden Tate (133), but I’m not actively drafting either of those receivers this season because they lack the upside I’m looking for at that point in the draft. Jones is going to need big-play receivers Darius Slayton and/or Evan Engram to elevate him to the next level if Jones hopes to break through as a top-five fantasy quarterback this season.

Late-Round QB Stacks

Joe Burrow (Cin, 146/QB19) stacked with John Ross (Cin, 191) and/or Tee Higgins (Cin, 199)

I wrote this in the first part of this series, but I want to reiterate that Burrow is the best value on the board if you’re looking strictly for upside, which you should be. He’s coming off the best single-season QB performance in college football history last year. Burrow completed a ludicrous 76.3% of his passes, and he averaged a silly 10.8 YPA for 5671 yards, which helped him throw for an FBS record 60 TDs with just six INTs. As our Scott Barrett pointed out, Burrow also averaged 6.6 FPG as a runner during his two seasons at LSU. The cupboard certainly isn’t bare in Cincinnati either, with four legitimate receivers and a stud running back in Joe Mixon. Burrow has a route to QB1 production if he can get even average O-line play and if he can get a healthy campaign from A.J. Green.

A healthy campaign from Ross would be the cherry on top of the sundae for Burrow. He was playing the best football of his career in the first month of last season before another injury slowed his third campaign. Ross’ 4.22-speed should pair better with Burrow’s downfield throwing compared to Andy Dalton’s. If he can’t stay healthy, second-round pick Tee Higgins will be elevated to a prominent role as a rookie. He’ll compete with Ross for targets and playing time, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Higgins begins to surge in the second half of the year if he develops a rapport with his fellow rookie Burrow. Higgins should at least see fantasy’s most valuable targets in the end zone and down the field. I have no problem taking either player if I draft Burrow, and I lean toward Ross having a slightly bigger impact in 2020 because of his potential for a couple of blow-up games, which is suited for the best-ball format.

Gardner Minshew (Jax, 181) stacked with Dede Westbrook (Jax, 196)

The Jaguars have a chance to be gross this season with their league-low 4.5 win total this season, which might be why I’m getting lots of 2015 Blake Bortles fantasy vibes from Minshew and company this season. The Jags entered the 2015 season with a 5.5 win total before finishing 5-11, but second-year pro Bortles finished sixth in FPG (19.8) after his ADP sat near 200 for the summer. Bortles finished at the top of the position by running for 310 yards and throwing for 35 TDs while tossing 18 INTs and completing an ugly 58.6% of his passes.

The Jaguars traded away Nick Foles this off-season and second-year pro Minshew is now the man in Jacksonville. He could be throwing and, more importantly, scrambling a lot while playing from behind this season. You might be surprised that Minshew finished fifth among QBs in rushing yards per game (24.6) last season. Don’t sleep on Minshew and his goofy mustache late in drafts. He’s a real threat to crack the top 12 at the position if he continues to scramble, and he should be a more comfortable passer as he enters the season as the entrenched starter in Jay Gruden’s offense.

D.J. Chark looks like he could be Minshew’s version of Allen Robinson this season, and there’s an outside chance Westbrook could play the Allen Hurns role — he cleared 1000+ yards back in 2015. I’m not particularly enamored with Westbrook, but maybe we can get some post-hype magic from him with his ADP sitting in the 17th round after being a trendy sixth-round pick last summer. Rookie Laviska Shenault (201 ADP) is also going off the board in the same neighborhood if you’d rather pair him with Minshew, but I see him as more of a project for the future rather than a regular Year One contributor.

Ryan Tannehill (Ten, 143) stacked with Jonnu Smith (Ten, 135)

Tannehill played at a near flawless level last season, completing 70.3% of his passes with a 7.7% TD rate and averaging 9.6 YPA. He averaged 22.0 FFG in his 10 starts, which put him behind only Lamar Jackson for the season. The Titans rewarded him with a four-year deal with $62 million guaranteed this off-season. Tannehill’s 2019 efficiency isn’t sustainable heading into 2020 so he’s going to need more passing volume this season and/or big leaps from A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith to maintain his QB1 standing this season.

Smith is typically being drafted in front of Tannehill but there’s still a chance you could stack these two together if you draft Tannehill a little earlier than his ADP and if Smith falls a bit. During our AFC South Pow-wow, our guy Adam Caplan said the Titans are high on Smith, and he’s looking for a career year as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. Smith finished behind only Brown, Deebo Samuel, and Noah Fant in average yards after the catch with 8.4 (per NFL Next Gen Stats). If Smith takes a leap in his fourth season, there’s a great chance that Tannehill’s passing volume ticked upward to give him another QB1 season.

Lacks a Great Pair

Ben Roethlisberger (Pit, 140 ADP) — Big Ben is coming back from throwing-elbow surgery, and he’ll be 38 years old this season so there are reasons to be cautious with Roethlisberger. However, he has the type of ceiling I’m looking for as he finished as the QB3 with 21.4 FPG in his last full season in 2018, albeit with Antonio Brown. I’m heavily targeting Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster at their current ADPs because the stink of 2019 Steelers offense seems to be still on them at their current prices — JuJu has an ADP of 37 and Diontae sits at 89. Eric Ebron (156) and James Washington (190) are available to pair with Big Ben later in drafts, but I’m not particularly high on either player. I’d rather draft higher upside options than Ebron and Washington even at their rock-bottom prices.

Teddy Bridgewater (Car, 172) — I’ve never been a huge Bridgewater fan, but I’m going to own a lot of Teddy best-ball shares this summer as my QB2/3. Bridgewater has no QB competition with just Will Grier and P.J. Walker behind him, and his receiving corps is a top-10 unit if you include Christian McCaffrey. Bridgewater has this year’s hotshot young offensive coach calling plays for him in Joe Brady, who is going to spread defenses out with all of the Panthers receiving talent. The Panthers are also going to throw a metric ton in what could be a wild NFC South because of their potentially league-worst defense. Add it all up and it’s more than worth spending a free pick on Teddy with his ADP at 170+ picks. Unfortunately, his receivers are likely to be all off the board by the time you select Bridgewater, but there’s a chance Ian Thomas (ADP 149) could still be around to pair with Teddy.

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 61.5% clip in 2019 and he was a perfect 8-0 on his Best Bets for season win totals in 2020.

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