If best ball is about anything, it’s the combination of roster construction and player takes. Understanding how the two aspects weave together and when to lean more to one than the other is crucial.
Typically, on an 18-to-20-man roster, we’re looking for 5 to 6 running backs, and deciding when to pull the trigger on them is key. Pairing the right types of running backs together is also an essential part of game theory. This article will suggest some intriguing pairings based on Underdog’s Big Board ADP.
2024 Best Ball RB Pairings
Let’s kick things off with McCaffrey. He’s the consensus RB1 in 2024 drafts, so we’ll take him at 1.01 and then pair with Pacheco with our second or third pick. Pacheco’s ADP of 27.7 lines up perfectly. A dual running-back start like this took down Best Ball Mania’s $2m prize in 2022 and has a history of working well in half-PPR formats.
With these two running backs, we can now concentrate on other positions before waiting to Round 7 onwards to dive back into the RBs. McCaffrey might be heading into his age 28 season, when running backs often experience a drop-off, but his workload and scheme is elite. Pacheco figures to have the Chiefs’ job to himself with Jerick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire becoming free agents.
Pacheco pulling his running inspiration from Marshawn Lynch 👀 pic.twitter.com/HGMKafOLjA
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) February 6, 2024
McCaffrey & Tony Pollard (DAL)
Another way to approach the top of the draft would be to take McCaffrey as part of a Hero-RB build, in which we take a running back in the first two rounds. Then, concentrate on other positions, coming back to the RBs after the RB dead zone of rounds 3-6.
Pollard currently sits outside that range with an ADP of 73.5. His ADP is set to increase or decrease depending on what team he signs with in free agency. Pollard’s 2023 campaign was a disappointment, with a change in scheme coinciding with him returning from a fractured fibula. At 26 years old, however, he has less tread on the tires than many backs. Pollard has only 762 career rushing attempts thanks in large part to backing up Ezekiel Elliott for so long.
Deciding what to do with Achane and his ADP of 19.7 will be a big decision for drafters this year. Many are prepared to bypass the talent and upside because of his inability to stay healthy. Others are drawn to the ceiling performances he can deliver. Choosing who to pair him with will be a big part of success in best ball, as we need players who offer something that Achane does not.
Enter Walker with an ADP of 46.7. He has rushed for 1,955 yards and 17 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He is also the clear RB1 in Seattle. Walker doesn’t have quite the ceiling that Achane does, but his floor is somewhat higher. Walker had eight top-24 weeks last season compared to Achane’s six.
Kenneth Walker III is undervalued in dynasty because of Zach Charbonnet and his usage late in the szn
One of the slipperiest RBs in the league pic.twitter.com/UhchbKCKgm
— Rob (@Quintorris_) January 31, 2024
Achane & Nick Chubb (RB – CLE)
Another intriguing pairing would be to take Achane with Chubb. If the thought process goes that Achane struggles to stay healthy, having played only 40% of snaps in 2023, then hoping for early-season production can be one way to approach it. If Achane can give us usable weeks over the first half of the season, then we can afford to take a shot on someone like Chubb with an ADP of 64.1.
Chubb will likely have a slow start to the season, as he recovers from a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus suffered in Week 2 of the 2023 season. We know how good he can be, and, if we can carry him on a roster through the early portion of the season, the hope would be he’s back to delivering big performances later on in the year when the results matter most. This will be a fragile running-back room, but sometimes, to win big, we have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
2023’s winning Best Ball Mania lineup took home $3m after not taking a running back in the first five rounds. With a true Zero-RB approach, we can look to replicate that by stacking up on wide receivers early and then double-tapping RB quickly with Stevenson (65.8) and Jones (66.2).
This has typically been an area of the draft where running backs have been fruitful, as Rachaad White, James Cook, and David Montgomery were drafted here in 2023. Josh Jacobs, Pollard, and Stevenson were drafted in a similar range in 2022 before crushing it that season.
Stevenson has a chance to reclaim the majority of touches in New England under a new coaching staff. It’s also a contract year for him. Jones was incredibly productive to end 2023. From Week 16 onwards, including the Wild Card and Divisional playoff games, Jones averaged 18.16 half PPR points. He rushed for over 105 yards in each of the five games and got at least 20 rush attempts in each game.
Another pairing we could look to double-tap quickly combines a volume-hog with an upside swing. Conner (77.9) was the RB15 in half-PPR points per game, finishing the season especially strong with four top-five performances out of the last five games. He is under contract with the Cardinals, and is reportedly a big part of their plans for 2024, giving him every opportunity to be a fantasy-football bargain for the third year running.
Spears (79.9) looks set to be the Titans’ RB1 in 2024 after showing out well in 2023. He ranked third among rookie RBs in catches (49), second in team target share (14.9%), and fourth in total yardage. The Titans showed they trusted Spears in all areas of the game, so addressing running back likely isn’t a priority. Spears should pay off his ADP in best ball.
THERE GOES JAMES CONNER 💨
— PFF Fantasy & Betting (@PFF_Fantasy) January 7, 2024
A pairing that won’t be widely considered by drafters would is Mixon (73.7) and Brown (113.5). With them both currently on the Bengals’ roster, most people will shy away from spending two top-120 picks on them. However, there is good reason to believe Mixon won’t be on the roster come July.
The Bengals need to free up money to rebuild their defense as well as potentially try to keep Tee Higgins while also paying Ja’Marr Chase a huge sum. Mixon carries an $8.5MM salary for 2024, and his contract features no guaranteed money. Most players don’t enjoy playing on that type of deal.
If the Bengals decided to cut Mixon, they’d save $5MM against the cap. That might be easier given how impressive Brown was in spells to end the season. Brown led all rookies in yards per target (11.2) and managed 4.1 yards per carry on 33 attempts.