Top fantasy football offenses to stack in 2021 best ball: Wilson, Metcalf, and Lockett to overcome variance

·10-min read

It’s best-ball season. If you aren’t drafting best-ball teams right here on Yahoo, honestly I question whether you even like fantasy football.

I’m being 100 percent serious.

Best-ball allows you to compete for real money, sharpen your craft against serious competition and enjoy the best part about fantasy football (drafting) over and over again all summer long.

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Despite all the work done on cracking the best-ball code, there are still so many ways to create a roster. Many present truly viable paths to winning. One of my favorite strategies I try to employ in every single best-ball draft comes with a daily fantasy football influence.

I’m all about stacking offenses I expect to be good units, especially at a value.

If you need a refresher on what stacking is and why you should do it, refer to the intro piece for this series.

I divide best ball stacks into three tiers:

-HIGH-VALUE STACK: You'll have to pay a draft premium to get these players.

-DISCOUNT STACK: A few high picks, but won't break the bank.

-CLEARANCE-AISLE STACK: Mid-to-late-round fliers who could pay off in a big way.

This week, we’re going to look at the Seattle Seahawks, a team often stacked in 2020, a team that offered blisteringly high moments, but a team that ended up leaving a bad taste in far too many mouths.

The case for stacking the Seahawks

The phrase and discourse around “Let Russ Cook” went stale faster than cheap bread.

What started as a legitimate gripe about the Seahawks’ overly conservative offensive approach went through the disingenuous meat grinder on both sides of the argument before it became a marketing ploy and ultimately a punchline when Russell Wilson played poorly down the stretch.

Nevertheless, the offense fantasy managers got from Seattle last year was, on balance, about what they were looking for.

At least, for 75 percent of the regular season.

Despite the groaning over Pete Carroll’s pro-running-game comments in a postseason presser, we should be optimistic that the 2021 Seahawks can build an even better foundation.

If Shane Waldron brings a Rams-style approach to offensive football as he takes over the coordinator role, I’m ready to call this a perfect marriage.

It’s clear Carroll wants to run an offense that features an effective, intimidating run game. Wilson made no bones about wanting to be regarded as “one of the greats” at quarterback so one can assume he wants to put up the type of numbers he’ll need to make that case when he retires. An electric run game that gives its quarterback consistent layups via motion and play action; doesn’t that sound like the Rams offense the last four years?

This is the way for the two sides to meet in the middle.

We know what kind of results Jared Goff had in the system during his best years. It’s led us to daydream about what the clearly more talented Matthew Stafford will offer with the Rams in 2021. It stands to reason our enthusiasm about Wilson in this style of offense should be through the roof.

One of the reasons for the Seahawks' dramatic offensive falloff last year was their over-reliance on the deep game. This offense had only three-pointers, no layups. It’s hard to place the blame on one player or unit. However, when the big plays weren’t available, it became clear Wilson struggled to consistently matriculate an offense in the short middle of the field with what Brian Schottenheimer’s offense made available to him.

Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson struggled when the deep ball wasn't available in 2020. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Jared Goff managed a 9.4 average yards per attempt on short middle-of-the-field passes in what was a flop of a season in 2020. 

Wilson was below even lesser players, with 6.9.

With all the screens and play-action attempts, there’s no doubt that this new offense from the Shanahan and now budding McVay tree will bring far more answers to Wilson when it comes to working the layup routes.

Such a shift on the offensive spectrum could, in some way, lead to the entire Seahawks cast of skill players being a “post-hype sleeper” team. We were all expecting the Let Russ Cook movement to be what launched the Wilson, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett stacks to glory. Just as it’s done for many teams, maybe a Shanahan-offshoot offense will do the trick.

The fact that we’re still only looking at primarily three players from the passing game to target in drafts is why this stack remains as appealing as ever.

Wilson won’t go in the top five among quarterbacks in drafts this year. Younger names like Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and even Justin Herbert have slammed that door shut. With an ADP outside the top-70 picks, you won’t have to think about taking Wilson until well after you’ve already secured one or both of his top-two targets.

Lockett and Metcalf were responsible for a whopping 48.6 percent of the team’s passing targets. With the only major addition at wide receiver being a rookie with a murky profile in D'Wayne Eskridge, we shouldn’t expect much change here. While Metcalf and especially Lockett were somewhat volatile last year, we should be chasing the overall volume these two received, not noisy results like week-to-week consistency. It’s overrated anyway, especially in best ball where we’re focused on winning weeks, not obsessing over every player on the roster clearing some random point threshold.

As long as they stay healthy (Lockett was banged up to end last year) and Wilson doesn’t go into a funk again, Lockett and Metcalf could both finish within the top-12 at the position. I’m choosing to look at the well-constructed skeleton of last year’s results from an overall perspective. There’s no guarantee that some of the rotted exteriors that let us down in 2020 simply roll over this year just because “It happened before.” Locking in the exact same negative variance patterns that took place the year prior instead of just following the peripherals has cursed many fantasy managers through the seasons.

Metcalf will go in the top-10 wide receiver selections while Lockett will hover around the WR20 range. You can take both and still feel like you’re getting good value on Lockett — tell yourself a story that the routes they’ll run in this new offense will certainly help alleviate volatility for him. Again, we’re hoping Waldron brings down the overall rate of low-percentage deep patterns and lets these guys get open quickly for Wilson.

While Lockett and Metcalf are expected to draw most of the targets, Gerald Everrett’s presence might seem like a concern. He could nip at the heels of the top-two receivers’ target shares. However, his presence also makes this team that much easier to stack. There seems to be stone-zero enthusiasm about the former Rams’ tight end moving to Seattle. That’s despite the history of the tight end position needing more time to develop and Everrett getting out of the spotlight he shared with Tyler Higbee.

Everett has an ADP outside the top-150 selections and can fall outside the top-20 tight ends. He’s essentially a totally free proposition right now and you can easily add him in the later rounds of best-ball drafts. That gives you all the insurance you need for the few weeks he steals a touchdown from Lockett or Metcalf.

If you believe the offense is ready to consistently hit the highs it managed in the first half of last year — and the change in offensive coordinator makes that a very reasonable bet — you should be rushing to stack this offense. The value is right and the usage tree is shallow enough that the floor and ceiling proposition is entirely enticing.

The case against stacking the Seahawks

The longer I’ve searched to find a true death-blow reason to not stack this team, the weaker each argument becomes.

The pros really do outweigh the cons.

A Seahawk-stack detractor is essentially just betting on Pete Carroll grabbing the philosophy wheel for this team and steering them head-on into “Establish the run” highway.

There are two main reasons that doesn’t land with or bother me one bit.

As we covered earlier, the installment of this offense should bring us the best of both worlds. Carroll can have an effective run game using Chris Carson’s rugged style and the passing offense can still have major value. We care about the passing efficiency of this team taking another leap, not the volume. It’s impossible for me to imagine a scenario where Wilson isn’t a more efficient passer running a Shanahan-offshoot offense over the overly vertical system he’s played in the last few years.

Secondly, good luck trying to consistently make this one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL while playing in the current version of the NFC West. The Rams, Cardinals and even 49ers offense with Trey Lance in the mix are all bursting at the seems with offensive fireworks. Some of these teams might have great defenses, but with all looking poised to take another step given some of their moves on offense, it’s hard not to imagine plenty of fantasy carnival games when NFC West squads go head-to-head.

We already got some of that when the Seahawks and Cardinals faced off last year. Few managers will be taking you down in terms of best-ball scoring if you’ve got the Wilson/Lockett/Metcalf stack on those weeks, especially if the Rams and 49ers are not able to hold their own.

We’re in the “case against” section and still talking positives — that should tell you something.

Verdict: HIGH-VALUE STACK

It sure feels like it shouldn’t be that difficult to argue for stacking three players who finished at QB6, WR7, and WR9 just last year.

I get it; we all know year-end scoring is not everything. The particular case of the 2020 Seahawks actually provides a perfect example of how it doesn’t reflect the ebbs and flows of the weekly fantasy experience.

If you had Russell Wilson on your season-long team, you were thinking about quarterback streamers many times in the second half of 2020. There were long stretches where starting Tyler Lockett was not fun. And even though nobody talks about it, DK Metcalf finished 2020 with a whimper, posting 25 catches for 264 yards and a lone score in December.

Still, the fact that this variance existed and whiplashed these players after a white-hot start merely shows how high the floor is for this stack. Despite cold stretches for all three of these players, they still finished with extremely good peripheral numbers. Now imagine a scenario where variance swings positive (or just neutral) for 90 percent of the season.

Furthermore, Everett and Waldron are actually the key figures in making this stack so appealing.

Everett puts a nice bow on the smoothing-out variance for this stack by giving you a clear late-round dart throw. In past years we didn’t have a clear appealing TE1 on the roster. Now the Seahawks have that player and we should feel more confident in his target share over previous No. 3 receivers on the squad.

With Everett along in a Rams-style offense via Waldron should give us more viable hope that some of these pitfalls of variance can indeed be smoothed out. We’ve never seen Wilson in the type of offense that gives its quarterback so many answers. Few players have been asked — or force themselves — to find as many solutions on the fly as Wilson, and that’s led to some of the volatility we’re used to in Seattle.

The change to this offense could lead to a dramatic shift.

We all should accept some level of variance and even welcome volatility when playing best ball. After all, isn’t that one of the main selling points of the format? Even with that in mind, however, it looks like we might have to deal with it less from our Seahawks players in 2021.

Remember that for all your league formats.

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