Team stacking is a high-ceiling strategy in best ball, larger-field season-long tournaments, and of course DFS, where the concept has really gained traction and almost become a weekly necessity. But it is less popular in the former two fantasy formats, creating opportunities to carve out a competitive edge.
I’m not here to tell you to stack the Chiefs, Rams, and Colts. That’s what you should’ve been doing the last two years, when those offenses were undervalued. Stacking established juggernauts becomes unreasonable because players on those teams’ ADPs are too high. We need to hunt for value and late-round sleepers to round off our stacks, and we want to identify offense-friendly environments where players can substantially outkick expectations. Depending on fantasy roster sizes, a suggested number of players to stack on the same team is four to five.
Stacking Targets: QB Kyler Murray, RB David Johnson, RB Chase Edmonds, WR Christian Kirk, WR Larry Fitzgerald, WR Andy Isabella
Arizona is an appealing team stack because its offensive volume should spike under Kliff Kingsbury, enhancing box-score opportunity. Last year’s Cardinals finished second to last in plays per game (56.4). Kingsbury’s Texas Tech offenses averaged an NCAA-high 82.0 plays during his six seasons in Lubbock. Although Kingsbury is often likened to Chip Kelly in a negative light, folks making those comparisons seem to forget Kelly’s 2013 and 2014 offenses both finished top four in the NFL in scoring. The Eagles then mistakenly gave Kelly personnel control, and he traded all their dynamic skill players away.
David Johnson is the most-expensive Cardinal with an overall top-six ADP, but he is a critical stack piece in a spread-out offense that will foster wide running lanes, spring him into space, and capitalize on Johnson’s receiving ability. The hype is strong on Kyler Murray, but he is still typically available in the middle rounds and offers immense dual-threat upside after accounting for 53 touchdowns and rushing for over 1,000 yards in his lone season as a college starter. Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald will compete for the team target lead, and 4.31 burner Andy Isabella is being slept on as a likely starter in three- and four-receiver sets. If the Cardinals do run as many plays as Kingsbury intends, late-round RB5 target Chase Edmonds will have a bigger role than fantasy drafters expect. Patrick Peterson’s six-game suspension increases the likelihood Arizona will be a shootout team, while Sharp Football rates the Cardinals’ schedule of opposing pass defenses fourth softest in the league based on 2018 efficiency.
Tampa Bay Bucs
Stacking Targets: QB Jameis Winston, RB Ronald Jones, RB Peyton Barber, WR Mike Evans, WR Chris Godwin, WR Breshad Perriman, TE O.J. Howard
Bruce Arians’ 2016 and 2017 offenses in Arizona both finished top five in plays per game and top five in pass attempts, and his “no risk it, no biscuit” philosophy bodes well for Tampa Bay maintaining a high-volume attack. Last year’s Bucs pass catchers had to deal with Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson siphoning 179 combined targets, and their departures improve the outlook for Tampa Bay’s remaining skill-position players by narrowing this year’s passing-game tree. Neither Bucs running back is an adept pass catcher, further condensing target distribution. The Bucs face 2019’s softest schedule of pass defenses based on last year’s results, and their defense again sets up as a sieve with top pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul (neck) likely headed to reserve/PUP.
Jameis Winston almost always lasts until the double-digit rounds of season-long drafts. He finished 2018 red hot and has everything on the line in his contract year. Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber can be included in Bucs stacks at their affordable ADPs but aren’t high-priority targets. Mike Evans is, ideally as a late second-round pick. Top five in the NFL in Air Yards in four straight years, Evans is an exciting fit for Arians’ vertical passing game. No one should be surprised if Chris Godwin catches 100 balls at slot receiver. Humphries drew 105 targets and caught 76 passes as the 2018 Bucs’ slot man, and those numbers should represent Godwin’s floor. Breshad Perriman put just enough good things on tape with last year’s Browns to be considered the favorite for Tampa Bay’s No. 3 receiver job, and he is usually available in the last two rounds of drafts. O.J. Howard leads all NFL tight ends in yards per target (11.5) and yards per reception (16.6) since entering the league and is a screaming breakout candidate.
San Francisco 49ers
Stacking Targets: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RB Tevin Coleman, RB Matt Breida, RB Jerick McKinnon, WR Dante Pettis, WR Deebo Samuel, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Jalen Hurd, TE George Kittle
Personnel losses prevented Kyle Shanahan from running his offense the way he wanted to last year, but the season before his Niners finished No. 2 in pass attempts and No. 6 in plays per game. A consensus top-ten QB1 pick in 2018 fantasy drafts, Jimmy Garoppolo’s ADP has plummeted into the 20s following last year’s ACL tear. In a system where second-year UDFA Nick Mullens finished top five in yards per attempt, Jimmy G has a chance to be one of this year’s best value-pick quarterbacks. The 49ers’ outlook is enhanced by arguably the NFL’s worst secondary, which should force the offense to stay aggressive.
Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, and Jerick McKinnon are lower-priority targets due to San Francisco’s lack of backfield pecking-order clarity, although none of them is overly expensive. I project Coleman for the most touches but personally believe Breida is the best pure runner of the group. McKinnon is the best pass catcher. Even as the favorite for No. 1 receiver duties, Dante Pettis’ ADP hasn’t gotten out of control. He reminds me of Keenan Allen as a route runner and has elite ability with the ball in his hands. Deebo Samuel went earlier in their respective drafts than Pettis and perfectly suits our team-stacking criteria based on value. No one should be shocked if Samuel out-targets Pettis this year. Third-round pick Jalen Hurd is one of the most-intriguing rookies in this class as a big slot who can also contribute as a runner, especially in short-yardage situations. He is a deep-league stack option. George Kittle is the most expensive player in this group but obviously an important piece of any 49ers stack with positive-touchdown regression forthcoming after Kittle managed five end-zone trips on 88 catches last season.
Per Sharp Football’s metrics, this year’s 49ers face the league’s easiest schedule of run defenses based on 2018 efficiency and the NFL’s third-softest schedule of pass defenses based on 2018 Success Rate allowed.
Stacking Targets: QB Lamar Jackson, RB Mark Ingram, RB Justice Hill, WR Marquise Brown, TE Mark Andrews
Ravens stacks are somewhat contingent on Lamar Jackson taking a year-two leap as a passer, although he wasn’t quite as bad as a rookie as people seem to think. Jackson didn’t even take first-team practice reps until Week 10 and wound up averaging 7.1 yards per pass attempt, the NFL’s 14th-best mark among 41 qualified rookie quarterbacks over the last decade, higher than Andrew Luck (7.0), Sam Darnold (6.9), Carson Wentz (6.2), Derek Carr (5.5), and Jared Goff (5.3). Jackson should also experience positive-touchdown-pass regression after managing an anemic 3.5% TD Rate. Mark Ingram is lead back for the NFL’s run-heaviest franchise, and rookie Justice Hill is an explosive change of pace on a Ravens team returning all five starters on the line. Health pending, Marquise Brown (foot) and Mark Andrews should battle for the team lead in targets. Jackson, Hill, Brown, and Andrews all come cheaply in drafts.
One concern is first-year OC Greg Roman’s slow-paced history; the last five offenses he’s coordinated ranked 24th, 30th, 31st, 20th, and 20th in plays per game. Nevertheless, the affordability of non-Ingram Ravens in fantasy drafts plus Roman’s history of designing prolific running games and maximizing dual-threat quarterbacks (Colin Kaepernick, Tyrod Taylor) give this offense underrated breakout chances. Baltimore also faces the league’s second-softest schedule of run defenses based on 2018 efficiency.
Stacking Targets: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB James Conner, RB Jaylen Samuels, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Donte Moncrief, WR James Washington, TE Vance McDonald
The Steelers finished No. 1 in pass attempts and No. 5 in offensive plays in Randy Fichtner’s first year as offensive coordinator, so snap volume shouldn’t be an issue here. Ben Roethlisberger is a teammate elevator and good enough to lift the performance of role players such as Donte Moncrief, James Washington, and Vance McDonald, all of whom are reasonably priced in drafts. Big Ben’s 2018 QBR (73.0) was the second highest of his career. The Steelers return all five starters on the offensive line. McDonald is one of my favorite middle-round tight ends in a passing game missing the NFL’s fifth-most targets from last year’s team. Jesse James’ departure is an under-the-radar plus to McDonald’s outlook.
James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster are pricey for this stack, but JuJu is an especially key component with upside to lead the NFL in targets. He consistently goes in the mid-second round of season-long drafts but can easily produce like a first-rounder. As long as Jaylen Samuels holds off rookie Benny Snell for No. 2 back duties, the sophomore hybrid rusher/receiver makes sense as a Steelers stack member with some chance to carve out a flex-viable workload and league-winning upside if Conner goes down. Pittsburgh’s 2019 run-defense schedule is fifth softest in the league based on last year’s efficiency.
Green Bay Packers
Stacking Targets: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Aaron Jones, RB Dexter Williams, WR Davante Adams, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR Geronimo Allison, WR Equanimeous St. Brown, WR Jake Kumerow, TE Jimmy Graham
The individual track records of new Packers coach Matt LaFleur and OC Nathaniel Hackett aren’t particularly impressive, even if LaFleur has coached under acknowledged offensive gurus Sean McVay (2017), Kyle Shanahan (2015-2016), Mike Shanahan (2010-2013), and Gary Kubiak (2008-2009). LaFleur’s aim is to implement the Falcons’ Super Bowl MVP offense in Green Bay, a big ask but not an entirely crazy one considering the Packers’ potential-ridden personnel.
Aaron Rodgers is destined for positive-touchdown regression after managing a career-low 4.2% TD Rate last year. Albeit expensive, Davante Adams is his most-obvious stack partner as a candidate to lead the NFL in targets. Aaron Jones is typically acquirable in the fourth round of season-long drafts. It would not surprise if he played well enough this year to become a first-round pick in 2020. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison consistently last until the double-digit rounds, and each offers breakout potential as frontrunners to round out Green Bay’s three-receiver set. Sixth-round rookie RB sleeper Dexter Williams, second-year WR Equanimeous St. Brown, and 2018 preseason star Jake Kumerow are especially deep-league stack options. Jimmy Graham is coming off a miserable year, but he is cheap in drafts and another prime TD-regression candidate after managing two scores on 55 catches last season.
Stacking Targets: QB Derek Carr, RB Josh Jacobs, RB Jalen Richard, WR Antonio Brown, WR Tyrell Williams, WR Hunter Renfrow, TE Darren Waller
Now we’re digging for contrarian stacks, and this one’s got as low a floor as any. The Raiders ranked 24th in play volume in Jon Gruden’s first year as head coach, then revamped their offense with new starters at 7-of-11 positions. There is a conceivable scenario where all of this backfires spectacularly, especially with Antonio Brown sharply downgrading quarterbacks from future first-ballot Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger to fringe NFL starter Derek Carr on an Oakland team facing the NFL’s third-toughest schedule with a Vegas win projection of 6.0. The wheels could come off fast.
But the Raiders should spend much of 2019 playing from behind considering their opponents and barely-there defense, and they should be able to score points with improved talent. No one wants to draft Carr, whose ADP among quarterbacks is in the 20s. For team stacks, pairing AB84 with Carr is a necessity. When the Raiders are trailing, Brown is going to be hollering at Carr to throw him the ball. Josh Jacobs offers 300-touch potential in the fourth round. Jalen Richard is a dirt-cheap PPR asset, and rookie slot WR Hunter Renfrow and first-time TE Darren Waller are worth deep-league consideration.
New York Jets
Stacking Targets: QB Sam Darnold, RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Robby Anderson, WR Jamison Crowder, WR Quincy Enunwa, TE Chris Herndon
If Adam Gase brings his sloth-like offense to Gang Green, this team stack probably won’t hit. Gase’s Dolphins ranked dead last, 22nd, and dead last in play volume, and 26th, 28th, and 17th in points scored. But Gase inherits far more skill-position talent in New York, while OTA/minicamp reports suggested Gase emphasized tempo in practices.
Critical to this stack is the Sam Darnold–Robby Anderson connection, which flashed early in Darnold’s rookie season before both got hurt, then caught absolute fire in the final month. Darnold and Anderson can be affordably paired in drafts. Le’Veon Bell is a much more expensive puzzle piece but lasts until the second round in enough leagues to fit a contrarian Jets-stack approach. New slot man Jamison Crowder isn’t a terrible bet to lead New York in catches. Quincy Enunwa is a good player with a nebulous role. Chris Herndon’s ADP understandably tumbled following news of his four-game suspension, but he is appealing the ban and had one of the best rookie tight end seasons in the last decade.
Stacking Targets: QB Nick Foles, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Dede Westbrook, WR Keelan Cole, WR D.J. Chark, WR Marqise Lee
Yeah, this is an ugly one, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for outright dismissing it. But the fact that most fantasy leaguers will indeed dismiss it lowers its draft-day cost. Reasons for optimism include the return of Jacksonville’s offensive line after losing 4-of-5 starters to injured reserve, while the Jaguars led the entire NFL in play volume in Doug Marrone’s first year as coach (2017) before falling to 20th last season as Blake Bortles imploded and Cody Kessler made five impossible-to-watch starts. Jacksonville committed the NFL’s fifth-most turnovers (29), drive killers that helped keep their offense off the field.
Nick Foles’ high-variance play works nicely as a QB2/3 in best-ball leagues. He’s very much capable of producing random big games. Leonard Fournette was a consensus first-round pick in 2018 drafts. He’s back healthy with an ADP that’s dipped deep into the third round. Third-year slot WR Dede Westbrook is an ascending talent coming off an 100-plus-target season and almost always lasts until the double-digit rounds. Keelan Cole, D.J. Chark, and Marqise Lee are virtually free.
I don’t truly have high hopes for the Jaguars’ offense, but I do believe a Fournette-Westbrook-Foles-Cole stack could easily beat ADP-based expectations. Foles is a big upgrade on Bortles and Kessler, and Jacksonville faces this year’s second-softest schedule of pass defenses based on 2018 results.
Editor’s note: For Evan Silva’s Top-150, Sleepers/Busts, Offensive Line Rankings, Team-by-Team Outlooks and tons more, check out our Draft Kit.