It’s fair to say no fantasy football format has risen in popularity more in recent years than Best Ball. Providing fantasy managers with a quick and simple way to draft a team, Best Ball is a great way to satiate that desire to draft while not overwhelming yourself with lineups to manage. Here are some tips and strategies for your Best Ball fantasy leagues for those new to the format or those in need of a refresher.
What Is a Best Ball Fantasy Football League?
For those of you out there who are Best Ball veterans, feel free to skip this section. But every year, there are more and more people being introduced to fantasy football for the first time. Even people who have been playing for years may be new to Best Ball. So, let’s go over a quick primer on the format, as it’s quite different from a seasonal league.
If you’re drafting a Best Ball roster, likely on the popular Underdog platform, your role as a manager is to draft your team. That’s it. Your job is completely done once your draft ends.
For anyone who has played fantasy football before, you probably share the same mindset as most — draft day is the best day of the season. If you ask me, employers should provide leave specifically for fantasy football drafts. As fun as it is to watch the games, cheer on your players, and smack talk your opponents, it all pales in comparison to the excitement that is draft day.
Best Ball highlights the draft and removes the hassle of everything else. I use the term “hassle” generously, as I don’t find setting lineups or managing my teams a hassle. But for many people, especially those with busy lives, they may be forced to limit their fantasy football consumption because they just can’t handle managing several teams each week.
In Best Ball, rather than worrying about trades or lineups, you draft your team and let the season play out. Each week, the platform automatically sets your lineup based on whoever on your roster had the best day.
Have you ever blundered your lineup in a seasonal format? Of course you have. We all have. Then, because we’re all gluttons for punishment, we click that little “optimal lineup” tab on Yahoo StatTracker to see how much we would’ve won by had we not botched it. That’s what Best Ball does every week automatically — it sets your optimal lineup.
If it sounds super easy, that’s because it is. Well, at least it’s easy to do. It’s also quite unforgiving because if you bomb your draft, there’s no way to recover. In seasonal leagues, you can salvage a roster with trades and pickups. In Best Ball, if you drafted a bad team, then you just lose.
Best Ball Draft Tips and Strategy | QBs and RBs
Quarterback Drafting Strategy
Even before the recent rise in QB consistency and the value of elite quarterbacks, high-upside QBs were more valuable in Best Ball. The advent of the late-round quarterback strategy in seasonal leagues stemmed from the idea that you could stream the position. With no waiver wire in Best Ball, you can’t play matchups at quarterback each week. Therefore, you need a good one to anchor your roster.
That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to spend an early-round pick on one, however. It just means you can’t totally punt the position. It’s all about opportunity cost.
A term you will hear repeated often, especially as it pertains to Best Ball, is “stacking.” That’s when you select multiple players from the same team. An example would be pairing QB Joe Burrow with WRs Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. I
‘ll dive more into stacking in a separate article, but the quick version is stacking provides your roster with a higher weekly ceiling because if your quarterback has a big game, odds are he got there by throwing to the guys on his team you also roster.
A Best Ball roster consists of 18 players. You need to draft at least two quarterbacks, but I’ll never draft more than three, as it simply isn’t worth the sacrifice at the other positions. Most people draft three, but whether you do should depend on how good your QB1 is.
If you take an elite QB early, don’t spend another premium pick on the position. When drafting that QB, you’re assuming he’ll enter your lineup as your QB1 almost every week. The other guy you draft is just there to cover his bye, as well as perhaps throw in a couple of spike weeks. By way of example, if you take a guy like Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, your QB2 can be just about anyone.
If your first quarterback is a low QB1 or even a high QB2, you can approach this one of two ways. You can take two of them in relatively quick succession, securing two solid guys, one of which is liable to pop off any given week. A good example of this is taking two guys like Tua Tagovailoa, Dak Prescott, and Geno Smith.
Or, you can take three total, banking on volume and the fact that even the worst fantasy quarterbacks have a couple of useful games each season. In this scenario, you would take one of the above guys (as well as several others with similar ADPs), and then take two shots at low-QB2/high-QB3 upside plays like C.J. Stroud, Jordan Love, Kenny Pickett, and Desmond Ridder.
Tips When Drafting Running Backs in Best Ball
How you draft running backs in fantasy, let alone Best Ball, is one of the most widely debated topics in the game. In fact, just about every draft strategy is centered around how you handle the RB position.
Robust RB? Hero RB? Zero RB? The latter, my colleague Tommy Garrett refers to as the “Crossfitters of Fantasy.” You know who they are because they always tell you how amazing it is without ever asking.
The single most valuable asset in fantasy football has been and probably always will be the elite running back. While you may be thinking, “Okay, so just take running backs early,” it’s not that simple. There are seldom few elite RBs each season. Some years, there aren’t any. It’s all about risk vs. reward.
In the modern NFL, with so many teams using two or three-man backfields, it’s more difficult than ever to find a 20-points-per-game RB. For that reason, I prefer to anchor my teams with a strong running back and then build around wide receivers.
There are still quality RB2s typically available in Rounds 3-5 and RB3s with legitimate upside in Rounds 6-9. Ideally, you grab a top guy like Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, or Bijan Robinson, and then rattle off a bunch of wide receivers (plus a QB), before swinging for upside in the later rounds.
Most importantly, though, is you need to let the draft come to you. The best strategy to implement in every draft is the best strategy for that draft. I know that sounds like a meaningless platitude, but it’s the truth.
You may be a Hero RB guy, but if the top running backs are flying off the board quickly, it’s time to pivot. Always be malleable when it comes to draft strategy, especially at running back.
Best Ball Draft Tips and Strategy | WRs and TEs
WR Drafting Strategy in Best Ball
If there’s a position you can wait to draft, it’s wide receiver. As we are all painfully aware, WR is as deep as it’s ever been. Even with NFL teams now often deploying two fantasy-relevant running backs, wide receiver remains the deeper position.
The NFL has become a passing league. With passing volume up considerably over the past decade, unsurprisingly, more and more pass catchers are capable of producing fantasy-relevant numbers.
Every season, there’s usually a team or two with two WR1s. Most teams have two receivers in the top 36, and some even give us three. When it comes to receivers in Best Ball, more is better. I try to walk away with seven to nine WRs on my roster in most drafts.
Even if I’m only drafting one wide receiver in the first three rounds, I’m still drafting at least three in the first six. Probably more.
One common fallacy in Best Ball when it comes to WR is to chase volatility. In actuality, quite the opposite is true. Unless you’re in a large-scale tournament where you need to beat out thousands of others, the more usable weeks your receivers put up, the better.
Outside of the elite guys, reliable WR2s like Amari Cooper and Jerry Jeudy provide a strong sense of stability to your lineups.
When drafting wide receivers in Best Ball, feel free to deviate a bit from ADP to secure a stack, if possible. I’m not saying to reach multiple rounds just to stack a wide receiver with your quarterback. But if you took someone like Justin Herbert, if you’re deciding between a couple of guys close in ADP, the tiebreaker should go to Mike Williams or Keenan Allen.
How To Approach the Tight End Position
Anyone who has played fantasy for more than a season knows how erratic tight end production can be. For years, there were a couple of elite tight ends you can rely on. Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham carried the position for years. As did Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez.
More recently, though, it’s been just Travis Kelce. One man. Alone. Last season, Kelce posted the single largest gap between the TE1 and TE2 in history.
No disrespect to Mark Andrews or George Kittle, but finishing top five doesn’t make a TE elite. There’s a very big difference between a 15+ ppg finish and a 12 ppg finish, even if both are top five.
In previous years, I would want to secure an elite tight end. Now, my options are a 34-year-old Kelce or punt the position. Given that my ability to draft Kelce depends on my draft slot, plus the opportunity cost of passing on an elite RB or WR, I anticipate finding myself punting the position a ton this season.
Similar to QB, if you have an elite TE, you can get away with taking just two. Since tight end is also eligible at Flex, it’s usually more worth it to take three tight ends than three QBs.
A common team structure is 3 QBs, 5 RBs, 7 WRs, and 3 TEs. Barring exceptional circumstances, I will almost always only take five total QBs and TEs. For one of them, I’m limiting it to two. But this year, that may be tougher to accomplish because it will require drafting Kelce or an elite QB.
If you’re not taking your first tight end until the later rounds, you need to take three. Prioritize chasing touchdowns. Your TE is not going to score many fantasy points without finding the end zone. Taking three touchdown-or-bust TE2s and increasing the odds you get a score from one of them each week is the way to go.