Fantasy Football: 6 Best Ball Strategies & Tips for Beginners
Best ball? Are you confused every time you see this mentioned on your Twitter timeline or Reddit thread?
Each week, your best ball hosting site optimizes your team’s highest-scoring players at all the positions that count. Whether you’re participating through Yahoo, MFL10s, or the brand new Underdog Fantasy, you are NOT responsible for setting your own lineup weekly. Just draft your team and that’s it.
For a BestBall draft during the offseason, you select players in 18 rounds–regardless of how many teams participate. Whether you want a 3-man draft to stack your team with superstars or a 12-man in which your searching for sleepers and strategizing what the best configurations, there are many BestBall Strategies to construct your roster. These are snake drafts and the draft order is randomly generated. The timer can be set for fast (30 seconds) or slow (8 hours) depending on your availability.
The optimal weekly rosters usually include 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, and 1FLEX, which is your highest scoring RB, WR, or TE that isn’t already scoring. The rest of your players ride the bench that week and contribute zero points along with those on bye. The beauty of best-ball leagues is you actually do win your league at the draft as there is no roster management at all.
Here are six tips and strategies to keep in mind as you begin your BestBall journey:
1. Roster Construction Counts
Jason highlighted in a Best Ball Bonanza segment that roster construction for him is the most important part of BestBall. With the 18 players you’re drafting, the right combination matters in terms of giving your team a chance to have the maximum combined weekly output. If you draft five QBs, you’re handicapping your team’s ceiling given the simple fact you only start one QB per week.
Here are a couple of tips he discussed on the podcast:
2 or 3 QBs/2 or 3 TEs– Whether you go 2 or 3 depends on who you’re drafting. If you draft Travis Kelce, you can afford to wait until the very end to draft your 2nd TE. The same goes for his teammate Patrick Mahomes.
More WRs than RBs: Up to 9 receivers give you the opportunity to snag some depth and the ability to shoot for high variance performers.
Early RBs: Having a solid core of early RBs with bigger workloads gives you the safety net to swing for the fences with your WRs.
2. The Ceiling is the Standard
Because you’re looking for the highest possible scoring output each week, consistency isn’t the same virtue in BestBall as you’d normally desire in redraft leagues. The goal in BestBall isn’t to finish in the top half or even take 2nd or 3rd place. You are trying to distance yourself from the pack by differentiating the types of players and strategies that let you come out on top.
A player’s ceiling can become that much more valuable. In most leagues, the hardest part of starting players with these stereotypes is their unpredictability. DeSean Jackson is notorious for “going off” for a long TD-bomb and 150+ yards one week and going 2-for-25 the following week. It’s these types of homerun swings you need to keep in mind when constructing your roster.
Let’s be clear: you don’t want only players with perceived high ceilings. But mixing in RBs and WRs with possible high-end outcomes is vital for winning the whole thing. Here are specific ceiling plays for each position:
Late Round QBs– According to our 25 Stats article on QBs, we routinely see 40 different QBs record a top-12 performance. In other words, there are a number of ceiling performers available late in a league with 32 starters. Think about what it felt like to select Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes late the last two years and reap the rewards. You could look at a mediocre fantasy QB like Andy Dalton and fail to see that in 2017, he had three top-5 weeks, also known as more than Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Philip Rivers… COMBINED. There is gold to be had in BestBall with your 2nd or 3rd QB selection.
RBs in Ambiguous Timeshares– Imagine selecting Alvin Kamara as a rookie despite the fact he was 3rd on the Saints’ depth chart entering the season. You had a BestBall league winner. The goal is finding committee members, backups, and hidden PPR gold like James White or Chris Thompson to round out your RB depth.
WRs with Big Game Potential– This is where BestBall makes its money. Because there’s so much depth among fantasy WRs, you can find a plethora of later options that can help you win weeks with loads of boom available despite also coming with some bust. There are freak athletes, underpriced target vacuums, and forgotten teammates to be selected. I’m a huge fan of Curtis Samuel this year who perfectly fits this mold. For a list of potential WRs that fit these criteria, check out Narrowing the Field to Find 2020’s Devante Parker.
TEs with a Glimmer of Hope– Because the position is such a crapshoot, it’s important to shoot for the opportunity in high-octane passing offenses especially those with vacated targets. You can find players capable of 8+ TDs like Hayden Hurst or up-and-coming PPR potentials like Noah Fant. For a list of potential TEs that fit these criteria, check out Narrowing the Field to Find 2020’s Mark Andrews.
3. Stacking Takes Boom-or-Bust to Next Level
In best-ball leagues, the waiver wire is not the safe haven and life preserver you’re used to relying on in normal leagues. If there’s an injury, a player decreases in workload or they find themselves further down the depth chart, you can’t fix it in BestBall. However, stacking is a viable option when constructing your teams at the draft. A stack is betting on a combo of at least two players from the same team gaining correlating fantasy points. There are many different ways to accomplish this but the most obvious is pairing a QB & WR together. Essentially, if the WR goes off for 150 yards and two TDs, you know their QB will be producing as well.
Suppose you drafted Kenny Golladay and you are deciding between Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, and Matt Ryan for your QB1 position. It may seem like you are putting all your eggs in one basket by selecting another Lion, but data says stacking works over similar players on different teams. Remember: you’re going for the whole enchilada! There’s no mid-season adjustments, trades with your buddy or tricks up your sleeve to be done.
But this strategy isn’t just for QBs and WRs. According to a DraftSharks article researching over 21,000 best ball teams, the top 10% of teams in BestBall who stacked RBs saw at least a 57.9-point improvement over the alternative replacement player. In other words, if you’re deciding between backups Darrynton Evans or AJ Dillon for your late-round rookie dart throw, it might be more convincing depending on if you’ve selected Derrick Henry or Aaron Jones earlier. Consider a stack to boost your team’s overall ceiling.
4. Tier-Based Drafting is Even More Important
Before beginning your first best ball draft, it is essential to set your tiers. Tier-based drafting can significantly improve your final roster by helping you identify which player to choose when comparing players across positions. Tiers are great for identifying gaps in value at one position, but the tier-based drafting strategy shines when used to compare different positions. Let’s assume you have the 10th pick in the draft. The top-7 RBs have been drafted, along with Michael Thomas and Davante Adams at WR. Using the tiers, you can quickly recognize who is the last RB available in this tier while also assessing where WRs align in comparison.
As fellow writer Michael Wenrich says “One of the biggest mistakes drafters make is panicking during a position run and falling into the trend. Tiered rankings will clearly show you that you should break the run and select the value [WR], who fell down the board due to the [RB] run. This may also trigger a small [WR] run between your next pick, allowing you to land the [RB] from the previous round. Fantasy drafts are inherently unpredictable, but using tier-based drafting can put you in control of the flow of a draft. Instead of chasing runs, you’ll be leading them.” For more on this subject, check out “The Importance of Tier-Based Drafting“.
Setting your pre-ranks and identifying tiers allows you to make a list of which players stand out to you.
5. Don’ t Worry About Bye Weeks… Until After Rounds 6 or 7.
One of the more important best ball tips is recognizing bye weeks. Because you want optimum scoring each week, having players from the same position with similar bye weeks can be debilitating. As Jason attested to on a Best Ball Bonanza segment, it’s important to view bye weeks for players after your first five or six rounds and especially very late in your drafts. In redraft leagues, the Ballers usually downplay the importance of bye weeks because of trading, the waiver wire, and the number of changes you make after the draft. For a BestBall draft, this is it. There is no maintenance so getting your bye weeks correct matters.
6. Cornering the Market on TE
Now more than ever, it’s clear there is an obvious tier break after the top TEs. Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Mark Andrews, and Zach Ertz give you a positional advantage and the opportunity to dominate your opponent on a week-by-week basis. While this strategy is somewhat risky in redraft leagues, it certainly can give you the upper hand if you grab one or two of the elite options.
Imagine that your team is averaging 18 fantasy points a week at the TE position while your opponent has a mish-mash of Jack Doyle, Austin Hooper, and maybe a late-round dart throw. At best, one of those TEs might finish in the top-12 but likely you’re pummeling your opponent into submission each week. It’s a strategy the Ballers have employed recently as Kelce has become an almost automatic 2nd round selection.
Fore more BestBall-related questions, feel free to reach out on Twitter @kyle_borg.