Fantasy Football Strategy: Six Things to Consider in Best Ball Leagues
Best ball is one of the fastest growing formats in fantasy football. There are numerous different versions of best ball with varying nuances, but the general concept remains the same. You draft your roster and then you go about your life without putting in any more mental effort for the rest of the season. Your team is credited with its ideal lineup based on your roster each week, and the weekly scores get added together for your final point total. No setting lineups, no monitoring injury reports, no waiver claiming, no trading, no tilting. It’s the anti-dynasty version of fantasy football.
May is a great time of the offseason to start participating in best ball leagues. The significant free agents have all found new homes and we know all of the landing spots for the rookie class. Competing in best ball drafts throughout the summer can give you the same edge as mock drafts do leading up to your yearlong drafts, with a little added competitive juice mixed in.
I’ll be referencing DRAFT’s best ball format for this article. In this format, you draft an 18-man roster from which the best 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, and 1FLEX will be scored each week using ½ PPR scoring.
Many of the same QB, RB, WR, and TE strategies that we’ve written about recently can be applied to best ball formats, but the absence of lineup shuffling and transactions creates the need for some key considerations.
Obviously, you can’t stream in best ball leagues. So why even mention it here? Because you can still use the principles of streaming. In redraft leagues streaming a quarterback requires you to rely on swapping out your serviceable quarterbacks as needed throughout the season. In best ball, you just have to pick up those comparable quarterbacks up front in the draft. You can still wait it out to draft a quarterback, you’ll just have to get at least two or three. You’ll want multiple quarterbacks anyway, as you have to give added consideration to injury risks and bye weeks in best ball leagues. The same can be said for tight ends, which are commonly streamed in yearlong leagues.
Injuries are a part of football. Every player is one play away from a season-ending injury. Since there are no transactions in best ball, there are no chances to pick up your quarterback’s backup when he goes down or grab your running back’s handcuff as the end of the season approaches. You need to have a backup plan in place for all of your positions. If you spend high picks on players with injury concerns, like Todd Gurley, A.J. Green, or Cam Newton, you better have extra depth at the position to fill the void if they miss significant time.
3. Bye Weeks
Unlike the unpredictability of injuries, we know well in advance when each team’s bye week will occur. While bye week replacements aren’t the most important thing when drafting a best ball roster, they do need to be considered. For example, Andrew Luck and Mitch Trubisky both have a Week 6 bye in 2019. I’d love to pair those two quarterbacks together and call it good in best ball. However, since they share a bye week, I’d be compelled to select a third quarterback to cover the bye. That costs another valuable roster spot that could have been used on a different position.
Quarterbacks are where you need to be most concerned about bye weeks in best ball, but you shouldn’t completely ignore it at the other positions. For instance, if you go back-to-back wide receivers with your first two picks you could end up with a pairing that includes some combination of Odell Beckham Jr, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and/or Mike Evans. You’ll get an amazing tandem, but as the draft progresses you’ll have to keep in mind that your top two receivers will be on bye in Week 7.
4. Consistency vs. Variance
In redraft or dynasty formats, consistency reigns. It’s still important in best ball, but not as crucial. The type of consistency you want is the kind that can only be found at the very beginning of the draft. Guys like Ezekiel Elliot or Davante Adams, who will be the unquestioned top option for their respective teams. You don’t need 2018 Danny Amendola on your roster, the receiver that gets four catches for 38 every week. Hopefully, that type of performance isn’t regularly cracking your best lineup. You’re playing for first, not fourth.
After those rare, consistently elite options are off the board, you want to swing for the fences by loading up on high variance options. If a player goes off for two or three week-winning performances over the course of the season, like Amari Cooper or Derrick Henry in 2018, you’ll always get credit for them. In yearlong formats, you may have benched them in favor of safer plays. In best ball, those big performances automatically slot into your starting lineup. You never have to worry about a benched player blowing up.
5. Quality vs. Quantity
When you look at each position individually, you want to make sure you cover each one with either quality or quantity. It’s difficult to achieve both without completely forsaking another position. Wherever you choose to grab your studs can be a position you go lighter on as the draft progresses.
For example, there’s no need to select eight wideouts if you started your draft with DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas. However, by the time you get around to drafting a running back, you’re not going to have a sure thing available. There are plenty of late-round options that could have a few big weeks or find themselves taking over a backfield at some point in the season. If you grab enough of them, it should sufficiently pick up the slack left from passing on the position in the early rounds.
6. Stacking vs. Saturation
Stacking your best ball roster with players from the same team can be the secret weapon that carries you to a championship. The combination of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce led to plenty of success in 2018. It can, however, be overdone.
For instance, you probably aren’t going to want to roll out Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and David Njoku on the same roster. As dangerous as the Browns roster is, that’s just too many eggs to put in one fantasy basket.