Best Ball Strategy: Roster Construction & Opportunity Cost (Fantasy Football)

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On the most recent Fantasy Footballers’ DFS & Betting podcast, we discussed Best Ball strategy highlighting optimal roster construction as well as some of the mindset it takes in playing this form of fantasy football.

For a deeper dive on Best Ball strategy, make sure you check out some of these articles on the site:

Best Ball Basics

You have 18 spots and every one of them is valuable because you can’t alter your lineup at all. The term we come back to all the time is opportunity cost. You are weighing decisions, their effects, and what you might be missing out on when you click the button for a player. People DM me all the time, “should I take this player or that player at this spot?” What they’re really asking when they’re on the clock is, “who is the best pick? What would you do?”

It’s impossible to fully answer that question. Besides having conviction about player evaluation, that question fails to address the ecosystem that the best ball roster (and draft) inherently is. A decision opens up the possibilities of so many avenues. It is a decision tree worth taking your time to consider.

12-Man Best Ball Leagues

You aren’t reaching on players. Let the draft fall to you. We’ve found these drafts to be more RB-heavy early.

Some people treat them like home leagues which gives you an advantage to swing for upside and not safety. Remember, there can be only one winner.


In a tourney like Underdog’s Best Ball Mania IV, you are looking for leverage against your league/the field.

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The total prize pool is $15 Million this year. Thousands and thousands of people will fill this tournament. If you’re fortunate enough to make it to Week 17, that’s a top 1% outcome with over 677,000 entrants total. For each league, two members advance but that’s when things get crazy.

Weeks 15 & 16 whittle down the pool to essentially a 1-week DFS tournament where we can apply a lot of our familiar DFS concepts. 50% of the prizes are devoted to the outcome of Week 17.

A Living, Breathing ADP

ADP is not a stagnant list of rankings; it ebbs and flows over the summer. Some of the rankings will shock you but this is a good grid to gauge redraft from. For beginners, it also allows you to see how other people are drafting.

Build a portfolio. First off, that phrase makes you sound pretty smart when tell people you have a ‘portfolio’. When you explain it’s related to best ball, they might start ignoring you.

We’re drafting all off-season and there are pros & cons of when you draft:

  • Early drafts (May/June)- Good for trying to gain closing line value on players’ ADP
  • Later drafts (August/September)- Ability to identify stacks better, depth charts are more clear, and pre-season injuries are hopefully out of the way. 

Especially if you’re playing in tournaments like Underdog’s Best Ball Mania, you want access to the top ranges of outcomes: embrace risk, shoot for that top 1%. Depending on when you draft, you can get access to contrarian/unique players in the later rounds. This allows you room to be wrong.

Best Ball Roster Construction

Let’s wind the clock back to Cooper Kupp’s insane 2021 season. He was a 4th round pick (ADP of 41.9) and arguably the most valuable Best Ball pick off all time. A whopping 49 percent of teams with Kupp advanced to the next round in Best Ball Mania II. 

But the other side of that coin is 50 percent of teams with Cooper Kupp didn’t advance! The rest of your roster matters and the way you construct it. You can’t win in Best Ball with one or two awesome players.

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What do we mean by roster construction and how should you allocate your positions?

QBs– 2-3

  • Last year, teams with 2QBs had a better regular season advance rate than 3QB builds.
  • Teams that drafted 1 QB or 4 QBs had the lowest advance rates.

RBs– 5-6

  • The extremes of 3 RBs and 8 RBs last year had the lowest advance rates
  • Two approaches are acceptable, we can’t do both
  • RB early but fewer backs
  • RB later but more backs

WRs– 6-9

  • Teams with 7-8 WRs last year had the highest advance rates
  • On Underdog, you must start 3 WRs every week + ideally the flex spot
  • The old adage of Quantity > Quality is likely incorrect
  • We need some of these elite options going in the first 4 rounds, we probably can’t make it up with guys going in R12 or after

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TEs– 2-3

  • Teams w/ 3TE builds generally have a higher advance rate to playoffs, but 2TE teams had more upside to get to semi-finals/finals and win it all.

In summary,  18 spots you’re thinking: 2-3 QBs/ 5-6 RBs / 6-9 WRs / 2-3 TEs

Remember that roster construction is just a framework. You still need to hit on player takes.

Best Ball Advance Rates

 Advance rates tell us how often a player was drafted or a certain strategy was used and where they were drafted. Once again, this comes back to opportunity cost.

Advance Rates are calculated by taking the total number of times a strategy (i.e. team rosters 4QBs) or a player (Josh Jacobs) was drafted and dividing that by the number of playoff rosters they ended up onIn Underdog’s BestBall Mania, here were the top-10 in advance rate.

Information like this is descriptive of 2022, not prescriptive for 2023. Keep that in mind.

Navigating Conviction & Bias

Let’s take this portfolio concept a bit further… I don’t need to tell you the horror stories of best ball drafters (like myself!) who went all-in on Michael Pittman Jr. last year. Woof.

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If I would’ve told you Pittman would catch 99 balls, you would’ve been thrilled to take him at the 2/3 turn last year. But it didn’t work out so well with the Indianapolis offense…

To protect yourself from your own bias, realize you could be wrong and take the portfolio approach. Luckily, Tyreek Hill was the other WR I heavily invested in this spot which bailed some of my teams out in 2022.

It’s important to have targets/fades at ADP when having player takes. Remember – ADP matters; our advance rate will be better (in general) if we are able to grab players after ADP as values. A player you love in Round 5 may be a bad pick in Round 3. We want to avoid reaching in Best Ball especially for stacks.

We know Stacking in Best Ball is +EV BUT reaching for stacks is -EV. This goes back to ADPs & what players/stacks have to do for your team to be optimal.

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  • High End Stack– Patrick Mahomes + Travis Kelce is costing you R1 & R2 picks this year. They both have to be great for this stack to pay off
  • Value Stack- Geno Smith (QB16) + DK Metcalf (WR15) + Lockett (WR32)


Bry Goss says:

I needed this, last year was a first time best ball player and needless to say was a big fat flop.

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