Best Ball Fantasy Football Strategy & Tips
Best Ball is one of the quickest growing formats for playing fantasy football. It allows avid fantasy football players to consistently engage in drafting, arguably the best part of the game, without having to worry about the high-maintenance roster upkeep throughout the NFL season. The lack of maintenance allows players to engage in dozens (or hundreds) of drafts throughout the summer, with most taking less than an hour to complete. Although similar to your typical season-long draft, it is important to note that best ball formats require a unique approach to strategy and roster construction to be successful. This article will provide a range of insight that will be applicable to those new to best ball and seasoned veterans.
1. Roster Construction is Key
Roster construction is the foundation of success in best ball leagues. Unlike season-long leagues, you don’t have the ability to add/drop/trade players once the season starts. You get one shot to get your roster right: the draft. The roster construction I suggest below is based off an 18 player roster-you can alter the number of roster spots you devote to each position, based on percentage, if you’re playing on a platform that offers different sized rosters.
My ideal roster construction is:
- Quarterback: 2/3
- Running back: 6/7
- Wide receiver: 6/7
- Tight End: 2/3
It may be tempting to rack up big named quarterbacks and they continue to slide in your best ball drafts, but they’re falling for a reason: there’s plenty of supply. You can wait and get 2 very solid starters. You should only commit 3 roster spots to quarterback if you wait beyond the 10th round to take your first quarterback and you only roster 2 tight ends.
The tight end position also carries less demand. Recent trends suggest that the depth of the tight end position is significantly more shallow than the other 3 positions. It is more common for best ball players to roster 3 tight ends, compared to 3 quarterbacks. Similar to quarterback, if you wait until later in the draft to take your first tight end I suggest taking 3.
In total, your combined quarterback and tight end roster spots should not exceed 5. Additionally, you want to ensure that you do not overload either running back or wide receivers. It can be tempting to load up at one position, especially if you’re seeing value in your draft. That, however, will leave you vulnerable to injuries and BYE weeks-the bain of best ball players. You never want to put yourself in a situation where one of your positions isn’t generating points for a week.
2. Watch BYE Weeks
It can be easy to get caught up in quick clocks, ADP, and roster construction when drafting. It is critical, though, that you also keep a sharp eye on the BYE weeks your players have. I aim to have no more than one quarterback or tight end on my roster on BYE in the same week. Additionally, I want to avoid having any more than 2 of my running backs or wide receivers on BYE in any particular week. You should have no more than 4 players (about 20%) of your roster on BYE in any particular week.
In 2019 Week 10 features the most teams on BYE. Six teams (18% of all BYEs) are on BYE this week: Denver, Jacksonville, Houston, New England, Philadelphia, Washington. Weeks 6, 7, 9, 11, and 12 all have 4 teams (12%) on BYE. Weeks 4,5, and 8 have 2 teams (6%) on BYE.
3. Limit Risk Early
This is a common mistake for new best ball players. It seems logical that in a format where the majority of your players don’t produce points on a given week you can afford some risk. There’s still room for risk, but I often draft more cautious in best ball formats, simply because you have no chance to correct the risks you miss on.
Whiffing on your first and second round pick essentially sinks your chances of winning your best ball league. Le’veon Bell from 2018 is a great example of how one player can sink your roster. Bell was being drafted early all the way through the pre-season, with the hopes that his sliding ADP could turn into big value for best ball players. Instead, players with him on their roster saw nearly no success-regardless of how well they drafted for the remaining 17 rounds. Here’s a list of players with current ADPs in the first two rounds I’m avoiding in the first 2 rounds in 2019:
- Todd Gurley, ADP: 11th Overall. I’m actually not scared of beat reports claiming Gurley’s knee still isn’t right. I’m also not concerned that Darrell Henderson will take significant volume from him. Still, in bestball the high risk is too much for me to bite on.
- David Johnson, ADP: 7th Overall. I believe David Johnson is a great football player, but that did nothing for him in a broken offense in 2018. Now, he has a new coach, new quarterback, and will be playing in a scheme that has never been tested in the NFL led by a coach who landed the job in Arizona after being fired by a team that couldn’t find success with Kingbury’s air-raid offense in the Big 12.
- Dalvin Cook, ADP: 17th Overall. Cook has plenty of upside, but injury is a huge factor to avoid while playing best ball. Cook has played just 15 games over his first two seasons in the NFL-that is too much risk for me.
4. Avoid Rookie Fever
It is easy to get caught up in the upside that rookies provide, but they don’t return value at a high rate. This makes them a less than ideal for best ball. In 2018 no rookies in a highly touted quarterback class finished as a QB1, the highest was Baker Mayfield who finished as QB16. There were only 3 rookie RBs who finished as an RB2 or better in half-PPR: Saquon Barkley (RB2), Phillip Lindsey (RB12), and Nick Chubb (RB16). There was just 1 rookie WR3 or better, Calvin Ridley (WR20). Chris Herndon IV (TE15) was the highest-scoring rookie TE in 2018.
5. Aim for Consistency
It’s easy to get caught chasing great weeks, but having consistent sources of production is more important for best ball. James White, for example, had just 3 great weeks in 2018, according to FantasyPros but had 7 quality starts. White was an asset that helped a lot of best ball squads in 2018. Below is a list of some players for each position that had at least 4 quality starts, but 6 or less great starts:
- Quarterback ( 15.3-23 points): Lamar Jackson (6 quality starts), Ben Roethlisberger (7), Deshaun Watson (7), Andrew Luck (7), Phillip River (9), Russell Wilson (8).
- Running Back (10.4-17.5 points): Nick Chubb (5 quality starts), Phillip Lindsey (7), Tarik Cohen (5), Aaron Jones (5).
- Wide Reciever ( 8-13.7 points): JuJu Smith-Schuster (7 quality starts), Mike Evans (5), DeAndre Hopkins (8), AJ Green (5), Keenan Allen (4).
- Tight End (6.5-11 points): Evan Engram (4 quality starts). Zack Ertz (5 quality starts).
6. Don’t Get Heavy
Part of the allure to best ball is that you can draft a lot of leagues over the summer-some players will end up with dozens, or even hundreds of leagues. Whether you have 10 or 100 leagues, you want to avoid getting heavy on players. Getting “heavy” refers to ownership percentage; the number of times you roster a player compared to your total rosters. Best ball is a game of managing risk, and if you have a high ownership percentage of a player you risk losing a lot of total production if they miss for any reason-performance, injury, suspension, etc. I try to keep my ownership percentages under 20% for most players. The maximum ownership I will allow myself to have on any player, even ones I firmly believe in is 30%.
7. Draft around Tight Ends
Each offseason there appears to be an emerging trend which defines how drafts will flow. Last season it was the “top 4” running backs debate (Gurley, Elliot, Johnson, Bell). This season many drafts revolve around the tight end position. In 2018 just 4 tight ends combined for at least 10 quality and great starts, according to FantasyPros. Those tight ends were: Travis Kelce (10 quality and great starts), Zach Ertz (11), George Kittle (11), and Eric Ebron (10). Ebron has an anticipated drop-off, due to the return of a healthy Jack Doyle and expected negative regression. With such a limited supply of strong tight ends fantasy players have a decision to make. You have one of three options:
- Prioritize tight end: If you wanted to ensure you get a top 3 tight end you will have to invest at least a second-round pick. Travis Kelce’s ADP is 13th overall for 2019 best ball leagues, according to ADP compiled by FantasyPros. Zack Ertz (22nd) and George Kittle (23rd) also have overall ADPs in the second round. If you choose to prioritize tight end you are sacrificing an early running back or wide receiver, but are investing early in a more volatile position.
- Wait for the second wave: The next wave of tight ends comes after a steep drop-off. OJ Howard has the 4th highest ADP for tight ends, at 60th overall (5th round). Engram (64th overall), Hunter Henry (66th overall), and Eric Ebron (73rd overall) contribute to a quick run. If you miss out tight end early, anticipate your second chance to start and end in the 5th round. Your patience could be rewarded if these tight ends hit big, but Engram (lack of offensive production), Henry (injury), and Ebron (touchdown dependent) all come with significant risk.
- Pick from the scraps: If you choose to totally fade tight end early you will be looking at options like Jared Cook (75th overall), David Njoku (87th overall), Vance McDonald (91st overall), and Autin Hooper (101st overall). If you find yourself selecting your first tight end this late, I suggest drafting 3 total and drafting them all between the 6th-10th rounds.
Thanks for Reading
Matt is a seasoned fantasy football analyst that writes dynasty and devy fantasy football content year-round. In addition to writing for Gridiron Experts, he writes and hosts a podcast for The Dynasty Draft Room and publishes all of his work at patreon.com/theffeducator