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    What Is Best Ball Fantasy Football? How To Play, Draft Tips, and Strategy

    As the Best Ball fantasy format continues to rise in popularity, here are some tips and strategies to build a championship-caliber roster.

    It seems as though every year, Best Ball fantasy football gains more and more popularity.

    Providing fantasy managers with a quick and simple way to draft a team with no strings attached, Best Ball is a great way to scratch that early draft itch without risking overwhelming yourself with lineups to manage in-season.

    For those first hearing about Best Ball or who are relatively new to the format, here are some basic tips and strategies to get you started.

    What Is a Best Ball Fantasy Football League?

    As a friendly reminder, not every article will be directed at advanced players. Everyone has to start somewhere. Given how new Best Ball is relative to fantasy football overall, it’s important to provide a starting point to those first jumping into the game.

    The fantasy football community grows each and every year. As more people join the fray for the first time, every format will also see new gamers. Many of you have exclusively played in redraft leagues for quite a long time. I’ve been playing fantasy football since 2003, but my initial foray into Best Ball didn’t occur until 2020.

    Regardless of your skill or experience level, Best Ball could be a new endeavor for you this year. With that in mind, let’s go over a quick primer on the format. While it’s ultimately still a redraft league, there are key disparities fantasy managers need to be mindful of.

    The beauty of Best Ball is in its simplicity. The entirety of your responsibility as a manager is to draft your team. That is not an exaggeration. You literally cannot do anything else.

    Imagine a bright, sunny day in the spring or summer. You plop down on a nice, comfortable chair on your porch or backyard. Maybe you go to the park. You bring your laptop or just use your phone. You relax and draft yourself a fantasy team. It’s a fun way to kill 30 minutes while simultaneously practicing for your managed leagues.

    Once the draft is over, you can carry on with whatever else you want to do.

    Perhaps you want to draft another team. That’s great! Run it back as many times as you want because once you’re done drafting, you never have to look at that roster again. Just check back after Week 17 and see how you did.

    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.

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    Best Ball highlights the draft and removes the hassle of everything else.

    I use the term “hassle” generously. I don’t find setting lineups or managing my teams a hassle. However, there’s no denying the time commitment required to manage a team in-season. That doesn’t exist in Best Ball leagues.

    If the only leagues you’re doing are typical seasonal redraft leagues, for every draft you do, that’s another team you must manage for at least 14 — but hopefully 17 — weeks. This fact inherently limits the number of drafts you can do.

    Technically, there’s no limit on how many fantasy teams you can have. But, as humans, we can only manage so many because time is a thing that exists.

    Depending on how busy your life is, you may only be able to handle a couple of managed leagues. You also may want to draft more. Best Ball allows you to reconcile your love for drafting with your life obligations.

    There’s no limit to the amount of Best Ball teams you can draft. Other than whatever financial limitations you may have for league entry fees (which can be as low as $3 on Underdog Fantasy), you can draft as many teams as you want without adding any additional work to your plate.

    In Best Ball, rather than worrying about trades or lineups, you draft your team and let the season play out. Each week, the platform optimizes your lineup, placing your top-scoring players in their respective starting positions. You don’t have to do a thing.

    There’s another enjoyable aspect of the lack of lineup management. How many times do you blunder your lineup in your managed leagues? I get something wrong pretty much every week.

    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. No one has ever messed up a lineup decision in Best Ball!

    If it sounds super simple, that’s because it is. Well, at least it’s easy to do. It’s certainly not easy to win a league where literally everything rests on the draft. Such is the unforgiving nature of Best Ball.

    If you bomb your draft, there’s no way to recover. In managed leagues, you can attempt to overcome a bad draft with good pickups or well-timed trades. In Best Ball, if you draft 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 either need a good one to anchor your roster, or multiple solid ones in the middle rounds.

    The good news is you don’t necessarily have to spend an early-round pick on a QB. You just can’t wait until the 12th round to take one. By then, every QB1 and about half the QB2s will be gone. You’ll be at too much of a disadvantage.

    A term you will hear repeated often, especially as it pertains to Best Ball, is “stacking.” There will be an entire article dedicated to this concept alone, but here’s the quick version.

    Stacking is selecting a quarterback and at least one of his pass-catchers. An example would be pairing QB C.J. Stroud with WRs Nico Collins and Tank Dell.

    It goes without saying that if the Houston Texans have a rough offensive day, you’re in for a bad week. This strategy is about chasing upside. It gives your team a higher weekly ceiling because you need to get fewer things correct.

    If you get Stroud correct and he does really well, what are the odds he’s having a big game while both Collins and Dell struggle? Possible? Yes. Likely? No. And fantasy football is a game entirely predicated on probabilities — what is most likely to happen?

    Best Ball rosters are slightly bigger than managed leagues, consisting of 18 players. Since there are no in-season transactions, you need to draft at least two quarterbacks. Otherwise, you are taking a zero during bye weeks.

    Most people will draft three QBs. Whether you take two or three depends on how reliable your QB1 is. But you should never under any circumstances be drafting only one or more than three.

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    If you take an elite QB early, don’t spend another premium pick on the position. The way to win Best Ball is not by playing it safe and covering your bases.

    If you draft a guy like Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, or Lamar Jackson, you’re assuming he’s entering your lineup as your top-scoring QB 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.

    If your elite QB flops, taking a third QB is probably not going to save you. Of course, there are scenarios where he might. If your QB3 was Jordan Love last season, he might have been able to bail you out.

    But these are low-probability outcomes. It’s suboptimal to take a third QB when you have an elite one.

    However, if your first quarterback is not the type of guy you know is a matchup-proof elite QB1, then three quarterbacks is firmly on the table. To be clear, it’s still not necessary; it’s just no longer suboptimal.

    If your first quarterback is a low-end QB1 or even a high-end 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 Kirk Cousins, Caleb Williams, and Jared Goff.

    While you can probably get away with just two of those guys, none of them are likely to average over 20 fantasy points per game. They are also all prone to duds. You may want to take a third QB very late (read: outside the top 24). For that guy, you want to take a shot on high-upside players like rookies.

    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? A standard draft with a mix of running backs and wide receivers early that doesn’t have a cool name?

    Whatever you choose to do, running backs are at the centerpiece. Why is that?

    The single most valuable asset in fantasy football has been and probably always will be the elite running back. While you may be thinking, “OK, so just take running backs early,” it’s not that simple. There are fewer and fewer elite RBs each season. In some years, there aren’t any. It’s all about risk vs. reward.

    In the modern NFL, with so many teams implementing multi-man backfields, it’s more difficult than ever to find reliable 20-points-per-game running backs. Last season, no running back reached 300 carries. No one even came close.

    Whenever possible, I want to anchor my teams with a strong running back and then build around wide receivers.

    The new hot-button phrase in fantasy football is the “running back dead zone.” This is an area of drafts that typically runs from the middle of the third round until the end of the sixth. These running backs have a high bust rate.

    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, Breece Hall, 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, 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.

    For the past few years, I have become a very strong advocate for fantasy leagues adding more Flex spots. The reason is the increase in the number of players capable of making a weekly impact.

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    As the NFL has morphed fully into a passing league, that increased volume naturally results in more wide receivers able to produce fantasy-relevant numbers each week. In managed leagues, that means more startable players on the waiver wire. In Best Ball leagues, that means more startable players available in the later rounds.

    With that said, 2024 sure looks like a different animal. Never in the history of fantasy have wide receivers dominated the early rounds like this season. You may see the WR24 taken before the RB12.

    On the one hand, you may want to zig while others zag and get really strong RB duos while everyone else loads up on wide receivers. On the other hand, if you don’t take wide receivers early, your WR1 may be a WR3.

    Regardless of when you choose to take receivers, though, you need a lot. 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.

    This isn’t the place for more nuanced strategy, but I feel obliged to mention one important thing: The most common fallacy in Best Ball when it comes to WR is to chase volatility. During my first year playing Best Ball, I, too, thought that asymmetrical upside was the way to go. In actuality, quite the opposite is true.

    Now, if you’re in a large-scale tournament where you’re up against thousands of other managers, then yeah, you need to be chasing upside everywhere. But in a typical 12-team league where you don’t need to worry about teams with the same players as you, your goal is just to score the most points. The more usable weeks your receivers put up, the better.

    Outside of the elite guys, reliable WR3s like Amari Cooper and Christian Kirk 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. This does not mean reaching multiple rounds and sacrificing significant value to chase a stack. But if you took DJ Moore in the third round and Rome Odunze in the sixth round, feel free to take Caleb Williams over similarly ranked QBs that typically go ahead of him.

    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. Just two years ago, Kelce posted the single largest gap between the TE1 and TE2 in history.

    While Kelce once again finished as the TE1, averaging 14.6 fantasy points per game, the gap was much smaller in 2023.

    In previous years, I wanted to secure an elite tight end. Currently, there doesn’t appear to be a clear way to secure a sizable advantage at the position.

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    I would hesitate to call any current tight end “elite,” but the position is in a pretty good spot this year with at least 12 guys you would feel pretty good about starting every week.

    I treat the “onesie” positions the same way. “Onesie” positions are spots where you only need to start one player. TE is a little different because it’s possible to start two TEs in a given week if your TE enters your Flex. But in general, you’re not trying to have your TE2 enter your lineup.

    Much like at QB, if you take a TE early, you should probably limit yourself to two. It’s not too much of a stretch to apply that logic to every top-12 TE this year.

    If you want to take one of them and a late-round guy, that’s perfectly reasonable. However, since tight end is also eligible at Flex, if you are going to take a third TE or QB, make it a TE.

    A common team structure is three QBs, five RBs, seven WRs, and three 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.

    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.

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