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 satiate those offseason draft desires while not overwhelming yourself with lineups to manage. Here are some basic tips and strategies for your Best Ball fantasy leagues for those new to the format or those in need of a refresher.

What Is a Best Ball Fantasy Football League?

Given how many millions of people participate in Best Ball drafts every year, I’m sure plenty of you already know what it is. If so, feel free to skip this section.

For those of you new to fantasy football and interested in expanding your horizons, stick around. Maybe a Best Ball league is in your near future!

Every year, there are more and more people being introduced to fantasy football for the first time. There are also those who have been playing for years that just may have exclusively done standard redraft leagues.

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 important differences fantasy managers need to be aware of.

The beauty of Best Ball is in its simplicity. The entirety of the league is drafting. You sit down for 15-20 minutes in the spring or summer, draft a team, and you’re done. You will never do anything with that team again (other than watch it perform/check the results when you feel like it).

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, as I don’t find setting lineups or managing my teams a hassle, but there’s no debating that setting lineups each week requires a time commitment.

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, as you don’t want to overwhelm yourself in-season.

For many people, especially those with busy lives, they may be forced to limit their fantasy football consumption because they just can’t handle managing several teams each week.

Best Ball enables you to draft and draft and draft some more. 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 automatically sets your lineup based on whoever on your roster had the best day.

Have you ever blundered your lineup in a seasonal format? Of course you have. We all have. 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. That’s what Best Ball does every week automatically — it sets your optimal lineup.

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 seasonal leagues, you can salvage a roster with trades and pickups. 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 need a good one to anchor your roster.

That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to spend an early-round pick on one, however. It just means you can’t totally punt the position. It’s all about opportunity cost.

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 Patrick Mahomes with WR Rashee Rice and TE Travis Kelce.

Obviously, if the Kansas City Chiefs 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 Mahomes correct and he does really well, odds are he’s taking his pass catchers with him.

A Best Ball roster consists of 18 players. Since there are no in-season transactions, you need to draft at least two quarterbacks so you don’t take a zero during bye weeks. Most people will draft three. You should never draft four because you are sacrificing too much at the other positions. Whether you draft two or three quarterbacks depends on how much you can trust your QB1.

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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 take Josh Allen or Jalen Hurts in the second round, 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 Allen or Hurts doesn’t pan out, that third QB is not going to save you. Therefore, there’s no benefit to taking 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 Tua Tagovailoa, Kirk Cousins, and/or Baker Mayfield.

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 few elite RBs each season. Some years, there aren’t any. It’s all about risk vs. reward.

In the modern NFL, with so many teams using two- or three-man backfields, and only a couple of running backs even sniffing 300 carries (no one even came close in 2023), it’s more difficult than ever to find a 20-points-per-game RB. For that reason, I prefer to anchor my teams with a strong running back and then build around wide receivers.

You will hear a ton about the running back dead zone during the summer. The RB dead zone typically begins around the middle of the third round and lasts until the end of the sixth. On a macro level, you want to avoid running backs in this range.

However, 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, is 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 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.

Every season, there is usually at least one or two NFL teams who produce multiple WR1s. We had none in 2023, but plenty gave us a WR1 and a WR2. Multiple teams will have two receivers inside the top 36. Some will even give us three.

When it comes to wide receivers in Best Ball, more is better. 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 Zay Flowers 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. I’m not saying to reach multiple rounds just to stack a wide receiver with your quarterback. But if you took Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle early in your draft, it would behoove you to prioritize drafting Tua Tagovailoa later, even if that means taking him over guys you would prefer in a vacuum.

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 would want to secure an elite tight end. Currently, it doesn’t appear as if there is 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.

Similar to QB, if you have an elite TE, you can get away with taking just two. I would not scoff at the notion of applying that logic to all 12 of this year’s startable guys. If you want to take one of them and a late-round guy, you can swing that. However, since tight end is also eligible at Flex, it’s usually more worth it to take three tight ends than three QBs.

A common team structure is 3 QBs-5 RBs-7 WRs-3 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.

With the fantasy football season behind us, why not start preparing for your rookie drafts with our dynasty rookie rankings? Additionally, as you look to improve your team heading into 2024, our dynasty trade calculator can help you find the perfect deal to boost your championship chances.

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