Best Ball fantasy football primer: How to construct a roster

For those looking to scratch that early draft itch, here is a primer on how to construct a fantasy football best ball roster.

In the past, the months immediately following the NFL draft were a dead period for fantasy football. The draft occurs in late April and fantasy football drafts don’t really start heating up until mid-August. In recent years, best ball has become more prominent and provides a way for fantasy managers to draft rosters throughout the offseason. For those new to the format, here is a basic primer on how to construct a fantasy football best ball roster.

What is fantasy football Best Ball?

Before we get into specifics about roster construction, here’s a quick explanation on what fantasy football best ball is and how it differs from seasonal.

Best ball is pretty much the same as seasonal fantasy football when it comes to starting positions and scoring, with the exception of there being no kickers or defenses. Where it differs is in total roster size and lineup management.

Fantasy football best ball rosters are typically 18 players, which is really four or five more than a seasonal roster since there are no kickers or defenses. The primary difference is the lack of lineup management.

In best ball, the computer will automatically start your highest-scoring players at every position each week. There is no lineup management and no waiver wire. Once you draft your team, that’s it. The season is the same length as regular fantasy football leagues (17 weeks) and the highest scoring teams win (typically top three get paid).

How do you construct a fantasy football Best Ball roster?

Much like seasonal fantasy football, there are various different strategies and approaches fantasy managers can take when constructing their best ball rosters. But unlike seasonal leagues, strategies predicated upon streaming positions or figuring it out as the season progresses are not possible.

Perhaps the most popular best ball platform currently is Underdog fantasy. On Underdog, a starting roster consists of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex, and 8 Bench spots.

Since fantasy managers need to maximize their weekly points, you can’t only draft one quarterback or one tight end. Bye weeks exist. Injuries will happen. Players will bust to the point where they have zero fantasy value. You need enough depth at each position to account for all of this.

As your base approach, you should start knowing you’re going to draft at least two quarterbacks, four running backs, five wide receivers, and two tight ends. Those are the minimums you should have at each position. You still need another five players to complete your roster, though. That’s where the bulk of fantasy football best ball draft strategy comes in — how to allocate those five roster spots.

Never draft more than 3 quarterbacks in Best Ball

Out of the four positions you must draft, QB is the only position where a player can only enter your lineup at one position. RBs, WRs, and TEs can all enter your lineup at their respective positions, as well as the flex. A quarterback can only play quarterback.

If you take more than three QBs, you are sacrificing way too much upside for minimal gain. Of course, you don’t want to end up in a situation where you only have one weak QB, but you can’t account for injuries. Most quarterbacks start every game. Certainly at a higher rate than any other position. You need to maximize your ability to roster running backs and wide receivers by scaling back on quarterbacks.

Whether you draft two or three QBs really depends on who the quarterbacks are. If you draft a QB that averages 20 points per game, you should do your best to only draft two. Take your second quarterback later in the draft and trust that your QB1 will enter your lineups the vast majority of weeks.

If your first quarterback is a mid QB2 or worse — perhaps one with the potential to get benched — then you probably need three. None of your three quarterbacks will feel trustworthy, but each will likely put up enough usable weeks throughout the season, and in theory, you should have an advantage at other positions to offset it.

Try and draft 4-6 running backs

I say “try” because there are scenarios where it’s okay to draft seven running backs, but you should limit it to five or six if you can.

One of the benefits of best ball is you can draft those erratic RB3s that you’d never feel confident starting in seasonal leagues. These are satellite backs who make their hay racking up receptions but are heavily dependent on game script. Or they’re pure runners that are touchdown-dependent. In best ball, you don’t have to worry about when to start them. On the weeks they pop off, they’ll be in your lineup.

Similar to QB, how many RBs you take depends on how early you start taking them. If you draft multiple running backs in the first four to five rounds, you probably only need four or five.

If you go with a Hero RB or Zero RB approach, your goal is for the RB2 that enters your lineup each week to be whichever one of your later round running backs happens to have a usable week. It’s a volume play, so you should take five or six running backs to maximize your chances of someone popping each week.

Draft 6-9 wide receivers in fantasy Best Ball

This one is not a “try,” but rather more of a mandate. There will be fantasy managers out there that try and get by with only five wide receivers by loading up on the position early. Other fantasy managers will go extremely shallow everywhere else and take 10 wide receivers. You can experiment with that on occasion, but when you’re playing to win, take six to nine wide receivers.

WR is the position where you can have the most amount of players enter your lineup — a maximum of four. You need at least three in your lineup every week. We know bye weeks and injuries are a thing. You don’t want to get put in a situation where you only have one or two reliable receivers supported by a bunch of real-life WR4s that barely see the field.

There are plenty of real-life WR3s that you’d never reliably start in seasonal leagues. These could be receivers on teams that don’t often run three-receiver sets or, more likely, they’re burners. The deep threats will catch two or three passes a game, and they’ll either go for 20-30 yards or 80 yards and a TD.

If your later-round wide receivers give you a handful of useful weeks, that’s all you need to potentially gain an edge on your competition.

Never draft more than 3 tight ends

Much like the QB position, this is also a mandate. The “onesie” positions (positions where you only start one player) are not where you should need to load up on depth.

There’s a little bit more leeway at tight end because if you have two productive tight ends, it’s conceivable that your TE2 could enter your lineup on occasion at the Flex position. However, that shouldn’t be your goal.

If you draft one of the elite tight ends, you can get away with only taking two. That allows you to tack on one more upside player at either RB or WR. If you wait and take more of a back-end TE1, then you’re probably better off taking three. Tight ends aren’t super important, but you don’t want to get caught in a position where your TE1 is a guy you wouldn’t even bother rostering in a seasonal league.

Have fun with your fantasy football Best Ball drafts

The great part about fantasy football best ball drafts is you can do a lot of them for very little money. There are drafts as cheap as $1 on certain platforms. It’s a great way to have fun (because drafting is fun) and practice for your seasonal leagues.

Once your best ball draft is over, you don’t need to worry about your team. You can just check back after Week 17 and see how you did. By following the information in this article, you’re ready to construct competitive fantasy football best ball rosters.

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