Best Ball Stacking Strategy: How, When, and Why You Should Stack

What is stacking in fantasy football, and why should fantasy managers implement the strategy in their Best Ball drafts?

No fantasy football format has increased in popularity more over the past several years than Best Ball. Fast, easy, and with no strings attached, Best Ball provides fantasy managers a means of scratching that draft itch without being forced to commit to managing a bunch of additional teams throughout the season.

At its core, Best Ball is still fantasy football. Your goal is to construct a roster that will score the most points. However, drafting a Best Ball roster isn’t quite as simple as just taking the best players.

You need to maximize weekly upside. One of the best ways to do that is by stacking. What is the strategy of stacking, and why should you prioritize doing it in fantasy football Best Ball drafts?

What Is a Stacking Strategy in Best Ball?

It’s unlikely you stumbled upon a stacking article by accident. You probably have some idea of the concept, but perhaps you don’t fully understand why it matters. That’s OK! Not every article needs to be riddled with advanced metrics and complex analysis. Everyone has to start somewhere. For those newer to the game, we are here for you.

At the most basic level, the concept of stacking is one of the easiest to grasp. In your Best Ball draft (or really any draft), you will take at least one pass catcher on the same NFL team as your quarterback.

There are several ways to do this and to varying degrees. You could just take a QB and his WR1. You could take a QB and his WR2 and WR3, or one of his wide receivers and his tight end. All of these qualify as stacking.

In every Best Ball draft you do, you’re going to take anywhere from 2-3 quarterbacks. In an ideal scenario, you would pair each one of them with at least one wide receiver or tight end.

While understanding what you need to do is easy, the same cannot be said for execution. The who, what, where, when, and why of stacking is the farthest thing from easy. Let’s get into the details of some of those questions.

Should You Stack in Best Ball?

At the most basic level, think about what we’re doing as fantasy football managers. We’re predicting the future to the best of our ability.

With each player we draft, we predict that player will perform well. When we make trades, we project that the players we acquire will perform better than those we trade away.

The same goes for the players we add and drop when making pickups. When we set our lineups, we predict that the players we start in our lineups will score more fantasy points than those we bench.

Fantasy football is not like chess, though. In chess, there is an objectively correct move to make, and if you make that correct move, you’ll win every time. In fantasy football, you can make every correct decision and still lose.

This is a game based on probabilities. We can never guarantee anything. Our objective is simply to swing the odds as heavily in our favor as possible, and stacking helps us do that.

Sometimes, fantasy managers can make this game more complicated than it has to be. The highest-scoring players in fantasy are most frequently found on the best offenses. Bad offenses will also have productive players, but again, this is a game of probabilities.

What is most likely to happen?

As a result, we want as many good players on good teams as we can get.

Whether you’re playing fantasy football for the first time or in your 30th season, you’re going to be wrong … a lot. Take a look at any random team you drafted last season in a managed league. How many players on your roster opening day were on your roster at the end of the season? The answer will almost always be less than half.

If you get 55-60% of your takes correct, that’s an excellent rate. As always, the goal is to be right more than we’re wrong.

Stacking Increases Our Odds of Being Right

Even when you draft players on teams we don’t expect to be particularly good, you still hope those teams end up better than expected. Good offenses score more points. When a team scores more points, that increases the chances your fantasy players on that team also score points.

Imagine you didn’t watch a game (I can’t imagine ever not watching a game, but I’ll play along, too). Afterwards, you check the score and see a 31-17 final. Prior to checking the stats, you’re probably feeling pretty good about your fantasy players if they’re on the team that scored 31, right? But probably not so much for the team that scored 17.

Now, say you stacked players on the team that scored 31 points. Odds are that the quarterback performed pretty well. If he did, there’s a strong chance that his pass catchers did, too.

That’s the benefit of stacking. It can also be helpful to work backward.

Start with the pass catchers. Touchdowns are everything in fantasy football. If you draft a wide receiver who scores 10 times and also have his quarterback, you know at least 10 times you’re going to double-dip on a single TD pass.

The more teams you draft players from, the more you need to get right. If you have a quarterback on one team, a wide receiver on another, and a second receiver on a third team, those are three different things you need to get correct.

By stacking in your Best Ball drafts, if you get one thing correct — that a team has a good offense — you’ve increased your odds of getting multiple players correct.

Stacking Maximizes Weekly Upside

In addition to limiting what we need to get correct, stacking raises our team’s weekly ceiling. This goes for both Best Ball and seasonal fantasy football formats.

If your entire roster consists of players from different teams, you need several different things to go your way for a big week. Perhaps more important, though, is considering it in the context of other teams.

When you have a pass catcher, but don’t have his quarterback, someone else does. That means every time your guy does something well, it’s benefiting a different team in your league.

When you have the pass catchers stacked with your quarterback, you get all the points. Every time he throws a touchdown to your WR or TE, you gain on every other team in your league.

This is especially important when competing in large-scale tournaments. In self-contained 12-team leagues where you just need to outscore 11 other teams that all have different players than you, it’s easier to get away with not stacking.

While stacking still increases your odds of getting things correct, if you happen to hit on most of your draft picks (regardless of correlation), you can win when the only thing that matters is total points and everyone has different players.

When you’re trying to win a tournament against thousands of others, there will be overlap across rosters. To win those, you need to maximize weekly upside. Stacking is the best and arguably the only way to achieve that.

In Best Ball, there are no head-to-head matches. Your goal is to score the most points over the course of the 17-week season. If you have two sets of QB-WR-WR/TE stacks, for example, there will be (in theory) numerous instances over the course of the season where you’re doubling up on production.

Now, to be fair, I’ve focused exclusively on the benefits here. Of course, there’s a downside.

Even the best NFL offenses have bad weeks, and every player will have down weeks. When that happens, your three-player stack with a ceiling of 80 points may only get you 20.

With that said, the beauty of Best Ball is the automatic optimization of your lineup. Your primary stack isn’t your only means of production. You may have a secondary stack with your QB2, and you’ll certainly have other nonconnected players.

If your primary stack underwhelms on a given week, there’s still a chance for other players to step up and bail you out. Always having your highest-scoring players in your lineup means the highs will benefit you more than the lows hurt you.

Should You Handcuff in Best Ball?

In fantasy football drafts, you should always draft handcuffs … just not your own. When you handcuff your own running backs, you’re capping your own team’s upside.

In managed leagues with deeper rosters, it’s more palatable to handcuff your own RBs under the right circumstances. The only handcuffs I want to draft are when we know that the backup will see at least 75% of the starter’s workload and has the talent to produce on a similar level.

In Best Ball leagues, you cannot handcuff your own running backs. The only scenarios in which it’s acceptable to take multiple running backs on the same team are if both have standalone value. Otherwise, you’re burning two precious roster spots on what is essentially one player.

There’s also the added issue of true handcuffs becoming fewer and fewer in the modern NFL. With so many teams using multiple running backs, the No. 2 in a backfield is less a handcuff and more a guy with some standalone value that would increase if the starter went down.

In Best Ball, it’s even more problematic because you can’t make any moves during the season. Managed fantasy football leagues (for the most part) involve trying to win one matchup against one opponent each week. In Best Ball, you’re trying to beat 11 other managers over the course of an entire season. Playing it safe is a great way to come in fourth. You don’t get paid to come in fourth.

For the handcuffs that do exist, instead of drafting them for your own running backs, draft the high-upside handcuffs of other managers’ RBs. That way, if they lose their starter, you gain an asset without it coming at the expense of one of your own.

Go Into a Best Ball Draft and Give Stacking a Shot

By now, you should have a pretty good grasp on what stacking is, how it works, and how to implement it. If you’ve never gone into a Best Ball draft intentionally trying to draft stacks, give it a shot.

My favorite Best Ball platform is Underdog because of its incredible UI and the speed at which you can find and complete a draft. Lobbies exist for as little as $3, but that can add up quickly if you keep joining new leagues. Just be sure to always play within your means.

It’s so easy to finish one draft and join another that it’s possible to get carried away and end up having paid to enter 10 drafts within just a couple of hours. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. I just don’t want anyone to end up doing more drafts than they want and regret it.

Going forward, try and draft at least one stack in every Best Ball draft you do. Even if it ends up being a weaker stack, get yourself one.

With that said, remember what I said earlier about how the basic concept is simple, but execution is anything but?

In any fantasy draft, we’re all at the mercy of a draft room. There will be times when we can’t stack at all because of the unanticipated actions of other managers.

Furthermore, while stacking is beneficial, don’t pass on superior players just to force a stack onto your roster. You can and should force stacks when appropriate. But let stacking be a tiebreaker between guys close in ADP or your ranks. Don’t take a player that typically goes 20 picks later just to make sure you get the stack.

What makes Best Ball so appealing, especially in the Summer months, is you can draft as many teams as you want, whenever you want. And once the draft is over, you don’t have to do a thing all season.

There will be Best Ball drafts where you just aren’t able to stack at all. Sometimes, the draft room just plays out in a very unfortunate way.

There will be other Best Ball drafts where you get every stack you want and every player you want, and it feels as if everyone was drafting in a way to make your life as easy as possible. The more drafts you do, the better you will get at figuring out how to maneuver through a draft room to optimize your roster.

Ultimately, Best Ball is a numbers game. Some of your teams will be terrible. It’s going to happen. But if you do enough drafts and implement strategies like stacking, hopefully, the majority of them turn out the way you want, and at the end of the season, you’ve cashed more than you haven’t.

As we look ahead to the 2024 fantasy football season, 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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