One of the best developments in the fantasy football world was the introduction of “Best Ball” fantasy football leagues where a roster is drafted, and then the software automatically fills the weekly starting lineup with the highest-scoring players. No maintenance, no free agent worries – just draft your fantasy football team and watch how it plays out in the standings during the course of the season.
Best ball fantasy football leagues offer the same “practice” as a mock draft, only with more serious team owners who have paid $5 to $20 (or more) to participate. These drafts mirror what will happen in your regular leagues so it is a great way to get a feel for how players are being drafted. But this different flavor of fantasy football prompts different strategies in building a team and even more so in the later rounds.
Let’s break down the positions to see how the strategy might change from what makes sense in a redraft, single-season, fantasy football league.
How to draft your best ball fantasy football team
Quarterbacks – The position serves up high-scoring players in all leagues, though the point difference may not be that great from, say, the third to the tenth quarterback. That prompts drafters to either bite the bullet and take Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen in the first few rounds or waiting until mid-draft to begrudgingly select a quarterback who can still qualify as “good enough.”
But the reality is that owning a top-scoring quarterback prevents the need to select from two similar players every week. If you own Mahomes, he starts in Week 1 and that never changes. Owning two middle-tier quarterbacks like Matt Stafford and Kirk Cousins means you have to guess who to start each week, and sometimes you will be wrong. Not so in Best Ball. Owning a top quarterback means a constant stream of good performances. But – if you get two or even three quarterbacks from the middle of the draft, getting the best score from the three each week just might be even more than a Mahomes or Allen. Plus, your team doesn’t suffer when one quarterback is injured.
Running Backs – It doesn’t matter what style of fantasy football you play. Running backs are always much-coveted. Owning three “starter-quality” backs is a great advantage depending on what else you gave up to get that. The biggest difference that the position has in Best Ball is that it can make even more sense to steal the backups from other fantasy team owners. Last year, only four of the Top-20 running backs played all 16 games. Even if only for a week or three, backups can contribute to your team.
Another strategy that works regardless of league style is to own at least one third-down back. The likes of Nyheim Hines, J.D. McKissic, or Boston Scott won’t win your league, but they are injured less often and turn in moderate points every week. Ditto for the second back in a backfield committee like Gus Edwards, Malcolm Brown, AJ Dillon, and Kareem Hunt.
Wide Receivers – This is a position that can be treated much differently with good results. Rostering an elite wideout or two is a huge benefit no matter what league style is used, but mostly because you don’t have to worry about selecting the three best receivers from the six on your roster every week. Owning half a dozen moderately-talented wideouts can be a weekly headache in standard league play. In fantasy football Best Ball format, it can be a blessing.
Since the top scorers automatically start each week, there is no such thing as too many middle-tier wideouts. And once the draft reaches the final rounds and all the consistently productive receivers are long gone, there is still value to grab. Look for the No. 3 wideouts that may only have three to five notable games a year. They will count for you, and none of their duds go against you. Guys like Quez Watkins, Darius Slayton, Michael Gallup, and Gabriel Davis can be hard to get right each week, but in Best Ball they will help and yet never hurt.
If you never drafted a rookie wideout in regular league play, it wouldn’t hurt your team. In Best Ball, they can shine because their handful of great games benefit you and their flops are ignored. Rashod Bateman, Ronald Moore, Terrace Marshall, Elijah Moore, and Amon St. Brown offer much more in a Best Ball league format. Better yet, rookies typically improve as the season progresses.
Tight Ends – This is the one position that doesn’t play out much differently than it does in standard league play. The reality is that there are an elite three tight ends every year, and then about three more with potential upside. And then there is the vast, unwashed horde of other tight ends. With wide receivers, you can cobble together an ever-changing set of moderately productive players that can compete against other teams with one or two elite wideouts.
In Best Ball fantasy football, you cannot find any two or three average tight ends that will combine to match what Travis Kelce or Darren Waller produce in any week. It pays to own a Top-3 tight end, or at least two others still in the Top-10 for the position because the production is so notoriously low for almost all other tight ends.
Kickers – You’ll need two, and there is no rush. Even less so in this format that will pick the top score from either of your kickers. Don’t overspend on this position.
Defenses – Given the year-to-year variation in the rankings for defenses, there isn’t any need to get one early here. Almost all leagues use fantasy scoring rules that yield only a marginal difference between defenses. Grab two, make them in the Top-16 of the position, and you’ve done all you can.