First off I would like to introduce myself. My name is Ryan known on Twitter as @FFLinx. I have been doing best ball drafts for several years and have been successful year after year on various formats such as FFPC (www.myffpc.com) MFL ((mfl10s.sportshubtech.com) Draft (www.playdraft.com)
Unlike most high stakes best ball players I do not focus on analytics. There are a few rules that I live by which have helped me become successful year after year in this format, which I will share with you.
Before I do, let me start by explaining best ball leagues for those that are new to it. Unlike your standard yearly leagues where you must make weekly roster moves, as well as finalize a starting lineup every week, best ball drafts limit your work to just the draft. After drafting your team, you will not have to touch it again throughout the season.
“Best Ball” Fantasy Football: How does it work?
First, you draft a full roster. Each site has unique roster requirements, scoring, and roster spots, so make sure to understand this before your draft. There are no player add/drops (waivers) throughout the season and your best lineup in a given week will be the lineup which your scoring is based.
Best ball is excellent for people who love to draft but don’t have the time to manage their rosters, or people who have too many leagues and want to keep drafting. Knowing this, here are some of my secrets of success that have allowed me to win money year after year.
– The first and most important rule of best ball leagues is to know the roster requirements and scoring provisions on which your league operates. For instance, MFL leagues roster twenty spots with no kicker while FFPC leagues rosters twenty-eight spots with a kicker. In FFPC leagues there is also a premium on the tight-end position, as they score 1.5 points per reception.
As the tight end position can be a potential minefield each year, it is crucial to value players such as Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz much higher than you usually would, as they are good bets to haul in 80+ receptions. It, in turn, would give them the same amount of points as a wide receiver who hauled in 120 receptions. Tight ends are drafted at a much higher value in FFPC leagues, due to this premium placed on the position. Another strategy players utilize is targeting a touchdown-dependent tight end. This accomplishes two things: still provides value from their TE, and allows them to draft a top-line running back or wide receiver.
– A second essential thing to remember while drafting a best ball team is that roster construction could be more important than the actual players you draft. Remember, there are no pickups throughout the season, so if you only draft three running backs and two of them get hurt, you will have an empty running back spot the entire rest of season. While there is no required number of players you should have at each position, there are still a range of specific positions I want to roster. It is imperative to understand your roster requirements and scoring provisions.
Understanding roster construction and “bye” weeks
For MFL leagues I roster two QB’s, 5-7 RB’s, 5-7 WR’s, 2-3 TE’s, and 2 DEF. In FFPC leagues, my approach changes with my roster in which I have 2-3 QB’s, 5-8 RB’s, 5-8 WR’s, 3-5 TE’s, 3 K and 2 DEF. One thing that may stand out to you is that I only draft two defenses on each platform. The reason for this is because there is zero injury risk. I would instead add an extra running back or wide receiver flier than a third defense. Also on MFL, I typically draft two quarterbacks in every draft while on the FFPC platform I don’t mind drafting three because there are more roster spots.
My number one rule for FFPC when it comes to roster requirements is to draft three kickers because there is a much greater turnover at this position than others. There have been best ball leagues on FFPC where I have drafted three kickers and finished the season with none, due to an injury or a cut. With knowing your roster requirements also comes knowing your player’s bye weeks. For example, if you only draft two quarterbacks and both have a bye in week eight, you will get a zero for that position that week. I don’t pay attention to them as much when it comes to running back and wide receiver since you will be drafting more of them, however.
– Speaking of bye weeks, let’s talk about being a draft-junkie like myself, and starting my best ball drafts immediately following the Super Bowl. At this time the bye weeks are unavailable, and you are drafting before the NFL draft. When drafting this early, there are positives and negatives. For instance, in a few early drafts I participated in this off-season I drafted Matt Forte, who has now since retired. Forte will, unfortunately, represent a dead spot on my roster the rest of the season. There is also the possibility where you draft players who get injured by the time the season kicks off. While this sounds like a disadvantage, remember it can happen to any player on anyone’s team. Free-Agency and the NFL draft can alter a players value, as well. For these issues, there are potential solutions:
1) Try to draft guys you know will have a role on a team no matter what happens in free agency or the draft. An example of this is drafting running backs who seem safe of keeping their job or at least being in a timeshare. Pass catching backs such as Duke Johnson and James White will inevitably give you a nice bump in this format.
2) Before the NFL draft, there is a hidden value in rookies that many people fail to see. I will begin by saying this is something I even forget year after year, but like any other strategy can backfire. Many drafters become locked onto rookies who are projected to go high in NFL draft, especially running backs. The running back position can get very thin very fast. If any running back prospects catch your eye who aren’t receiving as much hype, you should take chances on them in the later rounds of drafts. Last year this worked well for me with guys like Tarik Cohen and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Feeling strong on a rookie, like I did with JuJu last year, doesn’t create hesitation to draft them often as long as it is in the later rounds. Someone I have been taking late this year is Mark Walton, in the 25+ rounds of FFPC. This format works well for Walton because he is low-risk, high-reward.
This also goes for free agents who are not signed yet. There are a few examples this off-season, too, we could use where their value shot up once they signed with a team. Before Jerick Mckinnon signed with a team, I was able to get him in rounds 9-10. After signing with San Francisco, his average draft position has moved all the way up to the second round. Other guys like Jordan Matthews and Cameron Meredith have seen a nice bump since signing, as well. Multi-round jumps are common once a player signs, so make sure you don’t miss out on potential value.
3) This one takes more guts than other strategies because there is a lot of risks involved. Early on you get discounts on guys who ended the season hurt or are rumored to hold out. I am personally very risk averse when it comes to best ball due to not being able to make pickups and want guys that are more likely to play the full season, but if you pick your spot correctly, you can get great values.
4) Pay attention to coaching changes and additions to teams. My favorite example of this is Todd Gurley in 2017. Sean McVay coming to town didn’t push up Gurley’s ADP much, and you were regularly able to land him at the end of the 2nd beginning of the 3rd round.
5) When drafting early on in the off-season recency bias exists. The worst mistake one can make in fantasy football is saying you will never redraft a specific player for disappointing you the previous season. The two best examples of this were Todd Gurley and DeAndre Hopkins last year. Always try to take advantage of others being scared to draft someone off of a down year or an injury that should be 100% healed. At the same time you don’t want to overdraft someone coming off a severe injury, so remember only take them if they are coming at a multi-round value.
Boom and Bust
– When it comes to best ball leagues, there is a fascination with drafting the “high upside” players. Guys like Martavis Bryant and Terrelle Pryor are also hyped up, and the best ball community becomes enamored by them. While these guys can have huge weeks throughout the season, you will get other weeks where they get you close to nothing. Guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Demaryius Thomas who have a solid base are often overlooked in best ball and can be had at a discount. I like to stack my team with guys like this and sprinkle in some high upside guys later in the draft.
If your best ball league plays three wide receivers weekly and all of your wide receivers have a low baseline, I can almost guarantee you will rarely get those boom or bust players to all go off in a single week. The same strategy can applied to running backs. Make sure to draft established guys early on who will have a significant workload. Later on, in drafts, you can target high upside pass-catching backs or high upside handcuffs to fill out your roster.
– When it comes to drafting your own running back handcuffs some swear by it and some argue it’s a wasted roster spot, because you run the risk of the handcuff never getting to play. Personally, if I have a stud running back and can grab his handcuff later on in the draft, I will jump on it.
As there are no pickups in best ball, locking up a backfield with a stud running back will give you peace of mind in case he gets hurt. It can also work with a team who use two running backs like the Falcons or Saints. This goes for wide receivers as well. If you draft a stud wide receiver early and can get the teams second or third receiver cheap, later on, I love this approach. An example of this that worked well for me last year was drafting A.J. Green and Julio Jones and then grabbing Brandon Lafell and Mohammad Sanu towards the end of drafts. Guys like Lafell and Sanu were able to give me decent weekly scores throughout the season, and when my early round wide receiver missed a game, they stepped into that WR1 role.
– Another great debate when it comes to best ball leagues is exposure level to players. Most of the experts and top best ball players can limit exposure to a player to be more risk averse in case that player gets injured or doesn’t perform up to their draft position. I am the complete opposite and don’t worry about exposure levels at all.
While this has hurt me with individual players in the past, it has also won me, multiple leagues. If you want to have less risk, you can try to not have too much stock in a player drafted the first few rounds. Never pass on late round guys you like because of exposure level, however.
– Do no go off of basic rankings while drafting your team. Many best ball players will draft their teams based on “expert” rankings. While everyone wants to win, the fun in it is making the team your own and drafting “your guys.”
My suggestion would be to find 1-2 analysts whose rankings you trust and use those as a tiebreaker if debating on two guys to draft. Relying solely on rankings not only takes all of the fun out of drafting but even the best analysts will never be right on every player. Many best ball drafters will go off of rankings, and this will help differentiate your team from others.
– Many experts will still push the zero running-back rule. While this can work in redraft leagues, it is doubtful you will win best ball leagues without a few earlier running backs. This year, in particular, there feels to be a massive dropoff at the position after the first few rounds. While I do try to grab a few running backs in the first few rounds, I tend to draft the best player available in the first 5-7 rounds and worry about filling out the roster later in the draft.
Another important lesson is to not fall into the trap of ”runs.” A run is when you get many consecutive picks at the lower rostered positions like quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. A lot of times your spot in the draft will dictate where you fall in a run. If you are in the middle spots 4-8, you likely don’t need to worry about them as much because you will fall in the middle of it. If you are towards the end, you could start or fall victim to the run. When I’m at the end of a draft, I love to start a run, especially at quarterback and kicker.
One of my favorite runs to start is in rounds 8-10 rounds especially if I’m in the one or twelve spot at quarterback and double up to start a run. Starting a run can be very beneficial because if others follow the run, you will not only get the top players at that position but because of the run guys who might have been taken if there was no run at other positions could fall to you. If you are towards the end of a run, unless the position is nearly dry then don’t draft the position just because of a run. When it comes to quarterback especially if you don’t get some of the top guys many of the mid to late guys will produce very similar numbers. The only position I condone falling into the run is at kicker, and I suggest trying to draft them earlier than others in best ball. While drafting kickers early in redraft is not beneficial, in best ball there are no pickups so if your kickers get cut, you are left with a zero.
Make sure to enjoy the ride
– The final rule of best ball drafts is to treat every draft as if it’s your first and go in with an open mind on who you will draft. A common mistake in best ball is going into the draft with a hard-nosed draft strategy in mind. If you do this, you will lose out on a ton of value throughout the whole draft. Every draft is different primarily in best ball, so you can’t rely strictly on ADP. If you see a guy you want, but ADP shows he doesn’t go until 2 rounds later, don’t hesitate to take him early.
I always go the best player available in the first 5-6 rounds and worry about filling my roster out a little later on. This strategy is how I attack best balls, but there is no one set strategy to win, and people find success in different methods. I advise you to keep in mind using my notes above on how I strategize and alter it to how you feel most comfortable completing your best ball drafts.
I hope this guide helped you, even if just a little. If you have any questions about best ball strategy or are new to it and looking for some pointers feel free to find me on Twitter at @FFLinx and I would be happy to reach out and help whatever way I can. Look forward to seeing you all in the draft rooms.