Best Ball Draft Strategy
The two unique features of best ball leagues that you’ll need to keep in mind when formulating your best ball draft strategy:
- In most cases, you can’t change your roster after the draft. That means no add/drops or trades.
- Your optimal starting lineup is used after each week’s games.
Both factors should alter your best ball draft strategy compared to traditional, play-it-out fantasy leagues.
New to best ball?
Here are the four key tenets of the Draft Sharks best ball philosophy:
Best Ball Draft Strategy #1: Don’t Treat Every Draft the Same
Best ball draft strategies vary. Winning a league is very different from taking down a tournament. Your plan needs to match.
Each season brings more best ball tournament offerings.
And drafting to win (or even place) in a tournament on Underdog, FFPC, or anywhere else is much different than drafting to win a single best ball league.
Tournament vs. League Play
If you’re just trying to win a league of 10 or 12 teams, you should build one way.
If you’re trying to win money in a large-field tournament, that’s a much different pursuit.
With tournaments' predominantly top-heavy payout structures, you need a lot to go right. Of course, taking down money in a 12-team best ball league is much easier.
Starting with the right mindset and focus will help you determine which picks make sense – and which are mistakes – as you build your tournament or league teams.
Now let’s get more specific on key strategies …
Best Ball Draft Strategy #2: Weekly Upside Matters, But Don’t Overrate It
You want volatile scorers. But you don’t want it to alter your entire best ball draft strategy.
Volatility is more valuable in best ball than it is in lineup-setting leagues.
Consider two WRs that average 15 fantasy points per game. One of them does it by scoring between 12 and 18 points weekly.
The other does it with a handful of games of 25-30 points but a bunch with fewer than 10.
The more consistent WR scoring 12-18 points every week is likely more valuable when you manually set a lineup each week.
To maximize the value of the more volatile WR, you need to correctly pinpoint the weeks he’ll explode for 25-30 points and the weeks that he’ll disappoint.
That’s not the case with best ball.
Best ball offers more opportunities to get starting points from volatile players.
That’s because your team’s optimal score is used each week. In best ball, that WR will be in your starting lineup when he goes off for 25-30.
And in the down weeks? He’ll be on the bench, assuming you have other WRs that put up more points.
How much you want to mix in the steadier type with the lower ceiling should vary by format.
If you’re trying to win a single best-ball league, you don’t need as much upside as trying to outscore thousands of other teams.
And regardless of your specific contest, don’t reach too far for volatile scorers.
You can easily talk yourself into (the mistake of) stretching for a much weaker player over that wideout earning targets every week. That mistake can easily ruin your best ball draft strategy.
Myths Surrounding Best Ball Draft Strategy
Best Ball Draft Strategy #3: Supercharge Your Team by Stacking
Combining players from the same NFL team will spike your weekly and season-long upside.
Stacking is the strategy of drafting two or more players from the same NFL team. It’s usually a QB with one or more of his pass-catchers but can also be skill-position teammates.
(Stacking is not exclusively a best ball draft strategy, but it's more prominent -- and important -- in best ball formats.)
The idea here is to take advantage of the weekly and season-long correlation between guys on the same team to increase your best-ball squad’s upside.
Any time a WR has a big game, his QB is probably having a pretty good day as well.
And if a QB delivers a solid season, he’s almost definitely bringing at least one receiver with him (and probably more).
So if you have the QB, it makes more sense to stack a WR from his team if comparing similar players at the position. And vice versa: If you already have the wideout and are selecting a QB, grab his NFL teammate.
Think of it as making one correlated bet rather than two separate bets.
This strategy helps in any best-ball format but is vital to top-level tournament performance. After all, that’s where you’re shooting for the ultimate scoring upside.
It’s important not to reach well past ADP to complete a stack in any format. Selecting that player three rounds ahead of where the field is drafting him, on average, negates the boost you’d be getting from the stack.
Best ball drafting can be tough. That’s why we spent hundreds of hours planning, developing and upgrading the Draft War Room to be a unique best ball tool.
Best Ball Draft Strategy #4: Draft Like You’re Right
Don’t hedge your bets on a tournament roster.
Here’s where things get a little more different between best-ball formats.
If you’re simply trying to win a league, you can hedge a bit. You can follow a high-risk RB with a safer guy to ensure Mr. Risky doesn’t kill your season.
That’s not how you’re drafting a tournament-winning roster, though.
You need to proceed through every tournament draft as though your picks and roster build will work out.
So what does that mean?
Boldness and confidence in your best ball draft strategy builds winning tournament teams.
Say you open your best ball draft by taking RBs with your first two picks.
You’re banking on those RBs delivering big points. (If they don’t, your odds of winning are slim regardless of what the rest of your team does.)
So draft the rest of your team assuming those RBs hit.
That means you shouldn’t spend a ton of capital at RB the remainder of the draft. Maybe you take a third RB in the middle rounds and two more late-round fliers. You should invest your other early-round picks – and more picks in general – at the other positions.
The same logic applies to other positions, of course.
Here are some more important points specific to best-ball tournaments …
Best-ball tournaments are booming in popularity and availability. Bring an appropriate best ball draft strategy or you’re gonna get crushed.
Entry Volume Matters
Whenever you go to enter a best-ball tournament, you’ll see a “max entries” number listed – generally 150 teams per owner for the large tournaments.
Know that there will be drafters/owners reaching that max. Their best ball draft strategy for winning large tournaments is simple:
They know that the more teams they draft, the more opportunities they get to grab “shares” of players and build different roster combinations.
Those unique or different roster combination gives you a better chance to win big money.
This doesn’t mean you must max out your tournament entries to have a shot. But you do need to know what you’re up against.
If you’re not a max-entries drafter, then you’ll want to adjust your best ball draft strategy vs. what higher-volume drafters are doing.
How? Read on …
Building a Player Portfolio
You might see high-volume tournament drafters talking about their portfolio of players and player shares. That speaks to how often they have selected a particular player among a full collection of drafts.
If you’re drafting a large number of teams into a certain tournament, then it’s a good idea to spread those player shares – or “exposures” – around.
That’s especially true with early-round players. You don’t want a single injury or two to bring down your entire portfolio.
How to counter the high-volume drafters.
If you’re on the lower end of total entries, you’ll probably want to go a little higher with your exposure level to some key players.
You’re already at a disadvantage by playing fewer entries. So you’ll need to counter that by being “more right” than others in some fashion.
Raise your exposure to a few key breakout types: players who can dramatically outperform their draft positions.
The ceiling projections and Upside Mode in your Draft War Room are engineered to highlight precisely that type of player.
Hit on those guys, and you’ll leave the high-volume drafters wondering what happened.
Whatever the size of your player portfolio, it’s important to draft with that in mind rather than approaching every draft as though you’re building a single team.
You’re not necessarily drafting for a balanced roster every time.
You’re taking different chances each time, building different ways depending on where you start and chasing what’s ultimately a very unlikely outcome (first place among thousands of entries) for any single roster.
Frankly, if you’re comfortable with your roster at the end of a best-ball tourney draft, you probably played it a little too safe.
Mixing Roster Construction
How many players you draft at each position matters for any best ball format.
At this point, there’s plenty of research out there looking back on what worked the previous year. Probably a little too much, in fact.
Paying attention to the history of what has and hasn’t worked in best-ball tournaments is obviously important. And you’ll find that best ball draft strategy covered in our preseason content.
But don’t cling too much to what worked last year.
In basically all areas of fantasy football, we only know that the coming season will not look exactly like the last one.
For best ball tournaments, you’ll go in with a roster-construction plan. RBs and WRs will make up the bulk of your roster. And you’ll usually grab 2-3 QBs and TEs.
The specifics of that plan should depend on the specifics of the tournament. In your draft, you can also let the specific players drive that plan to some degree.
Draft an early stud at QB or TE? Maybe you stop at two for that position in this draft and wait a while to get that second option.
Grab two stud RBs to open? Maybe you only take four at that position for the whole draft.
The path to this roster winning the tournament almost definitely includes those studs hitting for you.
So shape the roster as though that will happen.
And if you’re not drafting tons of entries, don’t get too crazy with varying those position allotments.
Stick with similar builds in that area to maximize your specific player combinations.
That will be your best bet at competing with higher-volume entrants.
Target Rookies in Early Tournaments
Here’s a little-known but powerful best ball draft strategy:
We’re all more comfortable with the known vs. the unknown. The earlier you sit in the NFL calendar, the more unknown the incoming class of rookies.
Most drafters don’t know much about the players, and none of us knows the landing spots.
Across best ball formats, you can take advantage by targeting high-upside rookies. Nearly all will rise in ADP as we get to and through the NFL Draft and into NFL training camps.
Sure, you might draft some guys who don’t pan out. But as long as you’re not taking those leaps too early, there’s more upside to taking the shots than downside risk.
Here are 2023's top fantasy rookies.
Seek Game Stacks in Tournaments with Playoff Weeks
We talked above about stacking players from the same team as a best ball draft strategy to boost our teams' weekly and season-long upside.
You can supercharge that upside by “game stacking.”
That means taking two or more players from teams that will play against your stud players.
In this case, you’re hoping the game between those two teams turns into a shootout, resulting in big fantasy points on both sides.
This best ball draft strategy is particularly powerful in big best-ball tournaments with top-heavy prize pools and a Week 17 final.
You generally want to optimize for Week 17 on those teams – which is best accomplished by creating Week 17 game stacks. Nailing the Week 17 game or games that shoot out can vault you up the final leaderboard.
But this method isn’t just about guessing which games will generate the most points in that final week. As you’re drafting, look at who’s already on your roster and use that Week 17 correlation as a tiebreaker among similarly valued players.
As we mentioned in the earlier stacking section, you don’t want to reach too far to make these game stacks happen.
That can negate the boost you seek – mainly because you need to “win” the first 16 weeks to even get to that final.
We broke down the best Week 17 matchups to target.
Look for Other Specific Edges in Your Best Ball Draft Strategy
Best ball is an ever-changing format and will vary from year to year.
Drafters may take WRs at the same level in a half-PPR scoring format as in another full-PPR tournament.
The two scoring settings present a significant difference for that position. You can counter by waiting slightly longer on WRs in the half-PPR competition.
You might see QBs pushed up the ADP board after a particularly high-scoring year for the position – or vice versa in a down year. So run counter and adjust your approach accordingly.
Don't Miss Your League-Winning Best Ball Picks
The most important element of any well-planned best ball draft strategy is the ability to stay nimble and adapt throughout draft.
If multiple managers in your league use one strategy, the league-winning best ball values might be different than your pre-draft plan.
Our Best Ball Draft War Room uses 17 indicators to identify the best values at each point of your best ball draft.