Welcome to the first article from the Best Ball Badger!  We’ll go through the basics of one of the most fun formats of fantasy football – Best Ball.  We’ll also give you some simple advice to give you a better shot at taking home the championship and win the top prize!

What is Best Ball?

Best Ball is a fantasy format where only the draft matters.  Weekly scores for teams are composed of their highest scoring players by position.  This format leaves out all player transactions (trades or waiver wire/free agency pickups) and any weekly start/sit decisions.  Best Ball is a great format for players who really enjoy drafting or would like to play more fantasy football, but don’t have the time to manage rosters during the regular season.

Where can I play?

There are a few sites that host Best Ball tournaments such as Fantasy Football Players Championship (http://www.myffpc.com) and My Fantasy League (MFL – http://home.myfantasyleague.com/).  The one that we enjoy playing on the most is Draft (draft.com/bestballbadger) due to their low cost of entry.  It’s a good way for beginners to learn with $1/$3/$5 drafts firing off on a regular basis.  The rules are very similar to most fantasy football leagues except there are no kickers or defenses.  The Draft app is very intuitive and has some nice features like historical data (total winnings and all team/player info including draft position) and player shares (your team has player X in 7 of 20 drafts).  Player shares is a very useful tool in helping to manage risk across your draft portfolio. For example, you are an owner that is very bullish on Todd Gurley this year and have him in 35% of your drafts. However, he carries a lot of injury risk at high draft capital.  You may want to pass on him next time you see him in the early 2nd round to diversify your ownership.

On Draft, there are multiple formats, but we typically play 10-12 person drafts since it will play out similar to a typical fantasy football (TFF) league with 1 starting QB and 0.5 PPR.  There is a lot of synergy in choosing to play in similar-sized TFF and Best Ball leagues.

First, most of the advice is the same in both TFF and Best Ball.  For instance, early RBs are important in both regular and Best Ball due to scarcity at the position.  Drafting QBs late in both will typically be better as there are a lot of mid to late round value QBs.

Second, the timing of the seasons intersect nicely for year-round fantasy fun.  Regular fantasy football starts with a draft that should take place as close to the NFL season as possible (typically after the third week of the preseason).  It ends after the fantasy championship game (typically the 16th week of the NFL season). When TFF ends, that’s when Best Ball gets going. There are Best Ball games for the NFL playoffs (Playoff Best Ball), Best Ball games that happen after the playoffs and before the NFL draft (aptly named Way Too Early Best Ball), and Best Ball after the NFL draft (Best Ball).  With all that acquired fantasy football experience in the NFL offseason, you’ll be much more prepared for your TFF draft and have a very good understanding of how players draft values are trending.

What are the rules?

Each Best Ball team drafts 18 players.  For each week in the NFL regular season, Best Ball teams get points for their highest scoring QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, TE, and Flex (RB/WR/TE).  At the end of week 17, all points are summed up and the teams with the highest points win. Prizes are awarded to the top 4 scorers in a 12 team draft and the top 3 scorers in a 10 team draft.

Where do I get started?

Download the Draft app by clicking our referral link (draft.com/bestballbadger).

Only residents of the USA or Canada can play for money.  There is a nice color map that you can refer to here for further restrictions:

https://draft.com/rules/eligibility/

I have Draft installed, now what?

Play!

We recommend playing a $1 fast draft as a way to test the waters with a low cost of entry.  After the draft starts, expect to have the draft wrap up within an hour.

$3 and $5 slow drafts are what we typically play.  There is an 8 hour pick clock with a 3 hour pause between 2AM and 5AM EST so you don’t miss your pick when you’re sleeping.  The long amount of time for picks allows time for researching picks before making them.

What strategy should I use?

The vast majority of Best Ball lineups consist of 2-3 QBs, 5-7 RBs, 6-8 WRs, and 2-3 TEs.  More details on lineup construction are at the bottom of this article.

Strong point contributions from every position type is usually needed to win a pool.  A solid strategy that many Best Ball players use is to balance the draft capital within each position so that they are not over or under invested in any categories.

For example, a roster with two QBs will typically play out in two ways.  If a team chose to draft an earlier QB like Watson or Rodgers in the 6th/7th round, it will typically wait and spend lower draft capital on a 2nd QB (something like a Trubisky in the 13th or Brady in the 14th).  The other common scenario will be to draft 2 mid-tier QBs in the middle rounds (Goff in the 10th, Winston in the 11th).

Same theory goes with the other positions, spreading draft capital at one position between early, middle, and late picks.

When multiple early picks are spent on one position group, teams will typically try to make up the draft capital in other groups with more picks (quantity over quality).  For example, a team starting the draft with RB, RB, RB, would more likely have 5 RB/8 WR in their final roster.

Best Ball vs Traditional Fantasy Football (TFF) Strategy

Most people have played some traditional fantasy football prior to playing Best Ball.  This will give owners some knowledge of how to draft in Best Ball. However, there are some key differences.

One of the main differences is at QB.  In traditional fantasy football, owners can find some value in the middle of the draft (aforementioned Goff or Winston) or even wait until the end of the draft and pick up someone that will be startable (Rivers, Carr or Trubisky/Brady mentioned above).  If it pans out, that is great. If not the owner can rely on streaming from the waiver wire. Best Ball plays more like 2QB leagues where all the QBs will be drafted and you will need 2 decent options on your team to have success.

Another difference is that player variance is much more useful in Best Ball than in TFF.  A player like Amari Cooper has tortured owners for years in TFF since he will “go off” for a lot of points, but then disappear in the next few games.  It was near impossible to predict which matchups to play him in so he lost as many games for owners as he won. In Best Ball, you get all the upside of boom games and get a free substitution when players bust.  Therefore, you will see these types of boom bust players (deep threat WRs, gadget players, touchdown reliant players) to go a little higher in Best Ball than in TFF drafts.

The last difference we would like to highlight is that everyone gets to play 17 weeks in Best Ball.  In TFF, you have to have a good enough team through the regular season to make it into the playoffs. Rookie RBs or other players that need some time to develop (or win the starting role) have better value in Best Ball.  Suspended players also fall in this category. Players such as Mark Ingram (4 games), Aaron Jones (2 games), and Julian Edelman (4 games) helped their owners win money in Best Ball leagues.

A player like Kareem Hunt should be avoided in TFF redraft leagues due to his 8 week suspension. With Cleveland’s Week 7 bye, that means you will not be starting Hunt until week 10 when you may already be out of playoff contention.  Conversely, in Best Ball, owners definitely get to play him for half his season (weeks 10-17) barring injury. At his current ADP (middle of the 9th round in 12 team leagues), owners are willing to take the risk for some high upside games at the end of the year. I originally wrote that Hunt was potentially a risk worth taking in Best Ball, but given his latest minor run-in with the law and Cleveland’s reluctance to trade Duke Johnson, it’s best to avoid him completely in redraft TFF and Best Ball for now.

Which roster builds are the most successful?  Which ones cash (win money)?

The most important question – how to win and make money.  No one would argue that the keys to winning leagues would be to avoid early round busts, find breakout players in the mid to late rounds, and have enough depth to overcome injuries.  But how many players at each position helps us accomplish that? Every pick at a position essentially acts as a depth play or a lottery ticket to find that breakout player.

In this article, we’ll explore what optimal roster construction looks like.  In order to answer that, we broke down 29 completed drafts from 2018. These were all 12-man slow draft leagues with $3 and $5 buy-ins.  This is admittedly a small sample size for league information and to provide any statistical differences, but gives us a reasonable read on trends regarding team success (29 leagues with 12 teams gives us 348 data points to work with).

Let’s first look at QBs on these teams:

QBPoint AverageStandard Dev# of Teams
21836162170
31824164175
41657242
51408N/A1

Teams with 2 or 3 QBs had relatively similar success.  Very few teams tried 4 or more QBs and those all scored poorly.  That could be indicative of a beginner drafting poorly, but it also lines up with our intuition that a 4th QB taken near the end of the draft is going to have a hard time cracking the starting lineup when only 1 QB is scored.  It also hurts the depth at other positions where multiple starters are necessary. Best Ball Badger recommends drafting 2-3 QBs with a preference for 2 QBs.

We’re going to jump to TEs next:

TEPoint AverageStandard Dev# of Teams
11456672
21842167146
31819162190
418499210

Teams with 2-4 TEs yield similar results.  Interesting thing here is that even with the limited sample size (10 teams with 4 TEs), the scores are pretty good, but deviation is low.  That means we’re lowering the variability in our teams with 4 TEs, but minimizing the upside (read: lower chance to cash). Due to that, Best Ball Badger does not recommend drafting 4 TEs.

On to WRs:

WRPoint AverageStandard Dev# of Teams
518532225
6180117685
71842154171
8183916275
9177415911
101388N/A1

6-8 WRs is the strategy that the majority of users take on that yield similar results.  This is not surprising as most drafters will be primarily drafting WR/RBs. A team with less WRs will tend to have more RBs.  Best Ball Badger recommends to select the best available player when comparing a WR and RB unless that pushes the makeup of the team to the outliers (9+ WR).

Finally, we take a look at RBs:

RBPoint AverageStandard Dev# of Teams
4175820412
5183115999
61823157169
7185117361
818852346
91503N/A1

5-7 RBs is the strategy that the majority of users take.  The interesting thing here is that there is a slight trend upward on points AND deviation with more running backs.  Part of the reason for the increased deviation is due to small sample size at 8 RBs, but this does line up with general theory on RBs.  They tend to be injury-prone so you need more of them. Also, back-up RBs can change from fantasy filler to championship-winner when the starter in front of them goes down.  Best Ball Badger recommends selecting RB when there is a choice between WR and RB in the same tier. We also recommend that you grab backup RBs with upside later in the draft.

That wraps it up for this initial article. Let me know what you think and what you would like to see more written about (bestballbadger@gmail.com). If you just have general Best Ball Questions, I would love to answer those as well.

Winston Lee (6/29/19; updated 7/4/19)