What is Best Ball Fantasy Football: How to Play, Where to Play, Strategy, Best Ball vs. Regular Fantasy

Best ball is taking over the fantasy community.

If you consume fantasy football content in any capacity, you have likely heard of Best Ball at minimum. Best Ball is taking the fantasy football community by storm and has seen an explosion in popularity over the last few years. A lot of this popularity is driven by the fact that prizes of over 1 million dollars in these Underdog Fantasy Best Ball tournaments.

While many people who love fantasy football are familiar with this new(ish) format, some people have a hard time grasping the differences between Best Ball leagues and their home leagues.

It’s completely understandable to have questions about Best Ball and how the game is played. Concepts such as stacking, Week 17 correlation, optimal positional allocation, and more can easily get confusing.

Although there are new strategies and concepts to familiarize yourself with, developing a “Best Ball Brain” is achievable for any fantasy player. This requires understanding the fundamental differences between Best Ball and redraft and adapting our draft strategy to account for these differences.

BEST BALL VS REDRAFT: KEY DIFFERENCES

Best Ball and redraft fantasy football are similar from the most simplistic perspective. You join a league, draft a group of players, and attempt to assemble a roster that will accrue more fantasy points than your opponents.

Aside from this bare-bones perspective, the games are actually quite different.

CONTEST SIZE AND STRUCTURE

In your home league, winning a championship typically requires finishing ahead of a handful of people, typically 7-11 others.

Things could not be more different in Best Ball. The vast majority of Best Ball contests are massive tournaments that have hundreds to hundreds of thousands of entrants. Winning these contests is incredibly difficult and requires advancing through several rounds (to be discussed later) of playoff groupings.

The massive size of Best Ball contests is also one of the driving factors behind the unique draft strategies that Best Ball drafters implement. Stay tuned for some discussion on these varying draft strategies

ROSTER MANAGEMENT

Navigating the waiver wire and conducting savvy trades are key to your team’s success in your home re-draft league.

In Best Ball, there is none of this. Best Ball is a “set it and forget it” style of fantasy. After completing the draft, your team is locked in for the entire season.

This is part of the beauty of Best Ball. For many fantasy football fanatics, draft day is the best day of the season. However, it is impossible in redraft leagues to take on more than a dozen teams or so because the roster management becomes incredibly difficult. This is not a concern with Best Ball, and many of the top Best Ball players draft 1000+ teams.

SETTING YOUR LINEUP

Fantasy managers will forever have a love-hate relationship with setting their lineups.

For some, tinkering with their lineups is a nightly or weekly ritual. However, making the wrong decision that costs you a win is one of fantasy football’s most painful moments.

Regarding Best Ball, these decisions are taken out of your hands. Each week, your best possible lineup is set for you. For example, let’s say your roster features Josh Allen and Jared Goff at QB. If Allen scores 24.6 points and Goff goes for 18.8 points, Allen will be used in your lineup that week.

This is true for every positional group. In Underdog Fantasy leagues, you will start 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, and 1 Flex each week. Your lineup will be selected based on the mathematically highest score your roster could create each week while following those roster limits.

WEEKLY MATCHUPS

One of the beauties of having a long-standing home league is the fact that you are constantly pitted against friends to dominate the fantasy gridiron. Developing rivalries, earning bragging rights, and simply beating your friends are some of the best parts of redraft fantasy football.

Once again, there is none of this in Best Ball. You do not have an opponent each week, and teams do not have records to determine league standings.

Instead, league standings are determined based on total point accumulation. In the vast majority of Best Ball tournaments, the top two teams in terms of total points scored)are the teams that advance into the playoffs.

If you have ever had a team that absolutely dominated your league in “Points For” but fell short of a playoff appearance, this is likely pretty appealing.

PLAYOFF STRUCTURE

Advancing through the fantasy playoffs in redraft leagues is similar to how professional sports leagues conduct their playoffs. A bracket is set based on regular season standings, and teams advance through the bracket until one team is left standing.

If you’re picking up on the trend, you can probably guess that things are different in Best Ball.

As previously mentioned, in most Best Ball tournaments, the two highest-scoring teams from each league advance to the playoffs. Once reaching the playoffs, you are placed into a randomly selected “group.” The size of these groups varies based on the tournament. For this example, we will refer to Underdog’s flagship tournament, Best Ball Mania (BBM).

Round 1 is the fantasy regular season, taking place during Weeks 1-14. This is where two teams will advance from your 12-person league based on total points scored.

Rounds 2-4, or the “playoffs”, are where things get slightly different.

In Round 2, you will be placed into a 13-person group. Round 2 lasts just one week, Week 15. The highest-scoring team from each Round 2 group will advance to Round 3.

There are two key things to understand about the playoff rounds of these tournaments. First, the groups are randomly determined, and there will be overlapping players across rosters. Second, each playoff round is its own entity. Your team’s performance and score in the regular season have no impact on the playoffs. Round 2 (Week 15) scoring alone determines which teams advance to the next round.

Round 3 is fairly similar to Round 2. The round lasts just one week, Week 16, and the top-scoring team in each group advances to Round 4, the Best Ball Mania Finals. The key difference is that Round 3 features 16-person groups.

Round 4, which takes place in Week 17, is the final round of the tournament. It features the final 539 teams. Once again, this round lasts just one week, and the top-scoring team will take home BBM’s top prize of 1.5 million dollars.

One key thing to note is that this playoff structure pertains specifically to Best Ball Mania. Most Best Ball tournaments will feature similar playoff structures. However, the differences will lie in the size of groups in each playoff round and how many people advance from each group during the playoffs. It is critical to review the settings of each tournament before you enter to understand its playoff structure.

STRATEGIC APPLICATIONS

To this point in the article, we have only covered the primary differences in how each game is structured. After reading through this portion, ideally, you’ll see that Best Ball’s rules and structure aren’t incredibly complex, and transitioning from redraft to Best Ball (in terms of understanding the rules, scoring, and structure) isn’t impossible.

However, things start to get a bit convoluted when discussing how draft strategy differs between the formats. This is where the two formats truly begin to diverge, and drafting a Best Ball team requires developing a “Best Ball Brain.”

Developing a sound understanding of Best Ball draft strategy is something that requires a lot of work. Reading articles, listening to podcasts, and firing off hordes of drafts are the best ways to understand how to properly build rosters that are set up to succeed.

Here, we’ll briefly review some general “best practices” for drafts. I recently took an in-depth look at some of these strategies, so after getting a general overview here, check that out.

CONCEPT ONE: POSITIONAL ALLOCATION

In Underdog Best Ball drafts, you will be required to fill out a roster that consists of 18 players. But how should you allocate these roster spots to each position? Like many draft strategies in Best Ball, there is no perfect answer. However, we have a good idea of the general guidelines you should follow to build a competitive roster.

Quarterback (Recommendation: 2-3 QBs)

Unless you’re RSJ’s Wolf, who is looking to patent the 4-QB build, just about every single Best Ball roster should feature 2-3 quarterbacks.

Generally, a two-QB build is ideal when selecting an elite QB in the early rounds of drafts. Three QB builds are reserved for drafts when you wait until mid to late rounds to start drafting QBs.

Running Back (Recommendation: 4-7 RBs)

At every position, the number of players that should be on your roster will come down to how early you begin to invest in the position. If you draft someone perceived to be an elite option at the position, like Jonathan Taylor, you do not need to draft six more RBs.

In Best Ball drafts, “drafting like you’re right” is a philosophy many drafters utilize. If you spend a Round 2 pick on Taylor, you essentially say that Taylor will be an elite producer and should be used in your lineup regularly. If Taylor’s score will be used regularly, investing in several other RBs wastes precious roster spots, as you only need to utilize two RB scores each week.

Wide Receiver (Recommendation: 6-9 WRs)

Properly allocating draft capital to the WR position is one key factor in building a Best Ball team.

While Best Ball is far from “solved,” historical data indicates (and people generally accept) that successful Best Ball teams heavily invest in WR firepower.

There are many different ways to build your WR core. However, one thing holds true regardless of what you’re doing in drafts: failing to invest in WR in the early rounds is a recipe for disaster.

Tight End (Recommendation: 2-3 TEs)

Similar to the other “onesie” position of quarterback, ending with 2-3 TEs should result from most drafts.

Once again, the number of TEs you draft should be driven by the draft capital used to select your first TE. If you draft Travis Kelce in Round 3, selecting two more TEs is likely wasting a roster spot. This goes back to drafting with the mindset that you are “right.” Spending an early pick on Kelce shows he will hit your lineup in most weeks. Using a valuable roster spot on additional TEs is not optimal.

There is plenty of debate on the optimal strategy: drafting an “elite” TE and pairing him with one more TE or waiting and picking up three TEs late in drafts. Wolf recently did a deep dive into the TE market and provided his thoughts on how you should be drafting the position.

CONCEPT TWO: BUILDING A WIDE RECEIVER ROOM WITH FIREPOWER

I briefly mentioned earlier that building a team with quality WRs is one of the driving factors behind success in Best Ball. Underdog drafters understand this, and many drafters relentlessly draft WRs in the early rounds of drafts.

Unfortunately, this is not a situation where you can “zig” while others are “zagging.” Many draft strategies work in individual years for Best Ball. However, one concept that has held up in Best Ball drafts every year is adequately investing in WR firepower.

Historical data and the WR thirst within the market indicate that taking WRs in the early rounds of drafts is essential. Don’t get behind and get “boxed out” of the WR position. If you fail to grab at least three receivers through Round 7 of drafts, your team is likely toast before the season even starts.

CONCEPT THREE: UTILIZING STACKING

For a deeper explanation of the philosophy of stacking, check out my previous article on Best Ball draft strategy. Mike Leone’s Best Ball Manifesto is also arguably the best resource available on the topic.

Stacking is the concept of pairing the QB you draft with the pass catchers in that offense. For example, a roster that contains Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Xavier Worthy would be a Chiefs stack.

Generally, stacking is a good idea because it limits the number of things we “have to get right.” When building a roster with a stack, we are betting on that offense to succeed. It is much easier to correctly identify one offense that will succeed than it is to correctly identify 18 individual players that will succeed.

Once again, historical data from past Best Ball tournaments indicate that teams with stacks advance to the playoffs at a higher rate and have greater success in the playoffs.

Every single winning BBM roster has utilized stacking in some capacity. Stacking on your rosters is a core strategy in building strong Best Ball teams.

CONCEPT FOUR: DRAFTING PLAYERS WITH UPSIDE

In a game that comes down to scoring as many fantasy points as possible, drafters naturally want to select players who they perceive to have high upside outcomes.

While this is a fair mentality, it can’t be taken too far. The key is to find a balance between players with upside and players who will provide stable production.

This comes down to the fact that taking “zeroes,” or players who do not contribute to your roster, absolutely crushes your team’s chances to succeed in tournaments. When you draft a zero in your redraft league, you can simply cut the player and find a replacement on the waiver wire. However, in Best Ball, this player will waste away on your roster all season without contributing fantasy points.

Last season, one of these players was Rashaad Penny. Penny was a historically efficient player who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, an offense that we expected to provide plenty of opportunity for fantasy production. The pairing of efficiency from Penny and opportunity in Philly had people excited about his upside. He was a fixture of Round 8 but ultimately saw just 11 carries last season. He was a total failure and the epitome of a zero on rosters.

Taking swings at players with upside is a good idea and necessary in succeeding in Best Ball. However, these swings regularly result in whiffs. Drafting too many of the players who are whiffs will bury your team.

CONCEPT FIVE: PRIORITIZING BACK-WEIGHTED PRODUCTION

Players who are new to Best Ball are often baffled by the prices of rookies. “What do you mean Malik Nabers is a Round 3 Pick?!”

In Best Ball, all (or vast majority) of the money is tied up in the playoffs, which occur in Weeks 15-17. Because of this, we want our team to be firing on all cylinders during these weeks. This means drafting players whose production is back-weighted.

Rookies are the primary subset of players whose production is back-weighted. As rookies acclimate to the NFL later in the season, they tend to see bigger roles in their offense. In turn, their fantasy production tends to peak at the end of the season.

This also applies to players who are in ambiguous RB or WR rooms. If you draft a player who starts the season as the backup but eventually surpasses the starter, their fantasy value will dramatically increase down the stretch. A prime example of this was Devin Singletary last season. He displaced Dameon Pierce to earn a workhorse role for the back half of the regular season.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Understanding the goals of the game and then optimizing your roster to achieve these goals is all you can do as a drafter. Understanding how to build rosters that align with the goals of Underdog Fantasy Best Ball tournaments is what I call building your “Best Ball Brain.” Consuming a plethora of Best Ball content and actually drafting is the best way to develop your Best Ball Brain.

This is just a collection of five concepts to remember when drafting your Best Ball teams. Applying these concepts will create rosters that are set up for success. However, as I previously mentioned, Best Ball is a game that has not been solved and has no “perfect strategy” to deploy.

At RSJ, we continue to work hard to apply these core concepts and build our Best Ball Brains. If you want to follow along in our drafting journey during Best Ball summer, check us out on the RSJ YouTube Channel, where we draft teams every Monday at 4 PM EST.

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
LinkedIn

Related Posts