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Best Ball

How To Play Fantasy Football: Introduction to Best Ball Leagues

Dave Loughran



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In this article, we’re going to teach you how to play fantasy football by giving you every bit of information you need to head into your 2021 NFL best ball draft, and crush it. If you’re new to the best-ball scene, below is an extensive introduction, and the only guide you’ll need to succeed this season.

What is NFL Best Ball Fantasy Football?

NFL Best Ball Fantasy Football leagues are tailor-made for the fantasy football enthusiast who loves drafting but doesn’t share the same excitement for in-season management. The concept is simple: draft your team and let it ride. There are no trades, no waivers and no setting your lineup every weekend. The team you draft is the team you’re stuck with all season long. Essentially, Best Ball is zero-commitment fantasy on every level.

While the idea is simple, the execution is anything but easy. Because you aren’t wheeling and dealing throughout the season, looking to land trades and scoop the next James Robinson off the waiver wire, everything boils down to how you fare in the draft. 

Understanding the Basics

Best Ball scoring takes your ideal lineup from each week and credits you with that score. If your lineup consists of 20 players, any of those players can count towards your score if they are top performers that week. Popular formats take the highest scoring 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE and 1 FLEX, while others include a DST. The team with the top overall score at the end of the season wins. For tournaments the season usually goes for just 12 weeks before the playoffs start. Keep that in mind when drafting injured or suspended players.

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Be Prepared

Injuries happen every week in the NFL, but you won’t have the luxury of replacing those players or sending them to the IR in Best Ball leagues. There’s a way to protect yourself from getting cut off at the knees, though: Draft enough depth at each position, and handcuff if necessary. 

Drafting three quarterbacks is a perfectly reasonable strategy in Best Ball — especially if you aren’t targeting the position until later in the draft. Drafting quarterbacks early isn’t necessary in redraft leagues and it shouldn’t be a priority in Best Ball either. That said, backing up a third-tier quarterback with two signal-callers of similar talent allows for ample upside on a weekly basis. 

Similarly, handcuffing a top-tier running back with his backup will shield you from losing all of that production in the event of a significant injury. Because there are no add/drops or trades, failing to handcuff your first- or second-round running back could result in a total loss if he goes down for the season.

Get Deep

Best Ball is all about giving yourself as many chances to win each week as possible, which means adding high-upside depth to your roster. If you’ve drafted Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey in the first two rounds, you won’t have to worry as much about stacking the position with high-risk/high-upside running backs throughout the draft.

Your wide receiver position, however, would have less top-tier talent, which is why back-loading it with potential quality contributors makes sense. You aren’t necessarily looking for consistently productive weeks from all of those receivers, either. As long as they can have a few big weeks throughout the season, you’d have positioned yourself nicely to compete. Give yourself the most opportunity to produce at as many different spots as possible. Find depth at your weakest positions.

Safety Isn’t Safe

Safe, consistent production is important for the early rounds of a Best Ball draft. That philosophy is really no different than your typical redraft league. It’s when you get to the middle and late rounds that everything begins to change. In Best Ball formats, the 10th-round WR who offers a consistent eight fantasy points each week isn’t much use. A boom-or-bust receiver with a low floor and high ceiling, however, is exactly what you’re looking for. Adding enough of those players in the later rounds gives you a shot at winning it all. 

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Don’t Get Greedy

Stacking high-octane offenses is never a bad idea, but too many players from the same team can significantly cap your weekly ceiling. For instance, the Atlanta Falcons could average 25 points per week and have five or six mid-to-top tier fantasy producers by season’s end, but all of them are not going to produce viable fantasy totals on a weekly basis. Stacking a quarterback with two of his pass catchers and running back limits your ability to have huge weeks based solely on limited opportunity. There are only so many touches to go around on one team, no matter their level of talent.

Strategy Summary

  • Add depth to the quarterback position, especially when waiting to draft at the position.
  • Prepare for injuries by handcuffing high-end running backs.
  • Load up on volatile, high-ceiling players in the middle and late rounds. Target positions where you’ve failed to lock down consistent high-end production from week to week.
  • It’s better to have a zero fantasy points one week and a 20 fantasy points the next than to routinely post middling performances with a small range of weekly outcomes. Provide yourself with as many 20-plus-point opportunities as possible in the draft by loading up on volatile players at your weakest positions.
  • Safety doesn’t pay in the later rounds. A.J. Green won’t be helping to win many leagues this year or any year thereafter.
  • Team stacking is a viable strategy, but can also severely limit your weekly ceiling if overdone.

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Dave "Loughy" Loughran has been a fixture in the daily fantasy community since not long after its inception, quitting his career as a Drug and Alcohol therapist to become a full-time DFS analyst, player and media personality in 2014. Loughy is the host of "Awesemo Radio" on SiriusXM Fantasy, qualified for the 2016 DraftKings Fantasy Football World Championship, and was featured in the Washington Post and other publications for his success as a player. You can find him on Twitter at @Loughy_D where he'll likely be ranting about the miserable life of a Philadelphia sports fan, using "fella" in almost every tweet, or via email at [email protected].

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