Beginner’s Guide to Best-Ball Leagues (Fantasy Football)
Have you ever been taking part in a conversation, only for something to come up that you have no clue about, yet you feel like you should? That’s how best-ball felt to me a few years back. No matter where I went, it seemed the fantasy analysts would be mentioning best-ball formats, and like most things you don’t know anything about, you simply reject because it’s outside of your current realm.
To better explain this, I’m going to use the cell phone analogy. Do you remember when you got your new phone? You hated it, right? Likely wanted to go back to your old one because that’s what’s familiar to you. You knew where everything was, could probably navigate it while not even looking. But after a few days/weeks, you probably couldn’t go back to your old phone if you tried. We like things that are familiar and fantasy football is no different.
Before getting started, ask yourself one question: What is the best day of the year for fantasy football? Draft day. You get to find out what team you’ll be working with to defeat your friends that particular season. There’s nothing like sitting around afterward, staring at your team when all is said and done, telling your friends why you’re better than them. This is where best-ball comes in.
WHAT IS BEST-BALL?
It’s a draft-only format that requires absolutely zero maintenance or attention after you draft. That’s right, you take the best thing from the fantasy football season, and that’s it. You draft your team and the hosting site will automatically set your best lineup on a week-to-week basis. You may be saying to yourself, “Well I do that with my teams already.” But what’s significantly different is that best-ball sets your best lineup after the games have been played.
You no longer have to wonder whether you should be starting Player X because he’s about to go up against a top-tier cornerback like Jalen Ramsey. You don’t have to wonder if LeGarrette Blount will fall into the end zone twice while on your bench. You don’t have to make any decisions, because, again, the hosting site will automatically set your best lineup based on the points they scored that week.
You no longer have to worry about trades, waiver wires, free agents, etc. You’ll draft your team and then never touch it again. There are plenty of fantasy owners who enjoy doing those things (as do I), but best-ball helps us get through the offseason while remaining sharp. By drafting teams in best-ball, it keeps you in the know for the fantasy season, as you’ll walk into your season-long drafts with a better idea of how you want to build your team. In short, best-ball is a no-nonsense format that rewards the owner(s) who drafted the best team. And before you ask, yes, injuries are going to happen and derail your team at times, but that’s a risk to every team in the league.
HOW DO I PLAY AND WHAT’S THE COST?
After hearing about what best-ball is, now you want to get your feet wet. The best part is that you don’t even have to shell out much money to do that. There are sites offering best-ball leagues for as cheap as $1 to join. If you’re a high-roller and want to jump into the high-stakes leagues, there are best-ball leagues that have $1,000 entries as well.
A few years ago, there were just one place you could go to play best-ball, but thanks to a surge in popularity, we have a few sites to choose from. You could play at FFPC, Best Ball 10s (formerly MFL10s), or my personal favorite, DRAFT. The payouts range from site-to-site, but it’s typically around 50 percent of the pot to first, 30 percent to second, and 10 percent to third. There are also some new leagues taking a page out of the DFS book, offering 50/50 contests where as long as you finish in the top-half of the league, you nearly double your money, though finishing in first place gets you nothing extra.
If you’ve played in a fantasy football league, you likely know about the hassle it is to get everyone together at the same time for the draft. I mean, everyone has lives, right? Fortunately, best-ball drafts don’t have to put a strain on your plans in life. Why? They have two different types of options on best-ball sites. You can do drafts that require you to pick within 30 seconds and those drafts are done within an hour. Then there’s the standard option where you have eight hours to make your selection and those drafts typically take around two weeks to complete.
It’s worth noting that not everyone uses their eight-hour timer and there’s times where you’ll make it through an entire round in a matter of hours, but the idea is that you have enough time to make your pick, if needed, even if you’re tied up at work or at an event. Some choose to use the auto-draft setting that’ll automatically choose the next player on their list in case they’re concerned about not being available for one (or more) of their picks. If the next owner doesn’t have any players on their auto-draft list, you’ll have to wait. If they were to take up the full eight hours and not make a selection, their pick default to the next player available based on ADP (average draft position).
ROSTER REQUIREMENTS AND SCORING SETTINGS
Your best-ball draft will consist of 20 rounds where you’ll select a combination of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and on some sites, defenses. There is no limit as to the number of players you can draft per position, but you’re obviously not going to leave yourself with one quarterback, as he’s going to have a bye week and ruin your score for that particular week. There’s also the chance that he gets injured, which would effectively ruin your best-ball league. Remember, you aren’t setting a roster and there are no waivers or trades; you only have the players who are on your drafted roster.
The scoring settings vary from site-to-site, as DRAFT is half-PPR, FFPC is full-PPR with 1.5PPR for tight ends, while Best Ball 10s is full-PPR. All of them have slight differences in the details, so make sure you check out the scoring settings prior to drafting. The leagues will be played through Week 16, similar to the way most fantasy leagues do nowadays. There are no playoffs in best-ball, only the team who has the most points at the end of the year.
Similar to your re-draft leagues, it’s important that you don’t stick to any one strategy. It’s important to have an idea of what you want to do, but remain fluid, and be willing to go wherever the draft takes you. With that being said, here is a general outline to get you started:
4-7 RUNNING BACKS
6-8 WIDE RECEIVERS
2-3 TIGHT ENDS
2 D/ST (In leagues that require them)
In short, don’t draft a quarterback in the first four rounds. In today’s NFL, many signal callers can provide you massive value later in the draft (Patrick Mahomes, Matt Ryan, Jared Goff, and Dak Prescott all finished inside the top-10 last year but were drafted outside the top-12).
The only other piece of general advice (for FFPC and Best Ball 10s) would be that you shouldn’t be taking any defense anywhere inside of the top 15 rounds. Remember, there is so much volatility year over year at the position. Don’t be left chasing last year’s points. I was able to consistently snag the Jaguars defense in the 18th round in 2017 and land the Bears defense in the 19th round in 2018.
By now, you should be prepared to start your first best-ball draft. Even though I told you not to stick to any one particular strategy, you likely have questions about what strategies may work best in an ideal situation. Because of that, we’ll have an article soon explaining the best way to attack your MFL10s. Until then, pleasant drafting!