Best Ball: Approach to Roster Construction (2019 Fantasy Football)
Best ball is a unique fantasy football league format that has no in-season moves, and the best players on your team are automatically played each week in an optimal lineup. The manager with the highest cumulative score at the end of the season wins. There are 18-20 players on a best ball team, and some strategy is involved in roster construction for this format. Here, we’ll take a look at the number and type of players you should be targeting when constructing best ball rosters. Keep in mind that a typical best ball roster will be made up of one QB, two RBs, three WRs, one TE, and one flex.
DRAFT leagues use half-PPR scoring, and MFL10 uses full-PPR scoring. MFL10 also includes a D/ST roster spot. Both formats award four points for passing TDs and six points for all other TDs. These are the two most widely used platforms for playing best ball.
Types of Players to Target
Because best ball scoring is based on the top weekly performances, fantasy managers should target high-upside players. That doesn’t necessarily mean those players should be completely boom-or-bust, but it’s important to draft players with big-game potential even if they have low floors. These are not players who total a steady 5-50-1 line each week, but rather players who can score a 5-50-1 line some weeks and a 9-200-2 line other weeks. You won’t have to decide which weeks to play these guys because best ball automatically plugs in the top scorers of the week, meaning those players with huge ceilings will only be played when they pop off for a massive game. When considering productive players who are coming back from injury or have an injury history, it’s okay to roll the dice in best ball formats.
Players such as DeSean Jackson, Derrick Henry, Nick Foles, and Eric Ebron are all great examples of solid best ball targets. Jackson fits the mold of a good best ball receiver because of his speed and after-the-catch skills since he can turn three catches into a WR1 week. Derrick Henry is a big and bruising back who’s hard to take down around the goal line. He has been a big touchdown scorer throughout his career. He’s also hard to bring down in space and has accumulated some massive gains and long TDs in his career.
Foles has been able to shred opposing defenses on good weeks while playing game manager with meager production on others. Eric Ebron, while not a guy who played a ton of snaps, used his big body to get in position and score a lot of TDs. His scoring was highly TD-dependent and at times volatile for season-long formats, but he was a bonafide best ball stud.
Number of Players by Position
Quarterback (Two to Three)
Evaluating where to select QBs in best ball drafts is a similar process to season-long drafts. There is a lot of value to be had in later rounds of drafts when drafting a QB, so fantasy managers should wait until they’ve selected at least their first seven players (two RBs, three WRs, one TE, one flex) before grabbing a signal-caller. Every year there are productive players to be had later in the draft, such as Patrick Mahomes in 2018, Carson Wentz in 2017, and Tyrod Taylor and Blake Bortles in 2016. Selecting a QB too early takes away from major production at other positions, so consider looking for value. Mobile QBs are particularly valuable here because of the four-point scoring per passing TD.
Running Back (Four to Six)
Typical best ball leagues have two RB roster spots, and owners can play up to three backs on a given week using the flex position. Four to six backs should then be rostered to ensure proper depth. Because most best ball formats reward points for receptions, pass-catching backs make excellent targets. All-or-nothing backs can be useful here. These are the guys who won’t settle for a safe two-yard gainer, but instead go for the home-run play every time, resulting in some negative plays along with some big ones as well. Explosive players who don’t see a ton of volume can be good late-round pickups because they only need a few big opportunities to come away with a solid scoring effort.
Wide Receiver (Seven to Nine)
You’ll be playing three wideouts every single week, with the possibility of playing four using the flex position. You’ll, therefore, need to load up on receivers, as they comprise the majority of your weekly roster. In the early rounds, top studs at the position are the obvious choice, but as you round out your roster, targeting receivers with elite speed is a great idea because of the big-play upside they present. Receivers who are highly-targeted in the red zone are ideal fits for best ball rosters too.
Tight End (Two to Three)
Tight end is an extra-valuable position in best ball formats because of the scarcity of elite talent at the position. It is recommended then to spend one of your first three picks on a top-tier TE. The top options at this position typically score WR-level points, so it’s a smart investment. For example, Travis Kelce would have been the WR8 in half-PPR scoring in 2018 based on his stats.
The TE position is extremely top-loaded from year-to-year, with a huge a drop-off in production from the top handful of guys to the rest of the pack. Snagging an elite player at this position gives fantasy managers a leg up on the competition. Some backup options to consider are guys who score a lot of TDs without necessarily racking up the receptions or receiving yards.
I don’t advocate rostering more than two D/STs in best ball formats. You’ll need two for bye-weeks and insurance in case your top choice doesn’t pan out. Selecting an “elite” defense is never an exact science, and it’s not advised to take a D/ST early in drafts. This is similar to the approach you should take with the QB position, but even more applicable to D/STs.
Look for teams that excel in takeaways, even if they aren’t staunch in keeping opponents out of the end zone. These D/STs are similar to the all-or-nothing RBs mentioned above in that defenders will gamble on strips and picks rather than making the safe play, resulting in some high-scoring fantasy games mixed in with some duds. The benefit of best ball scoring is that those defenses will only be played on the good nights.
Best ball leagues are a blast to play in, but fantasy owners need to understand how to approach roster construction in this format. The first three to five picks of the draft need to be spent on proven studs who will be excellent on a weekly basis. Picks in the mid-to-late rounds should be selected with high upside in mind, and fantasy managers should be cognizant of the number of players selected at each position. Thanks for reading, and good luck in your best ball drafts!