Best ball season moved up another gear last week when DraftKings launched their first best ball offering of the year. While Underdog, FFPC, and Drafters have all been in the game for several weeks, if not months, DraftKings made a splashy arrival, announcing a $5 entry contest with $1 million for first place and over $3.5m in total prize money. Since then, DraftKings has announced several more contests that vary incredibly, with entries from $3 to $2120 and maximum entries ranging from one to 150.
If you haven’t played best ball on DraftKings before, there are key differences to be aware of, and these will apply to all best ball tournaments on DraftKings when they launch other contests through the offseason.
Roster Size and Requirements
DraftKings use rosters with 20 spaces, which opens up many different opportunities compared to Underdog’s 18-person rosters. On DraftKings, best-ball players can use these extra spaces to solidify the positions you only start one player at, i.e., quarterback or tight end. Whereas on Underdog, drafters often lean towards only taking two QB/TE if they have elected to choose one early, here we have the roster room to add a third if we believe the value is correct. With that said, embracing fragility can often be the key to winning finals, and we should stock up on players for its sake. Aim to use those extra roster spaces on your weakest position where possible.
Starting lineups are a total of eight players:
- Quarterback – 1
- Running backs – 2
- Wide receivers – 3
- Tight ends – 1
- Flex (WR/RB/TE) – 1
Historically wide receivers have out-scored running backs, particularly when starting in the flex. Combined with the need to start three of them added to the full PPR format, this makes wide receivers very important on DraftKings. Because of this added importance, it’s not uncommon to have roster builds with up to 11 wide receivers, but generally, 8-10 will suffice.
Like all platforms, DraftKings likes to have its own tweaks to fantasy scoring, and it differs largely from Underdog’s half-point PPR and FFPC’s tight-end premium. DraftKings uses full point PPR, which inherently makes pass-catchers more important, but where DraftKings differs is the bonuses available for players who have big games.
- 300+ passing yards – 3 point bonus
- 100+ receiving yards – 3 point bonus
- 100+ rushing yards – 3 point bonus
While rushing quarterbacks are still incredibly valuable on DraftKings, the 300+ passing yard bonus helps to make pocket passer quarterbacks more playable. In 2021, Justin Herbert and Tom Brady had nine games with 300 or more passing yards. Across the 2021 season, 112 quarterback performances resulted in 300+ passing yards, representing over 20% of all quarterback starts. The bonuses increase a desire to get quarterbacks earlier in these drafts, and if you’re not used to playing on DraftKings, you might be surprised by how early the quarterbacks disappear. We can see how the ADP on Draftkings is nearly always ahead of other sites by a sample of quarterbacks.
|Draftkings ADP||Underdog ADP||FFPC ADP|
Like many common best-ball tournament structures, DraftKings starts with a 12-person draft, and for the first fourteen weeks, you will compete against those twelve people. The top two teams in points scored will progress onto the first round of the playoffs.
- Round 1 – Weeks 1-14 (top two advances)
- Round 2 – Week 15 (first place advances)
- Round 3 – Week 16 (first place advances)
- Round 4 – Week 17 (final)
Advancing out of your initial group will secure profit relative to one single entry, but the real prize money only comes in the final. If you’re planning on entering a reasonable quantity, the final should always be your goal. The $5 entry contest payouts like this:
|1st-2nd place||Advances to R2|
|1st place||Advance to R3|
|1st place||Advance to final|
Leaving the tournament during the playoff rounds will sting as the payouts in the finals jump dramatically.
Making it to the 969-person final of the $5 contest will secure you a minimum of $250, a 50:1 return on your $5 stake. This final is much larger than many best-ball finals, more than doubling Underdog’s 470-person final for Best Ball Mania III. Making it to the final will be a tough ask on its own, but winning it all will require a great team and a slice of luck. At the time of writing, DraftKings is also offering a $20 contest (maximum of 150 entries per person) with a final round of 20 contestants and a $3 contest (maximum of 20 entries) with a 135-person final.
Like many forms of fantasy football, there is no one true way to win. Best ball is still a very young game, and it can be quite difficult to predict what will be the most successful strategy year over year. However, what remains true is that drafting with strategy in mind tends to be more successful. The list below includes many popular fantasy strategies, links to longer articles diving into more detail, and thoughts on if they will work for this contest.
Roster construction, like any best-ball contest, matters greatly. Taking too many quarterbacks will leave a lot of points on your bench each week and leave you weaker elsewhere. Ideally, you will have:
- QB – 2-3
- RB – 4-7
- WR – 7-10
- TE – 2-3
For more on roster construction, check out this article – Best Ball: Roster Construction Strategies.
Being open to different draft strategies
DraftKings attracts a lot of casual users to the platform, in part because of its reputation as a sportsbook and DFS host. With this comes many users who are less experienced with best ball and will often askew best-ball strategies in favor of picking the players they like in the balance they want. Every year different strategies shine through, and by being open to various strategies, we can give ourselves more possible avenues to winning. When playing against more of a casual field, embracing extreme and fragile strategies can help us to make our rosters stand out. Both ‘Zero RB’ and ‘Hyper Fragile RB’ are very viable in this format. For more on strategies, including historical win rates and best implementations, check out the complete best ball guide.
Stacking is fairly common-place in best ball these days, but we can increase our chances of winning in the playoff weeks by looking for correlated stacks that involve players playing our main stack in weeks 15-17. For instance, if you’re stacking Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence and Christian Kirk, pairing them with Brevin Jordan from the Texans will mean if it’s a high-scoring week 17 game, you might have access to even more players from it and potentially increase your scoring potential for that week. If you’re planning on utilizing stacking to its best potential, read this article targeting playoff stacks – Best Ball: Weeks 15, 16, 17 playoff stacks to target.
Be mindful of player exposures
Unlike Underdog, Draftkings has no in-built features to track your exposure to certain players. Instead, it is well worth taking the time to track players manually. If we become too reliant on a few players, our rosters could all be destroyed quickly if those players’ circumstances were to change. For more on tracking player exposure, check out this article – Best Ball: Spreading out exposure in late-round picks.
Consider the tournament settings
If you’re entering the $3 contest, it’s worth considering that this will be the most appealing contest to casual and inexperienced players due to the low price point. With 116,000 spaces available, it’s still a large field that we have to beat, and having a unique lineup in the final will require some thought. The field will underutilize extreme strategies like ‘Zero RB’ and become worth considering, particularly if you plan to enter the contest several times or more. Another unusual twist for best ball is the $15 single entry contest. Most best ball tournaments allow for many entries per person, but this one is limited to one per person, and the final round is just nine people, representing a tiny final round. While it’s a flawed process to decide on a strategy before entering, it’s worth thinking of this single entry contest as more in line with a small-field DFS tournament where you need less in the way of stacking. To win a milly-maker, it might take a stack of four or five players from one game; typically, the smaller-field contests have slightly lower scoring, and the edges are in player selection. Aim to draft multiple correlated players from week 17 matchups, and you will have a better shot at a unique lineup.
Frustratingly, DraftKings doesn’t allow you to upload your own rankings, but it is well worth taking the time to update the rankings before jumping into a draft. I recommend using the Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) here on FantasyPros, which is based on a collection of 14 fantasy analysts. Using rankings can allow you to be ahead of ADP on certain players and hoover up bargains when they fall past their ranking and ADP. For instance, Brandin Cooks is the WR25 and our 57th overall player, but on DraftKings, he’s currently being drafted at the 71st pick. Likewise, Miles Sanders is the 63rd overall player on ECR but has a DraftKings ADP of 85.9. Here you could even allow Sanders to slip past the 63rd pick, safe in the knowledge that most DraftKings players are not taking him till later, and you could still get a bargain versus ECR. Rankings are never concrete but instead a guide to help you understand how certain players are valued.
Have a plan
This doesn’t mean predetermining your strategy before starting a draft; instead, it means considering your overall plan for this contest. Will you be entering once, twice, fifty times, or possibly max entering the bigger contest with 150 entries? Suppose you plan on entering a large number of entries. In that case, it’s worth considering when you’d like the majority of your entries to be, now when ADP is still fluctuating wildly, or perhaps closer to the season when more information is on the table. Ultimately, the most critical thing with best ball is playing within your budget and enjoying it. With more and more best-ball contests launching, having a budget is imperative. When you’re done drafting, don’t forget to post those rosters in the FantasyPros Discord to hear what others think of it. You can always reach out to me on Twitter if you have any questions @NFL_Tstrack.
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Tom Strachan is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Tom, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter at @NFL_Tstrack.