Fantasy football has become a year-long event because of dynasty and best ball leagues. Unlike dynasty leagues, best ball leagues are an excellent way to scratch the offseason fantasy football itch without adding to your in-season workload. Furthermore, best ball leagues give you exposure to several players without having four dozen redraft leagues.
More importantly, best ball is great for those drafting junkies. Unlike season-long leagues, in best ball, you draft and forget about it until the season is over. Once you finish your draft, there is nothing to think about until it’s time to collect your winnings.
However, winning is not as simple as just showing up. So, let’s look at seven tips that will help you win your best ball leagues.
7 Tips for Drafting a Winning Best Ball Roster (2023 Fantasy Football)
How Does Best Ball Work?
The first thing you need to know is the differences between season-long and best ball leagues. Unlike season-long leagues, you don’t make waiver wire claims or trades during the year in best ball. There are also no weekly lineup adjustments needed. Each week the league will create the highest-scoring possible lineup for you based on what your players did on the field.
Furthermore, best ball leagues come in different shapes and sizes. Not only can your league be a 1QB or Superflex league, but it can also be a slow or fast draft. Some leagues will have a 30-second timer per pick, while others could have no timer at all. Don’t sign up for a quick draft if you aren’t ready to focus on it and nothing else. More importantly, you need to know the size of your league. Is it a small three-team league or a typical 12-team one? The league size is like the roster configuration. Both will impact your drafting decisions.
Make a Draft Plan
Don’t just start your draft with the mindset of winging it. That’s the best way to throw your money down the drain. Instead, have a game plan. If your league is 1QB, you want most of your roster to be running backs and wide receivers. However, make sure you have at least three quarterbacks and tight ends. If you spend an early pick on a superstar like Josh Allen or Travis Kelce, then you could only need to draft two at that position.
Meanwhile, consider two things when putting together your draft plan. First is the starting lineup and scoring system. In a PPR three-starting wide receiver league, you want to target wide receivers over running backs early in the draft. However, you want to value running backs over wide receivers in a non-PPR scoring league with only two starting wide receiver spots. The second is making sure you have roster balance. That doesn’t necessarily mean having the same number of running backs and wide receivers. Instead, if you go running back heavy early in the draft, be sure to load up on wide receivers later on.
Prepare for the Bye Weeks
The NFL won’t release the upcoming season’s schedule for a few months. While that makes playing for bye weeks difficult, it’s not impossible. The solution is to have good depth at every position. That way, you don’t find yourself without a complete starting lineup one week during the season. However, bye weeks shouldn’t be an issue for you at the wide receiver and running back positions.
Where you might run into a problem is with quarterbacks and tight ends. If you only draft two quarterbacks or two tight ends, you could get zero fantasy points from that position one week with both players on a bye. Furthermore, one to two-week injuries happen. Therefore, you could have your starting tight end on a bye and the backup out for the week with a minor injury. Taking a zero at any position is a surefire way to lose your weekly matchup and possibly the league.
It’s All About the Upside
The name of the game when playing in best ball leagues is upside. Since you can’t make waiver wire claims during the season, you must draft potential breakout players instead of adding them after Week 1. Meanwhile, traditional safe floor players are your worst enemy. They are great in season-long leagues as stable flex options. However, they will clog your roster in best ball leagues.
Don’t waste your picks on a player that will rarely end up in your starting lineup. Instead, target players with massive potential upside. Last year anyone who drafted Rhamondre Stevenson had a fair shot at winning their league. He was expected to split backfield work with Damien Harris. However, Stevenson shined and took over as the featured guy. He ended the 2022 season as the RB11, averaging 12.6 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. You also want to target high-powered stacks. It’s worth the draft capital to grab Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase or Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown.
Get Your Handcuffs!
Whether or not to draft handcuffs has been something we’ve debated for years in season-long leagues. Should you draft the handcuffs to your top players, your league mates’ top players, or avoid them entirely? However, the answer to his question is simple in best ball leagues, as you want your league mates’ handcuffs. Going back to the previous tip, it’s all about the potential upside. You can drop handcuffs throughout the year to add an emerging player in redraft leagues. Similarly, you can add a handcuff as the fantasy players approach.
However, you don’t do either in best ball leagues. More importantly, you don’t want to waste a bench spot handcuffing your player for the entire year. Instead, the most upside comes from drafting your league mates’ handcuffs and hoping the starter gets hurt. For example, if you draft Najee Harris, you don’t want to spend a later-round pick on Jaylen Warren. Instead, you want to grab Elijah Mitchell. The hope is that Harris stays healthy while Christian McCaffrey misses time with an injury. If that happens, you have maximized the upside of those two draft picks.
Late Round Targets
Depending on your league size, you want to spend the last few picks of your draft on the most upside players. If you are in a three-person league, your later-round selections should be guys like Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Jameson Williams instead of Mike Evans and Diontae Johnson. However, if you are in a 10 or 12-person league, your later-round picks will be more traditional sleeper-type players.
Anyone who drafted Jerick McKinnon, Raheem Mostert or Taysom Hill in the final rounds of their draft last year likely won the league. You want as much upside as possible in your final few picks. Those players should be potential league winners. Some of my favorite late-round targets this year include Sam Howell, Rashid Shaheed and Mike Gesicki. While they had limited fantasy impact in 2022, they could become excellent values next season.
Avoid Injury-Prone Players
Ideally, your fantasy roster stays healthy all year. Unfortunately, that’s not realistic. However, avoiding injury-prone players is critical in best ball leagues. Since you can’t drop players after they suffer a season-ending injury, they end up taking up a roster spot for the rest of the year. Not only are you not getting production from that player, but they could leave you in a tough spot some weeks.
For example, you lose Dalvin Cook for the year with a torn ACL in Week 4. Your team has solid running back depth, but you have multiple running backs on a bye in Week 9. That week you could find your team getting very little or no production out of the RB2 spot because of the injury to Cook and the bye week players. Instead of drafting players with an injury history like Cook or McCaffrey, pick similar ADP players with less injury risk, like Austin Ekeler and Nick Chubb. Then wait until the later rounds and target those injury-prone players’ handcuffs.
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Mike Fanelli is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @Mike_NFL2.