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2024 Best Ball Draft Beginner’s Guide (Fantasy Football)

2024 Best Ball Draft Beginner’s Guide (Fantasy Football)

Not too long ago, best ball was something a small corner of the fantasy football community took part in. While it has existed for some time, its popularity wasn’t mainstream.

When Underdog Fantasy launched in 2020, coinciding with a global pandemic, it helped scratch the itch that many of us were feeling with more time on our hands. As Underdog exploded in popularity, other sites such as Fanduel, DraftKings and FFPC widened their offerings in this niche section of fantasy.

In 2023, there were 10s of millions of dollars in prize money on offer across various sites, with stakes from as low as $3 giving you entry into contests with thousands of dollars on the line. No longer were people drafting a few times a year. Now, people were drafting constantly, and the winners were winning life-changing amounts.

Let’s take a closer look at best ball leagues.

2024 Dynasty Fantasy Football Guide

Best Ball: An Introduction (2024 Fantasy Football)

What Is Best Ball?

Best Ball has risen in popularity swiftly, in part because it encapsulates one of the most fun parts of fantasy football: the draft. In best ball, we draft and then forget about the team for the rest of the season. There are no waivers or trades, with the platform automatically working out your optimal lineup each week from the players you selected in the draft. 

With no concerns about setting lineups, our focus becomes solely on the draft, which allows us more time to focus on the best strategies and to consider how many contests we want to enter. In redraft or dynasty, fantasy managers can repair a bad draft with roster maneuvers. In best ball, we want to crush every draft we join. Our mindset should be to capture value, build rosters that can overcome injuries and aim to hit on players we perceive as undervalued by ADP.

What Types of Best Ball Are There?

With best ball exploding in popularity, more and more formats are available to users.

Traditional season-long best ball involves competing against the other users in your draft, and depending on the platform, you can choose to compete in three, six or 12-person drafts.

Dynasty best ball is also becoming more popular, particularly for those sickos who have reached the limit of leagues that they can manage to set lineups for every week. Instead, dynasty best ball involves all the fun and strategy of trades and roster-building and relies on best ball scoring to save users from the weekly start/sit headaches.

Tournament best ball is by far the most popular of the best ball sub-strands and is generally what most content is tailored towards. Typically, best ball tournaments involve a standard 12-person draft. Then, around Week 14 or 15, the top one or two teams progress into the next stages of the tournament, where they compete against other teams that finished highly in their leagues.

In Underdog’s “2023 Best Ball Mania IV,” there were 677,376 teams in total, up from 451,200 the year before, with users being allowed a maximum of 150 teams per person and the top two of each 12-team league after Weeks 1-14 advancing to the next round. The differences between a standard season-long league and winning these large-scale tournaments are huge, and the strategy can get deeper and deeper, all while relying on a little dose of good luck and fortune.

More importantly, choosing the contest that best suits your price range is key. DraftKings has drafts from $1 (although they’ve yet to launch their 2024 products), Underdog hosts private leagues from as little as $3 and FFPC starts at $5. After these budget options, the sky is really the limit with entry fee options.

The largest prizes in 2023 were on offer in Underdog’s Best Ball Mania, which is $25 an entry and gave out a top prize of $3,000,000 to first place. In 2022, DraftKings ran a $5 contest with $1 million to first place. This featured over 800,000 entrants, followed by a $10 contest in 2023 with $1 million up top and over one million entrants. With the tournaments increasing in size, it becomes harder and harder to be profitable in this game, so strategy becomes even more important.

Contest Selection

Expanding further, there have never been more choices in the best ball landscape. In 2024, Underdog paid out a total of $25 million in prize money for contests and ran 47 different NFL best ball contests for the regular season alone. There will be a plethora of contests across the different sites this year, and figuring out a budget and how you’d like to attack these contests is essential.

Payout structures can be friendlier in the higher-stakes drafts, but if you’re mainly focused on drafting a lot and building a portfolio, you may want to consider the $5 or cheaper contests every site offers.

Fast Draft or Slow?

Many players choose to approach drafting differently, and there are choices to fit both, with fast and slow drafts being available for almost all formats.

Some choose slow drafts as a viable method for getting in a large volume of entries. Nothing quite prepares you for how slow a slow draft can move on a best-ball platform. You wait eagerly for the draft room to fill, and then suddenly, you’re assigned pick 10, and you might not make a pick until tomorrow. A 20-round best ball draft can take several weeks to complete, and many users opt to have several going at once.

On the other hand, fast drafts are a lot of fun and tend to involve slightly more mistakes. As such, the sharper drafters tend to prefer these. Typically, most platforms allocate 30 seconds per pick, and an 18-20-round draft will take approximately 30-40 minutes to complete. Your first fast draft of the season will no doubt be a feverous experience as you try to remember all your favorite sleepers, keep an eye on your roster construction and pray that nobody snipes the perfect stack you’re setting up.

As best ball season kicks into gear, I like to take a gentle swim in a few low-budget fast drafts before dipping my toes into the medium to higher-budget drafts. Much like a rookie QB, you’ll find that the game slows down a lot after gaining some reps, and you can read the room much easier. When we get to July or August you might want to try multi-drafting two or three fast drafts at once to take advantage of ADP situations.

2024 NFL Draft Guide

Balancing Using ADP Against Rankings

All best ball platforms allow users to create their own rankings or upload ones they trust to their site. You can find my rankings and other FantasyPros experts’ rankings here.

While drafting based on rankings is my preferred method, there’s an edge to be created by balancing using rankings against ADP (average draft position). Sometimes, a site’s ADP can be slow to catch up to a player’s circumstances changing. For instance, if a player is without a team, their ADP might drop near the undrafted range, depending on the player’s caliber. When that player signs with a new team, it can take some time for ADP to settle where the player is now being consistently drafted. In that period, if our rankings are up to date, we should always be presented with an opportunity to draft a player before we reach their ADP. Most platforms also display both ADP and your ranking in the draft rooms. DraftKings’s ADP updates constantly, but Underdog’s and FFPC’s can take a couple of days to catch up to recent drafts. So be mindful of this on those platforms.

Using rankings combined with ADP can also allow us to draft players we’re not high on who fall to a perceived value pick. In 2023, I wasn’t high on Jahmyr Gibbs at cost, but when he fell past where I ranked him and his ADP, the choice to draft him became more tantalizing the further he fell. In hindsight, it looks like a great decision.

Taking players who fall below their ADP helps us have more unique rosters for tournament contests. If 80% of the people who drafted Gibbs took him in the third round and 20% took him in the fourth, the people who took Gibbs in the fourth have the potential to have a very different team to the consensus, pairing Gibbs with another third-round talent. Imagine that in the third round, you chose Josh Allen, and now you’ve paired him with a breakout running back; you’re on to a winner. Beyond all else, scooping up value has been a proven winner over the years.

I’ve Drafted; What Now?

Firstly, you need to Tweet that draft board out because if somebody does a best-ball draft and doesn’t tweet the draft board, did it even happen? You can also jump into the FantasyPros Discord for feedback or gentle flexing.

Next, you’ve probably already figured it out, but it’s time for another draft. Keep your budget in mind, and consider how many drafts you’ll want to do between now and the season’s start.

Some platforms offer tools for tracking your player exposures, and the more drafts you do, the more important this becomes. You might feel great about 60% exposure to a round-one running back now. However, if they tear an ACL in training camp, you’ve kissed goodbye to many teams before the season even begins. 

Quick Tips

Structural Drafting can overcome mistakes. Year after year, we see that adhering to micro-strategies like Hero RB or even Zero RB can help your rosters overcome injuries. For instance, on Underdog, the team that’s scored the highest amount of points in Best Ball Mania’s regular season over the last two years has been a Zero RB team in both instances.

Micro strategies have been proven to have higher advance rates than rosters where the drafter “just took the best players.” Understanding the deeper strategies will see you have more success across a portfolio of teams.

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Best Ball Roster Construction Strategy & Advice

Remember the Bye Weeks

Your team may look awesome on paper, but if all your running backs and quarterbacks have the same bye week, you’ll create a big hole to climb out of.

Stacking Is Beneficial but Not Always Essential

Stacking helps us to have correlated lineups where we need fewer things to go right. Still, it provides more of an edge in tournaments than in a typical season-long best ball. If we reach heavily to complete a stack, we’re often better off not having the stack at all.

Select the Right Balance of Players

There’s no sense in choosing seven running backs who all profile as third-down running backs and will have no chance to see an expanded workload. We must balance clear workloads, upside and paths to big workloads.

Spread Exposure to Early & Late-Round Targets

It can be tough to be highly exposed to players in the first round due to the randomness of our pick assignments, but in the late rounds, we should be mindful of not getting too attached to one player. Even if you’re convinced that Bryce Young is going to have the greatest sophomore season of all time, if you draft him in 80% of your leagues and then he sustains a season-ending injury in training camp, you’re going to be spending a lot of time regretting wasting roster spots on your teams.

Players in this range are often dart throw types, and it makes sense to want to take as many shots as possible. In 2023, late-round players like Kyren Williams and Puka Nacua turned into league-winners. In 2022, Geno Smith, Juwan Johnson and Darius Slayton went largely undrafted. Many managers would have gladly traded some Tyquan Thornton shares for some of those players instead.

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