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Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Strategy: 6 Tips for a Winning Roster

Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Strategy: 6 Tips for a Winning Roster

When it comes to best ball, there are plenty of ways to skin the proverbial cat. In recent years, we’ve seen Zero RB flourish but we’ve also seen Dual RB starts win millions of dollars. Year to year, the magic formula to winning it all changes slightly depending on which players break out. Some constants remain, though, and this article will set you on the right path to winning big in 2024.

Tips for Drafting a Winning Best Ball Roster

Tip #1: Understand What Your Early Picks Mean

We rarely want to go into a draft with a pre-determined strategy in mind but we have to make up our minds soon into drafts. If you go wide receiver in round one, are there any running backs in round two worthy of a Hero RB build? If not, then it’s more likely we might want to wait until rounds 5-6 to take our first RB and avoid the running back dead zone that consistently chews up RBs in that range. If you start with a running back in the first two rounds you must draft plenty of WRs quickly to make up for missing out on them early, otherwise, you could be left with Christian Watson as your WR1.

You can either draft running backs early or draft a lot of running backs but you can’t do both.

Tip #2: Draft Lots of Wide Receivers Early

Expanding slightly on the previous point, getting the WR position right is essential. Establish the Run’s Mike Leone found in his Best Ball Manifesto that historically having 7-8 WRs on a roster performed best and the ones performing at the best of the best had spent plenty of their draft pick capital on WRs. It is possible to leave a draft with only six WRs but in that situation you want nearly all of them to have been taken in the first eight rounds. However, rosters were typically fine with 6-9 of the position overall. On Underdog, WRs dry up fast with 41 of the first 72 picks (57%) being WRs, so typically you want to aim to have five drafted by the time you get to Round 10. This also holds true on DraftKings’ PPR format, where in 2022, 48.5% of teams that reached the Milly Maker finals had five WRs by Round 10. Only 5% of the final 989 teams survived to that round with zero WRs before they got to round four and 1.5% of teams reached the finals with no WRs drafted before round five.

Tip #3: Rounds 7-10 are Historically Good RB Rounds

When we pass the dead zone and have safely drafted five wide receivers, it’s time to start taking shots at the running back position. In 2022, this was an area of the draft where Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard, Dameon Pierce and Miles Sanders all crushed their expectations. In 2023, David Montgomery, Rachaad White, James Conner and Isiah Pacheco all finished inside the top 15 of RBs in half-PPR points per game. Further back in 2021, Leonard Fournette was a league-winner from this range. The running backs have question marks here, whether it be age, ability, role or any number of things. Someone usually outperforms their average draft position (ADP) here and it’s a good area to spread out your exposures.

Tip #4: Player Archetypes Matter

In DraftKings’ 2023 Milly Maker final there were 45 different variations of roster combinations. The most popular was 3/6/8/3, meaning 3QBs, 6RBs, 8WRs and 3TEs. What brought all these teams to the finals was having the right players. Christian McCaffrey was a dominant player in 2023 fantasy football and single-handedly dragged many rosters into the playoffs with a 42% advance rate. McCaffrey is the very definition of a Hero RB, having an elite workload and a role in the receiving game that is just as strong as his rushing production. When building rosters we need to be aware of the players we’re designating into certain roles. Derrick Henry continues to defy time. Due to the way he plays the game, though, he has to score a large number of touchdowns to make up for his lack of receiving role. This is a bet that’s paid off for some in years past. However, as Henry’s playing time has dwindled, his viability in Hero RB builds has as well. If you’re starting RB-RB out of the gate, do both of these players have the upside to start in your roster 80% of the time? If not, are they worth the cost? This point also applies to the wide receiver position where we want a mix of the right archetypes. Having dominant alpha WRs is a great start but we’ll struggle to find them as we get further down the draft, so it becomes a balancing act of adding players with a safe floor and high ceilings.

Tip #5: Draft Rookies

In best ball, so much is weighted towards being good at the end of the season, particularly in the big-money tournaments where making the finals is tough, and winning it all is even tougher. Drafting rookies might seem like an obvious statement but they combine a few key points that can make a substantial difference. First, they are often the trickiest to price up in ADP. Because of this, ADP is inefficient. Anyone who had Amon-Ra St. Brown in his rookie season or Puka Nacua in 2023 will tell you all about that. Second, rookies inherently grow into their roles as the season progresses. Justin Jefferson caught four or fewer receptions in six of his first nine games but then finished the season strong with only two such games out of his last eight. Rashee Rice played over 60% of the snaps in just two games during Weeks 1-9 of 2023. He then averaged 74.6% of the snaps the rest of the way. As rookies grow into their roles and earn a bigger share of responsibilities they tend to improve their production and can plug the holes in your roster that have appeared through player injuries. Typically, you should want 2-4 rookies on every roster.

Tip #6: Have Player Takes

Another seemingly obvious point but an important one, nonetheless, is to take stands within reason. If you strongly believe a player is mispriced then don’t be afraid to reach for them slightly ahead of ADP. In 2023, Nico Collins was priced at pick 160 in DraftKings best ball when it opened in May. But over on Underdog, Collins was going over 30 picks higher. If you were happy drafting him higher on Underdog then it makes sense to say the market on DraftKings was wrong and you were going to be aggressive on him. Equally, keep an eye on our expert consensus rankings (ECR) for players we’re much higher or lower than the market on. If you agree, don’t be afraid to be aggressive. Those who had faith in Puka Nacua in 2023 certainly reaped the rewards.

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