“If I had just started the guy on my bench I would have won!”
“If only my Quarterback didn’t get injured in the first half, I only needed 2 more points!”
“I knew I should have drafted my running backs handcuff but I couldn’t spare the roster spot!”
How many times has one of those scenarios happened to you or someone you know? Similar to poker, fantasy football is primarily a game of skill and yet the element of luck is ever present. Antonio Brown was the number one wide receiver last season, and yet he still had four games of under 10 points in PPR. Now some of those games were due to injury, but others were simply poor outings which happen to even the most elite players on occasion.
Here is where the difficulties of fantasy come into play. Unless injured, stud players like Antonio Brown are never going to be benched. Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., these are players who are drafted in the first round of fantasy for good reason. Even the most elite players have down weeks that we can’t always predict, but who would ever sit any of these guys? Not me that’s for sure.
Enter the best ball format.
Best Ball = Best Fantasy Football Format?
In the best ball format you don’t set a weekly lineup, instead, your highest scoring players are automatically selected as your starters once the week is complete.
For example, if you have Aaron Rodgers as your starting quarterback and Eli Manning as your backup, Rodgers is always going to get the start over Manning. In this format, however, on the one week where Eli goes off and throws for 400 yards and four touchdowns he won’t be wasted on your bench. The best ball system will see that Rodgers scored his usual 20-25 points (which is still a great start) but Eli scored 40 and select him over Rodgers as your starter for that particular week.
This concept holds true for every position on your squad. Each week your highest scoring quarterback, running backs, wide receivers, tight end, and kicker/DST will each be automatically moved into your starting line up. A quick note, many best ball leagues do not have the kicker or DST position so be sure to read up on the roster requirements before jumping into a best ball league.
The best ball format typically has deeper rosters, anywhere from 18-25 players. There is no in-season waiver wire and no trades. Once you’ve drafted your team that’s it. Simply sit back and enjoy the show! In the best ball format, you do not play head to head match ups. Instead, you play against every team, every week, and the standings are by total points scored. This helps eliminate some of the bad luck that can happen when you’re the second highest scoring team in a given week, but you were matched up against the highest scoring team that week. In a typical league, you’ll earn a loss in the aforementioned situation whereas a team that scored 30 points less than you may earn a win. In best ball, your total points will put you in second place for that given week, where you belong.
This increased roster depth rewards the more skilled fantasy football player who is knowledgeable about depth and player potential. The first few rounds of a fantasy draft are usually rather uneventful, as everyone knows approximately where players will be taken. Things really start to get interesting in the middle to later rounds, and that’s where you can really shine in the best ball format. There are different strategies to take in this format and they each have their own merits. If you want to shoot for upside then it’s advantageous to take some players who tend to be “boom or bust” as there is no downside to them! DeSean Jackson comes to mind when thinking of this type of player. Three catches for D. Jackson in a game could just as easily translate into either of these two scenarios:
A) 100+ yards and a touchdown
B) 30 yards with no score
In a regular league when you start a player like D. Jackson you’re rolling the dice hoping for scenario A but ending up with scenario B more often than you would like. In the best ball format, this is not an issue. Every time scenario A happens he’s in your lineup. When it’s scenario B he simply stays on your bench and someone safer like a Cooper Kupp with five catches for 65 yards replaces him as your starter.
The deeper rosters allow for a mix of high upside guys and “safe” players so ideally you’ll never have a terrible week or see a big fat goose egg in one of your starting slots. Best ball certainly rewards risk when that risk pays off, however it also allows you to choose to go the safer route if that’s your style.
One strategy utilized by best ballers is to go very running back and receiver heavy and wait until the absolute last minute for a quarterback. Players like Ryan Tannehill or Blake Bortles often go undrafted in a regular league. These guys aren’t going to light the world on fire, but they will still put up SOME points every week. Waiting on QB is not a new philosophy, but usually waiting means getting Matt Ryan in the 9th or Marcus Mariota in the 12th if you believe he’s going to turn it around this year. Don’t overlook the possibility of loading up on all the talent possible in every other position and then using your last three rounds to draft a collection of low-end QBs such as Tannehill, Bortles, Case Keenum, Eli Manning, etc.
Unless you’re one of the first to draft a quarterback, streaming the QB position usually turns out to be just as good as drafting a middle of the pack guy like a Matthew Stafford or a Philip Rivers. The elites such as Rodgers, Wilson and Brees are an exception but they also require a premium cost.
There are many possible ways to tweak your strategy for the best ball format, but what’s great about it is that the entirety of your team is up to bat every single week. When someone else’s starting running back goes down in week one and you drafted his backup in round 17 for depth, you’ve instantly got that player in your starting lineup!
Best ball also encourages you to go after your sleepers. With such deep rosters, and never having to choose to sit your studs it’s a risk with very little downside. If you believe Mike Williams is going to break out this year you can go after him in the 18th round, which is basically free. If you’re right then you’ve got a top 24 receiver on your hands! If you’re wrong then that pick cost you nothing and the receivers you drafted in the first ten rounds will continue to start for you every week like they were meant to. It’s such an exciting format because studying rounds 10+ of the draft will really pay off.
I highly recommend trying out the best ball format. If you’re like me, the best part is that there’s no maintenance required so you can have more leagues without having to keep track of all of them! I’m up to about 30 and counting. Do some drafts and tell me what you think!