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Early Best Ball Draft Strategies for Fantasy Football - How To Build Winning Teams

mark andrews fantasy football rankings NFL DFS lineup picks

We have officially hit the preseason lull before the next NFL season. Teams have made their big first-wave free agent signings and the NFL draft has concluded. Unfortunately, we still have four months until meaningful NFL action. Thankfully, there are still plenty of outlets to stay involved with fantasy football even with the lack of news and signings happening in the NFL.

Any fantasy football player searching for meaning during these impending summer months knows the familiar pull of starting a new league or joining a league to draft a new team. With each added team comes more waiver wires to monitor, injuries to track, and lineups to set. This is why the best solution is best ball drafting. Best balls give you the thrill of putting together a team without the hassle of monitoring them throughout the season. Just plant your flag on players, put together the best team that you can, and check-in at the end of the season to see how you did. It’s that simple.

Thankfully, best ball fantasy football has started to gain popularity in the past few years, giving fantasy managers plenty of outlets to cure their fantasy itch. For this article, I will be focusing specifically on FFPC fantasy leagues, which offer fast (60-second clock) or slow (two, four, or six-hour clock) live drafts for as little as $35. Whether you’re a seasoned vet or new to the best ball game, feel free to check out these early strategies below.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy football rankings for 2024 fantasy football drafts:

 

Understand the Platform’s Scoring and Rosters

Knowing the scoring and roster setting of the league you're joining can give fantasy gamers an early advantage out of the gate or sink their roster before they even get started. FFPC's best ball leagues are total point leagues that consist of a 28-round draft and run until Week 17 of the NFL season. Each week, your team will start 1QB-2RB-2WR-1TE-2FLEX-1Kicker-1 Team Defense. The FLEX position can be a running back, wide receiver, or tight end. More importantly, FFPC's best ball leagues have unique scoring settings that will influence the rest of this list.

The most notable things to note in the scoring system are the fact that quarterbacks get four points per passing touchdown, running backs and wide receivers get one point per reception and six points per touchdown (rushing or receiving), and tight ends get premium scoring (1.5 points per reception). This pushes up the value of the top tight ends immensely, places more value on high-volume receivers and late-round specialist running backs, and caps the upside of pocket passing quarterbacks.

 

Be Flexible With Your Draft Strategy

Zero-RB. Hero-RB. Late Round QB. Stacking skill players.

All of these terms are fantasy buzzwords that you’ll see regarding best ball (and general) fantasy drafting. In a perfect world, you’ll always be able to get your guy. All of the best strategies can quickly be laid to waste when you end up picking earlier or later than you want and are struck watching positional runs. The best thing you can do is be flexible. Here is an example:

Let’s assume you get into a draft and find yourself picking eighth overall. You already know that the top two running backs (Jonathan Taylor and Christian McCaffrey) are going to be off the board, but you think you can secure one of your second-tier backs like Austin Ekeler or Najee Harris. Worst case scenario you should be able to get a good wide receiver like Justin Jefferson or Ja'Marr Chase. Then it happens…

  • 1.01: Jonathan Taylor
  • 1.02: Christian McCaffrey
  • 1.03: Cooper Kupp
  • 1.04: Ja'Marr Chase
  • 1.05: Justin Jefferson
  • 1.06: Austin Ekeler
  • 1.07: Najee Harris

All of your targets went in the first seven picks. The good news? Instead of reaching for that next tier of running back too early or pushing up a wide receiver you don’t believe in, you can take advantage of the scoring and take your pick between high-volume tight ends like Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews.

Ideally, most drafters like getting their running backs early or that high-volume receiver on a pass-first offense. In this scenario the positional scarcity at tight end (plus the scoring settings) gives you a high-scoring piece and still leaves you plenty of options at deeper positions in the next two rounds. It may not have been the plan that you wanted to use, but it does open up your ability to attack other positions at rounds where people will be reaching for less consistent tight-end options.

 

Build a Balanced Roster with Appropriate Depth

Going into these drafts, it helps to understand the approaches that have worked for people in the past. In the last three years of FFPC best ball, the overall winning team had the same configuration: 3QB-7RB-8WR-4TE-3DEF-3K. While that doesn’t mean that is the only lineup you need to do, it does a good job of highlighting things that work.

Ultimately, you want to shoot for more depth at the highly-volatile positions (like running back and wide receiver) and take quality top-end quarterbacks and tight ends with some solid depth behind them. This is especially important in the early rounds. To build a strong roster, it makes sense to get a premium quarterback and tight end (with two running backs and wide receivers) in the first five rounds. Once you have your upper-end talent, it allows you to sit tight and call your shots in the middle rounds to fill out your team.

Outside of skill positions, it is important to make sure you have adequate depth at kicker and defense as well, which brings me to my next strategy…

 

We Know Less About Team Defenses Than We Think

Two of the more popular defenses that were drafted early last year were the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both teams featured strong players at all three levels of defense and were highly regarded because of the big names they had at edge rusher. The teams who took these defenses likely took them as early as the 10th round last season. What they got in return? The 13th (Rams) and seventh (Buccaneers) ranked defenses overall. That is not an ideal return on investment.

The complication with a team defense is the fact that you need all 11 players on that unit to perform well and stay healthy to maximize the points you can get. Those many variables make it extremely difficult to have a grasp of the team defenses, which gives them an exceptionally high level of variance. A good rule of thumb for defense (and to a degree kickers) is to let somebody else start the run and go from there (or wait for a round where you don’t like any of the skill players and shoot your shot).

 

Take Advantage of Rookie ADPs and Get Your Guys

There is no better opportunity to draft rookies you believe in than in best-ball leagues happening before training camps. For example, both Drake London and Treylon Burks will both operate as their team’s WR1 with very little target competition. As the summer goes on and beat writers and training camp videos start to go public, both of these players will climb the fantasy rankings. However, Drake London and Treylon Burks are being drafted in the 8th and 9th round of drafts respectively, and behind plenty of teams’ WR2s. While neither player should be drafted as a best-ball team’s wide receiver, each of them has Top-24 upside given their team situations and draft status but they’re going as backend WR3s.

Knowing this, you can grab both of those players a round ahead of their ADP at the moment and probably still accrue value against future drafters. May and June are the softest time for rookie ADPs and can be exploited to shore up teams looking to win best ball tournaments.



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