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Best Ball Fantasy Football Strategies for 2021

As we barrel through August it’s full speed ahead towards redraft fantasy football season, but let’s not forget about best ball just yet. If you’ve been best ball drafting all offseason, you probably don’t need me to convince you to get a few more in this month while you still can. If you’re new to best ball it’s a great way to sharpen up for your re-draft leagues with a little real money on the line.

There is, however, some nuance to best ball drafts. Before entering it’s vital to be familiar with strategies tailored for best ball and how they differ from weekly managed leagues. Some of these strategies translate to redraft better than others, especially considering there’s no waiver wire available in best ball. You also typically have a larger roster in best ball leagues. Because of these factors, best ball strategies boil down to one thing: roster construction. How you build your team matters and there are multiple routes to success. 

Most of these best ball strategies revolve around running backs, arguably the most important position in fantasy football. Of course, how you approach running backs has a domino effect on the other positions, and how you draft them needs to be adjusted accordingly. You may also notice that all of the strategies feature wide receivers as the most drafted position. Wideout is the deepest position in fantasy football and also the most prone to variance. You take advantage of both of those facts by loading up on receivers. 

It should be noted that one strategy this won’t cover in-depth is stacking, which is more of a tool that can, and should, be used with any of the following best ball draft strategies. If you want more info on the topic, make sure to check out this recent article on stacks to target in best ball.

With that as the backdrop, let’s take a look at different best ball strategies that can lead to success. 

For the strategies discussed here, I’ll be following the Underdog Fantasy best ball roster format that features 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, and 10 bench spots (18 total).

Zero RB

The zero running back draft strategy has been floating around in redraft fantasy football circles for years now but it is well suited for best ball. With this strategy, you spend your early draft picks on anything but running backs. Fill your roster with stud wide receivers and true difference makers at quarterback and tight end before considering any running backs.

Obviously, you aren’t literally drafting zero running backs, you’re just push drafting them back to the middle and late rounds. When you’re finally ready to pull the trigger on backs, take the shotgun approach and draft a conglomerate of high-upside backs; running backs in ambiguous backfields, rookies that could take over as the season progresses, or your classic handcuff backups. You can’t scramble to add these potential league-winners off waivers in best ball but you can pre-load them on your roster.

Possible Roster Construction: QB:2 RB:7 WR:7 TE:2

Hero RB

Sometimes known as “modified zero running back’, this strategy requires one small but important change to go from zero to hero. In this approach, you spend your first draft pick on a stud running back, then forgo drafting the position for as long as possible. This strategy is largely dependent on your draft slot and works best if you get dealt a top-four pick, which allows you to start your draft with one of the true studs as the hero running back on your roster.

Rostering a back that profiles as a week-in, week-out stud allows you the freedom to roster fewer running backs overall and take a few more late-round shots at the other positions.

Possible Roster Construction: QB:2 RB:5 WR:8 TE:3

Fragile RB

A fragile running back build is the perfect example of a high-risk, high-reward strategy. When employing the fragile running back strategy you’ll get three top-tier running backs early, possibly even with your first three picks, and that’s it for the position. Since you only need to fill two running back spots in a given week, three great ones can do the trick. Of course, this is considered “fragile” because if any of your backs bust or get injured, your team is sunk.

The theory here is that if you have a high-end running back bust, you probably aren’t replacing him with the mid and late-round running backs you’ll find later in the draft anyway. Meanwhile, the wide receivers in this range are more prone to variance and giving you the random spike performances that can win you a week. This build also allows you to add more depth at quarterback and tight end.

Possible Roster Construction: QB:3 RB:3 WR:9 TE:3

Robust RB/Zero WR

As the name implies, this strategy is essentially the opposite of zero running back. After all, running back is the highest scoring non-quarterback position in fantasy football. Drafting running backs early and often assures that you’ll never get burned at the position. It does prevent you from adding stud wide receivers to your roster, but receivers are the deepest position in fantasy football. Since they’re also high-variance, adding more of them in the late rounds increases your chances of hitting on week-winning performances throughout the season. 

Possible Roster Construction: QB:2 RB:6 WR:8 TE:2

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How to Approach Quarterbacks and Tight Ends

You may have noticed that each possible roster construction included either two or three at each of these positions. That wasn’t arbitrary. While you don’t necessarily want to build a strategy around these “onesie” positions, you need to fit them into you’re chosen method accordingly. Let’s take a look at why and when to go with two or three quarterbacks and tight ends in best ball drafts.

Quarterback

Quarterback is the highest scoring position in fantasy football, but it’s also the most replaceable. This is why the “Late Round Quarterback” strategy has been historically so successful in traditional redraft leagues. The success behind this strategy, however, is contingent on the ability to find bye week replacements off waivers and stream the position when necessary. This isn’t an option in best ball, so you need to draft your backups and streamers upfront.

Two QB Build

If you secure a top-flight quarterback you should only be adding one more to your roster. Spending legit draft capital at the position means you believe in the player and he should provide the QB points to your lineups most weeks. Ideally, you’ll only get a few weeks’ worth of points from your second quarterback. In two-quarterback builds your first quarterback needs to be a stud but your second should be reliable. Stacking pass-catchers with your second quarterback should be prioritized to increase his overall ceiling.

Three QB Build

If you’re a fan of the “Late Round Quarterback” strategy in managed leagues, three-quarterback builds are for you. With these builds, you wait on quarterbacks until the later rounds and draft three “streamers” to play off your roster. With this build you still want to have one safe, stabilizing starter, but the others can be riskier upside players that will pay off if they put up a few big weeks or, better yet, have a breakout season. This is a great strategy to use if you want to target rookie quarterbacks that might not takeover until later in the season like Trey Lance or Justin Fields.

Tight End

Unlike quarterbacks, there is a massive dropoff after the top tier of tight ends. They can, however, still be approached similarly. Just like quarterbacks, you need at least two but don’t want any more than three. The path you take to acquire them, however, is slightly different than quarterbacks.

Two TE Build

In recent years a top-scoring fantasy tight end has given you a massive advantage and it doesn’t project to look any different this season. A top-three tight end, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or George Kittle, is likely going to cost you a first or second-round draft pick. There’s nothing wrong with chasing the positional advantage at that cost, but realize that if everything goes as planned you won’t have another tight end cracking your best ball lineup most weeks. 

Since the dropoff after the elite tier is so massive, there’s no need to reach for a questionable upside tight end in the middle rounds and there’s certainly no need to add two depth tight ends. The best play is to pair your elite tight end with a late-round flyer, maybe stack him with one of your quarterbacks, and hope he gives you a few usable weeks throughout the season.

Three TE Build

Conversely, if you’re drafting anything other than an elite tight end, you should be drafting three. Where you grab them in the draft isn’t as important, though it’s not a bad idea to grab a high-upside breakout candidate or two in the middle rounds and finish it up with a dart throw near the end of the draft. Much like drafting three quarterbacks, selecting three tight ends in your best ball draft essentially allows you to stream the position from your bench. Again, these middle and late-round tight ends can present the perfect opportunity to stack with quarterbacks, ultimately increasing your roster’s upside.

– Aaron Larson (@aalarson)

For more on best ball strategies, make sure to check out the DFS n Donuts on YouTube.

Looking for even more great fantasy football resources for the upcoming season? Check out the *free* Team Rise or Fall Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

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