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Best Ball Fantasy Football 101: Format Introduction

Derek gives an introduction to the Best Ball fantasy football format.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - NOVEMBER 22: CeeDee Lamb #88 of the Dallas Cowboys pulls in a touchdown pass against Jeff Gladney #20 of the Minnesota Vikings during their game at U.S. Bank Stadium on November 22, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Fantasy football is at the height of its popularity. Many of us have been playing for years (decades for me), while some may be brand new to the game. There is no question it is America’s number one fantasy sport and for plenty of good reasons. Choosing your league and format can be confusing as you have so many choices to make: Redraft or Dynasty, roster size and limits, full PPR, Half-PPR, or Standard, kickers or no kickers, league size, draft date, and so on and so forth. Whether you are starting brand new or looking to change things up a bit, I’m here today to discuss a different format: Best Ball – what it is, how it’s done, and why it may be just the option for you.

What is “Best Ball”?

Best Ball is a fantasy football format where the highest-scoring lineup is automatically selected from your roster each week. No more start/sit decisions, no more roster-lock deadlines, no more zeroes from players injured two minutes into the game, and no more kicking yourself for missing Clinton Portis’ 218-yard, five-touchdown week (this still haunts me 21 years later).

The good thing about Best Ball is that it’s simple – you just draft your team, sit back, and relax. Listen, if you’re like me (admit it, you probably are), you are in 17 different leagues. Part of it is I absolutely love everything about drafting teams. Another part is that I can’t say no to joining a league when someone (Lou Landers) asks. Draft Day should be a national holiday, and I’ve already written to my congressional representatives to request it. But what I hate about managing 17 teams is I can never keep things straight. So many teams, free agent moves, waiver claims, free-agent budgets, trades, matchups, and weather forecasts to keep organized. Best Bell is set it and forget it. Really. That’s it. No add/drops, no trades, no lineup setting, no second guessing, no getting cute and benching this guy for that guy. Best of all, no missing those bench performances that NO ONE saw coming. It’s all about how well you draft a team.

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Best Ball Formats 

The draft is THE HIGHLIGHT of the whole season (with a nod to when you get to hoist the hardware). Most Best Ball formats use traditional rosters and starting lineups – QB, RB, WR, TE, K, D/ST, FLEX – but different leagues may have different roster sizes and position limits. The big difference between Best Ball and traditional draft formats is that Best Ball drafts are longer and deeper than their Redraft counterparts. This is to accommodate the whole “no roster moves” thing, allowing teams to survive injuries and take shots on sleepers who would normally be waiver wire pickups in traditional leagues. You can find plenty of Best Ball sites online (more on that later), or you can create your own Best Ball league. If you do that, you can set up the draft however you like, nothing is stopping you here; most Best Ball formats are Redraft, but you can play Dynasty or Keeper as well. Season format, playoffs, and championships can also come in all the same varieties as traditional leagues – total points, categories, head-to-head, or some hybrid of each. A lot of Best Ball sites have large, multi-entry tournaments with huge prize pools paying out based on in-season performance and/or an elimination format over the last few weeks. You can also play Best Ball in any scoring format. Especially if you make your own league, you can pick your level of PPR, tweak scoring settings, add bonuses, and tiebreakers; you’re the boss.

Who Should Play Best Ball

Managers who don’t want the “hassle” of roster moves, deadlines, keeping up with multiple teams, and anyone really looking to try a new format. People are busy, and life is busy. Not everyone is glued to a computer for dozens of hours a week. Maybe you’re burned out on “traditional” leagues and looking to spruce up your fantasy gaming with something new. Perhaps you’re new and want an introductory style that isn’t too complicated. Maybe you just love drafting more than anything else. We get all of that. And this may be just the format you’re looking for.

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Who Should Not Play Best Ball

Armchair GMs who absolutely love the hassle: free agents, claims, trades, playing matchups. The guesswork, prognostication, strategy, trade talks, and waiver wire mining – all the things. Those who love to read the dailies, listen to the podcasts, and channel their inner Sonny Weaver. If grinding and tinkering with lineups is your jam, you may find Best Ball lacking in the action you so desperately love

Where To Play Best Ball

This depends on your style. You can play Best Ball in tournaments, season-long leagues, or even daily/weekly formats. Underdog Fantasy is the biggest provider for Best Ball competitions, but FanDuel, DraftKings, Drafters, Yahoo, FFPC, ESPN, and Fantrax all support various types of Best Ball leagues. You could even calculate by hand, researching scores and stats by pencil and candlelight like we did back in the Dark Ages! I recommend you give Best Ball a try, as it is one of the most fun ways to get involved with fantasy football; whether you’re a beginner looking for an easy format to start out with or an expert looking to grind out hundreds of drafts, Best Ball has something for you!

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