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Best Ball 2024: Best Ball Roster Structure and Positional Allocation

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Welcome to the FTN Fantasy Best Ball Guide for 2024!

Finding the right 2024 best ball draft strategy can feel like a chore in and of itself. In a best ball league, you draft and you’re done. No waivers, no trades, just the draft.

Nailing the draft isn’t just “important” — It’s literally the only thing that matters. So let’s run through some of the top best ball draft strategies you can use for 2024.

Best Ball Strategies

You absolutely need a strategy. It’s OK if you don’t have one leading into the draft, but the first one or two picks you make needs to dictate the rest of your draft. If you just wing it all 18 rounds, you’re toast. Unlike traditional redraft leagues, there is no way to “fix” your roster after the draft. You get what you get.

Here is a brief overview of some of the most popular strategies:

Zero RB

This means not drafting your first RB for the first several rounds (usually going at least 4-5 rounds without a running back). The strategy is predicated on two facts: 1) RBs are injured more often than other positions and 2) RB is the most replaceable real NFL position, which means you can find comparable fantasy output later in the draft. This is fairly common in 2024, as only eight of the first 24 picks are RBs.

Hero RB

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 17: Christian McCaffrey #23 of the 49ers during the San Francisco 49ers game versus the Los Angeles Rams on September 17, 2023, at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. (Photo by Kevin Reece/Icon Sportswire)

A twist on “Zero RB” but for the less hardcore. This means you’re drafting an RB early — usually the first round — and then waiting 4-6 rounds before taking your second one. It draws on the Zero RB concept of getting top-end RB production on a discount, but it comes with the insurance policy of a bona fide fantasy RB1 (barring injuries, RBs taken early in fantasy are typically safe bets). Teams drafting from the 1.01 spot in 2024 that get Christian McCaffrey often utilize the “Hero RB” build, taking WR-WR at the 2-3 turn, and a QB like Patrick Mahomes at the 4-5 turn. Their second RB might not be drafted until the 6-7 turn.

Robust RB

The anti-Zero RB, Robust RB means loading up on RBs early in the draft. This could mean taking a running back with each of your first three picks. If you deploy this strategy, you could potentially get away with drafting just one more RB later in the draft. It’s a put-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket approach. This is less common in 2024 but viable if you’re drafting in the tail-end of the first round, where Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs, Saquon Barkley and Jonathan Taylor are all going. A few rounds later you could snag someone like Derrick Henry or Rachaad White.

Bully QB/Bully TE

KANSAS CITY, MO – OCTOBER 16: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) pats Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) on the head after an NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs on October 16, 2022 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

The “Bully” strategy means taking two players from one of the “onesie” positions (QB or TE) within the first 4-5 rounds. So that means you might draft both Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. Or maybe you take both Sam LaPorta and Travis Kelce. Very important note: The Bully TE strategy is much more popular than the Bully QB approach, because both TEs can score in a given week due to the flex position on Underdog. Only 1 QB will ever score for your team. But the idea is that you “Bully” the competition by directing most of the elite production at naturally thin positions to just your team. This is a fringe strategy in 2024 that should not be used heavily.

Punt Onesies

The “onesie” positions are the ones in which just one player (potentially two in the case of TEs) will score for your team in a given week. If you “punt” (wait until later in the draft to select) these positions, it means you’re taking more shots at RB and WR, which is a virtual lock to prove fruitful.

The downside, of course, is that if your punt selection ends up being weak, your added boosts at RB/WR is unlikely to be enough to make up for it. But if your punt selection ends up being a diamond in the rough, your roster will instantly be one of the best in the league. This is a high-risk, high-reward play — though it’s worth noting that finding top-end QB and TEs later in the draft is much more difficult compared to WRs and RBs. If you decide to punt QB or TE, you should aim to have three or maybe even four from the position on your roster, not just two.

What Is The ‘RB Dead Zone’?

There’s also the concept of the “RB Dead Zone” that you’ll hear plenty about. It was a very popular phrase in 2023, but less so in 2023. What exactly this means can change from year-to-year, but it boils down to this: There will be a handful of rounds in the middle of the draft (usually somewhere between Rounds 4-8) in which the RBs available to select are only marginally safer than the RBs going later in the draft. Many players avoid this “Dead Zone” and instead draft non-RBs in these rounds.

Of course, plenty of good fantasy RBs can be found in this range, but it is kind of like an RB purgatory zone. It’s the group after the locked-in players but before the backups. Some of the RBs will slightly outperform ADP. Others will completely whiff.

Best Builds and Roster Construction for Underdog Best Ball

You’ll see Underdog builds referred to as something like this: 3-5-7-3.

This refers to the number of players at each position on your team in the order of QB-RB-WR-TE. Here’s an overview of the typical build approaches you can take:

Normal

2-3 QBs, 5-6 RBs, 7-8 WR and 2-3 TEs. This gives you the most balanced roster. You’ll want more WRs than RBs because you are required to “start” one more WR each week.

Hyper Fragile

Drafting just 4 RBs. Or maybe even 3! This approach works nicely with the Hero RB or Robust RB strategies. The idea is that if you get lucky and none of your RBs get hurt — and all of them are good — then anything more than 4 is just a wasted roster spot. The “don’t get hurt” part of this strategy is out of your hands. The “all of them are good” is not. If you go hyper fragile, you want to take at least two, preferably three, top-end fantasy RBs early in your draft.

This strategy is most viable in 2024 if you’re draft toward the back of Round 1.

Heavy RB

Drafting 7 (or more) RBs. You automatically start two RBs each week and can start a third in the flex spot if they score high enough, so you rarely see a roster with 7-plus RBs — but it’s not unheard of. This approach is most viable when you wait a long, long time before drafting your first or second RB. Basically, it’s taking as many shots later as possible in the hopes that half of them pan out.

Heavy WR

It’s the same concept as Heavy RB, but for WRs. This approach best fits with the Robust RB draft strategy.

Handcuffing In Best Ball

Handcuffing in fantasy football means taking your primary starters’ backup. It usually refers to RBs, though it’s sometimes used in reference to TEs as well.

Unlike traditional season-long fantasy leagues, in best ball tournaments like the Underdog Best Ball Mania contest, handcuffing is not as popular. That’s because in order for your handcuff pick to pan out, it means something bad needs to have happened to your early-round pick, so either way, your draft ends sub-optimally (either you made a bad early pick, or you made a bad later pick).

If you skip handcuffing, you’re increasing the possibility of your roster showing up DOA. But if you go with handcuffing, you’re lowering your potential ceiling. In big best ball tournaments, ceiling is king, so knowingly reducing your ceiling is rarely the right move.

There’s a case to be made for handcuffing a middle-of-the-pack “starter” with his middle-of-the-pack backup. You’ll get production each week, and both players’ ceiling gets much higher if something happens to the other. There’s merit to this, but it’s hard for me to get behind, as it’s still filling one roster spot with two draft picks.

Previous 2024 Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: ADP Rumblings (5/15) Next Crossed Up: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in Fantasy Baseball (5/15)