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Best Ball Lessons Learned

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Michael Cohen

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Although best ball drafts have been available for a while now, it’s only become mainstream recently. Personally, I did about 10x the dollar volume in 2023 compared to the year before, and I also started drafting teams in May instead of late August.

Because the 2023 season really impacted people’s perception of what works in best ball, many of us will react to how last year played out in particular. Some of these lessons are likely constructive, but I’ll tweak them a bit. However, there are also ways people will overreact, and in turn, that will create opportunities in terms of ADP and roster construction.

Valuing Veterans

Two types of players tend to get overhyped during best ball – veterans past their prime and rookies. I’m guilty of rostering too much of the former. I drafted way too much Michael Thomas, Robert Woods, Mack Hollins, Odell Beckham and Leonard Fournette last year. The one veteran I overdrafted who did well was Adam Thielen.

CHARLOTTE, NC – SEPTEMBER 18: Adam Thielen #19 of the Carolina Panthers makes a diving catch during a football game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina on Sep 18, 2023. (Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire)

The main difference between Thielen and Thomas/Woods/OBJ/Hollins was that Thielen was the clear WR1 for the team to start the season, whereas the others I was hoping for more of a WR2+ type situation. That’s generally a fool’s errand. If you are drafting a veteran, your hope should be that he’s still in near-prime shape while others view him as past that point.

Hitting On The Late Rounds

To say Puka Nacua was an amazing last-round pick is the understatement of best ball history. Not only did he produce slate-breaking performances, he did so out of the gate. You got a 2024 best ball first round pick in the last round of 2023.

Everyone will immediately scout and hope they know who this year’s Nacua is, but it simply may not happen. There are way more Jalen Tolbert players out there than Puka Nacua breakouts. Drafting a backup running back and hoping for injury luck is likely a more plausible path to relevance. There will be an Ezekiel Elliott or Ty Chandler this year, but there may not be a Nacua.

Planning at Quarterback

We had a lot of QB injuries last year, with the most famous one happening after just four snaps. Quite frankly, there were a lot more injuries at that position than normal, which will likely spook people into wanting to hoard quarterbacks. Some may always try to draft 3-4 quarterbacks, but that’s generally a waste of roster spots.

CINCINNATI, OH – NOVEMBER 05: Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) looks to pass during the game against the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals on November 5, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

If you draft a stud quarterback, you should only draft one more QB due to the bye week. If you are drafting quarterbacks in the later rounds, then by all means go for three. But drafting 3 QBs if you select Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, etc. is a waste of a roster spot.

Shooting for Upside

Most of your picks in the later rounds will generally be duds by the time the fantasy playoffs roll around. You might as well take that shot on Kyren Williams, Puka Nacua or Ty Chandler. This generally means going for backup running backs, younger wide receivers, or backup tight ends who would get a lot of volume if there was an injury (such as Isaiah Likely).

Knowing Ball

The best advice is the most obvious – choose the best players. It’s easy to try to focus on the game theory elements of best ball and overlook the most obvious point of drafting players that will exceed industry expectations. We do a great job of just covering football in general at FTN, and we’ll have plenty of material to read over the summer.

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