Navigating Through Early Best Ball Drafts


If you’ve been drafting at all on Underdog Fantasy, you’re well aware of the “wide receiver avalanche,” with the position coming off the board earlier than ever. Although I expect the thirst for receivers to cool down as more casual drafters enter the fray, the closer we get to the start of the season, it’s no guarantee. While not quite at the same level, the early trends in Best Ball drafts have started to carry over into the redraft streets and have pushed receivers up the board in managed leagues as well.

As a multi-entry drafter, with a goal to 150-max Best Ball Mania, I plan to have a wide portfolio of players and builds throughout the offseason. With that said, until ADP shifts, my current plan of attack has been consolidated by implementing the same strategies over and over again and targeting teams that look relatively similar to each other. In this article, I’m going to lay out my game plan in early drafts, which is still over a week out from the start of training camp.

Early Wide Receivers

It may sound easy to zig while others zag, but getting boxed out of wide receiver is a losing proposition that will have you scrambling the rest of the draft. High-end receivers are priced at a premium, which is why I prefer to grab at least two in the first three rounds. Even in a half-PPR scoring format, the floor and ceiling provided by the early receivers are much harder to make up later in drafts, especially when you’re required to start at least three each week. Although this will leave me underweight on some of the early-round running backs, it’s something I can correct if/when the lobbies get softer closer to August. My preferred approach is to go “Zero” or “Hero” RB and grab my first or second running back in Round 6 or later after already creating the foundation of my roster. 

Elite Onesies

CINCINNATI, OH – NOVEMBER 10: Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks to pass during the game against the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals on November 10th 2019, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

After grabbing a couple of wide receivers, I’ve often found myself taking a detour for a quarterback and/or tight end and locking up an elite option at the onesie positions. The inflated ADP on receivers has created a nice pocket at the start of the fourth round, where the QB1, Josh Allen, and the TE2, Travis Kelce, start coming off the board. You can often double-tap the onesie positions in this range and start building out your stacks. A few of my favorite QB/TE pairings in this range are:

  • Josh Allen (ADP: 37.7, QB) + Dalton Kincaid (ADP: 52.5, TE5)
  • Patrick Mahomes (ADP: 49.5, QB4) + Travis Kelce (ADP: 39.2, TE2)
  • Lamar Jackson (ADP: 46.4, QB3) + Mark Andrews (ADP: 48.9, TE4)

Although you may feel like you’re falling behind the eight-ball with an early quarterback/tight end, it leaves you more flexibility for the draft and allows you to wait on a QB/TE2 once all of the other positions start to dry up. If you’re comfortable taking a zero on bye weeks, drafting just one elite quarterback or tight end is also a viable strategy while loading up on depth elsewhere on your roster. This is not something I recommend, considering there are legit starters available in the 18th round. However, you should never be taking a zero at both quarterback and tight end on the same roster.

Mid-to-Late-Round Running Backs

The position that has been pushed down the most by the wide receiver craze has been running backs, with just six coming off the board in the first two rounds, making up just 25% of the top 24 picks. As a result, “Zero” and “Hero” RB are a lot easier to execute than in past years, with starting workhorse backs available well beyond the dead zone. I don’t expect these ADPs to hold, at least for much longer, which is why I want to take advantage of the prices on mid-to-late-round running backs. Ideally, I would like to come away with one or no running backs in the first five rounds and ignore the position until the start of Round 6 or later.


When Best Ball Mania first opened, rookies were far and away the best picks on the board and still mispriced from the pre-draft tournaments that did not factor in actual capital and landing spots. The value quickly dried up when the market started to overcorrect on these first-year players and drafters reached well beyond their listed ADP in fear of missing out (FOMO). Since then, things have cooled off with rookies priced more fairly. That makes it a good time to target them before the start of training camp. There’s a lot of movement between now and the start of the season, but rookies tend to fluctuate the most in this window of the offseason, especially once preseason games kick off where we see them on an actual field.

Minimizing Risk

Until we get more information in the upcoming weeks and throughout training camp, I’m looking to avoid as much risk as possible and take a cautious approach on players set to miss time due to an injury or potential suspension. This may result in losing closing line value if the news is positive, but it’s something I’m comfortable missing out on for the time being. I also want to shy away from players who may be in the roster bubble or do not have a solidified role on their team’s depth chart unless they are rookies with somewhat meaningful draft capital.

One of the main reasons teams drafted closer to the start of the season perform at a much higher rate is their ability to avoid dead roster spots. Taking a zero on one of your roster spots may not seem like a big deal, but they have been proven to be determinantal when comparing advance rates, especially in the playoffs when competing against stronger teams with overlapping players. I’m trying to be mindful in the late rounds of filling out stacks and addressing positional needs/bye weeks, while also targeting players I feel confident will see meaningful playing time.

Previous DeRozan to the Kings, Duarte to the Bulls, Barnes to the Spurs; FTN Reacts Next Fantasy Baseball Weekly Hitting Planner (July 8)