Australia markets close in 4 hours 35 minutes

Best Ball 101: The fantasy football game that appeals to anyone from newbies to diehard players

By Adam Levitan, Establish the Run

Special to Yahoo Sports

As fantasy football has exploded into the mainstream, the door has opened to many different variations. Perhaps the simplest (and most fun) of all is what’s known as “Best Ball.”

WHAT IS BEST BALL?

draft-only fantasy format. After the draft takes place, there are no trades, no waiver pickups, no lineup-setting, and no transactions of any kind. There are starting lineups, but Yahoo will set yours at the end of each week. In other words, you’ll automatically get your optimal, results-based starting lineup each week. The winner of the league is whoever accumulates the most points at the end of the season.

[Join a Best Ball league. No waivers or trades: Start drafting in minutes!]

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YAHOO’S SCORING SYSTEM?

Yahoo’s Best Ball leagues employ a standard scoring system. Passing touchdowns are worth four points while all others are worth six. Quarterbacks need 25 yards to generate 1.0 fantasy points. All receptions are worth a half-point. The general takeaway here is that the scoring system doesn’t dictate changes from what most people would consider typical fantasy football player values.

HOW MANY PLAYERS SHOULD I DRAFT AT EACH POSITION?

Great question — and a somewhat complicated one. The bottom line is it depends on how much early round draft capital you spend at a position. For example, if you select Patrick Mahomes then the likelihood your QB3 gets a usable score often enough to be worth a draft pick is low. You’d only want two QBs on your roster in Yahoo Best Ball leagues. On the other hand, if you don’t take your first RB until Round 4, then you’ll want five of your 20 picks to be RBs.

Picking an elite quarterback like Patrick Mahomes means you won't need to worry about the position again until the back half of your draft. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

At Establish The Run, we’ve taken a data-driven look at more than 26,000 simulations in an effort to flesh out the optimal positional allocation strategy. Using this information, we discovered these ranges as optimal: 2-3 QBs, 4-5 RBs, 7-8 WRs, 2-3 TEs, 2-3 D/STs. If you’re interested in more advanced explanations on these ranges and how to use them, check out this article.

[Visit Establish The Run for more premium fantasy football analysis]

SHOULD I PRE-RANK PLAYERS BEFORE I DRAFT?

Ideally, yes. Most of our opponents will draft off the default rankings in Yahoo’s drafting applet. We can exploit that in a massive way by having stronger, independent rankings. For example, Yahoo ranks Raheem Mostert in the 40s but I wouldn’t take him until the 7th round.

Winning at pre-ranking is one of the strongest tools we have in Yahoo Best Ball leagues, and you should compare your favorite expert’s ranks to Yahoo default settings before getting started.

HOW SHOULD I ADJUST MY RANKINGS FOR THIS FORMAT?

A common tactic fantasy managers employ is to increase volatility across their roster. They target players with low floor/high ceiling distributions in their weekly game logs because they don’t need to pinpoint the spike weeks for these players. While there are examples of these players (such as Marquise Brown and DeSean Jackson), our data-driven research has shown that the value gained by these boom/bust players is often overstated in ADP (Average Draft Position). We are more concerned with fragility of role (as I explain here) than trying to reach for a player we think has a wide distribution of outcomes.

SHOULD I DRAFT MY RB’S BACKUP?

The short answer is “No,” because we want as many chances at qualifying scores as possible each week. If we draft both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, it’s overwhelmingly likely just one of them will have a chance to be in our starting lineup on a given week. But by drafting Zeke and Alexander Mattison, we don’t block ourselves. Elliott and Mattison can both have access to weekly ceilings in the event of a Dalvin Cook injury or holdout.

WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT YAHOO’S BEST BALL PAYOUT STRUCTURE?

Yahoo’s Best Ball leagues pay out 27.7% of the prize pool to 1st place, 16.6% of the prize pool to 2nd place, and 11.1% to 3rd place. The rest of the prize pool is awarded to whichever team scores the most points each week (2.7% for 16 weeks).

This is a very flat payout structure and all of Yahoo’s leagues are 10-man fields. In other words, the benefits of correlation (drafting QB1 and WR1 from the same team) are not as pronounced because only 27.7% of the money goes to first and we only have to beat nine other players. Ramping up variance at the expense of a value-based draft isn’t a bad idea, but it’s not necessary.

Adam Levitan has been writing about Fantasy Football professionally since 2008 and is a two-time FSWA award winner. A podcast host since 2015, his podcasts have been downloaded over 5 million times.

Establish The Run is a premium fantasy football analysis website. ETR will be providing exclusive content for Yahoo Fantasy Sports players leading into the 2020 NFL fantasy football season.

More from Yahoo Fantasy Sports