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Fantasy Football: How to Use Best Ball Rankings to Your Advantage

Drafting a quality best ball or fantasy football team is about making good decisions. There are several important pieces to that puzzle, but utilizing rankings is towards the top of that list.

Once a week, Josh Larky and I meet for several hours to adjust our Top-250 Underdog Best Ball rankings. This article will break down in detail how I apply our best ball rankings during my drafts. 


How to Use Best Ball Rankings

Who Are We Above or Below Market On?

The primary thing I look for in content is an idea or stance that I haven’t thought of myself. That’s why the first thing I look for in rankings is which players are listed significantly above or below their current ADP.

For example, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne is someone we’ve been significantly above market on for weeks. We currently have Etienne ranked 21st in our rankings, even though his ADP is 29.7. 

That means that we view Etienne as a late-second-round value we can get in the mid-third round. If we are drafting multiple teams, we don’t want Etienne on all of them, but we want you to know we are above consensus on him at this juncture. 

If the Jaguars draft a running back in the second round or sign a relevant free agent at the position, we will adjust accordingly. If they don’t, Etienne could end up in the top 20.

How Many Best Ball Teams Will You Draft?

I plan to draft around 500 best ball teams across multiple platforms this season. If I were drafting 20 teams, I’d have a significantly different approach. 

Since I’m going to draft a pretty heavy volume, I will have at least some exposure to just about everyone; even the players I’m not overly enthusiastic about. That means long term, I will have to scale back on drafting certain players we are above market on. 

In the case of Etienne, I will take players we have ranked behind him just so that my portfolio isn’t too reliant on one player.

If I were drafting 20 teams, I would be much more aggressive with my player stances. In that scenario, roster construction and our rankings would be the primary resources I’d use. I’d be willing to fade certain players with lighter volume completely.


When Are You Going to Draft?

When I’m drafting determines how much volume I plan to do, my general strategy and how I plan to manage exposures. I break that up into three phases:

The Big Board

  • I’ll end up with around 100 Big Board teams, depending on when it fills.
  • I’m aggressive during this tournament.
  • I rely more on my stances than market values during this phase.
  • I’m only mildly concerned with managing exposures before the draft.

Post Draft May through mid-Summer

  • I do my most significant volume in the two weeks after the schedule release in mid-May.
  • I’m a strong futures bettor, and one of my strengths is schedule lookaheads.
  • Those are two of my biggest edges, so I’m aggressive during this phase.
  • I rely more on my stances than market value.
  • I will begin to manage exposures more once ADP sharpens in early summer.

Preseason into Opening Day

  • I try to put myself in a position where I do one or two drafts daily through this phase.
  • ADP gets sharp during this period, so I become less aggressive during this phase.
  • I manage exposures more and rely more on obtaining market value in drafts.

In our rankings, if a player has a rating of 4+ or less than 2, either Larky or I (sometimes both) have a strong stance on that player versus current ADP.

Don’t Import Rankings

I leave the default, platform-generated rankings up when drafting teams, so I can better anticipate who my opponents might take in certain situations. I have our rankings up on a separate screen to quickly find how we value players in certain situations.

How I handle early picks in Big Board drafts is a good example of why I do this. I’m a big fan of getting Kenneth Walker and Etienne on the same team. To do that, I have to take Walker first, even though we have Etienne ranked a spot ahead of him.

If I just picked down our rankings, I would rarely get that combo if I took Etienne first. However, based on current ADP, if I have a top-four or top-five pick, Etienne will usually still be there in the third round.

Similarly, especially if I take Christian McCaffrey in the first round, I might take a wide receiver in the second round and then come back to take Etienne in the third. 

My primary goal when drafting Big Board teams is to create rosters I can’t get in a few months. We currently want to be overweight on Etienne, but we also want to manage our exposures with similarly valued players.


When I Significantly Deviate from Our Rankings

Roster Construction: If I select three running backs within the first four rounds, I will prioritize other positions until late in the draft. A running back will have to slide for me to take another one in the first 10 rounds in that situation.

Stacking: On a stream that Josh and I recently did, we had Deshaun Watson as our quarterback. That led to us taking Donovan Peoples-Jones ahead of a few players we generally have ranked higher than him. We did that to complete our Browns stack. I won’t take a player a full round earlier to complete a stack in most situations, but I will take them half a round earlier.

Playoff Game Stacks: This isn’t a factor until the schedule releases in May, but I will elevate a player in an appealing Week 17 game. We’ll have plenty of discussions on that subject when the time comes.

Managing Exposures: Right now, I’m taking Etienne more in line with ADP because my exposure to him was getting too high.

An Unorthodox Draft: For example, in some drafts, most quarterbacks are gone much sooner than usual. I try to recognize those kinds of situations early so I can adjust.


Ultimately, I use our rankings as a baseline for most decisions I make while drafting teams. For the guys we have 4+ ratings on, I have 20 percent exposure or more on most of them. I only have one or two shares of the guys we have a 1 rating on, like Allen Lazard or Devin Singletary.

As rosters get finalized through free agency and the draft, we’ll adjust accordingly.