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By now, you’ve seen the various types – FFPC leagues, MFL10s, Draft Master, etc. – but no matter what they’re called, Best Ball leagues are becoming more popular. Like the FFPC (Fantasy Football Players Championship), high-stake leagues almost exclusively use a best ball format to avoid collusion. That means you have to Ronco your draft… Shout it with me… “Set it, and forget it!”
In these leagues, you are drafting extremely deep, as you are picking your team for the entire year. No waivers, no trades. Nothing. I recommend drafting three quarterbacks, three tight ends and three defenses. Not everyone will agree, but throughout my involvement, this practice has led to the best results. Injuries are the obvious concern, and having just one backup isn’t enough. In addition, how many times do we see kickers lose their jobs? It happens too often not to draft three players from the most meaningless position. As for defenses, there is way too much change and turnover year to year to guarantee D/ST results. Plus, this is Best Ball, so you are only increasing your odds for a quality score each week. The math isn’t hard. Three chances are better than two.
When playing Best Ball, you want to draft a bit differently than you normally would, even in a deep league. Whereas consistency is king in typical leagues, you actually want some of those 3-4 week breakout guys who tend to disappear the rest of the season. Santana Moss’ glory days? Sign me up! You still want to look for late round value, but you use a slightly different tactic to obtain it.
I’m not going to name the obvious – well, okay, I’m listing them right after this – but I’m going to give you some targets primarily suited for Best Ball leagues.
Obvious late-round values that should already be on your radar: Johnny Manziel, Tre Mason, Christine Michael, Charles Sims, Knile Davis, Lance Dunbar, Isaiah Crowell (I’m going down with the ship), Justin Hunter, Doug Baldwin (people need to recognize!), Jordan Matthews, Kenny Britt and Garrett Graham to name just some of them.
Jake Locker – I’ve gushed enough about Manziel’s Fantasy potential if he ever starts. Well, Locker has a similar, albeit lower, upside for the same reason: rushing ability. Locker found the end zone twice last year in just seven games after rushing for two touchdowns over his first two seasons (16 games). The issue with Locker for a typical league is that he’s erratic, turnover prone and could lose time to injury or being replaced. However, in just seven games last year, Locker posted three high scores of 18, 21 and 27 Fantasy points. Locker also had two games over 20 points in 2012 and another in 2011, while chipping in eight career games with 30-plus rushing yards. Locker can put up decent scores with weak passing numbers thanks to his rushing, and he can even win you a week or two due to his occasional superstar scoring.
Dexter McCluster – McCluster already carries a bit of extra value due to dual eligibility on some sites. With most Best Ball high-stakes formats being PPR, Dex gets another boost. The upside doesn’t end there, as we also have Ken Whisenhunt in Tennessee, and you saw how much he loved using Danny Woodhead in the passing game. For reference, Woodhead finished 12th in PPR formats (19th in standard). Even in standard leagues last year, McCluster had four double-digit games, one thanks to a punt return. You should have no qualms about hoping for a few great weeks from Dex given his many ways to put up points.
Andrew Hawkins – I am not a Browns fan, not at all. Yes, they have Manziel, Crowell and now Hawkins, but trust me, I was born and (semi) raised in north Jersey, not in the city of LeBron. With Josh Gordon likely done for 2014 (his career?), someone has to lead the Browns in receiving. Why not Hawkins? Of Hawkins, Miles Austin and Nate Burleson, the one with the most overall talent and opportunity is Hawkins. Austin showed us plenty in Dallas, but he is not the same player, and Burleson can’t stay on the field. Whether it’s Brian Hoyer or Manziel at quarterback, no matter how much the Browns run the ball they are going to pass, and Hawkins flashed some PPR upside back in 2012.
Photos via Parker Anderson, Getty