Best Ball Fantasy Football: A Complete Guide

best ball fantasy football

Best ball fantasy football is a new way for NFL fans to experience game days in the fall while competing to win real money.

Rising quickly in popularity, best ball contests feature some impressive prize pools that give you the chance to win a lot more money than your regular season-long fantasy football leagues do.

So what are best ball formatted fantasy football contests? How much money is at stake? Where can you play them? What’s the best strategy for roster construction? On this page, we’ll dive into all of those questions and provide special best ball fantasy football promo codes, so you’ll want to pay close attention as we break things down section by section!

Best Ball Fantasy Football Overview

When you enter a best ball contest, you’ll draft a team of 18-20 players for the upcoming season. Though hundreds of thousands of people may be competing for the top prize in some of the larger tournaments, you won’t be drafting against everyone.

Instead, you’ll be entered into a draft pool alongside 11 other users. The draft order will be randomly assigned and the draft will take place in a snake format (so the person with the No. 1 pick in Round 1 has the 12th pick in Round 2, etc.).

Then, the roster you assemble in that draft pool will be entered into a group of 12 teams for Round 1 of the tournament (Weeks 1-14 of the NFL season on Underdog, for example). The top 2 finishers in that pool will advance to Round 2 (Week 15 of the season) and so on.

Interested in getting started on a best ball fantasy football contest? Check out our Underdog promo code below to get a first-time deposit match of up to $100!

characteristics of best ball fantasy football contests

How best ball fantasy football differs from season-long fantasy football

In your season-long fantasy football leagues, you draft your team before the season starts and then manage it every week. You scour the waiver wire for players who are outperforming their preseason projections. You tinker with your lineup to try to score the most points every week. You try to pull one over on your friends by trading for players you think will help you win the title while only giving up players who you think will fall off down the stretch.

For those in many leagues, managing a team that makes the playoffs is a time-consuming affair, even though you only have to set a lineup once a week. It’s all the stuff in between the actual games that can take up your time — scooping up players from waivers, making trades, checking injury reports, etc.

Well, in best ball, you don’t have to do any of that!

On Underdog, for example, you just draft your team and … that’s it! Draft a team of 18 players and Underdog will automatically insert your best 8 players (1 QB, 3 WRs, 2 RBs, 1 TE and 1 FLEX) into your lineup each week to maximize your points.

No longer do you have to kick yourself for benching the guy who ends up having a 30-point day. No longer do you have to stare at your lineup agonizing over who to start in the FLEX position.

Underdog makes sure you start your optimal lineup every single week. So it all comes down to that initial draft and making sure you’re prepared!


Best ball fantasy football roster structure

These differ slightly from site to site. For example, DraftKings and FanDuel utilize 20 roster spots, while Underdog only has 18. But the basic structure for rosters is still the same.

On DraftKings and Underdog, you’ll start 1 QB, 3 WRs, 2 RBs, 1 TE and 1 FLEX position. FanDuel has all those positions, too, but adds in 1 extra FLEX spot.

That means your bench size on Underdog is only 10, compared to 11 on FanDuel and 12 on DraftKings. So if you choose to play a best ball fantasy football contest on Underdog, you’ll want to make sure you are smart with your drafting.

Typical Best Ball Prize Structure

Now, let’s talk money. That’s what this is all about, right?

Well, best ball contests are great ways to compete for huge prize pools. Heck, Underdog Fantasy’s Best Ball Mania IV contest has a prize pool of $15 million.

Yes, you read that correctly! A cool $15 million is at stake for the upcoming season on Underdog! Best Ball Mania is a big part of what has made Underdog popular, but the app and platform offers much more than this single contest. You can read our full Underdog Fantasy Review.

If you make it to the final round of the Best Ball Mania IV contest, the prize money breakdown is as follows:

For the regular-season round (Weeks 1-14 of the NFL season), the prize structure is as follows:

But if you don’t want to enter the massive Best Ball Mania IV contest with its $25 entry fee, there are numerous options available to you.

On DraftKings and Underdog, you can enter best ball contests with league sizes of 3, 6 or 12 users. Then there are the bigger tournaments where you compete against thousands of other players. At DraftKings, there is a best ball fantasy football contest with $10 million in prizes, so there are numerous options for DFS players to compete for some serious cash!

Where You Can Play & Our Favorite Best Ball Tournaments

There are a few apps where you can find daily fantasy best ball contests. We’ve detailed Underdog’s Best Ball Mania IV contest above, as that’s one of our favorites for the upcoming season.

You can also find best ball fantasy football tournaments at DraftKings and FanDuel. Each site has some subtle differences for how the contests work. This helpful table breaks down roster sizes, starting slots and whether or not you get a full point per reception or only a half-point:

Site QBs WRs RBs TEs FLEX Bench Total Roster Spots Scoring Style
Underdog 1 3 2 1 1 10 18 Half-PPR
DraftKings 1 3 2 1 1 12 20 PPR
FanDuel 1 3 2 1 2 11 20 Half-PPR

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Popular Best Ball Fantasy Football Tournaments From The Past

At Underdog, they’re gearing up for Best Ball Mania IV, which means there have been 3 other Best Ball Mania contests in the past.

Here’s a look at how the prize pool has grown over the years, from a total of $1 million up for grabs in the first Best Ball Mania contest all the way up to this year’s $15 million prize pool:

Best Ball Mania Contest Total Prize Pool First-Place Prize
Best Ball Mania I $1 million $200K
Best Ball Mania II $3.5 million $1 million
Best Ball Mania III $10 million $2 million
Best Ball Mania IV $15 million $3 million

DraftKings has also had a few best ball football contests over the years. As mentioned earlier, the big one for the 2023 season has a prize pool of $10 million, but there have been plenty of other contests over the years, too.

Though the table above breaks down some of the biggest best ball fantasy football tournaments of the past, you can find smaller leagues available, too. Whatever size tournament you want to enter, Underdog, DraftKings and FanDuel give DFS players all the options they’ll need ahead of the 2023 season.

And based on the trajectory of the prize pools mentioned above, you can probably expect the 2024 pools to be even bigger!

Best Ball Fantasy Football Strategy

Roster construction is absolutely critical if you want to have success in a best ball contest. Knowing when to draft a quarterback and when to make a move on a tight end could determine the difference between advancing to the next round and going home with no winnings.

Here are a couple of strategies you might want to consider when conducting your best ball football draft:

1. Target WRs and RBs early

Because your team will start 1 QB, 3 WRs, 2 RBs, 1 TE and 1 FLEX, you should really consider loading up on the receiver and running back positions early in your draft. There are only so many Justin Jeffersons and Ja’Marr Chases out there, after all.

Especially when you consider drafting a quarterback, it’s important to remember that this is a golden age of quarterbacks in the NFL. Yes, snagging a Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts or Josh Allen is always a good idea, but if you have to wait to draft a guy like Kirk Cousins or Jared Goff, you’re still getting a talented passer who can put up great fantasy numbers.

With multiple starting spots for receivers and running backs, though, you want to target those spots early. Getting an elite receiver and a top-tier running back early can really give your team a boost all year long. Building depth at those positions in later rounds is harder, too.

2. Consider bye weeks and late-season schedules

If you make it out of Round 1 of the NFL best ball fantasy football contest, you’re going to be competing to win money in Weeks 15, 16 and 17 of the 18-week NFL season. Thus, you’re going to need players who are actually going to be playing in those weeks.

Let’s say you draft a player like Kyler Murray from the Arizona Cardinals, banking on him having a bounce-back year. Well, the Cardinals are expected by many to be in the running for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

If you get all the way to Week 17 and the Cardinals decide to rest Murray to try to tank for the No. 1 pick, you could be in a world of hurt. On the flip side, if you pick a guy like Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs end up clinching the AFC West title and the No. 1 seed in the conference (unlikely in a conference as stacked as the AFC, but you never know), he could rest in Week 17 and Week 18. That wouldn’t be good for your roster.

Fortunately, bye weeks this fall only extend from Weeks 5-14, so you won’t have to worry about having players missing games when it comes to Rounds 2-4 of the best ball contests.

3. Consider injury history

Since there aren’t any waiver pickups in best ball fantasy football contests, the team you draft is all you get for the season. Thus, injury-prone players need to be looked at carefully when drafting. If you pick a guy who ends up getting hurt down the stretch, that can harm your team during Rounds 2-4 of the tournament.

There are some players who are still worth the risk (Deebo Samuel comes to mind), but you don’t want a roster loaded with injury risks, as that can seriously hurt your depth in the money rounds of the best ball tournament.

Football is a rough game, so some injuries are inevitable. You just want to make sure you draft guys you’re confident will be able to play in most games throughout the long, grueling NFL season. In some cases, the best ability is availability.

4. Understand variance

Success in daily fantasy contests can often depend on ensuring your strategy matches the contest format. In contests where you simply need to finish in the top half of the field to get in the money, you’re looking for consistency. Well, in best ball contests with huge prize pools and a giant field of entrants, your strategy should be somewhat different. Here you need not to just have a good roster, but you also need a different roster.

As you draft your team, you are always looking at average draft position and average baseline production of a player. But you should also consider the variance of that production. To illustrate, let’s look at two example players and their fantasy production over a handful of weeks:

In the above example, both players are average 30 points across the 3 week sample. But Player A has a higher variance where one week, the player hit 50 points. This is a key point to understand when drafting best ball rosters. Because the system automatically uses your best players each week (you don’t need to decide who to start week to week), you want players that have more variance and more potential upside for a given week. Yes, Player B might give you a dog week of 10 points, but you’ll likely have other players that can take this spot in tallying up your points for the week. But even more importantly, Player B is giving you a 50 point week within the sample as well.

While larger variance might not work for a head to head daily fantasy contest, this can be quite useful as you draft a roster in a large field, season-long, best ball fantasy football contest.

5. Understand exposure over multiple entries

In addition to variance, the idea of exposure across multiple entries is more of an advanced topic in best ball formats. In these massive best ball contests such as Underdog’s Best Ball Mania, you can have up to 150 entries. Yes, these will each cost you $25 a piece. So, don’t go heavy on entries until you’re comfortable with your strategy and your approach.

So, what does exposure refer to? It refers to how many of your rosters in the same contest have the same player. For example, if you have 20 rosters and you have Pat Mahomes on 5 of the rosters, you have 25% exposure to Pat Mahomes. Another way to think about this is if Pat Mahomes goes down with a season-ending injury in the pre-season, 25% of your rosters are probably toast.

So what are some rules of thumb here with respect to player exposure? Let’s talk about two briefly that might consider using or using as the basis for your own guidelines:

  1. There is a school of thought that player exposure really only matters once you get to about 20 entries or 20 rosters in a best ball contest. You might go with a lower number, such as ten, but it’s safe to say that if you’re doing 3-5 entries into a contest, stressing about player exposure probably doesn’t matter. If you’re at 20 rosters or more, you should definitely be at least considering where you might be exposed.
  2. Player exposure matters more for early round picks. It is common with advanced DFS players to increase an acceptable exposure limit as the draft goes on. For example, you might limit first round picks to 10% exposure, second round picks to 15% exposure, third round to 20% exposure and so forth. At some point, you probably want a hard cap on exposure for a player drafted in any round. This varies by personal preference, but is often in the 30-50% range.

Our Team

The Saturday Down South team has spent hundreds of hours analyzing and participating in the various daily fantasy apps and contests, so that we can bring you expert advice and opinions on MLB DFS and DFS for other sports. Our daily fantasy team is led by the following:

Adam Spencer

Adam has been on the editorial team at Saturday Down South for several years and has covered college football and daily fantasy sports. Adam loves playing DFS contests involving a variety of sports including college football, college basketball, NFL, NBA, soccer and even PGA. With a long history of fantasy sports participation, Adam has recently become a major participant in daily fantasy pick’em contests. He appreciates when daily fantasy apps offer a great app experience with live scoring and accurate player cards.

Ethan Stone

Ethan joined the editorial team at Saturday Down South in 2022 and has covered college football, college basketball, college baseball and fantasy sports. Ethan plays daily fantasy in a variety of sports including college football, college basketball, NFL, NBA and more. Ethan has recently become a big fan of DFS best ball fantasy football drafts. He appreciates when daily fantasy apps offer plenty of options and a variety of daily drafts.

Adam Spencer
A 2012 graduate of the University of Missouri, Adam now covers all 14 SEC football teams. He is the news editor at Saturday Down South and across all Saturday Football brands.

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