With the recent emergence of best-ball popularity among fantasy professionals and more casual players, everyone needs differentiation between players good for regular leagues and those who will win best-ball leagues. With best-ball leagues starting on Yahoo! for the first time this year for free or cash, accessibility and popularity will explode through the largest fantasy football format. best-ball relies on splash players who turn out monster weeks, especially at receiver. While a player like Amari Cooper might frustrate weekly, he will flourish under the best-ball formats as his sub 30-yard games will disappear. Here are two stacks that will frustrate any player or lose you the league in lineup setting leagues but will win you best-ball leagues.
Drew Brees will likely perform right at average draft position in lineup setting leagues this year, if not a little lower due to the higher run-to-pass percentage the team uses and the addition of Latavius Murray, who is considered a better goal line back than Ingram. This addition will likely take touchdowns away from Brees in addition to the fact that his play has fallen off. The defense has also been improving which means the need to pass has been lowered for Brees compared to the 30th-ranked defenses he was used to earlier in his career.
The good news for Brees in best-ball is the insane home/road split for his stats will not matter. Brees in the Superdome last year would have been the QB2 behind only Patrick Mahomes. His road ranking was very poor as usual. Jared Cook and Michael Thomas are also bigger boom-or-bust players than they get credit for. Brees also has the luxury of playing in the NFC South and especially against Tampa Bay. If you look at the weekly strength of schedule you will see Brees plays multiple games against Top-10 easiest opponents but also gets a lot of Top-10 hardest games with no real middle ground.
Jared Cook is the definition of a best-ball tight end also. Cook had four games of more than 100 yards last year but also nine games of less than 35 yards, which limits his viability in lineup setting leagues when you are just trying to beat one opponent at a time. Pairing Cook with a more consistent tight end such as Austin Hooper in the later rounds would be a good move to limit his floor. Adding a third tight end any time you draft your first tight end outside the Top-3 is a good idea. Jimmy Graham and Jordan Reed are great late-round targets to pair with a mid-grade tight end.
Michael Thomas should give more people pause in lineup setting leagues at his current second round average draft position. He is essentially a rich man’s Amari Cooper when you look at the weekly statistics and could be considered the best wide receiver in the league for best-ball formats due to his production style. He will have 10 receptions with 129 yards against Atlanta one week and play at home against Atlanta a few weeks later and have four catches for 38 yards. He had five weeks with less than 50 yards last year but of course flashes the weeks of 180 and 211 yards. If you draft your team with a larger amount of receivers and with safer receivers, the structure of your team will allow for league winning potential which is your only option in best-ball. Marvin Jones, Tyler Boyd, and Golden Tate (despite suspension) would be good bench targets at average draft positions to help relieve many of Thomas’ worst weeks.
I had to speak of the devil here and talk about the poster child for best-ball. Dak Prescott is the definition of consistency yearly as he has finished Top 12 in points per game every year in the league and has had six rushing touchdowns the last three years as well. Although I believe both Prescott and Cooper are undervalued according to current average draft position, both would frustrate if used week-to-week but both should have better seasons this year. Amari Cooper finished the year with three performances of less than 32 yards and no touchdowns. That sounds terrible for any receiver, and professionals such as Sean Koerner advocate against his use in lineup-setting leagues, citing the fact that you only need to beat one player each week. But of course, you have to look at his week-winning weeks of 34 fantasy points and 44 points and a lesser 23-point game before the trade.
Cooper would dominate in best-ball when combined with safer receivers typically found in the later rounds as discussed above along with throwing darts at players such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison and John Brown. Prescott has not been much better for consistency as almost every quarterback outside if the Top 5. Drafting three mid-to-low tier quarterbacks in best-ball is recommended due to the inconsistency of the position and Prescott is no exception. He had 10 games in which he threw one or no touchdowns and eight games of less than 220 yards. Although this was improved after Cooper joined the team, these games still happened. Prescott does not have a history of throwing many touchdown passes but will have the occasional blow up game with his arm and feet. Capturing one of those rushing touchdown games will help with the ceiling. Pairing Prescott with a safer quarterback in Philip Rivers and another dangerous quarterback in Josh Allen would be a good strategy. Having rushing quarterbacks are great for best-ball.