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Best Ball
Fantasy Football

Best Ball Players To Target In 2022

  • Zach Cohen
  • February 17, 2022
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If you’re not playing fantasy football right now, then stop what you’re doing. It’s time to draft. As you can tell by the headline, I’m not talking about normal leagues where you draft once a year, a.k.a. redraft leagues. I’m talking about my new favorite fantasy format: best ball. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, I’ll give a quick explanation. For those of you like me who adore best ball, keep reading for optimal best ball strategies and six players to target in early drafts. And if you like what I have to say, follow me on Twitter @ZachCohenFB and follow @TDNFantasy. I’ll be putting out a lot more best ball content this offseason, including my early 2022 best ball rankings by the end of the month. What is best ball fantasy football? Basically, best ball is for people who love the best part about fantasy sports: Drafts. And we here at The Draft Network LOVE drafts. Shocking, I know. In best ball, you draft your team and that’s it. The system automatically slots your highest scoring players into your starting lineup after each week. So if your last pick outscores your first pick in Week 1, there’s no need to panic. Only the players with the most points at each position contribute to your score for that week. Most of the time, that’s great. It means you don’t have to worry about setting your lineups every week. Sometimes, though, it can cause some issues. For example, if you drafted Russell Wilson, Justin Herbert, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, then you would have had zero quarterbacks in Week 7 (Wilson and Fitzpatrick were injured and Herbert had a bye). Now, I know what you may be thinking. Couldn’t you have just dropped Ryan Fitzpatrick—who was placed on season-ending IR—for a starting quarterback? In nearly all best ball formats, you can’t make any transactions. That’s a pretty significant catch. To compensate for potential injuries, most best ball rosters are fairly large. Oh, and did I mention most sites don’t include defenses or kickers? The final aspect of best ball that you should know about it is how you win. Best ball leagues tally up the points your de facto starters get every week, but your team doesn’t compete against one team each week. Instead, team points are tallied and ranked throughout the season to determine who scored the most points. It’s like the “fantasy points for” category in redraft leagues. Best ball doesn’t punish good teams for having a couple of dreadful weeks or facing a fluke team a certain week. So to sum up best ball:
  • You draft and that’s it
  • Lineups are automatically set based on the highest-scoring players that week
  • Points are tallied throughout the season, not on a weekly basis
  • No transactions allowed
  • No defenses or kickers
What are good best ball strategies? Best ball is still a relatively unknown fantasy format, so many best ball managers are understandably still unsure about optimal strategies. This was my first year playing and in five leagues, I won two and placed in the top three in two more. Leagues can have all sorts of ranges, though four of my leagues had either ten or twelve people like most redraft leagues. Let’s say the roster has 18 spots like mine did. I knew going into the season I’d want multiple options at quarterback and tight end in case my top players got hurt. But I’d never want more than three or four of them. Instead, I wanted to pile on at running back and wide receiver because I knew most of my starting spots would be filled by them. Now, if these were superflex leagues—the ability to start more than one quarterback—it’d be a much different strategy. Therefore, the chances of your flex players becoming non-tight ends are very high. And since best ball doesn’t punish starting underperforming players, you should target players with higher ceilings. We all know how inconsistent Tyler Lockett was in 2020. That makes him a risky redraft candidate yet a perfect best ball candidate. Heading into 2021, I targeted him knowing he could easily hit 30+ points in some weeks. Of course, it’s still wise to inject safer players into your lineups, especially earlier in your drafts. Ultimately, though, target risky players with high ceilings often so you can reap the benefits of their “hot” weeks, a la Lockett, Mike Williams, or Rob Gronkowski. That’s why I prefer to include a player’s range rather than their average in best ball content. Let’s say Player A and Player B both averaged 10 points. Player A always scored 10 points, whereas Player B only scored 5 or 15 points. Because most best ball rosters have 18 or more spots, you can take the risk of a bad week with hopes another player fills in the void. Therefore, Player B is better because that’s more points you’d get in a given week. (Yes, I know five points isn’t a huge difference-maker but you get my point.) While redraft values consistency, best ball just wants the points. Top best ball strategies:
  • Have more than two quarterbacks
  • Load up on running backs and wide receivers
  • Target high-ceiling players
Early Players to Target

Trey Lance

FantasyPros’ 2022 Best Ball Ranking: QB12 It was only a matter of time before Trey Lance planted himself in the San Francisco spotlight. With Jimmy Garoppolo finally on the way out—he said he’s working with the team on finding a trade partner—we can expect Lance to be let loose in 2022. Keep in mind, Kyle Shanahan had packages designed specifically for Lance in 2021, but the full extent of the offense wasn’t tailored to Lance. In case you couldn’t tell, Lance and Garoppolo are two very different quarterbacks. Allow me to put my scouting hat on real quick. I love Lance’s fit in Shanahan‘s offense. I think Shanahan can open up the offense with Lance in ways he couldn’t with Garoppolo. Lance was the 49ers’ main quarterback in three games this season—two of which he started. In those three games, his scoring ranged from 14.6-20.4 points. He also ran 29 times in those three games, which further indicates his astronomical upside. Normally, unknown players can be risky because we don’t know how low their floors are. There’s still a solid chance Lance becomes the next E.J. Manuel. Assuming Lance’s stock doesn’t rise too high, he’ll likely be a player I want on all my best ball teams next season.

Kirk Cousins

FantasyPros’ 2022 Best Ball Ranking: QB15 I like Kirk Cousins for the exact opposite reasons I like Lance. At this point, it feels like every offseason I’m wondering why people are too low on Kirk Cousins. He’s as consistent as it comes over the last four seasons:
  • 2021 finish: QB11
  • 2020 finish: QB11
  • 2019 finish: QB15
  • 2018 finish: QB13
I can understand why Cousins may not have much appeal this offseason. After all, there are a plethora of young, unproven quarterbacks with rushing upside (Lance, Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Tua Tagovailoa, etc.). Could Cousins regress with a whole new offensive scheme around him? Totally, though I’d imagine Kevin O’Connell was brought in to help maximize Cousins. O’Connell was Cousins’ quarterback coach in Washington five seasons ago. That alone brings a better possibility of improvement for Cousins. He also appeals to me because, in a vast majority of leagues, Cousins won’t be your top quarterback. Therefore, you can wait to grab him later as insurance for your top passer. However, that doesn’t mean Cousins can’t end this season as your top quarterback in best ball. In half of the 16 games he played in 2021, Cousins scored 20+ points. Hopefully by now, you realize how important that is. It certainly helps to have Justin Jefferson, too, who should be one of the first wide receivers taken in all formats next season. Cousins isn’t as intriguing in redraft leagues, but he could be a sneaky good option in best ball.

Cordarrelle Patterson

FantasyPros’ 2022 Best Ball Ranking: RB38 It’s funny, really. Going into the season, the unicorn we all expected to be talking about was Kyle Pitts. Instead, it was his teammate, Cordarrelle Patterson. Up until the final four games of the season, Patterson was straight balling. He was RB7 and WR11 until Week 15. Like with all the players on this list, Patterson could fall victim to new talent around him in the offseason. Until then, we can still project a juicy role in Atlanta‘s offense. That is, if Patterson stays with the team. The 30-year-old running back/wide receiver hybrid will be a free agent, so we not only have no clue whether he’ll be back with the Falcons, but we also don’t know if he’ll retain a dual role in 2022. However, if Patterson is drafted around this range, he could be of immense value. Remember, Paterson was a wide receiver being used as a running back. Even if Calvin Ridley returns to Atlanta and even if Atlanta adds a younger running back via the draft, Patterson proved his skill set can transcend any depth chart. Arthur Smith may be wise to get Patterson his touches regardless of who the Falcons add in the offseason. Don’t be surprised if I cool on Patterson within the next few months, but for now, his high floor intrigues me at his current value.

Calvin Ridley 

FantasyPros’ 2022 Best Ball Ranking: WR24 Speaking of Ridley and the Falcons, did we forget how good he is? Seriously, Ridley is one season removed from being one of the best wideouts in football. He was looking pretty good until he stepped away from the team for personal reasons. Nothing suggests Ridley won’t be playing next season, either. I still like Ridley whether he’s back in Atlanta or he’s more comfortable in a new situation, the latter of which could lead to huge on-field improvement. If Ridley stays in Atlanta, I’d imagine we’d see more of the same from this season. He only played five games, but if he had a point range from 10.1-19.3. Ridley was WR28 across those five games. More importantly, though, Ridley was tied for the fourth-most targets in that span. Unfortunately, he only caught fewer than 60% of those passes. Just imagine if Ridley joins up with, say, Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert… The bottom line is Ridley is a good wide receiver who should be treated as such, though I’m not saying he’ll return to being a top receiver in football. Still, he has clear talent and clear fantasy upside.

Kadarius Toney 

FantasyPros’ 2022 Best Ball Ranking: WR48 Alright, now we can talk about upside. Perhaps I’m biased because I’ve closely followed Toney for his entire career, but I truly think Toney can be a game-changer—or better yet, a game-breaker. In his final year at Florida, Toney evolved into more than just a gadget receiver; he showed he can be a true WR1 in an offense. Joe Judge and the Giants seemingly failed to see that, among other things they failed at. Once injuries took their annual toll on New York’s receiving room, Toney was appropriately stuffed with targets. He saw 22 targets in Weeks 4-5 before getting injured the following week. Despite only playing four games from Week 8 on, Toney showed he can handle a heavier workload, which included 21 targets in his last two games played. If Toney can stay healthy, I expect Brian Daboll to maximize Toney’s versatility while making him a centerpiece of the Giants’ passing attack. He’s too good to be kept out of the game plan, so snag Toney before his stock rises.

Pat Freiermuth 

FantasyPros’ 2022 Best Ball Ranking: TE10 As usual, there aren’t many tight ends I like in the later rounds, so let’s talk about Pat Freiermuth. His rookie season was fairly good, though it’s mostly being overshadowed by Kyle Pitts’ rookie season. Following Eric Ebron’s injury in Week 6, Freiermuth was the overall TE9 behind Rob Gronkowski. Was Freiermuth a benefactor of multiple injuries to the Steelers’ wide receivers room? Yes, but don’t let that be a reason to downplay Freiermuth for next season. From Week 6 on, he scored double-digit points in seven of his eleven games. And even then his floor was 6.1 points. Again, I’m not saying we should totally expect Freiermuth to replicate that production. But it’s clear he has enough potential in a Steelers offense that–hooray–won’t have Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Look, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize how bad the tight end position is. At a minimum, we should expect Freiermuth to again hit the 20-point mark a couple of times and the 10-point mark most times. In best ball, that’s more than fine. Freiermuth’s upside alone makes him a tight end you should target.

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Zach Cohen