This time of year, there’s not much happening in the world of football. Almost all of the impact free agents signed. The draft isn’t for another four weeks, and we have already digested every possible scenario in mock drafts. The velocity of trades in your dynasty leagues has slowed down. So it is a good time to play best ball.
In pure best ball, you draft a team once and don’t touch it again. You don’t make waiver claims. You don’t set weekly lineups. The platform automatically slots the best-performing players in the right spots to maximize your weekly scoring. You can play best ball against a weekly schedule or (more commonly) as a season-long scoring contest.
There is a lot of content about offense-only best ball. IDP (individual defensive player) fantasy football is a growing phenomenon. It’s fun and allows you to take a broader view of the football field on Sundays. So I present my tips for drafting a best ball team. Let’s begin with some general principles before getting into league-specific nitty gritty.
Defensive Ends and Edge Rushers Are King
In 1QB standard leagues, a bellcow running back could go 1.01. In PPR leagues, target hog X receivers go 1.01. In 2QB/Superflex leagues, an elite running quarterback likely goes 1.01.
In IDP leagues, an athletic beast of an edge rusher goes 1.01. In 2023, that means Cowboys outside linebacker Micah Parsons, 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, or Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt. In most IDP leagues, sacks score more points than interceptions, and they occur more frequently, so you should be pursuing sacks first to maximize your scoring total.
Nick Bosa led the league with 18.5 sacks last season. If a sack by itself is worth 6 points, as it is in many leagues, and a solo tackle, a tackle for loss (TFL), and a quarterback hit, all of which stack onto a sack, are all worth 1 each, then Bosa would have scored 166.5 points from sacks alone.
Meanwhile, when it comes to defensive backs, the Steelers’ Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Broncos’ Justin Simmons, the Seahawks’ Tariq Woolen, and then-Eagle C.J. Gardner-Johnson all tied for the league lead with 6 interceptions. If an interception is worth 6 points, that’s only 36 points. Even in leagues with high values put on interceptions, like my own league, top corners and safeties come nowhere near matching top edge rushers.
Stock up on a stable of strong defensive end and edge linebackers in the first couple of rounds until you have filled each of the starting defensive end and linebacker positions.
Take Advantage of Positional Flexibility in Sleeper
In Sleeper, outside linebackers in 3-4 defenses are classified as LB/DL, so that they will fill either slot. Their positional versatility makes them more valuable than off-ball linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends. Dual-eligible players will maximize your point total, filling your lineup like Tetris pieces.
Take the following example:
LB/DL Parsons: 19 points
DL Bosa: 18 points
DL Heyward: 13.5 points
LB Oluokun: 15 points
LB Kendricks: 10 points
DB Ramsey: 10 points
Let’s say the starting lineup each week features a single DL, LB, DB, and a single flex spot. With Parsons having dual eligibility, he would be slotted at linebacker, and the team could still take advantage of Bosa’s 18 points in the defensive line position.
LB – Parsons (19)
DL – Bosa (18)
DB – Ramsey (10)
Flex – Oluokun (15)
If this hypothetical roster had Myles Garrett or Maxx Crosby (DE-only) instead of Parsons, Bosa would have been displaced from the defensive line position, and the team would lose points.
There are a lot of DL/LB dual-eligible players, and there are also a couple of LB/DB eligible players. Those are the Cardinals’ Isaiah Simmons, the Patriots’ Jabrill Peppers, and the Colts’ Rodney Thomas. As far as I know, there aren’t any DL/DBs.
Load Up on Defensive Backs in the Second Half of the Draft
After filling in your starting linebacker and defensive line spots, you need to get some backup DL/LBs and a whole bunch of defensive backs. Defensive backs will have their best weeks when they make an interception, but it is highly unpredictable when that will happen and who will do it. An individual player’s interception numbers vary greatly from year to year (much more so than a defensive line’s sack numbers).
Look at Trevon Diggs. In 2021, the Cowboys cornerback led the league with 11 interceptions, 142 interception return yards, and 2 touchdowns. In 2022, he only made 3 picks and returned them for 10 yards.
In 2022, C.J. Gardner-Johnson led the league with 6 picks, but he only made 3 the year before and 1 each in 2019 and 2020.
There were about 100 defensive backs who made multiple interceptions in 2022, and while many of them will do so again in 2023, it is not easy to pick who will lead the league. Instead, it is better to diversify and select enough defensive backs so that you can hope you will have multiple defensive backs making picks each week.
These are the recommendations I have compiled after participating in multiple IDP best ball drafts. Most of all, have fun!