Best-Ball Review: Underdog Fantasy

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Best-Ball Review: Underdog Fantasy

As we discussed in the positional notebooks, best-ball is not just a game of “picking the right players.” With no weekly in-season management and no waiver wire, building your roster the right way is arguably just as big of an edge as having the best projections and right players. With so many best-ball platforms out there now, adjusting for each is key.

Underdog Fantasy is running a massive 43,000-entry tournament with $200,000 to first place and $1M in total prizes. With just a $25 entry and low rake, this is easily one of the best large field best-ball tournaments in the industry for this season.

There are a couple of key differences between NFFC’s BB10s, FFPC, and Underdog’s games. Most importantly, Underdog uses 0.5 PPR scoring while BB10 is full PPR. FFPC uses full PPR scoring for RB/WR but TEs earn 1.5 points for every reception. In BB10s we have a 20 round draft and we have to start a defense every week. Underdog drafts are just 18 rounds and there are no defenses or kickers. This changes roster construction a bit. I’ve done three drafts for the Underdog tournament so far and came away with no more than 5 total QB/TE and had at least 13 RB/WR on each team.

Our roster construction should always follow this line of thinking: If you draft Dak Prescott in the sixth round, you should never draft a third quarterback. Conversely, if you wait and take Jimmy Garroppolo as your No. 1 QB, you should always take two more QBs. The same idea works at tight end. If you spend up and take George Kittle in the second round, never take a third tight end. You’re relying on Kittle being your top scorer at the position 80% to 90% of the time, so you’re much better off using that roster spot on depth at either QB, RB, or WR.

Here are two of the Underdog squads I’ve drafted from 1st overall and 8th overall:

Team drafted 1st overall

QBs

RBs

WRs

TEs

Team drafted 8th overall

QBs

RBs

WRs

TEs

In large field tournaments, stacking is key

It’s hard enough to win a 12-team league and advance into the quarterfinals (Week 14) of these best-ball tournaments, so every pick we make should be centered around capturing upside. The easiest way to do this in best-ball is by stacking. Around 35-40% of a team’s No. 1 and No. 2 WR scoring can be explained by how many fantasy points his quarterback scores. So, if your quarterback goes off for 28 points, it’s very likely at least one of his main pass catchers also went nuts.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should go into a draft trying to force a stack. For example, if you take DeAndre Hopkins in the 2nd round -- do not go out of your way and reach for Kyler Murray in the 4th. Let the stacks come to you. All of my stacks on both of these teams weren’t forced but just made sense on both price and within the context of the team.

  • 1st overall team: Robert Woods in the 4th round -- Jared Goff in the 13th

  • 1st overall team: Daniel Jones in the 11th round -- Golden Tate in the 12th

  • 1st overall team: Joe Burrow in the 14th round -- Tee Higgins in the 18th

  • 8th overall team: Deshaun Watson in the 8th round -- Randall Cobb in the 14th

  • 8th overall team: Josh Allen in the 9th round -- John Brown in the 10th

Seven or Eight WRs are a must

We have to start 3 WRs every week (and a FLEX) so we never want to short change ourselves on depth. Since receiver scoring is so volatile -- it’s much easier for a WR to have a blowup game on 5 targets and much harder for a running back to do so with 5 carries -- having at least four playable wideouts every week is a must. The team that I drafted at 1st overall and 8th overall are very different builds at the receiver position, but still have an emphasis on depth. The 8th overall team is top-heavy with Adams and Robinson but I hammered wideouts in Rounds 10-18. Meanwhile, the 1st overall team is built around mid-round wideouts (Woods/Lockett/Fuller/Landry).

Favorite late-round RB, WR, and TE values (ADP of 140+ overall)

-- RB Antonio Gibson (148 overall): Gibson is listed as a running back on Underdog’s platform but is a wide receiver in BB10s. He likely won’t see enough volume to make him a weekly option on platforms where he’s listed as a wide receiver but his niche role could be pretty valuable as a running back. There is a chance that Gibson earns an Austin Ekeler lite role in Washington’s offense since the team doesn’t really have a clear No. 2 target behind Terry McLaurin.

-- RB Damien Harris (159 overall): Sony Michel just had another offseason surgery and is not guaranteed to keep his starting role because of injuries and ineffectiveness. I’ve been targeting White in the 8th/9th round and Harris late in every best-ball league.

-- RB DeAndre Washington (189 overall): Borderline must-draft in the 16th-17th rounds of best-ball drafts with Damien Williams (opted out) not playing this season. The Chiefs gave Washington $300k guaranteed on his one-year deal, which is nearly three times the amount 2019 sixth-round pick Darwin Thompson got in his rookie contract. Plus, Washington played with Patrick Mahomes in 2015 at Texas Tech and caught 41 balls in 13 games.

-- RB Carlos Hyde (209 overall): With Rashaad Penny (ACL) on the PUP list to start the year and Chris Carson (hip) rehabbing an injury of his own, Hyde has a chance to earn a role early and could obviously handle an 18-22 carry load if he’s ever forced to start at any point.

-- WRs Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell (156 overall): Colts No. 1 wideout T.Y. Hilton is entering his age-31 season, just missed a bunch of time last year because of a calf injury, and is now going to be limited in training camp because of an apparent hamstring injury. I’ve been avoiding Hilton in the 5th or 6th round all summer and just taking the much cheaper Pittman/Campbell late. They’re both affordable on Underdog.

-- WR John Ross (171 overall): Ross is a fantastic target with Joe Burrow in a late-round Bengals stack but he still has enough standalone value to make sense as a best-ball dart. Over the last two years, 33 of Ross’ 114 targets have traveled 20+ yards downfield (29%). That means Ross has been targeted deep more often than even Tyreek Hill (27% of targets traveled 20+ yards). Burrow is a massive QB upgrade over Dalton and Ross will still play a ton as the Bengals main field stretcher.

-- WR Laviska Shenault (178 overall): It feels like Shenault is sort of a forgotten man in this stacked rookie receiver class. I have no clue how many targets Shenault will see -- it seriously could be as few as 45 but as many as 85 -- but he makes a ton of sense in a late-round Jags’ stack with Gardner Minshew.

-- WR Russell Gage (205 overall): After Mohamed Sanu was traded last year, Gage saw 7.3 targets and averaged 5 receptions/45 yards per game over the Falcons final 9 contests. Atlanta has no receiver depth and will be incredibly pass-heavy once again. In OC Dirk Koetter’s return last year, Atlanta was the most pass-heavy team when leading (58%) and the third-most pass-heavy team in the league when the game was within a score (63%) and when trailing (75%). Gage shouldn’t be this cheap and is an easy stack candidate with Matt Ryan.

-- TE Blake Jarwin (149 overall): Late-round Jarwin will be a print-fest. Jason Witten stumbled his way into a TE12 fantasy finish last year and Jarwin has looked like a beast in his limited snaps. We want exposure to this Cowboys offense and Jarwin is the cheapest option, by far.

-- TE Irv Smith Jr. (170 overall): Last year, Smith became one of just six TEs all-time to have at least 30 receptions and 300 yards as a 21-year-old rookie. The other five to make this list are Tony Gonzalez (1997), Jason Witten (2003), Rob Gronkowski (2010), Aaron Hernandez (2010), and David Njoku (2017). Smith is simply younger, more explosive, and more athletic than Kyle Rudolph and was rewarded with more opportunity down the Vikings playoff stretch run last year. After their Week 12 bye, Smith ran more routes than Kyle Rudolph (143 to 131) and you better believe Smith will be counted on even more heavily now that Stefon Diggs is in Buffalo.

-- TE Jace Sternberger (188 overall): There is literally no downside to taking Sternberger this late as your No. 2 or No. 3 tight end. The Packers don’t have a decent second target behind Davante Adams and Devin Funchess opting out will only open up more opportunity for Sternberger. GM Brian Gutekunst said the Packers are “depending on” and “counting on” Sternberger to play a much bigger role in 2020.

-- TE Gerald Everett (194 overall): Made the case for a Tyler Higbee fade here.

Graham Barfield blends data and film together to create some of the most unique content in the fantasy football industry. Barfield is FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and formerly worked for the NFL Network, Fantasy Guru, and Rotoworld.

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