2023 Week 13 Underdog Battle Royale Strategy


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2023 Week 13 Underdog Battle Royale Strategy

Underdog’s weekly Battle Royale tournaments are a relatively new and growing contest format that blends everything I love about DFS and best ball. The flagship contest is essentially a large field DFS tournament where you draft against others in an Underdog lobby.

As there’s very little content aimed at this format, I believe there is a big edge to be had for those willing to put in the work. Luckily, I’ve done all of that for you below.

The basic tenets of Battle Royale strategy are quite similar to DFS. Generally, you want to put together at least one stack of a QB, one or more of his pass catchers, and possibly a player from the opposing team (a “bring-back”). Making these correlated bets will raise your team's ceiling and increase your chances of placing near the top of a field that includes thousands of entries.

Also, like DFS, it benefits you to select players in Battle Royale that few other entrants will have on their roster — as long as they have the ceiling to outscore the more popular players. It’s comparatively easier to “get unique” in Battle Royale, as simply scrolling down to players with ADPs beyond 34.0 or so gives you access to options who will be selected in very few draft lobbies, while players with an ADP above 30.0 will be selected in close to 100% of drafts.

In this article, I aim to accomplish both of these objectives together. Here’s how to build correlated, unique cores that I believe stand the best chance of taking down the Week 13 Battle Royale.

Format, Scoring, and Things To Know For Beginners

Each Battle Royale draft contains six people and lasts six rounds, for a total of 36 picks. On Sunday, you compete against all 67,500 people who have entered a draft. Each pick has a 30-second clock, so drafts take only a few minutes. It is very easy to bang out many in one sitting.

Each roster has space for 1 QB, 1 RB, 2 WRs, 1 TE, and 1 FLEX. The scoring is a normal half-point per reception format, similar to what you would find on FanDuel or Underdog’s season-long best-ball contests.

Somewhat like a DFS tournament, 10% of the total prize pool is paid out to the top scorer, with the rest distributed to the top ~18% of finishers in gradually declining payouts based on placement. This means it is critical to draft for upside, as you only win something if you place very highly.

Like a DFS main slate, only players from the early afternoon and late afternoon Sunday games are included in the pool.

Unlike in season-long best ball drafts, “reaching” a little is usually OK in these lobbies, especially if it’s to put together a stack that won’t be available to you at your next pick, and especially in the final two rounds (where you get a massive ownership advantage from reaching). On the other hand, taking a player falling far past their ADP from the early rounds is also a good way to create a unique team naturally.

The biggest exception to this comes at the beginning of Round 1, where frequently reaching across multiple drafts is probably a bad idea. Your draft slot is random each time, and especially on shorter slates with fewer elite options, you’ll have a hard time getting the top 1-3 players by ADP (who are often in a tier of their own) if you don’t happen to get a top pick. That means if you want any of the best plays to be included in your portfolio of rosters, you have to take advantage of the opportunity whenever you get an early draft slot.

There are no hard-and-fast rules on which positions to draft when — the optimal early selections will be different on every slate. Refer to the “Macro-Level Slate Notes” section below to get an idea of how I’m viewing the tiers at each position, and how I’m generally playing the first round.

From there, pay attention to who you can stack, which positions your roster still needs, and which positions your opponents have already filled for guidance (e.g., if all five other drafters have already selected a QB, you can wait until the final round to select whichever remaining QB you want).

Key Game-Stacks

Miami Dolphins at Washington Commanders

This game boasts the highest over/under of the week (50.5) and features two defenses ranking top-10 in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs this season, and top-7 to opposing WRs over the past five weeks. This game’s underdog passes on a league-high 74.3% of their plays while trailing by at least a touchdown.

Everything here screams “shootout” to me, but Underdog drafters and ADP don’t seem to have caught on yet.

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins (ADP: 12.4, QB2)

For the reasons above, shying away from Tagovailoa this week due to the lopsided game total and the likelihood the Dolphins go run-heavy in the second half is the incorrect approach. This Commanders defense has been a top-6 pass funnel this year (+4.2% PROE allowed), and while they won’t necessarily succeed in keeping the score close, we can be pretty assured they won’t simply roll over and die, as their offense averages the 4th-most plays per game this season (69).

Could all of this also be an argument for Sam Howell over Tagovailoa? Sure, but I still want the Dolphins stack at least some of the time that I’m fortunate enough to nab the 1.01.

Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins (ADP: 1.4, WR1)

Hill has finished top-5 at the position in Underdog FPG in 7 of 11 appearances this year and gets a top-2 matchup for an outside WR, making him the clear 1.01 of the slate. The Commanders’ man-heavy defense also sets up a perfect spot for him.

Since selling Chase Young and Montez Sweat at the deadline, the Commanders' defense has generated pressure on just 27.4% of dropbacks, a bottom-3 mark in the NFL. Tyreek Hill has averaged just 0.27 fantasy points per route run when his QB is under pressure this season, compared to 0.91 FP/RR when there’s no pressure. That’s like going from the efficiency of… well, an even better Tyreek Hill to Josh Reynolds or Justin Watson.

Jaylen Waddle sees a slight target share decline in the absence of pressure (while Hill’s doubles), so in a format where both of them will be selected in 100% of drafts, and Waddle confers no ownership advantage, I’m only really interested in him as part of a double-stack.

De’Von Achane, RB, Miami Dolphins (ADP: 34.3, RB12)

While they are a pass-funnel first and foremost, the Commanders have also bled production to opposing RBs over the past five weeks, allowing the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to the position. That production has mostly come through the air, so adding a Dolphins RB rather than Waddle as the second piece in a Dolphins double-stack is a high-upside way to get unique that shouldn’t add as much negative correlation as it would in most cases. It’s also worth noting that the Dolphins have the best Rush Grade of the week in our O-line/D-line matchups tool.

Of the two RBs, I’m definitely going to favor Achane, who led the backfield in route share over his last two healthy games, is averaging 33.3 Underdog FPG in games he’s received more than two touches, has broken every RB efficiency metric, and possesses an ADP that suggests he won’t be selected in anywhere near 100% of drafts.

For his part, Raheem Mostert has averaged 21.0 Underdog FPG in wins this year and is also in play, especially as Achane’s potential usage in his first game back from injury is unclear. But in this contest (assuming ADPs hold), Mostert is functionally the chalk that it could be quite powerful to pivot off of in the bulk of your lineups.

Sam Howell, QB, Washington Commanders (ADP: 34.5, QB7)

I’ve buried the lead pretty hard here, but if you couldn’t guess from the first few paragraphs of this game’s section, Howell is my absolute favorite QB play this week. He leads the NFL with 45.3 dropbacks per game and has attempted 40+ passes in six straight. This is a bet on pure passing volume in what should be a high-scoring game, for which the best counter-argument is that the Commanders could simply fail to move the ball against the Dolphins’ ferocious pass rush, which has garnered the NFL’s 5th-best time-to-throw-adjusted pressure rate over expectation.

Then again, like the Dolphins, the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks have been pretty good at generating pressure this year, yet also rank top-10 in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to QBs — and Howell had no problem torching those teams for 19.6, 32.0, and 24.2 fantasy points in their meetings. Against all top-10 matchups (like he draws this week), Howell has averaged 23.6 FPG.

But the best part about Howell is that he’s tracking to be a highly unique piece that is positively correlated with Tyreek Hill and the Dolphins RBs, some of the highest-upside plays on the slate. Just tacking Howell on to any team where you’ve drafted a Dolphin does not cost you much in terms of ceiling but instantly makes your build much less common — which we’ll need in this week’s main contest, as it’s triple the size of last week.

As Howell generally spreads the ball around, it may be viable to play him naked without any Commanders pass-catcher. He’s finished as a top-5 QB twice over the past five weeks, but that has led to only two performances of over 15.0 fantasy points out of his receivers (Jahan Dotson and Jamison Crowder, both in Week 8).

I think it’s fine to play Howell with Dotson and great to play him with Terry McLaurin (who I ultimately prefer due to an excellent coverage matchup), but if you’re worried about opportunity cost at the WR position, there is another good option.

Logan Thomas, TE, Washington Commanders (ADP: 35.2, TE7)

On a slate without Travis Kelce or T.J. Hockenson, it’s justifiable to get weird at TE. The fact that “getting weird” means playing a guy who leads all TEs in routes per game (33.0), averages 5.6 targets per game (4th-best among slate-eligible TEs), and leads his team in end zone targets (7) makes it all the better. Thomas isn’t a must-play, but due to the state of the other options at his position, he’s the best way to stack someone with Howell without sacrificing too much total projection.

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles

Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 26.6, QB4)

The Eagles have allowed the most schedule-adjusted FPG to QBs of any defense in the NFL over the past five weeks. By PROE allowed, the Eagles are also the No. 1 pass funnel in the NFL (+7.6%). Purdy averages 331.3 passing YPG against top-7 pass funnels – a slate-leading mark over the full season.

With all indicators pointing to a higher-volume passing day for Purdy, it’s also worth noting he has put on an efficiency masterclass this season. He’s averaged 9.4 yards per attempt (1st among slate-eligible QBs), a +4.7% CPOE (2nd), and 0.61 fantasy points per dropback (2nd).

The only reason Purdy isn’t having a bonkers fantasy football season is low passing volume — he’s thrown more than 30 times only twice all year. But assuming the Eagles stay in this game (there’s only a 3-point spread) and force the issue, Purdy carries more upside than it appears at first glance.

As Purdy isn’t much of a runner, I would recommend double-stacking here. Christian McCaffrey works because of his 68.0% route share and 17.5% target share (both rank 2nd-best among all RBs), while George Kittle’s 31.5% first-read target share over the past five weeks is the highest of any slate-eligible TE, and would rank 9th-best among slate-eligible WRs. Be sure to work them both in, but when it comes to who I want to stack the most frequently…

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 9.8, WR7)

Aiyuk is averaging 18.4 FPG in his five games this season against top-12 schedule-adjusted matchups for opposing outside WRs. The Eagles rank as the 2nd-softest matchup for opposing WRs overall, and the 4th-softest for outside WRs.

This lower-volume offense has made it hard to notice if you’re only watching Aiyuk’s fantasy box scores, but he ranks 2nd behind only Tyreek Hill with 3.45 YPRR this season, well ahead of names like Justin Jefferson and A.J. Brown. Similarly to the argument for Purdy, that means I really want Aiyuk in any game I believe his team will be throwing.

Aiyuk’s 43.7% air yardage share ranks 3rd-best among slate-eligible WRs. He’s virtually his team’s entire downfield passing attack, which they’ll want to lean on — this Eagles secondary has given up the 4th-most completions on targets traveling 20+ yards downfield.

A.J. Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: 5.6, WR4)

In the realm of bring-backs, this 49ers defense also invites the pass as a top-10 schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing WRs. While he’s struggled a little recently, Brown has blown out teammate DeVonta Smith in first-read target share over the full season (40.5% to 25.1%) and seen over twice as many end zone targets. And there’s a great schematic explanation for those recent struggles, and it’s about to reverse this week.

Macro-Level Slate Notes and One-Offs

  • This is yet another deep slate at RB, but Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara (practically a lock for double-digit targets with all of the Saints’ receivers hurt) stand out at the top more than anyone did last week.

  • But Zack Moss (ADP: 23.8, RB6) is about as likely as those two to handle every backfield touch…

  • Rachaad White (25.6, RB8) has averaged the 4th-most FPG among slate-eligible RBs over the past five weeks and draws a top-10 schedule-adjusted matchup…

  • …and as I’ve mentioned, De’Von Achane (34.3, RB12) can outscore all of them.

  • Aside from Achane, Breece Hall (35.8, RB18) is another unbelievable contrarian play. He projects similarly to players who will be drafted in 100% of rooms, draws a top-8 schedule-adjusted matchup, and just saw 9 targets from Tim Boyle. It only takes one play for Hall to break the slate.

  • Given all of the above, I’d lean into RB at the FLEX once again.

  • There are eight QBs I would consider “in play” for this slate. I’m partial to the three I mentioned above and may mix in some Jalen Hurts (5.5, QB1) and Kyler Murray (34.8, QB8). More on how below.

  • I don’t love C.J. Stroud’s or Justin Herbert’s matchups, and I don’t see Jared Goff and the Lions being pushed to play aggressively against a hapless Saints offense. But you can play this week on the fly if you wish, as each QB’s top pass-catcher is being drafted above or adjacent to them.

  • With Dallas Goedert doubtful and Taysom Hill not eligible, TE goes seven deep — though I don’t know if you need to bother with Logan Thomas (35.2, TE7) outside of Howell stacks.

  • George Kittle (13.1, TE1) provides a ceiling nobody else does at the position, and his Round 3 ADP and correlation with Brock Purdy tell me I’ll be overweight.

  • I like each of the top-4 WRs in Round 1, but the ones after that have similar ranges of outcomes up and down the board. I’d mostly draft them based on where you’re looking to stack this week. In fact, I’ll be generally avoiding unstacked one-offs at the position after Round 1 and before Round 6 (get-weird plays only).

  • Round 2 and Round 3 feature very similar players, so if you’re not after a WR for a stack in Round 2, I think it’s a good spot to reach a bit for Kittle or Kamara. This should theoretically create lower-owned combinations.

Round 1 Strategy

Even if you aren’t as interested in stacking their games as I am, Tyreek Hill is the clear 1.01 on this slate, while Christian McCaffrey is the clear 1.02. Their workloads and ceilings simply dwarf every other flex-eligible player. The only reason to deviate from these two when picking at the start of Round 1 is if you’re dead-set on stacking the Lions or Chargers.

If I don’t have a top-two pick and can’t get Hill or McCaffrey, I would prioritize the other Round 1 WRs in the order of A.J. Brown > Keenan Allen > Amon-Ra St. Brown. Brown draws the best matchup of the trio and sets you up to stack the 49ers.

If drafting at the Round 1/2 turn and both Jalen Hurts and Brown are available, I’m happy to take that stack — it will be much easier to attain and more common than last week, but it’s still one of the highest projected on the slate and plays into a game I like. I’d still take the Dolphins' stack over the Eagles if I had the choice, but their collective ADPs mean your draft slot dictates that decision, not your preferences.

If only Brown is available, I’ll take him and whichever Round 2 WR I want for my stack (in my case, usually Brandon Aiyuk).

Week-Winning Sleeper

Marquise Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: 35.8, WR22)

We saw Brown’s usage rebound in Week 12 as he compiled 12 targets and a 48% air yardage share. In the three games since Murray returned this season, his 332 air yards are the 6th-most among WRs on this slate. And it’s not as if this usage came out of nowhere; Brown averaged 10.3 targets per game in his six games with Kyler Murray but without DeAndre Hopkins in 2022.

Brown’s schematic matchup is excellent as well. The Steelers play man coverage at the 6th-highest rate and single-high at the 4th-highest rate in the NFL. Brown’s FP/RR against single-high looks this season (0.36) is more than double what he’s averaged against two-high (0.17). His splits against man (0.49) and zone (0.19) are even more dramatic.

Best of all, Brown’s ADP makes him unique in any lineup. While I prefer him as a one-off, he also works as a stacking partner on any Kyler Murray teams to differentiate them from the popular Trey McBride or as part of a mini-stack with Pat Freiermuth.

Ryan is a young marketing professional who takes a data-based approach to every one of his interests. He uses the skills gained from his economics degree and liberal arts education to weave and contextualize the stories the numbers indicate. At Fantasy Points, Ryan hopes to play a part in pushing analysis in the fantasy football industry forward.