2023 Wild Card Underdog Battle Royale Strategy


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2023 Wild Card 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 16 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 45,000 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.

On this wild card weekend slate, the player pool includes all six games on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night.

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 likely 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

Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans

CJ Stroud, QB, Houston Texans (ADP: 34.4, QB7)

This season, Stroud ranks 2nd in YPA (9.0), 3rd in passing YPG (157.6), 5th in fantasy points per dropback (0.51), and 5th in passer rating (104.5) against single-high coverage. Through that lens, Stroud has a near-perfect matchup for his first-ever playoff game; Cleveland runs single-high at the league’s highest rate (67%).

While the Browns’ defense appears stifling at a glance, having allowed just 185.2 passing YPG this season (2nd-fewest). But they’ve morphed into a merely below-average schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing QBs over their last five games (-1.5).

That can largely be chalked up to their opponents dropping back significantly more often — 47.4 times per game over their last five compared to 31.5 times per game over the rest of the season (+50% more). That’s despite the Browns’ defense being stingier now than before (5.05 vs. 6.43 YPA allowed) on a per-attempt basis.

If the secret to being productive against this defense is simply dropping back a ton of times, the Texans should have that covered. The combination of Davis Mills and Case Keenum totaled 53 dropbacks against this same Browns team back in Week 16 after the Joe Flacco air raid forced them into a negative game script. Re-run that formula with C.J. Stroud under center this week, and you’ve got one of the highest-upside QBs on the slate at low implied ownership.

Note: As you might be able to guess from the length of this section, I’m happy to draft Joe Flacco to stack the other side of this game as well. But Stroud is the more unique and thus preferred option.

Nico Collins, WR, Houston Texans (ADP: 9.8, WR7)

Collins is averaging a whopping 0.66 FP/RR against single-high coverage this season, ranking 2nd in the NFL behind only Tyreek Hill. He’s been targeted on 31% of his routes against single-high, +48% more than the Texans’ next-best healthy full-time pass catcher.

Collins has excellently demonstrated weekly upside, having posted a top-6 weekly finish in 5 of 15 games (33%) he’s played with Stroud this year. His being at the end of a tier break at WR makes him a great initial one-off selection in Round 2 to be backdoor-stacked with Stroud at your leisure later on.

David Njoku, WR, Cleveland Browns (ADP: 12.4, TE1)

The Texans have struggled against opposing TEs all season, allowing the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG (+2.7) as well as the most receptions (107) and 5th-most receiving yards (1,024) to the position. Njoku has exceeded 20.0 Underdog points in two of his three games with Joe Flacco and a healthy Amari Cooper, averaging 10.4 targets per game.

Perhaps the biggest point in Njoku’s favor is that the rest of this TE slate is fairly uninspiring, with the next five TEs by ADP having combined for only three 20+ point performances this year. I’m prioritizing Njoku on as many builds as I can this week.

Amari Cooper, WR, Cleveland Browns (ADP: 7.0, WR5)

In addition to being unable to defend against TEs, the Texans have also allowed the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing wideouts over the past five weeks (+14.5) — largely thanks to Cooper himself dropping 46.0 Underdog points on them in Week 16.

Cooper has been targeted on 31% of his routes with Joe Flacco, averaging 121.3 receiving YPG (would rank first among slate-eligible WRs) and 20.0 Underdog FPG (would also rank first). Adding him to a game stack requires reaching a bit for Collins at the turn of Rounds 1 and 2, but that’s a valid maneuver if each of the top-5 players by ADP has come off the board.

Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions

Jared Goff, QB, Detroit Lions (ADP: 34.9, QB8)

The Lions have the 2nd-best implied total of the slate (27.5) in the game with the highest over/under (51.5). Goff averages 0.59 FP/DB (4th-best on the slate) and 21.7 FPG (6th-best) at home this season and faces a Rams defense that’s allowed the most schedule-adjusted FPG of any team to opposing passers over the past five weeks (+7.1).

Despite the incredible matchup and overall game environment, Goff is for some reason going undrafted in most lobbies. The loss of Sam LaPorta likely hurts somewhat, but this one is as simple as getting access to a highly-projected team with an automatically unique build.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions (ADP: 2.9, WR2)

The Rams have played zone coverage on 76.3% of opposing dropbacks this season, a top-10 rate in the NFL. Against zone this year, St. Brown has averaged 3.24 YPRR (a +65% boost over his performance against man coverage) and 0.55 FP/RR (+83%). The Rams have struggled against opposing WRs just as much as they have against opposing passers over the past five weeks, surrendering the most schedule-adjusted FPG to the position (+19.2).

St. Brown likely gets another boost with Sam LaPorta expected to miss this game, leading to meaningfully less target competition. Getting him now is more draft-slot-dependent than it was early in the week, but I’m quick to click him whenever I can.

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

You don’t necessarily have to play these next two players together in a game stack, but considering they were the only two one-off plays that truly stood out to me, I decided to give them their own section.

Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: 27.1, TE4)

Goedert has an excellent on-paper matchup, with the Buccaneers having surrendered the 4th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing TEs (+2.2). He arguably has the most upside of any TE on this slate outside of David Njoku given the matchup and his red zone usage, which stands out from similarly-priced options.

The Eagles may not project to play as pass-heavy as other teams this week given Jalen Hurts’ finger ailment, but if they choose to focus on short-area throws and screens, Goedert could counterintuitively receive an overall volume boost.

Rachaad White, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP: 18.6, RB4)

In a big reversal from most of the season, the Eagles have allowed the 4th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (+6.8) over their last five games. They’ve suddenly morphed into a run funnel since Matt Patricia took over defensive playcalling, allowing a -3.5% PROE over the past month, which would make them the most extreme run funnel in the league if it held over the full season. Over that timeframe, opposing RB1s have averaged 21.3 Underdog FPG against the Eagles.

White’s volume has been elite all year, averaging a 78.7% snap share (RB2 among slate-eligible players) and 60.8% route share (RB2). White trails only Christian McCaffrey in total touches this season, and only Breece Hall has played on a higher percentage of his team’s red zone snaps over the past eight weeks. You should want a ton of exposure to him no matter how you feel about this game.

Macro-Level Slate Notes

  • I don’t have any additional naked plays at later ADPs aside from White and Goedert that I feel particularly strongly about on this slate. The RB, WR, and TE positions are very thin compared to QB (which makes some sense on a six-game playoff slate).

  • This means QB is the place I’ll mostly be attempting to get unique. Stroud and Goff accomplish this nicely. Jordan Love could arguably be viable as well, but it’s much more difficult to decide who to stack him with.

  • I’ll mostly only be deviating from this unique QB plan if I get the opportunity to select Dak Prescott on a CeeDee Lamb team. This will likely only happen when you’re drafting from the 1.01. Mixing in some Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford to play the other side of my preferred games is also fine.

  • There’s a severe drop-off at the WR position after Nico Collins (or arguably Mike Evans, though I likely prefer Chris Godwin to him at cost), so WR-WR starts seem somewhat desirable.

Round 1 Strategy

I’d originally thought I’d have some spicy Round 1 takes this week based on early ADP, but the consensus has more-or-less aligned with me by the night before publishing. CeeDee Lamb against a Packers secondary that’s been torched by the slot over the past five weeks (2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG allowed) is the rightful 1.01, while Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kyren Williams stand out at their positions in projected volume afterward.

I am fine with skipping Tyreek Hill in the back half of drafts, given he’s facing a Chiefs defense that’s been the stingiest schedule-adjusted matchup in the league for opposing WRs over the last five weeks, and has allowed the 4th-lowest YPRR over the full season (1.31). The single-digits temperature forecasts don’t help, either.

My targets at the turn are Puka Nacua and Amari Cooper (detailed above), with the slight Nico Collins reach for the game stack also an option as mentioned.

Week-Winning Sleeper

Devin Singletary, RB, Houston Texans

On an RB slate this thin, why in the world is Singletary going completely undrafted after amassing 72.1% of his team’s rush attempts (RB2 on the slate) over the past four weeks? He even received every backfield touch in Week 18. My initial read is that the Texans will be playing from behind in this one, but this is only a two-point spread against a Browns team that’s actually profiled as a slightly positive schedule-adjusted matchup for RBs of late (+2.6). All it would take is a pair of poorly-timed Joe Flacco turnovers to flip this game script entirely, and the Texans could easily go run-heavy if given the opportunity.

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.