Devin Singletary

The Mitten: Playoff Best Ball

So, you lost in the fantasy playoffs. Now what?

The way I see it, you’ve got two options. You can spend the next month sulking about how Terry McLaurin’s illegal formation penalty cost you a title (I’m totally over it as you can see), or you can get back to doing what you love most: drafting fantasy teams. If the season left a bad taste in your mouth, or you just aren’t ready to emerge from your fantasy football cave and rejoin polite society, you need playoff BestBall. 

Last year, I fell in love with “The Mitten,” a four-round playoff best ball tournament on Underdog Fantasy. Now that the tournament is back for the 2022 season, I’d like to go over some guidelines for drafting a competitive team so that you can join in on the fun. 

First, let’s check out the format of the contest. We’ve got 33,840 entrants ($5 per entry, 150-entry maximum) split into 5,640 groups of six. The initial six-person draft is ten rounds, and the starting roster consists of 1 QB, 1 RB, 2 WR/TE, and 1 Flex. After the first week of the NFL playoffs, the top two scoring entries in each group of six will advance to the second round where they will be randomly assigned to a new group of six. The top team from each group will advance to the third round where the groups are expanded to ten teams each. Scoring the highest in that group of ten will send you to the final round–Super Bowl Sunday. Finally, the highest-scoring entry on Super Bowl Sunday will win the grand prize of $15,000. 

This contest is a tough one to navigate because the players that give you the best chance to advance through the first or second round aren’t always the players that can help you win it all. For example, Saquon Barkley should be one of the best RB options on Wild Card Weekend. He could help your team advance to the second round. However, the Giants are serious longshots to reach the Super Bowl or even the NFC Championship Game, which has kept Barkley’s ADP relatively low. On the other hand, Devin Singletary might not even score any points on Wild Card Weekend with the Bills having the inside track to a bye week. Yet Singletary’s ADP is similar to Barkley’s because he has fantastic odds of suiting up on Super Bowl Sunday. 

The best way to handle these conflicting ideas without giving yourself a headache is to draft scenarios rather than players. As you draft your team, tell yourself a story about how the playoffs will unfold. Let me show you one of my teams so you can see what I mean.

Screen Shot 2022 12 23 at 2.03.00 PM

Here’s the story of this team. The Chiefs enter the playoffs as the two seed and eventually advance to the Super Bowl. The 49ers and Buccaneers enter the playoffs as the two and four seeds, respectively. Both teams win on Wild Card Weekend and in the Divisional Round. They meet in the NFC Championship Game. San Francisco wins, setting up a rematch of Super Bowl LIV.

This is just one of the thousands of possible playoff scenarios. It’s not necessarily the most likely outcome, but it is far from the least likely. More importantly, the team is constructed to help me advance through each round while having as many players as possible available in the Super Bowl. 

That last point is crucial: without a full five-man roster in the final round, you will not be able to take first place. This means you must focus heavily on one NFC team and one AFC team. That could be Buffalo and Dallas or Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Or you can get weird and build around a more obscure pairing like Minnesota and Baltimore (great for fans of purple). As long as you get a minimum of one QB, one RB, and three flex-eligible pieces from those two teams, you’re in business. From there, it’s all about maximizing your odds of advancing. 

  1. Don’t draft players from too many different teams. If several of your players are eliminated in the first week of the playoffs, you’ll have a tough time advancing through rounds two and three. Obviously, we don’t have the full playoff picture yet, but you should do your best to draft players that will not face each other before the conference championship. 
  2. Be careful with bye week teams. Yes, the teams with a bye (currently the Bills and Eagles) have the best chance of reaching the Super Bowl. However, they also don’t score any points in round one. If you choose to stack one of these teams, make sure you add a second QB and some high-scoring players to get you through Wild Card Weekend. 
  3. Don’t fall into the ADP value trap. You should never draft a player simply because they are a “good value.” Stick to the players that fit the story of your current team. A roster with Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Saquon Barkley, Dalvin Cook, and Deebo Samuel might look great on paper. Still, it does not have a viable path to winning the grand prize and cementing you in the annals of history as one of the greatest best ball drafters of all time. 

Thanks for reading this article! You can find me on Twitter at @fantasyfreezer if you have any more BestBall questions or just want to share your favorite tournament teams!

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