Best ball season is here!
In what would typically be an offseason lull between Dynasty Rookie Drafts and true Redraft season, Underdog Fantasy has blessed us with two massive best ball tournaments to keep us occupied. For $25, you can enter Best Ball Mania III, which will feature 451,000 entrants and $10 million in prizes. Or, for just $5, you can enter The Puppy, which will max out around 110,000 entries and offer $500,000 in prizes.
The rules of each tournament are essentially the same. Weeks 1-14 will function similarly to a traditional best ball league with 12 teams. After Week 14, the two highest-scoring teams in each group of 12 will advance to the next round. In each subsequent week, surviving teams are placed in larger and larger groups where the highest-scoring teams move on. And in Week 17, the top scorer will be crowned the victor.
In this series, I will be uncovering the optimal draft strategies and sharing them with you one entry at a time. The plan is to touch on every aspect of drafting a winning tournament lineup, from viable roster construction strategies to the importance of stacking, to general best ball game theory. And, of course, there will be plenty of takes on individual players.
Now, let’s take a look at my very first Puppy draft.
(If you are unfamiliar with the best ball format, check out my Best Ball Primer.)
Quality Over Quantity
In these 18-round best ball drafts, I look at the QB and TE positions through a similar lens, so I’ll be grouping them together in my breakdowns. For this particular team, I opted to draft just two of each, which allowed me to load up at RB and WR. This strategy is only viable when you secure a top-tier option at the position. By sticking to just two QBs and two TEs, I am planting my flag on Kyler Murray and Mark Andrews. I’m counting on those players to enter my lineup most weeks. This sort of flag-planting is vital for best ball tournaments. To emerge victorious in the face of so much competition, you must assume the best-case scenario for your roster.
If I were to draft a third TE to this team, there would only be two possible outcomes.
- Mark Andrews lives up to his early second-round ADP and my TE3 never cracks the starting lineup.
- My TE3 does make the starting lineup in a handful of weeks, in which case Andrews has missed expectations.
Both outcomes would lower my chances of winning, which brings us a core tenant of tournament drafting–don’t bet against yourself.
Daniel Jones feels like the perfect QB2 option for this team. He’s cheap due to his wide range of outcomes, but remember, I only care about the upside. I’m already counting on Kyler Murray to fill my QB spot for most of the season, but Daniel Jones has the weapons and the mobility to provide difference-making spike weeks. My only regret is that I failed to stack Jones with a stronger option like Kenny Golladay or Kadarius Toney rather than Sterling Shepard.
The Cole Kmet pick is straightforward–his current ADP is inefficient. Considering the depth chart in Chicago, Kmet is a near-lock for 100+ targets. With some positive TD regression, he could easily be this year’s Dalton Schultz.
The Hero RB Approach
When it comes to drafting RBs, there are several viable strategies. My plan is to implement each of these in some capacity across my portfolio of tournament entries.
This team is a textbook example of the Hero RB strategy, which trades RB stability for strength at other positions. I drafted Dalvin Cook 10th overall, making the assumption that he will remain healthy all season and slide into my RB1 slot most weeks. Then I grabbed an elite QB, an elite TE, and five quality WRs with my next seven picks. With the rest of the lineup solidified, I took five additional swings at the RB position. The hope is that, between these five players, I can cobble together usable production throughout the season while capturing the necessary upside to advance in the tournament rounds.
Chase Edmonds and Melvin Gordon are the best of both worlds when it comes to late-round RB options. Both players have a clear path to opportunity throughout the regular season to go along with significant upside. Edmonds, who has a three-down skill set and minimal competition in the Miami backfield, should simply be going higher. Gordon has to contend with Javonte Williams, but even with a 35-40% opportunity share, he can provide weeks of RB2 production in this new-look Denver offense. But if the Dolphins take a massive step forward with Mike McDaniel and Tyreek Hill in town, or if Javonte sustains a season-ending injury within the next five months, you’ve unlocked a tournament-winning ceiling without making sacrifices at other positions.
My final three RBs are pure lottery tickets. If Austin Ekeler or David Montgomery suffer an injury, Isaiah Spiller and Khalil Herbert are capable of RB1 weeks. Meanwhile, Tyrion Davis-Price is a size-speed specimen in an ambiguous backfield. Elijah Mitchell appears to be the starter, but he’s also a former sixth-round pick who sustained multiple injuries last season. The idea here is to lean into the uncertainty. You never know exactly how the season will unfold, so you have to tell yourself a story. Look for RBs capable of contributing in all phases, or at least RBs in good offenses.
It’s also worth noting that I passed on Alexander Mattison in favor of Khalil Herbert because I had already drafted Dalvin Cook. Although I prefer Mattison in a vacuum, I would never handcuff my own RB in a tournament. We know that if Cook goes down, Mattison can replace that production in your lineup. However, other teams that have Mattison and a healthy first-round pick will be at a massive advantage. Imagine two different teams facing off in the elimination round: one has Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison while the other has Joe Mixon and Alexander Mattison. Whether Mattison scores one, twenty, or fifty points makes no difference. Both teams have access to those points, but the first team will receive a zero from Dalvin Cook while the second team has an additional RB1 to boost their ceiling. For this reason, you should only be targeting the handcuffs for RBs on other teams.
The DeAndre Hopkins Dilemma
There are only two good reasons to select a WR.
- If they offer significant upside relative to their ADP.
- If they can be stacked with one of your QBs.
Michael Pittman is perfectly positioned to make the WR1 leap in 2022. He ranked 14th in target share last season and will have minimal target competition once again. Meanwhile, the arrival of Matt Ryan will lead to more accurate targets and more pass attempts overall. I was happy to select him at WR15, even outside the context of a stack.
Allen Robinson at WR32 was just silly value. Robinson is still in his prime and one year removed from back-to-back WR1 seasons with Mitchell Trubisky. Now he’s playing with Matthew Stafford in a high-powered offense. He can easily post high-end WR2 numbers playing alongside Cooper Kupp, and the sky is the limit if an injury occurs.
Marquise Brown and DeAndre Hopkins are an interesting pair. Both players are individually capable of huge performances, and they form a strong stack with Kyler Murray. But the Hopkins suspension adds another layer of intrigue. He is going to miss the first six games, which means that selecting him actually lowers my chances of reaching the playoff rounds. But if I do reach the playoff rounds, Hopkins can provide an advantage over the field because he will likely be rostered on a low percentage of surviving teams. My hope is that Brown can soften the blow early in the season by taking full advantage of Hopkins’ absence.
I was actually planning to stack Garrett Wilson with Zach Wilson, but someone else drafted the second-year QB well ahead of ADP. With the benefit of hindsight, I would have taken Kadarius Toney there. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
There isn’t much to say about these final few WRs. Sterling Shepard is probably washed coming off an Achilles tear, but I have to be optimistic for the sake of my Daniel Jones stack. Laviska Shenault had a good college profile and 100 targets last season, so maybe he can turn things around post-Urban Meyer. Meanwhile, Khalil Shakir finds himself on a shaky depth chart with an elite QB. In future drafts, I’ll be trying to close out the WR position sooner, ideally taking no more than one after Round 15.
I’m happy with this team. I think my RB room is perfect for this draft structure, and I love the Kyler Murray double-stack. My TEs are strong and my WRs have plenty of upside. The team’s most glaring weakness is the Daniel Jones-Sterling Shepard stack, and I can live with that.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Thanks for reading this article! You can find me on Twitter at @fantasyfreezer if you have any more best ball questions or just want to share your favorite tournament teams!
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