Everything you need to know about Underdog Fantasy
What is Underdog fantasy?
Underdog Fantasy is a daily fantasy sports platform that is known for having some of the largest best ball contests in the industry. For four consecutive years now, Underdog has offered Best Ball Mania, a massive best ball tournament that is offering $3M ($3 Million) dollars to the winner in 2023 in Best Ball Mania IV.
If you’ve been introduced to or heard about the best ball fantasy format, then there’s a good chance that you’ve already heard about the Underdog Fantasy name or visited their site.
Underdog was founded in 2020 by Jeremy Levine and is now just entering its fourth full NFL season of offerings. They have received funding from several notable investors including a group headed by Mark Cuban, Kevin Durant, and Adam Schefter.
While Underdog is not as large as some of the other major daily fantasy sites, like DraftKings or Fanduel, they specialize in the best ball format, narrowing their range of focus and have built a very loyal group of supporters. The amount of fantasy content and social media activity geared toward the site is growing and should be expected to remain that way going into the 2023-2024 NFL best-ball offerings.
How does Underdog Fantasy differ from traditional Daily Fantasy sites?
Unlike traditional Daily Fantasy sites, Underdog’s fantasy contest offerings are almost exclusively offered in snake draft format. As mentioned above, best ball tournaments are their specialty, and, in 2022, they offered a $10,000,000 NFL best ball tournament which filled 451,200 total entries, with a total of 37,600 12-person Groups.
Underdog also offers smaller daily drafts across most majors sports (NHL, MLB, NBA, PGA, and more) where you compete against a set number of people. While best ball and snake drafts remain their core offerings, Underdog Fantasy is far more than just a draft-specific site. They offer the ability to wager on player props in their Pick’em-based format as well. Much like a sportsbook, Pick’em allows users to parlay player props offered by the site for big payouts.
Underdog’s mix of prop and draft-based contests are available in a variety of sports and make them unique to the daily fantasy space.
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What type of contests does Underdog offer?
Underdog has three core offerings:
- Larger tournament-based best ball: Allows for up to 150 entries (by a single user) in some contests. Original drafts occur over a lengthy period (sometimes months) of time until the contest fills/closes and games begin.
- Smaller nightly snake drafts: These are faster-paced, shorter drafts and payout at the end of each nightly slate.
- Pick’em: Player-prop-based contests where users build a card of props with a specific payout attached if they win. These work similar to how parlay bets would work on a regular sportsbook.
Best ball is a unique season-long fantasy format that requires contestants to draft a team, much like someone would in a regular season-long NFL fantasy football league. The main difference though is that, in best ball, there are no roster movements done throughout the year. It’s an emerging format that offers plenty of unique strategies centered around position allocation and roster formation.
In best ball on Underdog Fantasy, each team is assigned a specific roster they must fill through the draft. Once the draft is complete, points will be accumulated on a game-by-game basis from specific positions.
To counteract the fact that there is no in-season movement, rosters in best-ball are unique from typical season-long redraft leagues in that they provide larger rosters–more specifically larger benches. For example, in Underdogs NFL best-ball games for 2021, the best-ball rosters for their regular season-long contests looked like this:
Every game, the highest-producing players at the starting positions (QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, Flex (RB/WR/TE)) would count towards the team's score for that week. Since there is no player movement during the year, the roster drafted would be the one used for scoring during the entire length of the contest. For 2023, Underdog’s Bestball Mania IV contest spans from Week 1 to Week 17, so any players you take in your best ball draft who are in active lineups those weeks will be eligible to count for points on your team.
These types of tournaments exist across most major sports on Underdog Fantasy so if you’re into hockey, baseball, or basketball, there will likely be some kind of best-ball contest that catches your eye.
Best Ball Mania IV
As mentioned above, Underdog has some of the largest tournament-style offerings in the fantasy sports industry for best ball. This year the site is running back its largest offering from 2022 with Best Ball Mania IV, but has increased the prize pool to a whopping $15M, with first-place paying out $3M (and second-place also paying out $1M).
Underdog has also introduced regular-season payouts for 2023. While the tournament remains a round-by-round format, after Week 14 the top 10,000 scoring lineups will be eligible for an extra one-time payout, with the top scoring lineup from Week 1-14 landing $500,000. This is a new twist on Best Ball Mania that could certainly change up how you attack drafts for the new season.
With so much money at stake, a quick breakdown of the event is definitely in order. Below we’ve listed the most pertinent details for Best Ball Mania IV and provided a little more information about what details to key in on and how to approach it.
|Size||677,376 total entries and 56,448 initial 12-person Groups or leagues|
|Entry Fee||$25.00 USD|
|Entry Limits/Max entries||150 entries allowed, per person|
Round 1 - 12 man league (top 2 advance)
Round 2 - 16 man league (winners advance)
Round 3 - 16 man league (winners advance)
Round 4 - 441 remaining teams compete for ladder style payouts (first wins $3M)
$15,000,000 ($15 million dollars)
|First place||$3,000,000 ($3 Million Dollars)|
|Roster||1-QB, 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-TE, 1-Flex (Flex can be RB, WR or TE) 10 bench|
0.5 PPR for WRs/RBs/TEs
4.0 point passing TDs
In Best Ball Mania IV, the top-two finishers (winners and runners-up) from each initial group advance into the next round. Wild card positions would also advance, and be allocated to the highest-scoring non-league winning lineups as well if the contest doesn’t fill (this is extremely likely so wild cards will likely be a non-factor).
Round two would see you paired up against 16 new teams, where winners only would advance to round three. In round three, the odds stay the same as you’re paired against 16 new teams once again and only the winners advance.
In the final round, the top 441 teams remaining would duke it out in a single-week league with ladder-type payouts.
With an event this big, playing for maximum upside should be your focus when creating teams. Not only do you want to win your initial league, but you should also be looking ahead to Weeks 14-17 to see what kinds of lineups would give you a legitimate shot at reaching Week 17 and the coveted final 470 teams.
Check out our articles on structural draft methods (like zero RB, anchor RB and more) as well as week 17 and playoff correlation strategies. These drafting methods have been data proven to give you a better shot at competing for top prizes in larger field events, like Best Ball Mania IV.
Best Ball Strategy
With no in-season movement and a variety of different roster formats, there are plenty of different strategies you can employ in best-ball drafts. Loading up on certain player positions early (e.g. RBs or WRs), using players’ on-site ADP’s (average draft position) to your advantage, and stacking QBs with their wide receivers are just a few relatively simple strategies you can employ to give you a better shot at cashing in best ball tournaments on Underdog.
Below are some key strategies to employ when drafting, regardless of the format.
Dec 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) carries the ball on an end around against the Tennessee Titans during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Stacking is a relatively simple strategy that involves pairing a QB with one or more of his receivers. The goal is to maximize the good weeks of your quarterback by having exposure to one or more of his receivers as well, who could also benefit from a big passing day.
For best ball, stacking can be employed in a variety of creative ways due to the large bench sizes. Many people will look to pair their quarterback with one of his top receivers, especially those receivers attached to high-ceiling passing quarterbacks/offenses. This is one of the most important strategies we can employ when drafting for NFL best ball, period. Teams that employ stacking in their lineup construction have been shown to have a better advance rate in tournaments like Best Ball Mania contests.
While paying up early in drafts for a stack is important, you can also maximize your upside – and get leverage on competitors in your group – by using later-round picks on other less prolific wide receivers (or tight ends). These later-round picks may not be as consistent, but can provide you with good “spike weeks” and provide your QB/WR stack with a hedge if the team’s top target goes down.
Sep 19, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) takes on the field prior the game against the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Running Back Strategy - Zero RB
Most people who have played fantasy football in any kind of season-long format know that running back tends to be the most volatile position. Prolific first-round fantasy RBs go down with injury every season (some before the season even begins) and force us to chase backups and practice squad players on waivers. For best ball, since there are no waivers or in-season management, how we approach the running back position can have a big impact on our success.
Punting the RB position, or waiting to draft running backs until the mid to late rounds, has become associated with the zero-RB approach. Punting on RBs in early rounds allows us to focus on getting prolific QB/WR stacks into our lineups early – such as Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs – essentially beating the rush on those players.
If you’re following this approach, targeting later-round running backs with good receiving usage can be helpful. The PPR points they accumulate on a weekly basis can pile up quickly, especially if their team ends up in a fast-paced game with more passing opportunities than initially projected. Devin Singletary, Jaylen Warren and Kenneth Gainwell are some later-round players that have decent PPR upside attached to them for 2023, making them solid targets in a zero-RB build.
Additionally, snagging talented backups, or handcuffs later in drafts is also important for a zero-RB approach. Players like Chuba Hubbard and Ty Chandler are good examples of some 2023 later-round picks who may start out as backups, but could potentially step into a main role right away and produce big numbers should the starter on their team go down with an injury.
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Running Back Strategy - Anchor RB
Anchor RB, which is also often referred to as Hero RB or a Modified Zero RB strategy, has lots in common with a Zero RB approach, with one exception. Instead of avoiding the RB position entirely in your early-round picks, in an anchor RB build you target one early-round RB in the first or second round. Anchor RB works very similarly to the zero-RB method, as it still has you use most of your early draft capital (generally rounds 2-6) on non-RB positions.
The main difference between an anchor RB and zero RB build is that anchor RB rosters give us exposure to one every-down, high-upside, player at the RB position. These types of workhorse running backs have a huge value in best ball formats as they give us a shot at landing on a Monster type of fantasy football season, which makes them worth structuring your drafts around.
When you land on a correct early bell-cow running back, your anchor RB teams can often be hard to beat given how deep your team will be at other positions as well.
Running Back Strategy - Hyper-fragile RB
The Hyper-fragile RB method also has you allocate your early-round draft picks on the RB position. In a hyper-fragile RB build, you would most often begin drafts by taking three RBs in the first six rounds – and generally start by taking RBs on each of your first two picks. A hyper-fragile build places a large emphasis on the upside that early-round RBs can give you and also provides you with you multiple shots at landing on a legendary type of season that could carry your squad.
The difference between a hyper-fragile RB build and a Robust RB build is that the hyper-fragile RB approach limits the overall number of RBs on your roster (with a maximum of four RBs selected being the most common approach used in this method). This makes the hyper-fragile RB method a riskier (in the sense we are only carrying four RBs) but also provides these lineups with better, overall, upside as the extra draft capital can be used down in the draft to spend on other positions.
Running Back Strategy - Robust RB
On the flip side, the Robust RB strategy takes an entirely different approach. It stresses the importance of the volume that every-down RBs receive. Running backs with high snap counts who are likely to receive the bulk of the work on all downs can vastly outperform mid-round targets at their position. The robust RB strategy aims to maximize this differential by selecting players like Bijon Robinson or Derrick Henry early on.
Since Underdog Fantasy employs a 0.5 ppr scoring method for NFL, it is worth noting that their scoring structure does take away some of the potential upsides from drafting top wide receivers early on – as compared to drafting in a 1.0 PPR league. With the way that top WR ADPs have been trending (up, up, and more up) that also makes a robust RB strategy a decent contrarian way to construct rosters. With several bell-cow running backs (Tony Pollard season anyone?) now having second or even third-round ADPs on Underdog, 2023 may actually be the year to pivot to a more RB-centric approach with your early picks.
Positional Allocation and roster construction
It sounds simple enough, but just knowing how many players to allocate or draft at each position can be one of the biggest ways to gain an edge in Underdog’s best ball contests. There are hundreds of thousands of users entering and not all of them take the time to understand how the contest works.
As mentioned above, Underdog’s biggest best ball contests use the following scoring and roster format:
- half-PPR scoring (0.5 per reception)
- 4.0 points per passing TD
- 6.0 points per rushing/receiving TD
- 0.1 point per rushing/receiving yard
- 2.0 points for a two-point conversion
- -2.0 points for fumble lost
- -1.0 point for interception
- 18-man rosters with an eight-man starting weekly roster: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, Flex (RB/WR/TE).
Since we’re only starting one TE and QB every week, the optimal approach at has often been to draft 2-3 max players at those positions and then fill out the rest of your roster with WRs and RBs – making sure to try and stack or correlate some of your WRs with your quarterbacks.
Targeting top TEs has been very effective, as well, given the lack of depth at that position. The top TEs (like Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews) often outperform their mid-range counterparts by wide margins.
Quarterback scoring is often much flatter. Later-round quarterbacks are often within closer ranges to the top QB scorer, compared to other positions, so loading up on three later-round quarterbacks to maximize stacking can be effective. Taking two quarterbacks is generally the consensus way to construct lineups but often grabbing a third can maximize our stacking ability and give your lineups better upside.
While it may seem like over-drafting at RB (given the injury issues at the position) would be beneficial, staying with just five to six players at that position is more optimal. Typically, when you expend draft capital early on an RB, you may also want to think about staying at the lower end (i.e. five RBs) of that range. Even limiting yourself to 3-4 RBs (in a hyper-fragile build) if you are expending lots of early draft capital on bell-cow RBs is often better than going too deep at the position.
WR has the biggest range of outcomes in terms of what works best with allocation. Given the depth at this position, and the fact it makes up at least three of your weekly lineup positions, taking as many as eight or nine WRs can be a good way to up your chances of hitting on potential spike weeks and boost the overall upside of your lineup with better stacking correlation.
Best ball payouts and prizes
In best ball, if you win your initial group, your team advances into the next round where it will again compete against a set group of players. Once a team reaches the final round, they compete against the rest of the winning teams for the top payouts. Below is an example of how a typical best ball tournament on Underdog might look in terms of structure.
This structure is taken from Underdog’s Best Ball Mania IV contest. As you can see, everyone who enters is placed in an initial 12-man group. After the initial round is complete, the top two finishers in their group will move on and we’ll be left with 112,896 entries (or 7,056 16-man groups).
Winning your initial group in this tournament also means that you’ve managed to “cash” as payouts for this event start at the top 112,896 players and ladder up from there. Typically, to cash in most best ball tournaments on Underdog, you need to at least win or advance through your initial grouping.
For a more nuanced look at payouts, be sure to check out our deep dive into the Best Ball Mania IV payout structure and how they affect the draft strategy for the event in 2023.
Daily Snake Drafts
Daily Snake drafts are offered on Underdog, essentially year-round. These daily contests nearly all involve drafts that take place over six rounds with different positional requirements for each sport. Much like most other, larger daily fantasy sites, Underdog does offer some single-game fantasy contests as well. Below are the lineup requirements for each of these games.
Underdog also has a Pick’em feature, which allows users to build prop-based multiplier tickets with specific payouts attached – which get bigger as you add more plays to your ticket. There are two different options to choose from under the Pick’em game with Higher/Lower and the matchup-based, Rivals offering.
The Higher/Lower Pick’em offerings are quite easy to explain as they are simply asking us to decide whether a player will land higher or lower than his specific player total (provided in the pick’em section). These player totals can be offered on anything from a player’s assist total in basketball, to how many takedowns a fighter will land in a UFC match.
The Rivals contests are different in that, instead of asking you to decide if a player will go over or under an arbitrary total, it asks us to decide if they will outperform (or underperform) another player on the slate that day. Oftentimes these picks will include a handicap attached to one of the players.
In this example, we’re being asked if we think Tyson Fury (-29.5) can land at least 30 or more punches in the fight than Dillian Whyte (+29.5).
Not every Rivals pick involves a handicap per se, but many do.
The payout options on Pick’em are set for players beforehand and are quite simple to understand. Payouts in Underdog’s pick’em contests involve a ladder format so the more plays you add to your ticket, the bigger the payout becomes.
- Two play cards (pick two) = 3-1 payout
- Three play cards (pick three) = 6-1 payout
- Four play cards (pick four) = 10-1 payout
- Five play cards (pick five) = 20-1 payout
- We take two Higher/Lower plays and mix in two Rivals plays as well. That leaves us with a four-play card. We then wager $10.00. The projected payout would be below:
- $10.00 (wagered) x 10-1 odds = $100.00 return ($90.00 won + $10.00 wager return)
Currently, Pick’em payouts max out at 20-1 or five-play cards.
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What states is Underdog Fantasy Legal in?
Pick’em and Best Ball (drafts) eligibility
Underdog Best ball and fantasy drafts are available in 40 states (and Canada, excluding Ontario).
As of now, 32 states (and all of Canada outside Ontario) are eligible to play in Pick’em contests on Underdog Fantasy. In the future, with sports betting and daily fantasy becoming more prevalent, expect the list of ineligible states to shrink.
The current states where Underdog is not available for use are listed below.
States where best ball and drafts are legal (but pick’em is not) are indicated.
- Maryland (best ball legal)
- Missouri (best ball legal)
- New Hampshire (best ball legal)
- New Jersey (best ball legal)
- Ohio (best ball legal)
- Pennsylvania (best ball legal)
- Tennessee (best ball legal)
- West Virginia (best ball legal)
- Ontario (Canada)
What Sports are available on Underdog?
The National Football League remains the site's biggest sport. In 2022 Underdog’s Best Ball Mania III offered a 10 million dollar guaranteed payouts for a $25 entry fee.
For 2023 Underdog has already released a variety of different best ball contests:
- Best Ball Mania IV ($25.00 entry, $10M guaranteed)
- The Dalmation ($101.00 entry, $300,000 guaranteed)
- The Pomeranian ($3.00 entry, guarantee varies)
- The Chihuahua ($4.00 entry, guarantee varies)
- The Chow Chow ($50.00 entry, guarantee varies)
- The Poodle ($7.00 entry, guarantee varies)
- The Mastiff ($1000.00 entry, $220,000 guarantee)
- Weekly Winners ($15.00 entry, 3.5M guarantee)
Best Ball Mania IV is the site’s largest contest and uses their standard best ball roster with 18 total spots a starting lineup as follows:
Underdog’s other offerings are similar in structure to Best Ball Mania IV but have different entry fees and smaller playing fields. The Chihuahua and Pomeranian are both available to enter for less than $5.00 while an event like the Mastiff allows users to compete for big money against a smaller field in exchange for ponying up $1000.00 per entry.
The new addition for 2023 is Underdog’s Weekly Winners contest which is a weekly points-based tournament. Weekly Winners has no leagues and instead pits all of the entrants against each other, awarding ladder-based payouts after every week of the regular season.
In Weekly Winners, $205,000 in prizes are awarded every week to the top weekly finishers between Week 1-17, with first place for the week grabbing $20,000. This gives entrants the chance to win big multiple times and also introduces different strategy components based on the no-league structure and weekly payouts.
In addition to Underdog’s best ball tournaments, weekly NFL snake drafts and Pick’em options (player props) are available on the site. NFL Pick’em on Underdog also includes 2023 season-long player Higher/Lower and Rival offerings, many of which are already available on the site for play in 2023.
Underdog offers daily snake drafts in NHL as well as some bigger best ball offerings. They have the Big Zamboni best ball tournament which takes place throughout the playoffs, ending with the Stanley Cup finals. The tournament had just a $5 entry fee with a $100,000 guaranteed prize pool for the 2022-23 playoffs.
Underdog also offers NHL Pick’em with both High/Lower and Rivals offerings. In NHL Pick’em you will see High/Lower offerings based on player shots on net, goals, assists, and points.
Much like the NHL, the NBA offerings on Underdog span both nightly snake drafts, larger best ball contests, and Pick’em offerings. The Double Dribble was the biggest NBA best ball event that Underdog ran for the 2022-23 regular season and offered a $50,000 first-place prize to the winner.
Pick’em offerings for the NBA include the ability to make Higher/Lower tickets based on player points, player assists, player rebounds, and a combination of two or more of those stats. Rivals offerings are also available in NBA.
Last season Underdog even began offering Pick’em based contests for the WBNA in both Higher/Lower and Rivals.
MMA is unique on Underdog as it is only available in pick’em format. Users can make tickets that focus on Higher/Lower offerings based on the number of significant strikes, takedowns, or finishes a fighter accomplishes in a match.
Rivals is also offered in MMA and allows us to choose which fighter in a given match will land more strikes or takedowns.
MLB is similar to all of the other major sports in that there are significant daily snake draft contests for every daily slate. In terms of tournaments, Underdog has plenty to offer for MLB fans as well.
The Dinger was one of their larger best ball events that had just a $10.00 entry fee but offered up a $100,000 first-place prize – and began with the start of the 2023 MLB season. Underdog also offered a variety of other best ball tournaments for the recent MLB season including the perfect game and the warm-up.
On the pick’em side of things, we can target players' Higher/Lower offerings and Rivals on nearly every significant stat that MLB tracks (hits, strikeouts, total bases, and more). Underdog also now offers Pick’em contests for the KBO (Korean Baseball Association).
F1 is a sport that is picking up steam in terms of popularity, especially in the fantasy realm. Underdog has recently added single-player daily fantasy for F1 in the form of Pick'em-style offerings. On Underdog you can create Pick’em tickets based on things like driver finishing position (essentially an F1 version of Rivals) and other Higher/Lower driver props.
One important note about F1 Pick ’em is how they handle drivers who don’t finish the race. In the event that multiple drivers do not finish, the driver who completed the most laps would be ranked higher. So if two drivers in a 20-man field pulled out or crashed, and one driver completed 25 laps, and the other 24 laps, the driver with more laps completed would finish 19th and the one with less would finish 20th. If they both completed the same number of laps, it would be considered a tie.
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Underdog also has Pick’em offerings for Esports. Pick’em offerings in Esports include Higher/Lower selections on stats like headshots or kills (in LoL and CS:GO).
Higher/Lower offerings for ESports on Underdog work very similarly to how NFL Higher/Lower offerings work. When selecting an Esports Higher/Lower offering we are simply being asked to decide whether a competitor will go higher or lower than a specified total.
In the above example, the player hardzao can be chosen to go higher or lower than 17.5 headshots. The only difference between the two sports is that in Esports we are selecting higher or lower on stats like kills and headshots (rather than yardage or TDs).
More sports (Golf, Soccer)
Underdog also has Pick’em offerings in USFL Football, Soccer and Golf. Golf is a growing sport and Underdog has introduced a “majors only” best ball tournament where users draft teams that gain points at each of the four majors. The Albatross was a $10.00 entry contest for the 2023 PGA season that offered a $100,000 first-place prize.
Underdog also offers traditional Higher/Lower and Rivals props for the PGA Tour and other rival Tours like Liv Golf and the DP World Tour. There you can create Pick’em tickets based on the number of birdies a player will make in a round, and their score or use the Rivals selections to choose whether a player will beat another in a single-round matchup.
Deposits, Withdrawals, and Banking options
How to deposit
Underdog Fantasy deposit methods include:
- Credit card (VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover)
How to withdraw
Withdraws or payouts by Underdog Fantasy are free. They typically take 2-3 business days to complete. Underdog has a $10.00 minimum withdrawal requirement, unless your account is less than $10.00, then you can withdraw the full amount.
- Electronic Check
What banking options can you use?
A credit card is available to use as a deposit option. Electronic check transfer is available for withdrawal.
What banking options can't you use?
As of now, Underdog doesn’t allow for direct bank transfers as a payment option. You can also not withdraw money back onto your credit card, even if you deposited it in that fashion.
- How is Underdog different than DraftKings and Fanduel?
- They offer options closer to sports betting through their Pick’em based contests
- Whereas most larger daily fantasy sites focus on fantasy offerings with salary cap restrictions, Underdog focuses on the draft and best ball format of fantasy sports.
- Is Underdog Fantasy legit?
- Underdog has been around since 2020. Since then they have run multiple best ball contests with $3,000,000+ guaranteed in payouts to users
- Their user base and game offerings continue to expand and they have seen an increase in big named investors.
- As of now, their draft games are legal to play in 40 states and their pick’em games are legal in 32 states.
- Is Underdog Fantasy free to play?
- Yes. The Underdog App is free to download.
- Who founded Underdog Fantasy?
- Jeremy Levine founded the site in 2020 out of Brooklyn, New York. Levine had previously founded a similar best ball site (Draft).
- Notable investors
- Underdog recently saw a large investment from notable investors that included Mark Cuban, Kevin Durant, Matthew Dellevadova
- Music stars like the Chainsmokers and Future are also involved
- Noted fantasy influencer Peter Overzet and Fantasy Life Lead Creative has also signed on for another season at Underdog. His Twitter stream can be a useful resource for new players who enjoy the draft process and want to see how someone creates a “non-conforming” best ball team.