Best Ball Strategy. Leveraging the Best Ball Hub.
Over the past month, we’ve been teaching Best Ball Summer School classes to get you up to speed for peak drafting season.
We’ve done a refresher course on roster construction basics, explained why correlation and stacking are critical to best ball tournament success, and extended both of those concepts to Week 17 correlation specifically (so you can reverse-engineer your teams to win big money on Underdog Fantasy).
Today, we're going to take these ideas to the final frontier and show you how to marry the nuts and bolts of individual draft strategies with overall portfolio maintenance.
While the goal is always to draft the best possible team in a given room, we also have the ability to manage our exposures (via both stands and fades) across an entire portfolio. It’s the same idea as managing an investment portfolio with a balance of aggressive growth stocks and conservative value stocks.
While this might seem daunting or overwhelming – Hey Pete, just let me rip some drafts on my phone in peace! – portfolio management is a mandatory skill set for any best ball player who is playing a larger volume of entries.
Luckily, the completely free Fantasy Life Best Ball Hub makes it extremely easy to review your portfolio in real time and make gentle course corrections to your exposures as you continue to draft down the home stretch.
Here are a few concrete examples of how to utilize the hub to build a strong, diverse portfolio of teams that's primed to compete for millions of dollars in Underdog tournaments…
Tip 1: Diversify your stacks around your favorite QBs
For better or worse (you probably think worse), Sam Howell is one of my most drafted QBs. Let’s set aside for the moment whether or not that's a smart decision and instead focus on the concept of building out a correlated portfolio around a QB that you're targeting heavily.
This goes back to the simple idea we discussed in the correlation primer course: If Howell has a big year, it means that multiple Commanders skill position players (specifically the pass-catchers) are likely going to come along for the ride.
Via the hub, I can quickly see that I’ve stacked Howell with at least one teammate 89% of the time. And you can also see which players I’ve specifically paired him with:
This is an example of a set of exposures that I’m perfectly happy with:
- I’m heaviest on Jahan Dotson, the cheaper of the top-two Washington WRs who checks many boxes in the second-year breakout mold for WRs
- I also have heavy exposure to the cheapest WR in the group in Curtis Samuel
- I have some stacks with the RBs with exposure tilted toward Washington's projected pass-catching back, Antonio Gibson
But it’s not always set it and forget it. Sometimes you need to rebalance your portfolio, which is something I want to do with the Steelers after reviewing my exposures. Kenny Pickett, like Howell, is another one of my most-drafted QBs. But unlike with the Commanders, some of these exposure stands are more lopsided than I’d like them to be:
While I’m very excited about Pat Freiermuth’s chances for a breakout year, I also want to make sure that I’m targeting George Pickens (another second-year breakout candidate like Dotson) at a similar rate.
In reviewing these exposures, I came away wanting to take my foot off the gas on Diontae Johnson selections and prioritize more Pickens clicks. Luckily for me, the market is moving in the exact direction to help me accomplish this goal. The majority of my Johnson selections (“My ADP”) came in the sixth round, but he’s now going in the middle of the fifth.
This sets up perfectly for me to start passing on Johnson (I already packed my bags at a cheaper price) and prioritize Pickens a round later (where his ADP has actually fallen a smidge):
The goal of this stacking review exercise is not to perfectly balance your exposures. We simply want to acknowledge that when we make a big bet on a QB, it’s not always easy to identify which ancillary pieces are going to be the biggest beneficiary if your bet pays off.
Continually reviewing your exposures and current ADPs can help diversify bets around that QB in a smart, price-conscious way.
Tip 2: When mega-stacking a team, prioritize their playoff opponents
Week 17 is by far the most important week in Underdog tournaments, but there’s a case to be made for also focusing on Week 15 and Week 16 game stacks when you go heavy on a single team, which we call “onslaughting” an offense.
The idea is simple: if you draft four or more players from a single NFL team, they're going to need to have big games across the entire playoff gauntlet (Weeks 15, 16, and 17). And if they hit their upside potential in all of those weeks, it’s likely because those games are shootouts with their opponents pushing them to score.
The Best Ball Hub makes it easy to review how you're building out game stacks in those situations. For instance, I recently drafted a team where I onslaughted the Lions with Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jahmyr Gibbs, Jared Goff, and Sam LaPorta.
Using the Hub, I can add all of these players to the search bar, easily locate the team, and see how I did stacking their fantasy playoff opponents (Denver, Minnesota, and Dallas):
I did a good job getting a Week 17 bring back on the Cowboys in Malik Davis (the presumed No. 2 Cowboys RB behind Pollard), as well a couple Week 15 bring-backs on the Broncos in Javonte Williams and Marvin Mims.
However, I didn't land any Vikings players as a bring-back for a Week 16 stack, which is likely a mistake considering how heavily I’m invested in the Lions on this roster. In reviewing this team, I took Gus Edwards over Ty Chandler in the 16th round, which I’d like a mulligan on in hindsight.
While it’s not mandatory to always have a bring back, especially for Weeks 15 and 16, it is important to think through how these teams specifically advance through the tough playoff gauntlet to win you millions of dollars.
When you onslaught a team, you really need their games to pop off during those playoff weeks, so it’s prudent to break any and all ties in favor of correlation across their entire playoff schedule.
Tip 3: Mix and match player combos in the early rounds
One interesting thing that happens in drafts is that players become correlated with each other based on their ADP. And if you aren’t careful, you’ll end up with a bunch of players paired together for no other reason than where they fall in drafts.
So while we like to go out of our way to embrace team-level correlation (say A.J. Brown and Jalen Hurts), we want to make sure that we aren’t always getting funneled to the same combinations as the rest of the field.
One good example would be CeeDee Lamb and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Now this isn’t a “bad correlation” by any means – I've selected this pairing three times in my Best Ball Mania IV portfolio since they face off against each other in Week 17 – but it’s also a draft start that's likely heavily duplicated by the field.
Not only do these two offer Week 17 correlation, but their ADPs are clustered at the 1-2 turn, making it a very comfy pairing for those who like to draft off ADP:
But what about Tony Pollard and St. Brown? You get the same correlation benefits for the Dallas-Detroit matchup in Week 17, but it’s a pairing that will be far more unique because drafters (myself included) are generally reluctant to reach for a player like Pollard at the Round 1-2 turn. You can see here below that I’ve only gone out of my way to do it once:
This is an example of an ADP anchoring bias that we should be comfortable avoiding in the right situations.
Pollard is one of the players we have the most conviction on collectively at Fantasy Life, and he offers overall RB1 upside that could easily justify a Round 1-2 turn selection. His range of outcomes isn’t that much different than the RBs going ahead of him, so this would be the perfect spot to consider reaching for a unique combination.
It’s easy to spot these unnecessarily duplicated combos at the top of draft boards, but the hub can also help us flag some unintentional pairings in the middle rounds as well. Check out the players I’ve most frequently drafted with Garrett Wilson (another Round 1-2 turn selection):
Gibbs, Jerry Jeudy, and Keenan Allen are all players who go at the Round 3-4 turn based on their respective ADPs, so it makes sense that they would end up on so many teams with Wilson:
But do I want all of my Wilson shares to be tethered to the exact same set of players at the Round 3-4 turn?
No, I want to mix and match Wilson with a variety of players, especially because it’s an extremely flat WR tier from the Round 3-4 turn all the way to the end of the seventh round.
Here’s an example of how these Wilson pairings represent a blind spot in my portfolio. Brandon Aiyuk is a WR I like, but he goes at the Round 4-5 turn, which is the opposite side of the board from where Wilson goes. Because of that ADP dynamic, I have zero teams with both Wilson and Aiyuk:
You can use the Best Ball Hub to mix and match various players you like and ensure that you are getting combos of them together. You might be surprised, like me with Aiyuk and Wilson, to discover that you haven’t gone out of your way to pair some of them together.
The takeaway from this shouldn’t be to try and “cover the board” with every player combination, but rather to identify combinatorial blind spots in your portfolio around your favorite selections. If you had zero rosters with both of your favorite players together simply because their ADPs aren't correlated, that would be a portfolio mistake worth correcting.
We’ve gone from Best Ball Basics to Master Class in just the span of a month, but you now have all the resources and tools at your disposal to build not only teams with tournament-winning upside, but an entire portfolio. See ya in the drafting lobbies. It’s going to be a fast finish to Hot Best Ball Summer.
You can leverage the best ball hub to tweak how you're drafting on Underdog Fantasy, where you can also get a 100% deposit match of up to $100 when you sign up with promo code LIFE! Simply sign up below to start drafting today!