Best ball season is in full swing, and Pete Overzet is here to share how you can take first place in these large contests…
Over 75,000 teams have already been drafted in Underdog Fantasy’s Best Ball Mania IV tournament as users chase the absurd $3 million top prize.
In previous best ball strategy pieces, we dissected the unique structure of the tournament and shared some early players to target in drafts before their prices rise, but today we are going to dig into the $3 million dollar question:
How do I draft a team that gives me a realistic chance at winning first place?
The first step is to sign up for a new Underdog Fantasy account. Get a 100% deposit match of up to $100 by signing up below and start drafting today!
Best Ball Mania IV Is Massive
I know I just said “realistic,” but that’s probably not a…realistic…word to use for a tournament with 677,376 entries.
Even if you were the best drafter in the world, the Magnus Carlsen of best ball, so to speak, the deck would be stacked against you.
Think about it this way. If you were a drafter with average skill and you max entered the contest with 150 entries, this would be your expectation for advancing teams:
- 2/12 teams advance in Round 1, Weeks 1-14
- Your Expectation: 2/12 * 150 = 25 teams to Round 2
- 1/16 teams advance in Round 2, Week 15
- Your Expectation: 1/16*25 = 1.56 teams to Round 3
- 1/16 teams advance in Round 3, Week 16
- Your Expectation: 1/16*1.56=.097 teams to Round 4
That means the average 150 max drafter will have a 10% chance of getting one team to the 441-person finals.
Or, to frame it another way, if Underdog ran this exact contest for the next 10 years, the average 150 max drafter would get one team to the finals over that span.
Now I realize that paints a bleak picture, but I do think it is important to go into these contests with open eyes–both from an expected ROI (return on investment) perspective and from a strategic perspective.
So now that we understand this contest structure, your two big takeaways should be:
- Not to expect to be profitable in this contest most years. You’re risking a small buy-in ($25) to try to win life-changing money ($3 million), and you should be at peace with that tradeoff.
- If you’re fortunate enough to sneak a team into the finals, it sure as hell better have a chance to get first place because of the top-heavy nature of the payouts.
Well, Pete, that’s a nice thought, but how do I actually draft a team that has a chance to get first place?
I knew you were going to answer that question, and I’m glad you asked…
Correlation is Our Best Chance at First Place
Correlation, or put more simply, stacking, is the biggest lever we can pull to give ourselves a chance to get first place in Week 17.
But Pete, what is stacking?
In the literal sense, stacking means taking multiple players from the same team, preferably a QB with his pass catchers. But stacking, and more generally speaking, correlation, reduces the number of things we have to get right to win. I’ve got a couple of examples.
If Tyreek Hill has a big game, it’s very likely that his QB, Tua Tagovailoa, will as well. So when we draft Hill, we should also consider targeting Tua because you only need to be right about one thing. But if you took Hill and then, say, Dak Prescott, you now need to be right about both players without any logic to connect them.
Anyone who plays DFS is familiar with this dynamic. Every time a QB throws a pass to a receiver, they both score points. So their production is directly correlated. You can see in this chart from TJ Hernandez that QB and pass catcher (WR + TE) production is highly correlated (green):
The great thing about stacking is that it can help us in two ways:
- Regular season stack benefits: if you nail a stack on an undervalued offense, you are going to reap those benefits in Weeks 1-14 and increase your chances to advance to the playoffs. This is exactly what happened to drafters who nailed the Jaguars as a breakout offense in 2022.
- Playoff stack benefits: Because you need to finish first out of 16 teams in both Week 15 and Week 16 to advance to the finals, nailing a stack in those weeks can help you jump to first in your pod and help you advance.
Optimizing for Week 17
Understanding the power of these single-game correlations thus gives us a framework to reverse engineer our summer drafts to win what is essentially a Week 17 DFS tournament in January.
While not the most important thing–structure, ADP value, and player archetypes are all still fundamental to drafting a good team. We need to be sprinkling in DFS-esque elements to our teams to ensure they have a chance to pop off in correlated fashion in Week 17.
Pat Kerrane, who won the $2 million top prize in Best Ball Mania III, heavily embraced Week 17 stacking and correlation on his winning team.
He had two different game stacks on his roster:
- Tom Brady to Chris Godwin (D.J. Moore bring back)
- Tua to Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki (Rhamondre Stevenson, Jakobi Meyers, and Tyquan Thornton bring back), as well as Raheem Mostert
Oct 2, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with wide receivers Mike Evans (13) and Chris Godwin (14) before their game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports.
In that Week 17 Dolphins/Patriots game, Mostert scored 19.1 for his lineup, and both of his Patriots WRs cracked his lineup, with Meyers scoring 13.8 and Thornton scoring 13.5.
Not a single one of those stacked players mentioned was a league winner, but they all contributed in a correlated fashion in the same game environments when it mattered the most.
The data backs this up as well. In Mike Leone’s Best Ball Manifesto–a massive deep dive into last year’s contest with a similar structure–the data showed that game stacking in Week 17 increases your ability to win first place by nearly 50%, a truly staggering number.
How to Execute Week 17 Stacks in a Smart Way
Don’t worry. I fully understand that it might seem silly to plan for games in January 2024 while we’re still in May 2023. However, there are concrete variables that we can account for months out, like players on the same team and their Week 17 opponents.
We don’t know which specific games are going to go off, but we do know that when a game does produce a ton of points, the players’ production in those games is correlated.
Overall, the key is to accomplish these correlation goals in tandem with the other important pillars of best ball drafting. Not at their expense.
The best way to think about Week 17 correlation is as a tiebreaker whenever you are on the clock.
Jan 9, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) reacts with wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) after running with the football for a first down against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
There will be a temptation to “reach” ahead of ADP to complete your stacks in fear of missing out. But if we are constantly reaching for these stacks, then we are going to cancel out the correlation benefits and end up with teams that are watered-down versions of other teams who were more patient.
Think of correlating your players as a boost and reaching ahead of ADP as a negative. When you correlate with strong ADP values, then you are able to enjoy the correlation boost without hurting your team.
In future pieces, we’ll dive into some specific examples of how to smartly correlate your teams with Week 17 in mind.
In the meantime, start putting these strategies into practice by signing up for your new Underdog Fantasy account! Double your first deposit of up to $100 by signing up below!