Week 17. The week. Imagine waking up Sunday, December 31st to one of your Best Ball Mania IV (BBMIV) teams in the final round of the biggest Underdog fantasy football tournament to date. Your team battled victorious through the regular season and climbed the ranks in the resulting tournament. By the end of the day, you could be a millionaire.
That will be the reality for over 400 bettors waking up on the final day of the year, hoping for the ultimate New Year’s gift of winning $3 million. Thousands of BBMIV players are searching for the strategy or trick that will give them even a slight edge over the competition. Statistics show your odds of making it into the tournament are roughly 16%. These odds could be increased to nearly 20% by stacking, correlating, and focusing on The Week, week 17.
Best Ball is a form of fantasy football that allows a contestant to draft a team and then have a hands-free experience all season. Unlike redraft leagues, one does not need to select a few players off the bench to be “active” in the hopes of choosing the highest weekly performers. Instead, Best Ball’s platform automatically selects the players with the highest position score into each slot weekly. With Best Ball, you draft your team, and the rest is taken care of. The downside, there are no trades allowed throughout the season, so it is imperative to draft enough of the right players for each position to cover bye weeks, low performing weeks, and unexpected injuries, etc.
Best Ball is by far my preferred method to bet in fantasy football. With over 300 teams this year in various tournaments through Underdog, and over 500 teams through FanDuel, I have been able to maximize my tournament entries with low maintenance over the season. I won’t have any weekly matchups to stress about, nor will I worry about leaving points on my bench again!
If this is your introduction to Best Ball, you may also be new to Underdog, a fantasy sports app that hosts open field tournaments for bettors to win astonishing amounts of money, throwing traditional season long betting out the window. Players compete in 12-man leagues throughout the season. However, one bet also allows league winners a chance to participate in the end of the season tournament.
Underdog’s BBMIV is the granddaddy tournament with contestants vying for a $3 million grand prize. Other tournaments are available based on the amount of the entry fee and draft length. For example, a Fast Puppy entry costs $5 and players are allotted 30 seconds to make draft picks. Alternatively, an entry into a Mastiff will set you back $1000 and will likely have a slow draft – an 8-hour clock for each draft pick. While each play style consists of 12-man leagues, different league placements advance players into the end tournament. For example, 1st & 2nd place in BBMIV continue on, while the top 6 in each league move on in the Mastiff. Familiarize yourself with the different tournament options and parameters before placing your bet.
The style of tournament you choose could drastically change your draft strategy. During a Mastiff draft, I created a Kelce-Mahomes stack using my 1st and 2nd round picks. Picking a TE & QB that early in the draft is not an ideal strategy in a larger field tournament (i.e. BBMIV) where having a unique team is what wins. However, the Mastiff only has 240 bettors, or 20 different drafts, comprising the playing field. Being overly unique isn’t as important as having a quality player stack. In 2022, the player combo with the most fantasy points overall was a Kelce-Mahomes stack. For me, this stack was a great way to start a balanced team, albeit at a steeper price than last year. I rounded my draft with an anchor running back and then smashed wide receivers, keeping in mind the star struck stack I started with.
Stacking is a well-established strategy where two or more members from the same offense are selected during a draft to maximize fantasy points. A stack typically includes a quarterback along with another offensive player. However, any combination of players may qualify. Creating a 3-player stack increases its value. Overall, I think of the strategy in two parts.
First, stacking balances out an offense’s potential across your fantasy team. For example, you wager that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to be better than projected. Therefore, you believe their players should do better than each of their expected ADPs. Picking up Pickett, Pickens, Harris and Johnson in your draft are great ways to invest in that specific bet. You maximize your potential to capture the most points from the Steelers offense. If you only pick up Pickens, you are unlikely to see the whole offensive picture reflect in your overall performance in the league.
Second, stacking allows your fantasy team to capture points from different players’ spike weeks. If possible, you should plan your stacks to correlate with multiple members of the same and opposing teams. The winning ticket from BBMIII (2022) drafted three quarterbacks with at least one matching wide receiver each. The player also stacked a running back with his running quarterback. During the end of the season tournament, the bettor was able to advance to the finals due to a Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley stack. Jones excelled one week when Barkley fell short of his projected points. The next week, Barkley spiked. Having the Jones-Barkley stack allowed this player to balance out points from each of their spike weeks. Stacks can also correlate with players on the opposite side of the ball. For example, if a game is projected to be high scoring, you may select wide receivers from either team. Your fantasy team should capture points, regardless of who ends up having the better game.
As shown with the winning ticket last year, planning stacks to account for potential spike weeks can win you the grand prize. The 2022 champion had invested in a week 17 game by stacking 3 New England players along with players from Miami and Tampa Bay, whose teams also had high scoring games. The players on these teams were all hitting, and they saw the lion’s share of the points (161) for the week.
Should you stack? YES, but only if it comes to you naturally. Reaching within reason on ADP may be OK, but never drop a full page off ADP to capture someone just to create a stack. While you are 2-3% more likely to win your league and move on if you have a stacked team, it is not the end all be all that allows for everyone to ignore ADP, and other values, that could result in a better player at the position you are drafting. Having the best, and the right players, is still the preferred method to winning your Best Ball draft.
The culmination of watching your team prevail weeks on end, brought you to the doorstep of greatness. Does your team have what it takes? The Best Ball tournament runs across weeks, 15, 16 and 17. Contestants must win each week to move on. The winner of week 17 wins it all. For this reason, it is imperative to focus your draft on week 17 matchups, or your team likely won’t have a shot at the grand prize. The following is a breakdown of who plays who in week 17. (Insert picture please)
As you can see in the photo above, the game with the highest projected score overall is Cincinnati VS Kansas City. A good rule of thumb to remember is that the more points scored in a game, the higher the fantasy points in that game. While there are outliers to this rule, 87% of the time it rings true. When choosing a game to stack during your draft, look at the proficiency of the offense, how many points will be scored in that game and how much volume does your asset have in that game.
Ideally, a draft team will have a few stacks from the Cincinnati VS Kansas City game in week 17. However, this can be difficult to accomplish as most of their players are at the top of the draft list and get selected fast. Looking at Cincinnati, Chase is currently #2 ADP, and Higgins is typically picked up in the 2nd round. Mixon is a top running back and Burrow is top 5 quarterback, who had several weeks as QB 1 in 2022. If you can manage it, these players are all great candidates to stack with a number of Kansas City players that fall later in the draft. A great draft will correlate these teams, or teams with a similar setup in week 17.
Here is an example of a 2023 Fast Puppy draft team. Picking from the three spot, Burrow is the quarterback stacked with Mixon, Chase, Higgins, and Boyd. Also drafted are three Kansas City running backs and three wide receivers. A few other outstanding players like Walker, Hill and McBride fill in the gaps to create a strong team that will be competitive during the season. More importantly, the team is highly correlated to the last game of the season. If this team advances to the tournament, it stands a strong chance to win week 17 overall due to being comprised of the best stacks from potentially the most explosive game of the year.
Best Ball is all about the draft. There is no trading or changes to be made like in redraft leagues. Once your team is locked in, your work is done. Preparation is key. Stacking increases your chances of moving on to the finals and winning the major prizes. Remember, week 17 is the most important week as it’s where the money is made. Don’t get caught in the backfield of your league, and stay up to date on the latest headlines, trends and strategies to increase your draft potential. Follow us for Best Ball tips and tricks to increase your odds of winning.