Underdog Fantasy Best Ball Draft Recap
It’s officially best ball season, and our friends over at Underdog Fantasy are running two big field tournaments on their platform – the $1 million Best Ball Mania Tournament and the $20,000 “The Bubble” Tournament. I recently participated in “The Bubble” and wanted to share my thoughts on strategy, analysis, and decision-making process when I was on the clock. Hopefully, this helps make you a better best ball player.
If you’re looking for more best ball strategy tips and advice, be sure to read Kyle Borgognoni’s Best Ball Strategy & Pivots article and don’t forget to listen to the first episode of the Fantasy Footballers DFS Podcast where Kyle and I discussed best ball strategy in detail as well as our favorite late-round targets on Underdog Fantasy. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts so you never miss a show!
Below, I’ll recap my draft pick by pick as well as provide some context to my selection. First and foremost, a disclaimer: this is a large field tournament where you need to finish inside the top 12% of 22,000 entries in order win some cold hard cash. As a result, the strategy below is going to look vastly different than that of a draft with 11 of your buddies in your home league. I drafted from the 11 spot. Let’s dive in.
Underdog Fantasy Scoring Settings
- 12-team leagues, 0.5 PPR, 4 point per passing TD
- Roster settings: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex
1.11 – Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
I was shocked that Thomas fell to me here at the 11th pick, but I think it shows the common strategy in best ball drafts this year. Kyle and I discussed why it’s so important to take RBs early in best ball on the DFS Podcast and as a result, most drafters are taking RBs early, which allowed Thomas to fall all the way to the 11th pick as the first WR off the board. There isn’t too much analysis needed here, as Michael Thomas’ floor with Drew Brees is as safe as they come. He’ll be the cornerstone of my receiving core in this league and likely to be a starter every week.
Selected over: Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill
2.02 – Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
After taking Thomas in Round 1, I wanted to lock up a projected RB1 in the Fantasy Footballers rankings, Mr. Josh Jacobs of the Raiders. Jacobs ranked 2nd among 50 qualified backs in PFF’s Elusive Rating and 7th in yards after contact per rushing attempt in his rookie season. He also forced more miss tackles than any back in football, and he played in just 13 games. Prior to going down with a shoulder injury, Jacobs was the RB8 in fantasy and is my favorite dark horse to lead the league in rushing in 2020. Jacobs can be my anchor here at RB as my RB1.
Selected over: Nick Chubb, Travis Kelce, Julio Jones
3.11 – Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings
After a massive run on WR and a few elite QBs flew off the board, I added Adam Thielen to the squad given the insane target volume he should see in 2020 with Kirk Cousins and without Stefon Diggs on the roster. Over the past two years, when Thielen sees 8+ targets, here is his 16 game pace: 125 rec/1,632 yards/13 TD. Thielen has top 10 WR upside, but he’s going as a WR2 in drafts. I’m happy to pair him with Michael Thomas and lock in a great WR duo to start the draft.
Selected over: Chris Carson, Allen Robinson
4.02 – Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
After passing on Julio earlier in the draft, I wanted to snag a high upside piece of the offense here with Calvin Ridley. Passing on RB was difficult given the long run after this pick, but in a large field tournament like this, I’m willing to be a bit different in my roster construction by hammering WRs to have a massive ceiling in 2020. Calvin Ridley fits the bill. The Falcons have the most vacated targets in the league, and they have ranked top 5 in pass attempts each of the past two years. If they can’t sustain the run game with Todd Gurley, Matt Ryan and company are going to be forced to air it out, and that can only mean good things for Calvin Ridley’s chances of a massive third-year breakout.
Selected over: Todd Gurley, Tyler Lockett
5.11 – Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills
It’s time to add some RB depth to the roster, and I do that with the Bills’ starting RB in Devin Singletary. Yes, the team added Zack Moss to fill the Frank Gore role, but I’m still expecting RB2 numbers from Singletary in an offense that has ranked top 6 in rushing attempts each of the past three seasons. Singletary may not have the upside that other backs do, but it’s important to mix in floor plays on a roster, and Singletary should have an RB2/flex type of floor all year long.
Selected over: T.Y. Hilton, Cam Akers
6.02 – J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens
To be completely clear, Mark Ingram is projected to score more points than Dobbins in 2020, but in a big tournament like this, you need to take some shots on massive upside and value, and that’s what this pick is all about. If anything would happen to Ingram, Dobbins would have immediate RB1 usage and production in arguably the best running scheme in the entire NFL alongside Lamar Jackson. Worth noting as well, Gus Edwards, the 2019 backup RB, pick up 711 rushing yards last season, suggesting there will be weeks even with Mark Ingram in the lineup where Dobbins could have production. Fortunately for best-ball formats, we don’t have to decide when those weeks will happen.
Selected over: Ronald Jones II, Raheem Mostert
7.11 – James White, RB, New England Patriots
Criminally undervalued in every format, James White offers a safe floor in the middle rounds of drafts, which will allow me to take shots later in the draft on higher upside players. As discussed with Kyle on the DFS pod, players like James White, while not sexy, do almost always outperform their ADP because there is a stigma around these pass-catching backs who don’t produce a ton on the ground. I’m willing to add White as a depth RB who I know is going to catch 60+ passes in New England. Oh, and by the way, Sony Michel figures to be starting on PUP.
8.02 – Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets
If you’re reading these two paragraphs, you might be thinking, “Geez Betz do you even know how to draft in best ball? It’s all about upside!!” Again, I need to stress how important it is to have a couple of floor plays on a weekly basis so that you can even get to the finish line in a big tournament like this. Last year, Crowder finished with seven top-20 weeks at the WR position in fantasy. To get that level of stability in the 8th round, while not super exciting, is what this roster needed. Last year’s WR31 is going off the board as the WR44 in current best ball drafts.
Selected over: Jalen Reagor, Kerryon Johnson
9.11 – Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
After taking Calvin Ridley in Round 4, it was time to go in on Matt Ryan as my QB1 in the 9th primarily because I wanted to lock in a Falcons passing attack stack for 2020. As discussed in detail on the first DFS episode, stacking is crucial to having a chance to compete in these large-field tournaments. I plan to attack the Falcons’ pass catchers again late in my draft to lock in the offense that’s ranked top-5 in pass attempts each of the last two seasons.
Selected over: Marlon Mack, Hunter Henry
10.02 – Hayden Hurst, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Speaking of Falcons pass catchers, welcome to the squad Hayden Hurst. Now, in redraft formats I am a bit lower on Hayden Hurst just given the limited offseason program and the fact that Hurst is changing teams and has struggled to produce fantasy relevance to this point in his career. With that being said, Atlanta has a ton of targets up for grabs and as I’ve already mentioned, we need to stack to win best ball tournaments. We’re playing for first, not second.
Selected over: T.J. Hockenson, Jerry Jeudy
The following pick analysis will be much shorter in order to limit the length of the article, but I’d encourage you to find me on Twitter so we can discuss in more detail.
11.11 Curtis Samuel, WR, Carolina Panthers – Ultimate post-hype sleeper after Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception single-handedly raised his ADP three rounds in 2019. Finished 52nd in receiving yards while finishing 9th in air yards and now gets an accurate QB in Teddy Bridgewater.
12.02 Chase Edmonds, RB, Arizona Cardinals – Locked and loaded top 15 RB should anything happen to Kenyan Drake. Has a massive ceiling after 30+ fantasy point performance in 2019 as a starter. Cardinals offense produced 3rd most fantasy points for RBs in 2019.
13.11 Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers – Rising much more on Big Ben from an injury perspective, which I detailed in the Ultimate Draft Kit. Abysmal 2019 offensive season for all Steelers has major bounce-back potential with Ben under center.
14.02 Eric Ebron, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers – Cheaper pivot stack with Big Ben as opposed to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson. More of a best ball type TE with TD upside rather than a comfortable season-long redraft pick
15.11 Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons – Have I mentioned how important stacking is in best ball yet? I added Gage, the Falcons’ slot WR to the team to pair him with Matt Ryan and Hayden Hurst. Led the Falcons in end zone targets in 2019.
16.02 Tyrell Williams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders – The Gazelle should open the season as a starting outside WR for the Raiders despite all of the Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs III hype. Stacks with Josh Jacobs. Also, this is worth mentioning that Williams has gone undrafted in several of my Underdog Fantasy drafts. I’m selecting Williams here more as a way to make my roster different than the thousands of opponents in this tournament.
17.11 Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders – Not an offense I’m heavily investing in for my redraft leagues, but again, stacking is critical, and not a lot of people actually want to stack the Raiders. It’s another way to make my roster look different while still possessing the stacking upside we need to win in best ball.
18.02 Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings – Simply a roster construction selection where to this point, I only had two TEs. On the DFS Podcast, I explained that the optimal strategy is to draft either two or three TEs, but if you’re only taking two, you need to be drafting one of the elite TEs like Travis Kelce, George Kittle, or Mark Andrews. Otherwise, three is the way to go.