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Fantasy Football

How to Win $1 Million in NFL Best Ball Fantasy Football: Alex Baker’s Secrets to Winning on Underdog & DraftKings

Alex Baker

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We all want to a win $1 million in NFL best ball fantasy football, tournaments like Underdog’s best ball Mania II and DraftKings’ best ball Millionaire Maker, but it is not an easy task like it is with traditional NFL fantasy football. With 155,500 entrants on Underdog and 203,000 on DraftKings, you have to have the draft of a lifetime to get the win. First, you have to advance in three rounds before even having an opportunity to win $1,000,000, then beat the remaining 160 (Underdog) and 235 (DraftKings) lineups. In essence these tournaments are structured like a parlay where you have to hit the first three legs, while the fourth round is akin to a more traditionally structured GPP tournament.

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NFL best ball is mathematically fascinating with the dynamic of how only the best performers at each position count towards your overall score. The resulting differences between season-long where you have to choose the starters each week and best ball Fantasy Football cannot be overstated. If you are taking traditional fantasy football rankings and applying them to best ball, it is not a disaster but you are going to be missing the extra edge you can get from the new format on the block.

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To rank players for best ball Fantasy Football, I ran simulations of how every player affects your overall season projection on an average roster. We know that your roster is going to have a mix of at least two quarterbacks, six wide receivers, four running backs and two tight ends. Assuming those building blocks are present, we can calculate how each player would contribute to the team using a simulation. These simulations are the basis of our NFL best ball rankings. By creating a projection for each player in the context of an average best ball roster, we specifically tailored our season-long fantasy football projections to best ball.

An excerpt from Awesemo’s 2021 best ball Rankings

In 2021, it is fairly easy to either rank all the players in the NFL from best to worst fantasy potential or find a set of competent rankings that do so. Even if you just draft the players with the lowest ADP each round, you are going to have a pretty solid lineup. Traditional player rankings have not been perfected but they are pretty solid compared to just going into a draft blind. But one piece that most people have not figured out yet is how to incorporate a player’s schedule to figure out their value for each specific tournament. Traditional fantasy football rankings correlate well to a best ball Sit ‘n Go where each week counts equally. But we know they are not all equal — you could have a rough Week 5 and make the playoffs but if you have a rough Week 15 that’s game over, man. Game over! Since the stakes vary so much from week to week in the big NFL best ball tournaments, an extra point in Week 5 is not the same as a point in Week 16. When you factor in that you have three must-win weeks, that starts to dramatically skew the importance away from regular season performances to those playoff weeks.

 

I found it very difficult to use intuition to figure out the best way to quantify this; most of my initial thoughts turned out to be misguided once I determined the best way to solve this problem by simulation. At first, it made sense to me that Weeks 1 trough 14 have about one-fourteenth of the importance of Weeks 15 to 17. But the margin of victory usually is not 14 times higher in a 14-week best ball round, so those regular season points are still relatively valuable even though there are a lot more of them to go around.

Using simulations, I was able to figure out the value of an extra point in each round. But you have to actually make it to that round to realize the advantage, so I multiplied by the percentage of participants remaining at that point. We are all used to using points per dollar to find the best plays in DFS but for this I created a dollar-per-point metric. This represents the expected value added to your entry with each marginal change in projected points – so if between two players one is projected to add 1 point more in Week 16 on DraftKings, that player adds $1.03 to your expected winnings in comparison.

On DraftKings the most important week by far from a leverage standpoint is Week 17, even though your team is extremely unlikely to make it there. But when you do, you have to get first out of 235 people instead of just 12 to win the big bucks. There are some other interesting results here though. Week 16 isn’t worth quite as much as Week 15 — about 50% of the prize pool has already been allocated by the start of Round 3, while Round 2 still has 71.4% to compete over, so it makes sense even though both are 1/12 chances.

Underdog has a more balanced ratio between Weeks 15,16 and 17, but it is important to point out the importance of Week 17 is comparable to DraftKings – it is really the regular season that carries less weight on Underdog. In Underdog’s setup, Week 15 has 2 0f 18 advance, Week 16 has 1 of 18, and Week 17 has 160 people duking it out for the million. The regular season will only determine about 50% of your winnings compared to 60% for DK and 67% for traditional season-long. I like that because it gives us even more of an opportunity to leverage playoff weeks while most people aren’t going to even look at who each team is playing Weeks 15-17.

Importance of each individual round to determine your success in the tournament

Since our rankings on Awesemo are powered by weekly projections, we can easily account for the likelihood of success in any individual week. When people think strength of schedule usually they are thinking of the defensive matchup. Of course you would rather have your player against the New York Jets defense than the LA Rams, but the venue is extremely important late in the season. The inherent disadvantage of passing in winter conditions in New York may negate any advantage of facing a weak defense for a receiver. We are accounting for all of these factors on the back end so you don’t have to.


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NFL Best Ball Fantasy Football Tips on Underdog and DraftKings

Now that you have your rankings optimized for the DraftKings Milly Maker and Underdog best ball Mania II, draft strategy is the remaining piece you have to worry about. Here are the biggest takeaways I have made from drafting best ball teams on DraftKings and Underdog:

  1. The field undervalues the quarterback position. Mathematically, it pays to have a third quarterback on your team compared to a sixth running back, ninth wide receiver or third The points added calculation in our NFL best ball Rankings projects the average amount of points each player will contribute to your team performance over a season. The assumptions we are making are that you are drafting an optimally allocated team. From our research, that is three quarterbacks, five or six running backs, eight or nine wide receivers and two or three tight ends. You can deviate accordingly from this if you are particularly strong or weak in a position.
    • The reason people do not want to draft three quarterbacks is mostly because in redraft leagues you only typically draft one and they are afraid that if you have two quarterbacks have huge weeks on your team, you are missing out on points from one, which is not the case with any other position. Let’s think about that a second. If you have two quarterbacks that have monster weeks, you are going to be set up for success regardless.
    • One of my favorite late-round quarterbacks last year was Jared Goff. He stacked really easily because if you drafted Kupp or Woods he would always be available to complete your stack. And he ended up contributing a significant number of points last year depending on who your other quarterbacks were, despite having a very mediocre year overall.
      wdt_ID 2020 Week Lamar Jackson Tom Brady Jared Goff LJPts TBPts JGPts
      1 1 27.50 22.46 11.50 5.04 0.00 0.00
      2 2 17.56 9.68 23.98 0.00 0.00 6.42
      3 3 14.18 23.88 26.24 0.00 0.00 2.36
      4 4 26.02 33.46 11.70 0.00 7.44 0.00
      5 5 14.50 14.12 25.36 0.00 0.00 10.86
      6 6 28.24 14.64 15.92 12.32 0.00 0.00
      7 7 0.00 36.86 16.90 0.00 19.96 0.00
      8 8 16.82 19.06 12.20 0.00 2.24 0.00
      9 9 18.60 5.36 0.00 13.24 0.00 0.00
      10 10 22.46 31.84 10.48 0.00 9.38 0.00
    • Because most of the time people are only grabbing two quarterbacks, that opens up some great value options later in the draft. One final consideration is the four-legged setup of these huge tourneys. Rosters are going to get more similar each week of playoffs as lineups with the boom players from each week move on. If you have three quarterbacks, you are guaranteed to have at least one quarterback that is not overly represented in the final round.
    • We only have one/two years of data on best ball tournaments so it is difficult to have definitive roster construction takeaways at this point from a results-based approach. It is similar to trying to determine the optimal DFS strategy from 1-2 slates — that’s why simulations are preferable.
  2. Don’t be afraid to let guys drop. This works best from the middle draft spots where you have to wait a moderate number of spots between each pick. But if you think there is a good chance you can get a guy in the next round even though they are the best pick now, then it can be a worthwhile gamble. The differential between your draft pick and ranking is a good proxy for the value you are getting out of that pick.
  3. You can wait on wide receiver’s and quarterbacks until towards the end of the draft but running back and tight end can be riskier to wait on. wide receiver has a lot of viable players that go undrafted every time just because there are so many – three per team is 96, which is eight per roster. Since you only need 3 of 8 to have good performances, you can make up for quality with quantity to some extent. quarterback is just being neglected in drafts a lot right now as well, so I do not mind letting them fall and getting the ones who do.
    • Because wide receivers are mostly being drafted higher by the opposition on Underdog than my rankings, I have been prioritizing getting ones early that look like fair buys at the draft position because better values exist at other positions later in the draft.
  4. Know the scoring settings of your draft. DraftKings of course utilizes a full PPR plus bonuses for yardage thresholds. PPR does a nice job balancing fantasy scoring between the running back and wide receiver positions. Underdog is half point PPR so wide receivers and tight ends are significantly nerfed compared to a full point PPR system. If you are using our rankings as a reference, then these differences are already going to be fully accounted for when you draft.
  5. It pays to draft balanced between positions early. If you take the top ranked player every time, you are going to be running out of roster spots for one or two position. This can be a disadvantage strategically because you are not going to be able to take advantage of other players at that position when they drop later in the draft.
  6. Stacking is more important for certain players than others. quarterbacks that can add a lot of fantasy scoring rushing I am not worried at all about stacking. People tend to overdraft receivers from teams like Baltimore and Philadelphia so it is tough to pull off the stack, but I still like Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts. But if you do not have receivers with a quarterback that does not rush, you are in a tough spot. Guys like Jared Goff or Tom Brady are unlikely to have a league-winning week without at least one receiver if not two crushing. Those QB2 and QB3 picks you should be able to match with your receivers easily. I am willing to draft guys a round ahead of their ADP to make sure someone else doesn’t ruin my draft.
  7. Know the draft dynamics and logistics of the site that your draft is on. DraftKings defaults to ordering players by their site rankings, while Underdog defaults to ADP. These are reasons why certain players may pop more on one site than another. My preference on DK is to set my rankings beforehand and sort players by ADP because then I can narrow down my selections by who is not going to be on the board for my next pick. On Underdog, I upload my rankings as a CSV, but I do not believe you can also sort by ADP and see your rankings concurrently. Because it is difficult to reference the rankings while doing multiple drafts, the best way for me to sort is by ranking, and then I will just factor in the ADP when I am making picks.

If you apply these strategies and utilize our rankings combined with your intuition, you are going to be competitive with every lineup you draft. For more information on best ball, make sure to head over to our Fantasy Football home page, and our Fantasy Football YouTube channel.


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Alex is better known to fantasy players by his handle "Awesemo" from seeing him in every big tournament in the industry. Playing poker professionally from 2009-2015, he heard that daily fantasy was the next big game picking up steam, and he quickly saw the potential of the relatively new game. Growing his bankroll from 2015-2016, he made a big step in 2017 by claiming the #1 overall ranking on RotoGrinders for the year. After completing his primary objective, he was looking for what's next. Attending dozens of fantasy events, Alex realized that everyone was repeating the same story: wanting to be a great DFS player while holding down a full-time job. He realized that the resources available to fantasy players while great weren't enough to help hobbyists get to the level of competing with the top pros. Having met Tom Kennedy during the FanDuel Scottish Open, the two decided to take on the realm of fantasy content along with co-founder Eddie Lai. Alex creates his own projections for each sport he plays, publishing rankings derived directly from them updated for each major slate. He also writes strategy content for how to become a better DFS player in his Game Plan series. You can contact Alex by emailing [email protected].

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