Imagine waking up with an extra $100,000 in your bank account. Say… in February.
(No, this isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Well, OK, sorta…)
I’m talking about The Gauntlet — a best ball contest on Underdog Fantasy with a $1 million prize pool. 1st-place takes down $100K.
So this isn’t your garden-variety fantasy competition. Oh no. Beyond the hefty prize, there’s a unique twist that requires extra strategizing.
Here it is:
Join a draft today and pick players for the postseason only. Yep. You’re drafting now, not knowing playoff seeding, game locations, or the 14 qualifying teams.
I’ll share more details on the contest below, then dish on strategy for the 6-person snake drafts. (For full rules and info, visit Underdog’s site.)
— 45,216 total entrants
— 150 entries (max) per person
— $25 entry fee
Draft 10 rounds for a starting lineup that includes:
If you’re going to beat out 40,000 teams, you’ll need to draft smarter than the competition.
To deliver on that, you must grasp playoff seeding. While we don’t have a complete picture now, we can make some assumptions. (Hat-tip to FiveThirtyEight, whose numbers are helpful.)
1. The Eagles, at 13-1, have a 97% chance at earning a 1st-round bye.
2. In the AFC, Buffalo leads the pack at 49% — 10 percentage points ahead of Kansas City.
The Vikings, Cowboys, 49ers, Chiefs, Eagles and Bills are locked into playoff spots. Only the Rams, Broncos, Bears, Cardinals and Texans have been mathematically eliminated.
Of course, you’ll want players that you expect to make a deep postseason run. Stacking both Super Bowl teams would be ideal…
But, that doesn’t mean you should stack your squads with Eagles, Chiefs and Bills.
This contest includes 4 separate rounds. You need to win each of the first 3 rounds — 2 in 6-person leagues, with the 3rd an 8-teamer — in order to advance to a 157-person Super Bowl final. If you’re too light on live players in the Wild Card round, well… you’re likely dead money.
Now, let’s talk rosters. Optimizing roster construction will give you the best chance of turning a profit — especially with only 10 players per team.
QB: This comes down to risk tolerance. You might be able to get away with drafting only 1 QB if it’s Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow. But what if Buffalo loses the top seed (to Kansas City) down the stretch? Even the Bengals remain in the mix for a 1st-round bye. (They're at 12%, per FiveThirtyEight.) If I’m drafting, say, 10 teams, I might roll with 1 QB on 1 of them.
RB: Aim for 3 here. We’re looking to pile up WRs, given their edge in ultimate ceiling.
WR/TE: You’re only considering a few TEs, so 1 certainly isn’t necessary. Load up with as many as 6 WR/TEs, staying mindful on Round 1 byes.
Finally, let’s consider some teams on thin ice. These are subject to change of course, but with 3 weeks remaining, here’s who I’d shy away from:
Currently a 7 seed, the Commanders are favorites in only 1 of their final 3 games (-1.5 vs. Cleveland, Week 17). Taylor Heinicke has hit a rough patch of late, as he now sits 24th in passing DVOA; 26th in QBR.
This team would have a fighting chance against a Vikings squad that showed its vulnerabilities last week. Or a 49ers squad with an untested Brock Purdy. But I’ll still say no thanks to guys like Brian Robinson and Terry McLaurin.
You’re only giving consideration to Derrick Henry here. But if Ryan Tannehill is out for the season — as a reputable source recently suggested — it’s tough to see a postseason run unfolding.
Plus, if Tennessee and Baltimore remain the 4-5 seeds, these teams will face each other in the opening round. The Ravens project as favorites, assuming Lamar Jackson is back from his PCL injury. Baltimore also represents a negative matchup for enemy RBs.