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Upside is Overrated in Underdog’s Best Ball Mania II (and 4 more thoughts on how to win $1,000,001)

By Jared Smola 8:06am EDT 6/16/21

Don’t tell my wife, but I plan on ATTACKING Underdog’s Best Ball Mania II Tournament this summer. I’ll let her know when I take home the $1,000,001 grand prize.

You can check out the full rules here -- and you definitely should because it’s important to understand all the intricacies of the contest. But here’s the gist:

  • You draft in a 12-team best-ball league with 18 roster spots.
  • Starting lineups: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 Flex (no Ks or DSTs)
  • Half-PPR scoring
  • Round 1 of the contest runs from Week 1 through 14. At that point, the top 2 teams in total points from every 12-team league advance to Round 2.
  • Round 2 takes place in Week 15. Teams are placed into groups of 18, with the 2 highest-scoring teams from each group advancing.
  • Round 3 takes place in Week 16 and again consists of groups of 18 teams. This time, though, only the top-scoring team advances.
  • That’ll leave us with 160 teams in Round 4, taking place in Week 17. The highest-scoring team there will win the $1,000,001 grand prize.

You can get customized rankings for the Underdog format by creating an MVP Board.

Here are some strategies and philosophies to keep in mind when drafting Best Ball Mania II teams.

Upside is Overrated

It’s a top-heavy payout structure. Nearly 30% of the money goes to 1st place. Come in 11th place and you win “just” $7,500.

So upside is important. But not as important as you might think.

If this was 1 giant 155,520-team best-ball contest where the team with the most total points over 17 weeks won, upside would be all that mattered. But it’s not. It’s actually 4 separate contests.

Our 1st job is to finish top 2 in a 12-team league. You don’t need a Super Team to do that. Then we need to finish top 2 out of 18 teams in Week 15. That’s a little tougher. Then we need to beat out 17 teams in Week 16. Tougher -- but still not a herculean task.

It’s not until that final round when we really need a top percentile outcome to finish 1st among 160 teams.

So ceiling should definitely be on your mind during these drafts. But just snatching up value -- and even (gasp!) taking a “floor” player or 2 -- can work.

We’re really just looking to win those first 3 mini contests and then, to be frank, get lucky with a big Week 17. (There are ways that we can increase our chances of getting lucky, which I’ll get into below.)

Go All In

We don’t need a Super Team to win this thing. But we do need to hit on a lot of our picks.

So draft assuming your picks -- especially the early ones -- will hit. Don’t hedge. Go all in.

What does that mean exactly?

Here’s an example: You draft RBs with your first 3 picks. Assume those guys hit. If they don’t, you’re probably not winning anyway. But if they do, you’re not going to need much more help at RB. So don’t spend much more draft capital at the position.

Same idea at the onesie positions. If you spend an early pick on an elite QB or TE, take just 1 more guy at that position, preferably in the double digit rounds.

This also applies to NFL teams. The Saints are a good example. If the Saints passing game really hits this season, it’ll be with Jameis Winston under center. So if you land Michael Thomas early -- or even Tre’Quan Smith or Adam Trautman later -- you should be more interested in landing Winston.

Don’t Reach for Stacks

Stacking a QB with 1 or more of his pass-catchers increases your season-long and weekly upside. We know that. You should be stacking in Best Ball Mania II.

You shouldn’t be reaching to create a stack. The value you’re losing by making that reach cancels out the upside you’re gaining with the stack.

In a contest with 155,520 teams, virtually every stack combination will be covered. If you reach for a stack, you’re just matching the same stack other teams have -- but at worse value.

Example: If you spend 3rd- and 5th-round picks on Keenan Allen and Justin Herbert and another team spends 4th- and 7th-round picks on that stack, you’re immediately at a disadvantage vs. that team.

Reaching a couple of spots down your rankings or a few spots past ADP is fine -- especially in the later rounds. But reaching into a lower tier in your rankings or multiple rounds past ADP is a losing move.

Game Stacks

I mentioned earlier that it’s Round 4 in Week 17 when we really need upside. How can we accomplish that? Game stacking Week 17 matchups.

If you play DFS, you’re familiar with the concept. We’re basically hoping to find the 1 game that shoots out -- and load up with guys from both sides of that game.

Here are the Week 17 matchups with the best chance to shoot out:

Chiefs at Bengals

Cardinals at Cowboys

Falcons at Bills

Panthers at Saints

Stack Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce early? Consider Joe Burrow and/or a Bengals WR later. Grab Amari Cooper? Bump Chase Edmonds up your rankings a few spots. You get the idea.

Get Weird Late

Having a unique roster is important in a 155,520-team tournament -- especially in that final round.

It’s impossible to get unique on an individual player level with your early and even middle-round picks. Jerry Jeudy, for example, will be owned in every league.

But we can get unique with our last couple of picks by rostering players that won’t be drafted in some or even most leagues. If 1 of those guys goes off in Week 17, you can really separate from the pack.

Here are a few guys with ADPs of 215 or later that are worth considering:

James Washington

Teddy Bridgewater

Jalen Hurd

Cordarrelle Patterson (my favorite late-rounder)

Tyler Conklin

Randall Cobb

Tyler Johnson

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