For the first time, Underdog Fantasy has unleashed a regular season prize for Best Ball Mania... and as usual, we didn't go small. The top-scoring team from Weeks 1-14 will win $1 million, plus have the upside of winning another $2 million in the fantasy playoffs.
The strategy debate is whether we should be optimizing for the regular season prize at all, and if we do want to do it, what should our teams look like? The first part is tricky. If you have an unlimited bankroll, I find it interesting to be building for the regular season prize as I see very few players or content creators optimizing for it. Essentially, are 1-in-10 teams optimizing for it? Because it's 10% of the prize pool, and if no, there could be an edge. As for what our teams should look like, I will combine my intuition on what will work in Weeks 1-14 with data from the highest-scoring teams in last year's Best Ball Mania II, specifically the 26 teams who scored over 2,000 points in the regular season.
Please use the filter in the top right corner to see what various teams look like. You can filter by strategy (how many players at each position early in drafts), roster construction (how many players at each position at the end of drafts), time of month, and other things. I'll share my general thoughts by position below, but it's worthwhile to study the individual teams, too.
QBs Through Round 10: 0 (0%), 1 (61.5%), 2 (38.4%)
QBs Through Round 18: 2 (42.3%), 3 (57.7%)
The top-12 or so QBs last year mostly smashed, and none of the late-round QBs emerged, so it’s not a surprise that zero of these elite teams waited on QB. I think this trend will mostly stay true, as the market now mostly prices in rushing ability and NFL teams orchestrate their offenses in more polarizing ways that separate the good and bad environments even more. It will be hard to have a truly elite team without one of the true stud QBs given it’s the position that scores the most points, and I feel confident in our abilities to project QBs pre-season. The true question is when to draft your QB2 based upon we’ve drafted our QB1. The short answer, Round 8 at the earliest. The long answer, here.
The highest-rostered QBs on these 26 elite teams:
Matthew Stafford (38%) in Round 9.6
Justin Herbert (31%) in Round 7.3
Tom Brady (23%) in Round 8.2
RBs Through Round 5: 0 (0%), 1 (23.1%), 2 (65.4%), 3 (11.5%)
RBs Through Round 18: 3 (7.7%), 4 (19.2%), 5 (30.8%), 6 (38.4%), 7 (3.8%)
It’s possible that a Zero RB team scores the most regular season points, but the strategy requires lots of chaos and that chaos typically requires time, something the regular season winner will not have. The $1M grand prize team will need big points immediately, so it really is a strategy more built for late-season prize pools. That’s why I’m not surprised 0% of the 26 teams with 2,000+ points took their first RB after Round 5. Even if there are major RB injuries in Week 1, I believe a Hero RB team (one RB through Round 5) would be best suited for the regular season prize as the elite RBs are typically drafted inside the first two rounds. At the same time, I don’t think a Robust RB team is best-suited for the regular season prize either because we don’t want to fill our flex spot that early. Any time a 4th WR or 4th RB scores more than that RB3 means we’re wasting a top-five pick. As a whole, this doesn’t matter all that much. But every point matters for the regular season prize. The odds are heavy that a Hero or SuperHero RB team will take down the regular season prize, especially because they are the two most popular strategies.
The highest-rostered RBs on these 26 elite teams:
Jonathan Taylor (85%) in Round 1.7 → 69% of these top teams had both Kupp and JT
Leonard Fournette (50%) in Round 11.2
James Conner (46%) in Round 10.6
Austin Ekeler (27%) in Round 1.2
Kenneth Gainwell (23%) in Round 15.8 → because … I have no idea why?????
WRs Though Round 10: 3 (11.5%), 4 (23.1%), 5 (34.6%), 6 (30.7%)
WRs Through Round 18: 6 (23.1%), 7 (30.7%), 8 (19.2%), 9 (19.2%), 10 (7.7%)
The field drafted 6 WRs just 8.9% of the time, but these top teams stopped at 6 WRs almost a quarter of the time (23.1%). And this trend continued at 7 WRs (22.8% vs. 30.7%). Maybe this is because Cooper Kupp was such an outlier given his legendary WR season and being a Round ¾ pick, but I think Underdog Fantasy drafters should be leaning into their early WR teams more by drafting fewer of them in general. Actually bet on them, especially if you’re aiming for the regular-season prize.
The highest-rostered WRs on these 26 elite teams:
Cooper Kupp (85%) in Round 3.9 → 100% of these top teams had either Kupp or JT
Mike Williams (38%) in Round 7.2
Deebo Samuel (31%) in Round 6.3
Mike Evans (27%) in Round 3.3
Marquise Brown (23%) in Round 9.2
Tyreek Hill (23%) in Round 1.2
TEs Through Round 10:0 (34.6%), 1 (57.7%), 2 (7.7%)
TEs Through Round 18: 2 (38.4%), 3 (53.8%), 4 (7.7%)
The top teams were more likely to have zero TEs through 10 rounds (34.6%) than the field (21.4%) and were less likely to have two TEs through 10 rounds (7.7%) than the field (14.7%). Yes, if Travis Kelce or Kyle Pitts have a legendary season this data will change in a heartbeat, but I think this data will track over time because this is the position that’s most volatile week-to-week and scores the least amount of fantasy points. Ping-ponging touchdowns with late-round options is attractive to me, especially in 2022 with the highest-ADP TEs getting up there in age and having QB or target competition concerns.
The highest-rostered TEs on these 26 elite teams:
Rob Gronkowski (27%) in Round 12.0
Jared Cook (23%) in Round 14.3 → because of Mike Will, Herbert, and Ekeler