When I'm Drafting My Underdog Fantasy NFL Best Ball Mania Teams
Erik Beimfohr analyzes the optimal times to draft your fantasy football teams for Underdog Fantasy’s Best Ball Mania II tournament. See what all the buzz is about in our Underdog Fantasy Review and click here to sign up with the promo code GRINDERS for a FREE $25 Best Ball Mania II ticket and your chance at the top $1.1 million dollar prize!
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Particularly since the introduction of big NFL Best Ball contests and tournaments across the industry, it’s been a fairly hot debate about when you actually should be drafting. Draft too early, and you invite quite a bit more injury risk and uncertainty while possibly missing out on some new values that pop up in training camp and preseason. Draft too late, and you miss on some of the best value of the entire draft season in terms of average draft position (ADP).
I’m sure plenty think they have the perfect answer, but the truth is there isn’t one. There is merit to drafting at all sorts of different times, and it’s largely up to each individual to assess their risk tolerance and potential edge at different parts of the draft calendar. I’ve actually spent a good bit of time thinking about this, and I came to a conclusion on my personal plan of attack as it pertains to best ball tournaments, especially on Underdog Fantasy.
In case you missed it (which I highly doubt since you’re a fellow sicko like me thinking about NFL Best Ball in May), Underdog just recently launched their Best Ball Mania tournament for this NFL season. It’s a $25 entry with $1 Million to first place. With that kind of money on the line, I think it’s important to lay out a plan of attack for how you’re going to deploy whatever number of drafts you plan to do. For me, I’m planning to enter the maximum number of teams (150), but I wanted to develop a plan for how I’m spacing them out through draft season in order to maximize my upside while also not entirely limiting myself to a certain subset of draft season.
Before I dive in, let’s first start with the fact that I don’t think this plan is gospel. I actually think one of the biggest faults of most best ball players (and season long players) is that they try to live by too many hard and fast rules. You must draft zero RB, you must draft robust RB, you must wait to draft until August, you must draft only 2 QBs, etc. are just some examples of things some believe, and in reality I think having just about any rule like that is a pretty fatal flaw.
I think this plan for myself is the best way for me to deploy my assets while being able to effectively pull each lever that provides edge over my portfolio of teams. But just like no draft strategy is perfect for every draft, no drafting schedule is perfect for every drafter. For me personally, I want to be able to take advantage of the early ADP because I believe I can effectively target certain players, stacks, roster builds now that you won’t be able to get at this cost when we get to peak drafting season. For example, I still don’t really know why I can get Tyler Lockett in the 5th round right now, but I feel confident I won’t be able to in August. I also love many of the late round QBs and TEs available, and once we get more certainty around their roles (and likely some training camp hype), I think their ADPs will sky rocket.
I know that drafting right now presents a lot of risk with injuries, role uncertainty and even roster cut possibility, but I want to get my shots on goal at building some “super teams” with guys going much later than they will during draft season. I’m willing to accept that I’m going to have some dead teams in order to try to capitalize on some of that upside. I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the type of tournament we are playing here. This is the best ball equivalent of a milly maker with a fairly top heavy payout structure and 156k entrants. Our odds of winning that are already super low, but I think having some shots at a “super team” from these early ADPs is a way to create some of that upside you need for a contest like this. If you can get lucky with one of your early teams and nab a bunch of ADP risers and stay healthy, it’s sort of the equivalent to get a couple thousand extra bucks of salary on an NFL Sunday slate on DraftKings. You’re not guaranteed anything, but you do have a little extra edge on your opponents with the added upside of an overall stronger collection of 18 players on your roster.
There are downsides to drafting early, however. I’ve already talked about the uncertainty risks. Not even just injury risk for your players, but you could have guys that don’t even make the team on your rosters. Guys could get traded, or totally unforeseen players could emerge that aren’t getting drafted now (I.E. James Robinson).
The other idea is that you’re drafting against much sharper players now than close to the season. I do agree with this premise, but I’ve been pumping in a bunch of drafts on Underdog so far, and I do just want to say that I think it’s a bit overstated. While drafts were undeniably Charmin soft on DraftKings leading up to the season last year, there are still what I’d classify as dead teams in the drafts I’m doing right now.
Ultimately, I’m willing to trade off some of those downsides for the upside potential of drafting right now. The key for me personally, though, is that I’m planning to balance that with drafts closer to the season. What I am doing that’s maybe a bit different is I am not doing what I’d call “middling it”.
I think there are some pretty strong inefficiencies in the ADP of players that I am trying to take advantage of right now. But as you can see with me putting out content already for best ball season (and with places like Establish The Run doing so as well), I expect there to be a lot more best ball content coming out over the course of the next couple months. With all that content and more marketing from Underdog, the ADPs will get more efficient pretty quick. One example of that already happening is Trey Lance. Trey Lance is my favorite QB target of this entire season, and I’m actually going to do a piece this week on why that is. But when I first started drafting on Underdog, his ADP was 146. His ADP is now 122, and I did a draft this morning where I took him at 116. The public is already coming around on Lance this early, so imagine how far his ADP will shoot up when we get more hype from training camp and he gets announced as an NFL week 1 starter. He’s just one example, but I expect there to be plenty more guys that go through major ADP adjustments here very, very early in best ball season.
Back to not “middling it”… with this trend that I expect to see in terms of ADP efficiency, I do not want to be drafting in the part of draft season where ADPs are the most efficient (relative to the amount of information we have), but we are playing against still stronger competition with nearly the same level of uncertainty as right now. I’m monitoring ADPs and such to try to pinpoint exactly when I think that will be, but it’s probably late June/early July is my guess.
My plan is to do zero drafts during that time.
So, what is my split of drafting then?
50% right now… in May, maybe early June. The remaining 50% about as close to the season as possible (with the caveat of tracking the amount of spots left in this UD tournament.)
I think by splitting up my drafts equally into the 2 most advantageous parts of draft season, I can maximize my ability to pull all the different levers of edge across my portfolio of 150 teams. I can effectively take advantage of ADP with half my teams, while somewhat minimizing risk/uncertainty and facing weaker competition with the other half.
This gives me 75 shots on goal that sacrifice some player certainty and skill advantage over my competition for the upside of an edge in roster talent and upside. But it also gives me 75 additional shots where I sacrifice the potential upside in my roster for more certainty and, due to the weaker competition, a better chance to make it through my league into the playoff rounds.
The biggest key, at least for me, is that barbell approach. In 2 months, I believe that not only will our ADP edges likely have dried up, we will still have just about the least skill advantage of draft season, while also still taking on the most risk and uncertainty. We still have an edge right now, but as we saw with Trey Lance, things can change quickly. That’s why I want to capitalize right away on early ADPs, and then wait until we get into training camp to polish up the portfolio with more clearly defined player roles and more casual players entering drafts.