Two years ago, we saw a hyper-fragile team built by Justin Herzig (@JustinHerzig on Twitter) ship the BBM on Underdog. What happened the following year? According to Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks on Twitter), hyper-fragile builds (rosters with four running backs and additional emphasis on the other three positions) increased almost 3x the previous year (just over 6% of total rosters in play in 2020 to just under 17% in 2021). Last year, Liam Murphy (@ChessLiam on Twitter) famously paced the field in the BBM2 by placing additional emphasis on Week 17, eventually shipping the contest with a gnarly Rashaad Penny/Amon-Ra St. Brown mini-Week 17 correlation and Cincinnati stack. That has translated to the field now being privy to the fact that Week 17 is where all the money is made, which means we should be paying additional attention to it. But the field seems to be clumping together in a very narrow grouping in Week 17, correlated emphasis, giving us solid leverage potential having identified this as the case.
The remainder of this article will dive into field tendencies and leverage opportunities, paying attention solely to Week 17 (where all the money is made in these massive Best Ball contests). These methodologies are intended to be combined with your own, with what you have learned about roster construction, variance, leverage, and other content from this year’s Best Ball product at OWS. It is essential to understand that so much more goes into roster construction than simply focusing on Week 17, but that is precisely what we’re going to do in this piece – concentrate only on Week 17.
The glaring issue with how the field seems to be interpreting this newfound strategy is that we’re now basically seeing a split field between more recreational players that are looking to leverage isolated snapshots in ADP (which is neither good nor bad; it just is – for more information on dynamic ADP and how to best leverage it in varying draft windows, I highly recommend you check out the first installment of our Best Ball podcast series) and “the sharps” who are attacking Week 17 relentlessly through team stacks, game stacks, and correlation.
I will not go into why Week 17 is so important in this piece as it should be widely understood through the rest of the data, interpretations, and teachings throughout the site this year, but we will dive headfirst into some of the weaknesses from the field, with particular attention to Week 17 and general field trends. What we’re seeing this year is an overemphasis on Week 17 and primary correlations. You see it all over Twitter, you see it in your draft lobbies, and you see it with the content that is being put out around the industry. Week 17 or die! And while that isn’t necessarily wrong (it’s actually super right), the general interpretation is to over-stack potential game environments in Week 17. Examples of this include QB/WR/WR/bring back, QB/WR/TE/bring back, and QB/WR/2 x bring backs. But what is the historical precedent for over-stacking to be optimal? If we look at the Milly Maker winners from 2021 (18 weeks, with more than 400,000 entrants in each contest), over-stacked rosters with a quarterback, two pass-catchers, plus a bring-back won only four of the 18 total weeks. A mega-stack with a quarterback, two pass-catchers, the team’s running back, and a bring-back also shipped once. That means that five of the 18 total full slates were won with an over-stacked roster.
Put another way – 13 of the 18 weeks were won without over-stacked rosters, which is essential information considering the field is mainly overemphasizing over-stacked best ball rosters in an attempt to leverage the field for Week 17 where all the money is made. Five of the 18 weeks were won with a QB/pass-catcher/no bring back roster, four of the weeks were won with a QB/pass-catcher/bring back roster, and four of the weeks were won with a QB/RB/pass-catcher/no bring back roster. Since the field is placing heavy emphasis on both over-stacked rosters and team stacks not including the team’s running back, a situation exists where we can build smartly for Week 17 without making suboptimal roster construction errors by simply including a team’s running back (or backup running back – more on this below) in your team stacks.
Of the 18 Millionaire Maker winners on DraftKings last season, four utilized a quarterback, running back, and pass-catcher stack with no bring back. Yet only a tiny percentage of the Best Ball field is building their rosters in that way. Now, that may or may not be optimal, considering you first have to make it through Weeks 15 and 16 before we’re looking at these contests through the lens of an isolated slate, but there is a massive amount of leverage to be gained from building teams in ways the field is not. Basically, don’t feel compelled to force a Week 17 bring back on your primary stacks, and don’t be dissuaded from including a team’s running back on your primary stacks because the data shows there are multiple ways to beat large field DFS contests, which is what Week 17 boils down to.