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The Gauntlet

Published on 12/30 before Week 17 was played

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Overview 

  • Six player snake draft comprised of 10 rounds in a Best Ball tournament format
  • Teams are made up of 10 total players with a starting lineup of 5 players – 1 QB, 2 WR/TE, 1 RB, and 1 Flex
  • (4) Round structure with only the top team advancing out of a group of (6) the first two rounds, followed by a group of (8) in the round aligning with the conference championships. 157 teams in the Super Bowl with $100K up top.
  • Getting out of the first round is crucial but difficult if drafting 3 or more from a bye team (currently the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles).
  • Like a Milli-maker on DK, the payout structure is extremely top-heavy. 

The final two bullets bring up an interesting dilemma as the two bye teams are the most likely to make the conference final and Super Bowl but drafting several of those players hampers your chances of getting out of the first round. 

To win, you will likely need (at least) five players to reach the Super Bowl. This incentivizes stacking your lineups to consolidate around a few teams you are hoping can make deep playoff runs, however, an aggressive stacking strategy has its trade-offs. If you prioritize stacking elite contenders, such as the Bills or Eagles, this will likely have you drafting some poorly projected depth players to round out your team. Someone in your first pod/round will likely have drafted studs on wild card teams and while they will have an uphill battle to win the whole tournament, these teams will have a leg up on getting out of the first round.

If you consider stacking both bye teams you are drawing dead to advance, and even stacking one bye team significantly hurts your odds of getting out of the first round. However, the tournament is very top-heavy, so we will discuss below some of the strategies to best balance these predicaments and try to thread a very thin needle.

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Roster Composition:

From a 10,000-foot view, stacking is critical as you want to try to set yourself up to build around multiple teams (ideally 3 or 4 total) with at least one from each conference. 

Since your lineup must consist of 1 QB, 1 RB, 2 WR/TE, and 1 Flex, I think there are three builds to consider when approaching your draft, but before we hop into that, let’s start by discussing QB allocation:

Quarterback Strategy:

In general, QB DFS scoring is the flattest of any position and I think there is a strong case to be made for both of the following compositions:

Single QB build:

In a single QB build, the bet you are making is that QB’s team makes it to the Super Bowl. Knowing how important correlation will likely be, I would try to ensure you can draft at least two other players from that same team, whereas four total is likely ideal (for example QB, RB, WR, WR/TE). 

In drafts where you can pull off a single QB build, I think a 4-3-3 (four players from one team, three players from another, and three players from another) or 4-2-2-2 build is optimal, with at least 4 other players coming from the other conference to your stack (more on this later). Since the contest is so top-heavy, I think that single QB builds offer the most upside as you get more options at the other positions, however, this strategy is only realistic if you don’t draft a QB with a 1st round bye.

Double QB build:

This is a less risky strategy to employ as all your eggs aren’t in one basket. If drafting a QB from one of the bye teams (Buffalo and Philadelphia at the time of this writing), a second QB is essential. In a double QB build, ideally, you are to end with a 3-3-2-2, 4-3-3, or 4-4-2 roster composition. If one of your stacks is around a team with a bye, I think there is merit in considering a high-upside player from a one-off team (a 4-3-2-1 build). This player may get eliminated in the first round, but hopefully, they help you enough to advance.

3 (or 3+) QB build:

In my opinion, a triple QB build is not a composition you want to consider as it limits your exposure to the other required positions.

Draft Strategy:

Three team build:

As discussed above, correlation is key in these contests and can be achieved by building stacks of players from the same team. When drafting, a strategy I like is to start with either an Elite QB and his alpha pass catcher (Allen and Diggs for example), or two elite pass catchers such as two of Chase, Jefferson, or Lamb with your first two picks. Why I like these three is that based on the current ADP, you are likely able to get one of their QBs at the 3/4 turn – Something like Chase, Lamb, Mixon, and Prescott. From there you could either shift to two pieces from another team with your next two picks, something like Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, or snag a secondary option from one of your earlier round stacks, such as Zeke / Schultz or Tyler Boyd. In a build like this, I think the ideal composition is 4-3-3. 

Four team balanced build:

If one of the teams you’re building around is the Eagles or Bills/Chiefs (depending on who gets the one seed in the AFC), a draft that produces an allotment of 3, 3, 2, 2 is also a strong approach. You are playing somewhat shorthanded in round one with (3) players on bye, but if you can get out of the first round with the (7) other players, your chances of advancing are improved compared to the average team advancing.  

For example, if starting something like Josh Allen/Justin Jefferson (assuming Buffalo bye), I think it’s optimal to wait until later rounds to scoop up additional Bills players as you will need to focus on options playing in the first round, as well as another QB, before continuing to load up on players with a first-round bye. From this start, you could go Dalvin Cook in the 3rd, Cousins in the 4th, and come back around with Gabe Davis in the 5th. In the 6th, mark your territory by starting another stack (potentially around Miami, Jacksonville or Tampa).  

Another example of a four-team build could be something like this:

1st round – CMC 

2nd round – Diggs

3rd round – Pollard

4th round – Prescott

5th round – Aiyuk

6th round – Singletary

7th round – Purdy

8th round – Gallup 

9th round – Henry

10th round – Burks

(Or two Jags like Etienne and Zay Jones with your final two picks).

This provides a 3-3-2-2 configuration that gives you the viability of five in the Super Bowl if the 49ers or Cowboys advance from the NFC and the Bills or Titans advance from the AFC. 

Four team with onslaught build:

One of the more aggressive approaches I’ve taken is a 5-2-2-1. I’m referring to this as an onslaught build, and I think it offers immense upside if things break your way. The key is to try and build around one of the non-bye teams with your 5 player onslaught with your other 2 “stacks” coming from the opposite conference. If executed to perfection, this approach also allows you to likely snag two players from a bye team. Like a 4-3-3 build, this construction provides access to 7 players in the Super Bowl if things play out in your favor. This could also be built as a 5-3-2, but I think if drafting early, I’d rather take on the risk of a one-off player from a non-guaranteed team as the value of getting them several rounds early is worth the risk and will help you get out of the first round.

Based on the current ADP, an example of this 5-2-2-1 construction would be:

1st round – Chase

2nd round – Burrow

3rd round – D Smith

4th round – Mixon

5th round – Goedert

6th round – Schultz

7th round – Boyd

8th round – Gallup

9th round – Z Jones

10th round – Irwin

Drafting early vs drafting late: 

The key difference between drafting early versus drafting late (after week 18) is around the certainty of both who the playoff teams are as well as around seeding and the byes. As of this writing (before week 17), 5 AFC teams have secured playoff berths (Bills, Chiefs, Bengals, Ravens, and Chargers), and 4 NFC teams have also punched their ticket to the postseason (Eagles, Vikings, 49ers, and Cowboys). With the uncertainty around these five remaining spots, drafting early allows you to take on some risk on players who may not make the playoffs but can be drafted much later due to this fact. A player like Tyreek Hill, who will likely become a second or third-round pick if the Dolphins secure a playoff spot, is going around the 6th-7th round of drafts I’ve done. Other season-long ‘studs’ such as Barkley and Henry are going even later… If you can handle the risk/reward element of drafting early, I’d recommend embracing some uncertainty later in your draft.

I hope this article helps you in drafting your Gauntlet teams! Feel free to send me a DM in Discord if you have any questions or want to chat strategy. Happy New Year OWS Fam!