Lex Miraglia takes a look under the hood of the Underdog Battle Royale tournament: identifying what works, what doesn’t, and what provides our best path to first place in this top-heavy, but ultra-soft tourney.
The goal of this article is to present you with information and strategy about a different-style DFS tournament that is currently filled with an inexperienced field of entrants. Due to Underdog’s main customer base of Best Ball players, there are many people approaching this tournament in a suboptimal way. So let’s take advantage!
Battle Royale is Underdog’s main slate tournament offered each week. You and five others participate in a six-round draft, selecting a QB, RB, 2 WR, FLEX, and TE from Sunday’s games (SNF no longer included). Your final roster then competes with every entry in the tournament, not just your fellow drafters, for the highest score of the week.
Typically a $5 entry fee for the weekly main tournament.
After a $20K prize the first couple weeks, 1st place has been $12K every week since.
This is a daily fantasy tournament! Right now the edge is that too many players are still treating drafts like season-long teams instead of one-week teams. This article will explore how to think correctly about drafting in this format.
Here we take a look at the five highest-scoring lineups from Week 7, how they were constructed, what we can learn from them, and the most important concepts to keep in mind when drafting a team.
Once again, we see essentially just one stack in the lineup surrounded by some of the highest scoring players. Brady-Godwin was the only QB paired with a WR/TE, while Allen was successful naked due to his rushing prowess, Diggs failing, and Beasley putting up a much lower score in this format. Even more unnaturally for this format, a QB-RB stack (Stafford-Hendy) and RB-WR stack (Taylor-Pittman) made three appearances in the top 5. I say unnaturally because generally, it has required the highest scores possible to win here, and teammates can often cannibalize each other’s ceilings in half-PPR with no bonuses. However, going all-in on that game environment and the two best players from that team worked out here on a lower-scoring week, and a Henderson-Kupp pairing also produced a strong score. It should be noted though that this was the lowest-scoring top-5 of the season thus far, meaning the fewest points (& TDs) were required to win of any week yet.
Most appearances by one player in top-five each week:
As JM spoke to on his Battle Royale segment in W8 Angles, you need to hunt for the low-owned players that can vault you to first place. This week that player was Michael Pittman, someone outside the top-12 projected WRs, thus frequently going overlooked, and yet he ended up on 80% of the top-5 teams. This is happening almost every week, with guys like Jamarr Chase vs BAL, Mike Evans vs CHI, Ceedee Lamb vs NE, Mike Williams vs CLE, Tyler Lockett vs TEN, Mixon vs MIN.
Travis Kelce’s appearances in the top-5 by week: 2 // 2 // 0 // 0 // 1 // 1 // 1 // –
Two RBs have been drafted on 27 of 40 top-5 lineups, and 7 of the 13 three WR lineups came in Weeks 6 & 7. WRs carry a higher ceiling and we should expect three WRs to be drafted on the highest-scoring teams as the field gets sharper, but with the Half-PPR and no bonuses combined with a relatively softer field, the bankable production of the two RB strategy has been more successful overall through eight weeks. The majority of the most successful rosters in the first half of the season have rostered two of the highest projected RBs, one of the highest projected WRs, and one of the WRs outside of the top projected guys.
Just seven of the top 40 teams over the first seven weeks have failed to combine for at least 10 TDs (9, 9, 9, 8, 8, 7, 7). 23 of 40 teams have scored 11+ TDs. 13 of 40 teams have scored 13+ TDs. In Half-PPR with no bonuses, TD equity is an extremely valuable commodity.
When we draft a player, we are assuming on that roster that the player has success and therefore each successive pick must further align with the “story” we are telling on that roster. Here I will take a look at a construction I liked, and my best scoring roster.
Cooper Kupp, the 2nd highest projected non-QB on the slate behind Henry, was taken with his first pick. Kupp had made 20/25 previous top-5 rosters when he was on the main slate and had an extremely soft matchup with a massive floor. Kupp has probably the highest TD expectation of any non-Davante WR in the NFL, and he didn’t slip this week in the way he did last week due to fear of a blowout. Kupp rosters are also likely to leverage the success of popular Henderson teams. Brown is taken next, with a matchup vs a defense getting crushed by WRs and in the highest total game on the slate without Julio Jones beside him. Brown has shown a high ceiling on even fewer targets than he was expected to get this week, making him one of the best plays on the slate. Joe Mixon is taken next as a high-projected RB in a good RB matchup as a large favorite and with one of his backups missing the game. For his first correlation, Pittman is taken as the opposing WR to Brown in the highest total game on the slate. The success of each other’s opposing offense pushes the volume expectation for both of these WRs, and both teams had easier paths to points through the air than on the ground. Stafford is then paired with Kupp, betting on the success of Kupp going hand-in-hand with his quarterback, and further leveraging the Henderson rosters. Mike Gesicki is his TE choice with his last pick, and with it being the second-last pick of the draft, Pitts & Hockenson were sure to be already gone by that point. Gesicki has been one of the most productive TEs this year and was expected to carry high volume in a spot MIA was likely to trail vs BUF. This roster ended with two strong stacks in Stafford-Kupp & Brown-Pittman, a large-favorite RB with pass game work, and one of the best fantasy TEs in football. Ultimately the point differential between either Stafford & Allen or Gesicki & Hockenson was the difference between 15th place & 3rd place.
With my first pick, I took Diggs at #5 as the 2nd highest projected WR in a plus matchup and without a “breakout” game yet this year. With Allen frequently going early on a slate missing so many elite QBs and a much higher projection than the rest, I grabbed him at #8 to stack with Diggs. This was a bet on the success of Diggs & Allen going hand-in-hand, while also getting access to any BUF passing pts (& Allen rushing pts) that didn’t go through Diggs. Allen-Diggs was the highest projected stack on the slate. At #17, I took AJ Brown with a matchup vs a defense getting crushed by WRs and in the highest total game on the slate (also without Julio Jones). Brown has shown a high ceiling on even fewer targets than he was expected to get this week, making him one of the best plays on the slate. I took Mixon at #20 as a high-projected RB in a good RB matchup as a large favorite and with one of his backups missing the game. Mixon’s success also leverages a 100% owned Jamarr Chase. At #29, I made sure to grab one of the top two TEs on the slate by a wide margin in TJ Hockenson, and in a much better matchup than the guy above him (Kyle Pitts). Hockenson’s success also likely leverages a 100% owned Deandre Swift, a frequent 1st-rounder. For my last pick at #32, I was actually targeting Pittman to correlate with AJ Brown, but I was surprised he was selected before my pick and I had prioritized Hockenson first. I managed to land Austin Ekeler in the last round at a time he was slipping due to late-week injury concerns. Ekeler was in the best spot of any Charger and has shown one of the highest ceilings at the RB position this year. This roster finished 24th, just 9 points behind 1st place, and getting Pittman as I intended over Ekeler would’ve pushed it to 8th. Ultimately Diggs, my first pick, was the only one who held this roster back (and no one ahead of me had him), but I also may not have taken Allen, the top-scoring QB, without him. This is why it’s important to review the story of your roster, as it’s not as simple as just swapping in one player for another, even if it looks that way on the surface.
I am going to keep banging this drum: “Recency bias is going to keep playing a role in ADP of these drafts. So, certain guys that have underperformed against expectations recently are likely to keep slipping to the ends of drafts. Keep this in mind when drafting, because you likely don’t have to go “way off the board” to seek upside, but rather try to find it in guys we still expect big things from, but for whatever reason, they haven’t had their big game yet.”
Based on UD’s projections, these are the players most likely to be drafted in the first round (meaning majority of the time you will only end up with one of them): Ekeler, Alvin Kamara, Tyreek Hill, Aaron Jones, Stefon Diggs, Travis Kelce, Deebo Samuel, Josh Allen.
In the one draft I completed on Tuesday night, Kelce slipped into the middle 2nd round after being a top-3 lock almost all season before Week 8’s MNF game. Waller, Andrews, Pitts, Gesicki, & Dallas Goedert are the most likely other 5 TEs to be taken in every draft, though Waller is questionable. TE is not the spot you need to go way off the board at, as the TEs below are all worse projected for good reason, and none carry ceilings like the guys just listed. If you do want to go off the board here, Dalton Schultz (with Dak Prescott), Zach Ertz, Albert O, & Foster Moreau (no Waller) would likely be the only other guys I’d personally even consider. With Kelce, Waller, & Andrews all back on the main slate, & Pitts in a perceived tough matchup vs NOR, it’s likely that Kelce & Waller are the only TEs that are frequently drafted before the last round.
NOTE: George Kittle may also return this week, currently projected for 0 and going undrafted.
RBs that get goal-line work, have high touch expectations, are used in the passing game, and are facing defenses allowing tons of RB production: Ekeler, Kamara, Aaron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley
RBs that lack just one of the above criteria: Dalvin Cook (matchup), Nick Chubb (pass work), Mixon (matchup), Cordarelle Patterson (matchup), Josh Jacobs (pass work), Eli Mitchell (pass work), Myles Gaskin (touch expectations), Darrel Williams (touch expectations), James Robinson (matchup+health)
WRs outside the top-12 projected who could conceivably end up on top-scoring rosters: Brandin Cooks (Tyrod Taylor boosts), Courtland Sutton (though most likely sees Trevon Diggs), Jaylen Waddle & Devante Parker (one of these two, or Gaskin/Gesicki is likely to put up strong score vs HOU, MIA implied for 26+), Jerry Jeudy (two 20+ pt scores in 2020, DAL scoring should boost DEN pass volume, easier matchup than Sutton), Kadarius Toney (likely the only one of the top-3 NYG WRs to play, though tough matchup).
Unfortunately, there really aren’t any leverage angles involving a higher projected/owned player on the respective teams of the aforementioned WRs, so the only leverage for them is tied to ownership.
Brady, Stafford, & Aaron Rodgers are the only big QB names missing, but all of Allen, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott, & Justin Herbert are on the slate. Low-owned QBs who at least have a somewhat reasonable chance at a top score, and have a stackable pass-catcher: Joe Burrow-Chase vs CLE (Mixon leverage?) // Derek Carr-Waller vs NYG, (Jacobs leverage?) // Tua Tagovailoa-Parker/Waddle/Gesicki // Cousins-Justin Jefferson/Adam Thielen (Cook leverage) // Tyrod-Cooks // Jones-Toney
Stay on the lookout for guys with high ceilings that are being overlooked by the field, but don’t go so far off the board you roster players without top-5 ceilings at their positions.