Underdog Fantasy Best Ball Mania

ByPat Pickens

Jul 24, 2022

If you’re into fantasy football, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard about Underdog Fantasy by now. They’re a rising star in the industry, boasting the most popular Best Ball tournament in the world, known as Best Ball Mania.

We’re now in the third iteration of this large-field competition. The prize pool has steadily increased each year, now up to an astounding $10 million. This year, the tournament is capped at over 450,000 entrants.

In this article, you’ll learn about how the contest works along with strategies to help guide you towards a profitable venture. After reading, you’ll be ready to hit the draft room and optimize your roster construction.

What Is a Best Ball Tournament?

You may be asking yourself, “What is Best Ball?" The answer lies in the name, as it refers to the scoring format. You don’t need to worry about starting or sitting your players. This style takes your best scorers for a given week, with caps at each position. The appeal here is that you don’t need to devote time to setting your lineups or adjusting your rosters. Best Ball maintains the entertainment value of fantasy football while providing a more efficient format. More and more you are seeing Best Ball websites.

Each participant will draft their team in a snake draft, where it goes from 1 to 12 and then 12 to 1 each round. You’re able to toggle between a fast draft (30-second-timer for each pick) and slow draft (8-hour clock). Whether you’re hungry to draft right away or want to move at a slower pace to entertain yourself throughout daily routines, Underdog Fantasy has you covered.

The challenge here is that since you’re unable to make changes to your roster, your drafted team is what you have to roll with throughout the season. That means, if your player gets injured, you’re stuck with them for the entire year. This makes roster construction more important than ever. The good news is that you can create up to 150 entries, so you won’t need to worry about one injury sabotaging your entire season.

The tournament component refers to the large field of entrants and four rounds within the season. There is a $25 entry fee for each team that you draft. Here’s how the rounds work:

  • Round 1: Players are put into 37,600 12-team groups from Weeks 1-14. The top two teams will receive a cash prize and advance to the next round. Each team that qualifies for Rounds 2-4 will win some money.
  • Round 2: Consider this as the first round of the playoffs, which goes on during Week 15. You’re placed into one of 7,520 10-team groups. First place advances and win some more money, an increase from the Round 1 prize.
  • Round 3: You’re now deep into the playoffs, making it to Week 16. There are 470 groups consisting of 16 teams in this round. The top team goes through and takes home additional cash prizes. Each team within this group also wins money, no matter where they finish in the group.
  • Round 4: The final round takes place in Week 17 and features one group of 470 teams. The team with the highest score will win the Grand Prize, while others will receive varying cash payouts.

We’ll get into more on the payout structure later in this article. For now, let’s dive in to explain how the scoring works.

Scoring

Underdog uses half-PPR scoring. PPR stands for points-per-reception. For those who are new to fantasy football, here’s a breakdown:

  • Passing Yards: 0.04 points per yard
  • Rushing/Receiving Yards: 0.1 points per yard
  • Passing Touchdown: 4 points
  • Rushing/Receiving Touchdown: 6 points
  • Receptions: 0.5 points per catch
  • Interceptions: -1 points
  • Fumbles Lost: -2 points for every fumble that results in a change in possession
  • Two-Point Conversion: 2 points for a successful two-point conversion

This means that quarterbacks who can run get a boost in value, since you only need 10 rushing yards for one point, as opposed to 25 passing yards. Likewise, running backs who are used in the passing game also are more valuable, as two catches for 10 receiving yards (two points) are worth the same as 20 rushing yards.

Underdog Fantasy uses reputable stats providers to maintain integrity within its contests. Scoring is confirmed 72 hours after the games are concluded. However, in the event of a stat correction, there could be an exception to this rule. Usually, such changes are already made during the 72-hour timeframe, so this is never the case. However, Underdog mentions this within their “Rules" section just to provide full transparency.

Position Caps

The draft consists of 18 rounds, but there are position caps that you need to know while assembling your roster. Your highest scorers in a given week at the following positions will make up your total:

  • 1 Quarterback
  • 2 Running Backs
  • 3 Wide Receivers
  • 1 Tight End
  • 1 Flex (RB, WR or TE)
  • 10 Bench Spots

The bench spots are intended as depth in case your higher-valued player misses time due to injury or to fill-in for a better score in your lineup for that week. Your roster construction should look something like this:

  • 2-3 Quarterbacks
  • 4-6 Running Backs
  • 7-10 Wide Receivers
  • 2-3 Tight Ends

There is no need to roster more than three quarterbacks because this is the position with the least injury risk. Running backs have the most risk of injury, but their production is more projectable. If your running backs stay healthy, there’s a good chance that the best players will always be the same each week.

Wide receivers have the most variance, as even the best players can have really down weeks, while lower-valued players can have spike games, where they surprisingly put up strong production. This makes it important for wideouts to comprise the largest percentage of your roster. You don’t need to have more than three tight ends because this is the lowest-scoring position. We’ll take a deeper dive into roster construction later in the article.

Who Is Eligible to Play?

Here’s what the eligibility requirements are for Underdog fantasy contests, including Best Ball Mania:

  • Your minimum age is 18, 19, or 21, depending on the legal age in your state or province.
  • You need to be a citizen of the United States or Canada.
  • You have to be residing in an eligible location in one of these two countries at the time of your entry.
  • Ineligible locations include Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Washington, and Ontario (Canada).
  • Players that live in these locations but seeking to join a contest can do so by going to an eligible location at the time of their entry.
  • You cannot join an Underdog fantasy contest if you’re an employee of an operator that offers daily fantasy for entry fees and cash prizes.

Underdog New Player Offer

Underdog is offering a welcome bonus to new players in the form of a first-deposit match of up to $100. All you need to do is and use promo code GAMEDAY to get it!

The deposit bonus has a playthrough requirement where you need to put your initial deposit plus the bonus in play before it becomes withdrawable. For example, if I deposited $100, I’d get an additional $100 in bonuses, putting my balance at $200. This means that I need to rack up $200 in cumulative entries before I can withdraw.

You can decide to use your bonus funds on Best Ball Mania entries, or you can choose from other fantasy contests. There are also Pick’Em games, which are Over or Under parlays of player props.

What Is the Payout Structure for Best Ball Mania?

The payout structure is part of what makes Best Ball Mania such an appealing tournament. There’s simply nothing like it within the fantasy football industry. Underdog takes an 11.3% rake on this competition. Here’s how it works:

  • 1st: $2,000,000
  • 2nd: $1,000,000
  • 3rd: $500,000
  • 4th: $200,000
  • 5th: $100,000
  • 6th: $75,000
  • 7th: $50,000
  • 8th: $40,000
  • 9th: $30,000
  • 10th: $20,000
  • 11th-50th: $10,000
  • 51st-100th: $5,005
  • 101st-200th: $3,750
  • 201st-300th: $2,500
  • 301st-400th: $1,500
  • 401st-470th: $1,000
  • 471st-940th: $505
  • 941st-2,350th: $200
  • 2,351st-3,760th: $100
  • 3,761st-5,640th: $90
  • 5,641st-7,520th: $75
  • 7,521st-37,600th: $40
  • 37,601st-75,200th: $35

This means that if you make it to the final round, you’re guaranteed at least $1,000. If you advance past the first round, you’ll take home at least $35. The entry with the highest score during Weeks 1-14 will also receive $1,000,000.

There are hundreds of thousands of players in this tournament, but there’s a chance to win cash prizes even if you don’t win the entire competition, which is what makes it so great.

How to Sign Up at Underdog Fantasy

Here’s what you need to do to sign up at Underdog Fantasy:

  • Click one of our links to access the Underdog landing page.
  • Sign up for an account by entering personal information (name, address, etc.)
  • Type in promo code ‘GAMEDAY’ to activate the bonus.
  • You’re set to join Best Ball Mania (up to four free entries) or play any other contests!

Basic Underdog Best Ball Mania Strategy

There are a lot of strategies involved while constructing your roster in Underdog Best Ball Mania. It’s not merely about drafting the players you project will have the best season. You need to be mindful of a number of factors, which are outlined below.

Creating Stacks

The most important component of roster construction is to build a stack, which is a combination of a quarterback with two or more of his pass-catchers. This is because it gives you a stronger correlation and a higher probability of a spike week, which is when your player hits his ceiling.

If your quarterback throws a 25-yard touchdown pass to your wide receiver, that one play equals 14 fantasy points.  This is why it’s optimal to pair Josh Allen with Stefon Diggs instead of a wideout with a similar Average Draft Position (ADP) like Ja’Marr Chase. It’s easier for your players to hit their ceilings when they’re paired together in this way.

Your goal should be to stack each of your quarterbacks with at least two of their teammates. For example, I can go with a Cowboys stack with Dak PrescottCeeDee Lamb, and Dalton Schultz combined with a Jaguars stack that features Trevor LawrenceTravis Etienne, and Christian Kirk.

There are a couple of factors to consider here. For one, you should only pair your quarterback with a running back if they can make an impact in the passing game. Players like Christian McCaffreyAlvin Kamara, and Aaron Jones are three examples that fit this description. That’s why Lawrence and Etienne can make a fine combo.

The next consideration is to be mindful of ADP. You don’t want to be reaching on an inferior player just to complete your stack. For example, imagine I had Matt Ryan and Michael Pittman Jr. This doesn’t mean that I should take Parris Campbell three rounds earlier than his usual draft position. Getting your targets is important, but that doesn’t mean that you should stray too far from ADP. I would limit my reaches to only one round earlier.

Finally, it’s worth noting that pocket passers are preferred for mega-stacks of three or more pass-catchers. This is because since they don’t add much on the ground, most of their fantasy production comes through the air, resulting in points for their supporting cast. Likewise, you don’t need to pair a rushing quarterback like Jalen Hurts with two or more teammates.

Positional Breakdown

The number of players that you draft at each position can vary. For quarterbacks, you should only take two if you’ve heavily invested in your QB1. For example, if you drafted Lamar Jackson, you would only need one backup, since there’s a high probability that he’ll be in your best lineup almost every week. On the other hand, if you decide to wait on a quarterback and go with Kirk Cousins as your first, you may want to add in two backups, like Daniel Jones and Matt Ryan.

The same goes for tight ends. If you take Travis Kelce at the top of the second round, you only need one other tight end. The best option here would be to wait until the later rounds for your TE2 since Kelce is going to dominate your TE1 spot on a weekly basis. A player like Evan Engram could be the prudent choice in this scenario.

Running backs can vary from four to six. If you’re sticking with four, that means you need to attack the position early, taking three within the first six or seven rounds. For example, I may go with Dalvin CookD’Andre Swift, and J.K. Dobbins with this approach. I can even add Rashaad Penny later in the draft.

Here, I’d have three backs with heavy workloads and high upside, so I don’t need to worry about the position too much. I can add five or six backs if I didn’t invest so much into the position. Injuries are always a risk, especially at this position, but going with a four or five RB build is preferred because of what it opens up at wide receiver.

Your roster should be mostly composed of wide receivers. They are the most inconsistent producers in fantasy football, so you want as many options as you can. I like to draft at least eight wideouts while building my Underdog team. Make sure that some of them are tied to your quarterbacks. A good idea is to make your second piece in your stack a volatile deep-threat, like K.J. Osborn to go along with Justin Jefferson.

Player Exposure

It’s hard to go into such a large-field tournament with only one entry, so you’ll want to draft at least five teams to keep yourself in contention here. It’s important to vary your player exposure, which means that you don’t want to take the same player on each of your entries. That way, you minimize your risk in the event of a season-ending injury.

This doesn’t mean that you should avoid taking the same player on multiple teams, you just want to limit your exposure. For example, imagine you decided to build 10 entries in this tournament. You love Allen Robinson because you think he’s going to bounce back this season. Instead of taking him on all 10 teams, limit that to perhaps five of them, giving you a 50% exposure to A-Rob.

This allows you to still benefit if you end up being correct while protecting you against a random injury that ends Robinson’s season prematurely. Injuries are so common in the NFL, so you don’t want your season to go up in flames early on in the year.

Week 17 Correlation

This is a new strategy that has become a hot-button topic throughout the industry this off-season. Week 17 is the final round, which is where you’re competing for one million dollars. This has spurred the discussion of how to optimize your lineup if you make it this far. You want your team to have the highest ceiling possible that week, so you need to build accordingly.

What this means is that you want to have one or more players that face your stack in Week 17. This is because if your stack gets in a shootout, there’s a high probability that the opposing team has spike weeks from their players as well. Imagine I have a Chiefs stack with Patrick MahomesTravis Kelce, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. They face the Broncos in Week 17, so I can look to draft Courtland Sutton and Javonte Williams to add to this combination.

Just like when you were building your stacks, this does not mean that you should reach on a player to complete this correlation. You just need to pick your spots and make sure you aren’t losing expected value by drafting someone way ahead of their ADP.

Targeting Upside

Try to prioritize upside throughout your draft, particularly among running backs. There’s always a chance that the starter misses time, so you want some of your players to be in this position. The best types are those that have this ceiling but also can contribute regardless of injury, like A.J. Dillon and Tony Pollard. The other high-end options are those that can step right into a major role if the incumbent is out, like Alexander Mattison and Darrell Henderson Jr.

This means that you should avoid handcuffs to your main running backs. While this strategy may work well as insurance in leagues with adjustable rosters, they’re completely off the table in Best Ball. If you take Dalvin Cook, don’t add in Alexander Mattison, go with Darrell Henderson Jr. instead. You want to construct the best-case narrative. Imagine if you had Cook rolling and Henderson took over. Then you’d be in a great spot.

There are wide receivers who fit this description as well, like Tyler Boyd, who would see a major bump in value if Ja’Marr Chase or Tee Higgins was forced to miss time. Other potential targets include K.J. Osborn and Jamison Crowder.

Managing Bye Weeks

Try to make sure that you don’t have too many players on the same bye week. Every week counts, so you don’t want to lose your chance at making the playoffs or finishing with the most points in the regular season. The good thing is that Underdog has the bye right next to the player while you’re in the draft room.

Author

Pat Pickens

Pat Pickens is a seasoned sportswriter who has covered the NHL since 2013 for various websites, including The New York Times, NHL.com, Sportsnet.ca, USA Today, the Associated Press and many others. His debut book, titled "The Whalers" about the history of the NHL's Hartford Whalers, was released in October 2021. His greatest successful wager was an LA Kings puck-line bet (+200) in Game 1 of the 2012 Western Conference Final.