Underdog Best Ball Mania Bible: Positional Allocation Guide

Apr 12, 2022
Underdog Best Ball Mania Bible: Positional Allocation Guide

Underdog Fantasy has run Best Ball Mania—their flagship best ball tournament—in each of the last two seasons. That means there are now two tournaments of data to compare and find out which winning trends from 2020 continued in 2021.

Powered by 4for4’s new Underdog Roster Construction Tool, the first iteration of this series will provide the skeleton to Best Ball Mania success in the form of positional allocation guidelines. Knowing how many players to draft at each position is the foundation of being a profitable best ball player and will serve as the framework for future studies on roster construction, positional draft strategies, and stacking considerations.

For the entirety of this series, the primary metric used to measure success will be playoff advance rate over expectation. Best Ball Mania 1 and Best Ball Mania 2 had different playoff advance rates and this metric normalizes for those changes. (See full explanation here)


Underdog Fantasy Resources: Get a Free 4for4 Pro Subscription | Half-PPR Rankings | Underdog ADP | Roster Construction Tool | Advance Rate Explorer | How to Approach 3-Team Contests

Best Ball Mania Research: Roster Construction Guide | Positional Draft Strategy | Anatomy of a Final-Round Roster | Stacking Strategy | Building a Unique Roster


Best Ball Mania leagues are half-PPR and start: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, Flex (RB/WR/TE) with 18 total roster spots. There are no kickers or team defenses.

See all Underdog best ball rules here.

Quarterbacks

Best Ball Mania QB Advance Rates Over Expectation, 2020–2021
Count Usage (% of Field) - 2020 Advance Rate Over Expectation - 2020 Usage (% of Field) - 2021 Advance Rate Over Expectation - 2021
2 52.5% +0.3% 53.2% +0.8%
3 44.9% -0.1% 42.2% -0.6%
4 1.7% -3.5% 3.3% -3.3%

In both 2020 and 2021, 2-QB builds were the only quarterback allocation to return above-average advance rates. With only 18 roster spots in the last two Best Ball Mania tournaments, teams often benefited by maximizing their optionality at the flex position instead of drafting a third quarterback.

The easiest explanation for the success of 2-QB rosters is the recent proliferation of the dual-threat, elite passer. Those quarterbacks have had a clear fantasy advantage over the field in recent years, causing a spike in ADP and allowing drafters who land an elite talent to comfortably settle with just one other player at the position. Quarterback ADP has become extremely reliable in recent years, especially within the top 12, further reinforcing the decision to pair an elite fantasy quarterback with just one other passer.

This isn’t to say that a Best Ball Mania drafter should blindly draft two quarterbacks, especially if you miss out on a top player at the position—3-QB builds barely missed the baseline advance rate in 2020 and those teams were in shouting distance last season.

As this series progresses, you will learn how to analyze the draft capital used at each position to determine when to favor the upper or lower bounds of each recommended positional allocation.

Suggested allocation: 2–3 quarterbacks

Running Backs

Best Ball Mania RB Advance Rates Over Expectation, 2020–2021
Count Usage (% of Field) - 2020 Advance Rate Over Expectation - 2020 Usage (% of Field) - 2021 Advance Rate Over Expectation - 2021
3 0.5% +1.8% 1.3% -3.4%
4 6.7% +0.1% 20.6% -1.1%
5 37.2% +0.2% 46.7% +0.4%
6 41.6% +0.7% 24.7% +0.4%
7 11.6% -2.7% 5.5% -0.4%
8 1.9% -3.5% 0.8% -2.5%

The biggest shift in the field’s draft strategy between Best Ball Mania 1 and 2 came at the running back position. High playoff advance rates of certain 4-RB builds (more on this in Part 2) along with 2020’s Best Ball Mania champion deploying a 4-RB team resulted in the field using this strategy more than three times as often in 2021 than in 2020. Unfortunately for many of those teams, advance rates of 4-RB teams plummeted.

There was also some indication in 2020 that a hyper-fragile, or 3-RB allocation, could have some viability but entries that went out on that limb were disappointed with a devastatingly low advance rate in 2021.

While the usage rates of 5-RB and 6-RB builds flipped in 2021, these allocation strategies stand out as the only two to return advance rates above expectation in both tournaments. Although a 7-RB build is typically negative-EV, there are extreme draft strategies where it can be viable. Living on the extremes at running back is dependent on draft flow and personal risk tolerance but extreme strategies can have exponential returns in a top-heavy payout structure where differentiation is often rewarded.

Suggested allocation: 4–6 running backs

Wide Receivers

Best Ball Mania WR Advance Rates Over Expectation, 2020–2021
Count Usage (% of Field) - 2020 Advance Rate Over Expectation - 2020 Usage (% of Field) - 2021 Advance Rate Over Expectation - 2021
4 0.3% -12.1% 0.2% -5.8%
5 1.6% -6.5% 1.3% -4.1%
6 14.5% -1.9% 8.9% +0.6%
7 38.8% +0.3% 22.8% +0.3%
8 33.7% +0.8% 32.9% +0.3%
9 9.9% -0.5% 26.1% -0.2%
10 1.1% +3.1% 7.2% -1.4%

In best ball drafts, wide receiver allocation is often a direct function of running back strategy and vice versa. A general rule of thumb at wide receiver is the more, the merrier. With wide receivers typically offering volatile fantasy results on a weekly basis—especially in half-PPR leagues such as Underdog—building upside through positional volume here is usually the key to successful rosters.

Advance rates have been above average for 7-WR and 8-WR builds in both Best Ball Mania tournaments and that should be the range for most rosters.

Suggested allocation: 7–9 wide receivers

Tight Ends

Best Ball Mania TE Advance Rates Over Expectation, 2020–2021
Count Usage (% of Field) - 2020 Advance Rate Over Expectation - 2020 Usage (% of Field) - 2021 Advance Rate Over Expectation - 2021
2 51.1% +0.1% 60.0% -0.6%
3 46.3% +0.0% 36.2% +1.3%
4 1.4% -1.9% 1.8% +0.3%

Of all the positions, tight end shows the most year-over-year variability in advance rates. There was a slight advantage for 2-TE builds in 2020 but 3-TE builds were dominant in 2021 with a possible window opening for 4-TE consideration. A lot of tight end allocation strategy is prefaced by how many viable early-round options are available—teams that land a Travis Kelce or Darren Waller can confidently finish a draft with two tight ends while drafters who wait until the end to target the position should likely opt for at least three. Teams that have targeted mid-round tight ends have had fluctuating success with 2-TE and 3-TE allocations.

Suggested allocation: 2–3 tight ends

Applying Positional Allocation Techniques to 2022 Drafts

Each position has a tight range of players to draft and staying within the suggested allocation will give drafters an edge over league managers that are unaware of this premise.

Whether a fantasy manager ends up on the low or high end of the allocation range for a given position is largely dependent on draft capital spent there but can also be influenced by strategies such as team stacking.

Drafters should typically be looking to stay in these ranges when drafting their tournament teams:

  • Quarterbacks: 2–3
  • Running Backs: 4–6
  • Wide Receivers: 7–9
  • Tight Ends: 2–3

1. In 2020, the top two teams in each 12-person group advanced to the second round of Best Ball Mania with additional “wild card” teams advancing in order to meet the total team requirement for the second round, resulting in 20.8% of the field advancing to Round 2. In 2021, only the top two teams in each 12-person group advanced to the second round, resulting in 16.7% of the field advancing to Round 2. All references to advance rate over expectation are based on these numbers. (Back to top)

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