Underdog Playoff Tournaments Introduction & Strategy
The Gauntlet is the premier contest for Underdog’s Playoff Bestball product which features $1.5M in prizes for a $25 entry ($150K to 1st place). There are also smaller contests like the Mittens which offer $20K to the winner for a smaller entry fee ($5). Underdog playoff contests consist of six-person groups drafting 10 rounds in half-PPR scoring. The contest has four rounds (the Wild Card Round, the Divisional Playoff, the Conference Championships, and lastly the Super Bowl). The scoring is half-PPR and your team consists of 1 QB, 1 RB, 2 WR/TE, 1 FLEX, and 5 Bench spots.
General Principles in Playoff Bestball
When you enter a playoff best-ball contest, get focused on two to three teams that will not interact with each other until the Divisional/Conference Final. We want to do this to ensure we will not have any dead players after the Wild Card Round (WCR) is completed. (Example: This year you do not want to stack Dolphins and Chiefs on the same team as they are currently playing each other during WCR)
Have a fluid plan coming into the draft where you can be flexible but still consolidate your focus on specific teams. (Example: Drafting CeeDee Lamb in the first round and taking Travis Kelce in the second round gives you a lot of options in the following rounds due to the Chiefs and Dallas having reasonable ADP prices)
Your one goal is to advance as many live players to the finals to field a full team of five with as many extra shots as you can in the Super Bowl.
Account for BYE Week Players
(Example: Lamar Jackson and Christian McCaffrey)
Baltimore Ravens (BYE)
Buffalo Bills vs. 7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kansas City Chiefs vs. 6. Miami Dolphins
Houston Texans vs. 5. Cleveland Browns
San Francisco 49ers (BYE)
Dallas Cowboys vs. 7. GreenBay Packers
Detroit Lions vs. 6. Los Angeles Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. 5. Philadelphia Eagles
We do not want to be game stacking these wild card matchups as it will drastically reduce your shot of winning the top prize. Think about it as having more bullets in the chamber for the Divisional Round, Conference Championship, and Finals. I’ve done a handful of Gauntlet Drafts and Mitten drafts where I see guys/gals stacking the Buccaneers and Eagles or the Chiefs and Dolphins.
I’ve been a very big fan of the single QB builds as it gives you more opportunities in the RB and WR/TE position group.
My teams generally look like some variation of the following:
QB: Jalen Hurts
The team has five Eagles players and five AFC pieces who cannot see each other until the AFC Conference Championship. This team is making a bet on Philadelphia making the Super Bowl and seeing either Kansas City or Cleveland.
Accounting for BYE week players example:
QB: Patrick Mahomes
The team has five Chiefs players and five NFC pieces who have a high probability of seeing each other in the Conference Finals. The team has three bye week players, so it only has six live pieces due to the injury of Jerick McKinnon (who should return in the Divisional Round). This team is essentially betting on Mahomes to have a big game to Rice, Watson, and MVS and Amon-Ra St. Brown and David Montgomery to carry the load for the Lions.
Joe Flacco, QB - Browns
My take is Joe Flacco ages like fine wine and the drafters don’t appreciate a good quality vintage. He is going either in the ninth or 10th round of playoff best-ball drafts with over 300 yards passing and averaging 2.75 touchdowns in his last four starts. Flacco arguably had his best game of the season against Houston and he draws them in the WCR.
Isiah Pacheco, RB - Chiefs
A goal-line back who runs angry every time he touches the ball in a Mahomes offense? Yes, please. In addition to the aforementioned, Pacheco gets a tantalizing matchup where the entire Miami Dolphins front seven is injured (except Christian Wilkins #beast). It just feels like an easy click in the fourth round.
Brandin Cooks, WR - Cowboys
Brandin Cooks is averaging six targets a game over the last four contests as the WR2 for the Dallas Cowboys. Due to his ADP and the nature of the Cowboys passing game, he's a great click to build out your Dallas stack and/or pick him for his high ceiling upside to get your bye week pieces into the next round. Don’t sleep on this veteran wide receiver.
Isaiah Likely, TE - -Ravens
Ever since Mark Andrews' injury he has dominated for the Baltimore Ravens and still has a suppressed ADP. I love snatching this guy away from other drafters as he and Zay Flowers are going to be the focal point of that offensive air attack. My thought is that people are concerned Mark Andrews will return, relegating him into oblivion (and the bye). Take the gamble and ride him into the Conference Finals.
Good luck and happy drafting!