The Best Ball & Fantasy Football Playoffs have become a massive discussion point with the rise of these multimillion dollar Best Ball tournaments… and rightfully so.
We have quickly learned how important the 3 playoff weeks, and in particular Week 17, are in the results of these tournaments. The problem is that we know so little about what those weeks will look like when we draft our Best Ball teams that it’s difficult to plan around them during the draft. Every year in the NFL is complete chaos, and we can’t necessarily draw too much from how one particularly year played out in terms of outlining the best strategies. However, I think there are some interesting angles we can take based on not just the results, but how our opponents are constructing their teams to find some unique ways to create leverage opportunities that present the exact kind of tournament winning upside if they hit.
Even better, they aren’t going to sacrifice any amount of expected advance rate to the playoffs.
The very first example of this I wanted to dig into actually occurred in the 2021 season.
We all know that stacking a QB with his top WRs is super valuable. It has been outlined repeatedly across the industry. There are benefits to both the regular season, and probably more importantly those playoff weeks. The weekly upside is immense, and the correlation between the QB and his WRs creates correlated upside as well as allowing you to get less things right across your Best Ball team. It’s basically a 7 leg parlay as opposed to an 8 leg parlay.
However, I have always found myself not wanting to overspend on the total stack for an offense. If you draft a team’s WR1 in the first or second round, do you really want to spend another top 5 round pick on the WR2 to build out that double stack? Double stacks are a great strategy, but if I’m looking for my top picks to have ceiling weeks in the playoffs (or even ceiling seasons), how could it make sense to spend so much of your draft capital on that offense? It’s inherently unlikely that both WRs will pay off their draft price in a particular week, no matter how great the offense is. And in the playoffs, we are really liking for Spike Weeks or Nuclear Weeks, especially from those top picks. I love the Bengals, but I don’t think both Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are scoring 40 fantasy points in the same game.
So when you combine that with a general belief that the market is not shying away from these stacks (remember how many times people doubled tapped Keenan Allen and Mike Williams at the 2/3 turn last year on Underdog?), it feels like a stay away. But I wanted to look a bit more into how it could work, and in doing so the potential leverage in this just smacked me right in the face.
And funny enough, it actually was with the Bengals… a Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins double stack in 2021.
His QB, Joe Burrow, was also the highest scoring QB of Week 17 with 34.8 points, outscoring the QB2 on the week by 7 points. A big edge.
Tee Higgins only scored 7.7 points… a non-factor for your Best Ball teams that didn’t live up to his draft cost in terms of winning you Week 17.
So, that seems straightforward. A Burrow-Chase stack wins it all, and we know that QB1/WR1 stack is a strong strategy. Plus, it reaffirms my above natural thoughts on avoiding overspending on an offense.
However, this is where things get interesting…
We know that Week 17 is insanely valuable, but there are tons of nuances. We do still need to get our teams to Week 17, plus we ideally want to create leverage in those rounds. It’s *nearly* impossible to be able to build in those leverage opportunities as we draft, particularly without sacrificing our team’s advance rate. The best leverage is a low owned, high upside player in the finals, but it’s not really something you can plan for… or is it?
While Tee Higgins busted in the finals, he was THE difference maker in Week 16. He was the WR1 overall in that week with 37.4 fantasy points, outscoring the WR2 by a massive 9 points. Clearly he was monstrous in getting to the final, and that was reflected in his ownership in that Week 17 final.
We often say things like “I just want to advance as many teams as possible” or “I just want to get a team to the finals”, and those are both undoubtedly true. Of course we want both those things, but we should be striving to have our cake and eat it too.
How do we find a way to draft teams that don’t sacrifice advance rate, and when they get to the finals they naturally create leverage opportunities?
Let’s take a look at some of the Best Ball Mania 2 data for this example because it really paints the picture for how we might be able to answer that question with these elite double stacks.
Individual Advance Rates
- Joe Burrow – 15.9%
- Ja’Marr Chase – 22.5%
- Tee Higgins – 14.5%
If we look at just each player individually, they are about right on expectation for advance rate. With 2 out of 12 teams advancing in each league, ~ 17% would be our average advance rate, so Burrow and Tee are very close to that number, and Chase was a bit more of a positive advance rate player. So at this glance, it just seems like more reason to have stacked Burrow + Chase.
Finals (Week 17) Advance Rates
- Joe Burrow – 16%
- Ja’Marr Chase – 6%
- Tee Higgins – 24.5%
In terms of the individual rates of each player advancing to the finals, we predictably saw Joe Burrow come in as one of the higher owned QBs. Tee Higgins was the 8th highest owned player in the entire final and 4th highest owned WR. But despite having the highest playoff advance rate of the 3, Chase came in at just 6% owned in the Week 17 final.
Single + Double Stack Data
- Burrow + Chase Draft Rate – 3,504 / 155,376 – 2.3%
- Burrow + Tee Draft Rate – 3,006 / 155,376 – 2%
- Burrow + Chase + Tee Draft Rate – 1,054 / 155,376 – 0.7%
- Burrow + Chase + Tee Advance Rate – 124 / 1,054 – 12%
- Burrow + Chase Finals Rate – 2 / 160 – 1.3%
- Burrow + Tee Finals Rate – 8 / 160 – 5%
- Burrow + Chase + Tee Finals Rate – 1 / 160 – 0.6%
Here’s where things get (even more) interesting.
The stacks of Burrow with just one of his top 2 WRs were both drafted ~ 3x the amount of times as the double stack with all 3 players. Given the cost of the double stack, a logical concern is a potential hit in advance rate. So while the advance rate of the double stack was slightly below expectation at 12%, it’s close enough to the average of 16.7% that you’re not sacrificing much advance rate expectancy (if any) given the natural variance of singling out just 3 players from such a small cohort of teams.
Most importantly, however, is that the Week 17 Finals leverage jumps off the page. We know that drafting the double stack had largely no impact to your expected advance rate, and we know that Burrow + Tee were HUGE for getting you to Week 17. But once we get to Week 17, we would ideally have the Burrow + Chase stack due to the leverage that it provided. Only 2 teams out of 160 squads had Burrow + Chase, and just a singular team had the double stack.
The easiest way, by far, to get the single greatest leverage opportunity available in the final was through this double stack. Despite the fact that Ja’Marr Chase had a 22.5% advance rate, and Burrow + Chase was drafted 3,504 times (the most of these Bengals stacks), it was nearly extremely difficult to get Chase into the final round. It was even more difficult to get Burrow + Chase (which clearly ended up being the optimal week 17 stack).
Simply by drafting this double stack, you set yourself up with the easiest path to getting the perfect combination of navigating your way through the playoff rounds, as well as having the optimal leverage for the Week 17 final. Of course, the perfect scenario played out for this to work so flawlessly in BBM2. Will that happen again anytime soon? Who knows. But what we are looking for in these large field tournaments is scenarios similar to this where we can build strong teams that do not sacrifice much (if any) advance rate, while also building in some potential natural leverage opportunities.
We know having low owned players and stacks is a game changer in the Week 17 final, it’s just impossible to project who will be high owned or low owned in the final during the draft cycle. But we can think about building in leverage opportunities, like these elite double stacks, into our roster construction. Building teams that lend themselves to these type of situations allow us to give ourselves more chances for leverage than our opponents, and in this example it was even the best way to navigate through the brutal 3 week playoff gauntlet on Underdog.
Because we can’t predict who will provide leverage and who won’t in Week 17, we often just revert to the idea that we should just try to advance as many teams as possible and let the chips fall where they may. However, there’s more we can do than that. We can dig deep to find situations where we wouldn’t sacrifice our ability to advance as many teams as possible, while setting ourselves up with a more advantageous position to potential take down these massive Best Ball tournaments like the upcoming Best Ball Mania 4. And this example with elite double stacks is one way we might be able to do so.