Stacking in Best Ball, particularly in the new and gigantic tournaments across the industry, has become pretty much standard practice. It’s especially important in those aforementioned tournaments, such as the Best Ball Mania II on Underdog Fantasy, because of the similar structure to a large field DFS tournament. This Best Ball Mania is essentially a Milly Maker structure, except that you have to beat small subsets of the entire 156k field in 4 different steps across weeks 1-17 of the NFL season as opposed to beating the entire field in one week.
Stacking is especially important in this particular format. It’s similar, but quite different to a DFS GPP. In a DFS GPP as large as this one, you really have to hit basically the optimal lineup to win. That may mean a stack depending upon the week, but there are many more variations of lineups that you have to beat when you’re competing against 150,000 or more entries for one given week. In this format, you do need weekly upside from your team (duh, you have to win your league + finish at the top of each playoff round), but you only have to beat a small group of people each step of the way. Having multiple stacks on your team can actually give you the appropriate ceiling, while also allowing you to have to get less things perfectly right in the playoffs in order to advance. You don’t need perfection at any step of the way throughout the playoffs, but you do need upside, and building your teams around 2-3 stacks sets up perfectly for the format.
As of this writing, I’m 20 drafts into my 150 I plan to do in the Best Ball Mania II tournament on Underdog. I wanted to get plenty of drafts in before writing this because I think that experience of drafting is extremely important to understanding both which stacks to target, but also how stacks come together in actual drafts. There’s a certain nuance to building your stacks in these drafts, and after these 20 drafts I’ve started to get comfortable with the stacks I believe are the best targets as of right now for Best Ball Mania.
New York Jets
I could think of nothing better than leading off with the team that most people likely want absolutely zero part of, but there is really a lot to love about the Jets as a stack this year. First, that nuance to drafting and stacking is really important here. Drafts are not just as simple as picking your two favorite teams and easily drafting those stacks. It’s extremely difficult to draft stacks of certain teams, and if you’re drafting for the most value in the first 8 or so rounds, it can often leave you without a super clear path to a stack on your team. That’s where an incredibly cheap stack like the Jets comes in handy.
Rookie RB Michael Carter is the first Jet off the board in drafts right now with an ADP of 92. I’m not sure you even need to worry about Carter in your stack, and that’s a big part of what makes it so appealing. Corey Davis is the first non-RB Jet off the board with a 116 ADP, followed up by rookie Elijah Moore at 142 ADP, Denzel Mims 146 and TE Chris Herndon with an ADP beyond pick 200. Finally, QB Zach Wilson is going as the 24th QB off the board (ADP 167).
The Jets are the only stack you can put together with all of their top receivers starting at round 10 or later. I intentionally left Jamison Crowder off because of the uncertainty around his role on the team, but he’s also available in the late rounds.
You’re probably thinking… “I get it, they’re cheap. But we don’t get points for them being cheap.”
There’s a ton to be excited about for this stack from an upside perspective, too.
While I personally preferred some of the other QB prospects in this draft, there’s no denying Zach Wilson has upside. We’ve heard and seen all the “arm talent” discussions, and he’s also a good athlete who can produce for us with his legs (10 rushing TDs last year at BYU). The Jets have quietly put together a solid offensive line (particularly on Wilson’s blind side), and these weapons should not be overlooked.
Corey Davis finally had his breakout year last year, and I’m not sure people understand how exceptional he was. He was the 8th graded WR on PFF, and he was 5th in the entire NFL in yards per route run behind just Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, AJ Brown and Julio Jones. Denzel Mims showed a lot of promise last year after being selected 59th overall in 2020, and Elijah Moore was un-coverable at Ole Miss before slipping out of the first round and falling into the Jets’ laps at number 34 overall this year.
They’ve piled a lot of resources into revamping this offense and pulling them from the depths of the trash heap they were in under Adam Gase. There’s truly a lot of talent here, and even the ever disappointing Chris Herndon faces no competition at TE. A regime change, a massive influx of talent and a defense that should still be horrible all set this stack up as maybe my favorite of all of draft season. I don’t know if it’s the stink from Adam Gase still on this franchise, but they have immense upside at their current cost, and I’m buying all day.
A natural transition from the Jets is clearly the team that acquired former Jets QB, Sam Darnold. The Panthers are not quite as cheap as the Jets, but they’re still extremely cheap given both the upside and floor combination they present.
First, we have to start with Darnold. I get if you’re skittish on him after his performance in New York. But I think that creates the perfect buying opportunity for us. Maybe he does just stink, but we know Darnold is not lacking talent, and he’s in the perfect situation to bounce back from the disastrous Jets situation. Joe Brady is one of the brightest young OCs in football, and Darnold steps into a loaded offense with Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, Robby Anderson and rookie Terrace Marshall. This offense vaulted a mediocre Teddy Bridgewater to a career year last year, even missing CMC for most of the season.
In best ball drafts, Darnold is outrageously cheap. He’s currently the 25th QB off the board with an ADP of 170. Obviously, if you want to include McCaffrey in the stack, you need to have the first overall pick, but I don’t think he’s necessary.
DJ Moore might be my favorite early round pick in best ball right now with an ADP of 42, and you can scoop him up in the 4th round. With Curtis Samuel leaving, I expect Moore to pick up an even bigger role in the offense (likely with even more time in the slot), and once the touchdowns start coming for Moore (he’s had just 4 each of the past 2 seasons), he’s going to destroy his current ADP. Moore was 13th in the NFL in yards per route run last season, but he can be had as the WR17 in these drafts.
Fellow alpha Carolina WR Robby Anderson is maybe the one WR rivaling Moore for my favorite pick in the draft. Anderson was the WR15 last year in fantasy, but he’s going as the WR32 in Underdog drafts, and all that happened between then and now was Curtis Samuel left and they possibly got a QB upgrade.
Maybe with a healthy CMC things will change, but this was a super condensed offense last season with Robby 8th in the NFL in total targets (and Moore 20th). Mike Davis stepped in and took pretty much the same CMC level volume, and I don’t see why the volume would drop off for these guys, which clearly makes them tremendously undervalued.
You’ve got a high floor, high upside and very condensed offense that is extremely affordable and easy to put together in your drafts. Pick up DJ Moore in the 4th, Robby in the 6th/7th and Darnold in the later rounds will let you enjoy watching Joe Brady light up defenses on Sundays. If you miss on one of the WRs, or you want to add on an additional weapon to the stack, rookie Terrace Marshall can be had in the later rounds as well. He was a favorite of the draft community, and there’s clearly upside if he can step into the full time role vacated by Samuel. Playing for Joe Brady at LSU certainly shouldn’t hurt his case either.
Another stack that maybe isn’t the sexiest, and it’s also clearly dependent upon getting AJ Brown in the 2nd round. But the Titans offer a ton of upside for very cheap (outside of Brown), and I think there are a lot of reasons to believe the passing offense could exceed expectations in 2021.
Derrick Henry will always be the focal point of this team, but even with the year Henry had last season, Ryan Tannehill finished as the QB7 in fantasy. Tannehill has more rushing upside than some might think with 11 rushing TDs over 26 starts the last 2 years, and he flashes major spiked weeks whenever they are not able to simply run the ball down their opponent’s throat with Henry.
In a year when the Titans were able to feed Derrick Henry 378 times for 2027 yards and 17 TDs, Tannehill still finished as the QB7. Meanwhile, Tanny is going off the board as QB16 on Underdog with an ADP of 124. Think about that. Even if the Titans are able to continue to defy the odds and force feed their run game, Tannehill can crush that ADP. But what happens if the Titans defense takes a step back, or their run game simply isn’t as effective? What if Derrick Henry gets hurt? What if new OC Todd Downing ups the pass volume just slightly?
There are many paths that can lead Tannehill near the top of QB scoring this year, and I think maybe the favorite is just that the defense isn’t as good. They had their issues last year giving up 30+ points 8 different times, and although they added Bud Dupree up front, they are going to be relying on Janoris Jenkins and rookie Caleb Farley at corner.
I definitely buried the lede with the Titans stack, however, because AJ Brown is set for an absolutely monster year in 2021. Brown was the WR11 last year despite playing just 13 games in a run heavy offense, and he was 3rd in the NFL behind just Davante Adams and Justin Jefferson in yards per route run. As mentioned above, his teammate Corey Davis was a monster in his own right, but he took a huge contract from the Jets in the offseason. Adam Humphries is gone, and Jonnu Smith also signed with the Patriots. AJ has shown that he’s among the most talented WRs in the league, and he has multiple paths to monster target totals, dare I even say league leading target total upside. We’ll get to these guys in just a bit, but his only target competition is Josh Reynolds, Anthony Firkser and rookie Dez Fitzpatrick.
AJB is the guy you have to get early to mid 2nd round in order to set this stack up, but after that it’s incredibly easy. You can certainly just opt for a single stack with Tannehill/Brown, but the loss of Davis, Humphries and Jonnu opens up a lot of opportunity for extremely cheap players. Josh Reynolds doesn’t jump off the screen at you, but he showed some flashes with the Rams, and he is falling all the way to the 13th round (pick 154) in Underdog drafts. I don’t know that Anthony Firkser is an every down tight end, but there isn’t much competition on the roster, and he’s currently the TE16. The stack even has a last round flier in rookie Dez Fitzpatrick who will have every opportunity to earn the job in 3 wide sets given the lack of WR depth.
Ultimately, the Titans stack has upside to destroy their ADP, including many monster spiked weeks, if just a few things go their way in 2021. And even if the status quo is maintained in Tennessee with King Henry Sunday meals, the floor of this stack is so high, as evidenced by the last couple years. It’s like the perfect investment… very little risk, massive upside.
As I always mention, this is far from an exhaustive list of stacks to target in this tournament. But given the format and payout structure of this Best Ball Mania contest, I don’t think it’s too helpful to be writing up stacks that most people are already super high on. We are trying to win $1 Million dollars after all, and some slightly more off the board stacks like the Jets, Panthers and Titans can be the types to give us a cleaner path to winning this thing.