Underdog released the THUNday Knight Knockout contest with a $5 price point, 13,752 entries and $9k top prize. It is the same format as the Main Slate contest but with only 3 drafters instead of 6 (constant shift from 3 to 4). Although entries have increased, there is now a flatter playout structure reducing the top prize from $12k to $9k. For this week, we get the Eagles (-13.5) traveling to Houston to take on the Texans with a 45.5 o/u on Thursday Night and the Titans traveling to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs (-12.5) with a 46 o/u..
Reminder that you can also user our FREE Rankings for Underdog Fantasy Battle Royale “Showdown” tournaments to help aid in your drafts alongside this article. They are updated for every new slate each week (3x per week).
Let’s dig in.
Draft Strategy for Week 9 Thursday and Sunday Night Football Underdog Fantasy Battle Royale
The main takeaway from looking at this slate is to win you will need to correctly play the trade deadline rumors. There are concerns on Brandin Cooks playing on Thursday due to not being traded and we will need to figure out how Kadarious Toney throws a wrench on the already receiver carousel the Chiefs have. In terms of passing, the Eagles and Titans are condensed in teams of offensive output but the Texans and Chiefs are spread out. The Chiefs lead the NFL and the Eagles are 9th in PROE the last 4 weeks, meanwhile the Texans are 9th worst and the Titans are dead-last. The intriguing part about this is the teams throwing the ball are projected to win big and should cause the run-heavy teams to throw the ball more (unless somehow Arthur Smith is on the sidelines). This leads me to temper some expectations in terms of shootouts, unless the Eagles and Chiefs are getting consistent great starting field positions.
Underdog decided to throw a wrinkle in for drafters. It has been shuffling between 3 and 4 man drafts, for this slate we get 3-man drafts. At first glance, this should make it a bit easier to get different but you will be sacrificing points from a projection standpoint. This can get tricky as you need to navigate drafts without providing unique & optimal combinations to your opposition.
With the significant change to 3 person drafts, it personally makes me underrate the QB position. For this particular slate though, I don’t. Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes are two of the top 5 (at worst) QBs in the league (in terms of fantasy). Both provide significant ceilings and safe floors. Hurts is more safe due to his designed rushes and his role as a ball-carrier in the red-zone. Mahomes isn’t run-averse but is more likely to produce through the air and bring his pass catchers with him. Both are going in the 1st round (primarily the first two picks) for good reason. The only way I start to deprioritize the two of them is if Ryan Tannehill is downgraded to a DNP on Thursday. Malik Willis carries significant rushing-upside especially in a blow-out due to scrambling with collapsed pockets. Otherwise neither Tannehill or Davis Mills inspire much confidence. For them to crack the optimal, you need them to keep up with the Chiefs and Eagles, respectively, which doesn’t seem like a great bet. With the Cooks uncertainty and Nico Collins ruled out, Davis Mills will be throwing footballs to WRs who have a combined 14 receptions so far this year. The inspiration for Tannehill is the Chiefs are forcing their opponents to throw at league-highest rates.
I will continue to hound on the fact that the reduction to 3 drafters really limits the player pool in terms of roster percentage. This is truly important in terms of pass catchers. Ownership will naturally (and deservedly) condense around A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Robert Woods. Since there will be at least 6 WRs selected, this means due to the uncertainty, it will be easy (for once) to get different. On the Texans side, I would expect Chris Moore and Phillip Dorsett to be the primary beneficiaries of increased snap counts. For the Chiefs, we already touched on Toney. He is off the injury report and I expect Andy Reid to scheme up some touches since they had the bye week to get him up to speed. His addition hurts the value of Skyy Moore, Justin Watson and Mecole Hardman but all should continue to be rotated in. If one doesn’t, I would expect that to be Justin Watson. An interesting name for the Texans is Tyron Johnson. He has been previously used as a deep threat and can win some 50/50 balls. For a team void of playmakers, he could see an uptick in targets if/once the Texans get into a negative gamescript.
On the RB end, there are 3 very viable running backs.Derrick Henry, Dameon Pierce and Miles Sanders all come with 100+ yard and 2-TD upside. Henry and Pierce are the focal points of the offense, but it will be interesting to see if they ditch the run if they get down early. There are a lot of paths for them to fail at current ADPs. In terms of the Chiefs, one would expect Isaiah Pacheco to become the primary running back off the bye. He started week 7, yet only saw 30% of the snaps. Jerick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire were still involved (44% and 27% of snaps, respectively). Pacheco should be more of the primary runner and steal some of the passing work from McKinnon, if they trust him in pass blocking. He is my favorite bet of the three (and isn’t being drafted as frequently with CEH having the highest projection). Another interesting one is Dontrell Hilliard. He is a direct leverage off Henry and has been the main pass catching back for the Titans. Pierce has been getting the 2-minute and pass catching work over Rex Burkhead the last few weeks, if that continues, Pierce has less paths to failure.
The TE slate is OK if you manage to get one of Travis Kelce or Dallas Goedert. Otherwise you have the not-often utilized Austin Hooper and the Texans with OJ Howard, Brevin Jordan and Jordan Akins all playing around 40% of snaps. Goedert is the safe option with an average of 9 points a game. My preference is Kelce as the 1.03 behind the QBs due to his ability to break the slate. He is the top receiving option for the Chiefs and his upside is unmatched at a onesie position. I will try to avoid the Texan’s situation and will prioritize Hooper if I get locked out. He could see some increased volume as the underneath option over the middle in an expected negative game-script.
Top Plays for Underdog Fantasy Battle Royale Drafts
- Jalen Hurts – By far best QB on the slate
- Patrick Mahomes – Great floor/ceiling combo
- Travis Kelce – #1 receiving option for Mahomes
- AJ Brown – Scored in ⅚ games and has 3TD upside
- Dameon Pierce – Becoming a full 3-down back should be involved throughout
Players That Could Differentiate Your Lineup
- Tyron Johnson- Could be involved in 2WR sets with both Cooks and Collins out.
- OJ Howard – Receiving TE for a team that should be losing.
- Brevin Jordan – Another week removed from injury could see his playing time increased
- Kadarious Toney – Designed touches for a shiny new toy.
- Dontrell Hilliard – Pass-catching back for Titans.