Underdog Best Ball Draft Strategy for 2023 NFL Season
As we venture into the month of August, teams are finalizing their depth charts, and top training camp performers are influencing ADPs in Underdog's Best Ball formats.
While keeping a close eye on training camp updates and player projections is crucial before and during your draft, as a Best Ball player, it's equally important to grasp draft strategy, be aware of ADP risers and fallers, and ultimately follow the “Stack & Smush” strategy.
BUYING AND SELLING
This draft season, I am taking into account not only player production but also assessing the value of a team's offense. Additionally, the division a team competes in plays a pivotal role in the decision-making process when choosing between a few players.
Lastly, the coaching staff and the chemistry of an offense are crucial factors to consider when making decisions, particularly in the middle of your draft.
A well-coordinated offense led by an effective play caller can elevate a player's performance especially late in the season when you need “hidden” points as Coach Belichick would vocalize if he played fantasy sports.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (BUY)
Trevor Lawrence is going to finish as a top 10 QB this season. 2nd season in this much-improved regime. Four valuable playmakers in Travis Etienne, Evan Engram, Christian Kirk, and Calvin Ridley. The easiest division in the AFC.
By blending these positive factors together and adding some sweetener in the form of the third-year leap often observed in elite NFL quarterbacks, the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive numbers are poised to surge to the top of the pack this season.
In the first quarter of the season, facing the Colts, Chiefs, Texans, and Falcons, the Jaguars have an opportunity to capitalize on winnable games. Expectations are high for Jacksonville to either score three or more touchdowns per game or engage in shootouts against these opponents.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (BUY)
I’m buying Tua, Hill, and Waddle all season long. Is it because Tua will take a leap? Sure. Is it because Hill and Waddle are both elite playmakers in a division that will warrant a ton of points scored? I guess so.
Is it because Mike McDaniel is one of the top offensive minds we have seen in recent memory? Bingo. This team is destined to produce top-tier offensive numbers as long as an average QB is throwing the rock.
Tua's remarkable work ethic and downfield accuracy serve as the ideal fit for McDaniel as the ‘Fins look to take that next step into Super Bowl contention in 2023.
NEW YORK JETS (SELL)
Sure, the New York J-E-T-S are a much better team with Rodgers. Sure, the culture has completely shifted until the former MVP stepped into the building. However, the prevailing intuition that places this team at the top of their AFC rankings is one of the worst takes in football at the moment.
I’d rather buy stock in the Miami, LAC, Cincy, Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Kansas City offense before I even think about touching anyone on the Jets not named Garrett Wilson. Out of 31 eligible participants, Rodgers ranked 26th in QBR last season.
Sure, he wasn’t mentally locked in and who knows how he will feel mid-season when the team is 4-4 and Davante Adams is on the trade block in Vegas. I would steer clear of this team for the first half of the season, which essentially translates to the entire season when it comes to planning for you Underdog Best Ball draft.
DENVER BRONCOS (SELL)
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past couple weeks, you know that Denver has been full of off-season surprises on and off the playing field. Well, here’s my bold take for Denver’s 2023 season.
Utter garbage. Last season, Russell Wilson's QBR ranked 27th, which was below Rodgers' performance. Given Wilson's declining mobility compared to his earlier years with the Seahawks, it's unlikely that his QBR will see significant improvement this year.
Obviously, the previous regime was horrible, as Sean Payton alluded to in that “shocking” interview. However, unless you are a die-hard Broncos fan, you can’t continue to hold out hope for this current roster. The defense isn’t top-tier in the AFC.
The offense sports a sporting running back coming off a season-long injury, a washed Quarterback who the Seahawks essentially let go for Geno Smith, and only one above-average pass catcher in Jerry Jeudy. The Broncos have invested in Sean Payton, not Russell Wilson. That’s the issue with buying Denver this season.
STACK & SMUSH
Definition of a Stack: Two players that score points off one another for immense boom potential. Riskier because you are betting on dependent performances.
Examples of a Stack: Mahomes/Kelce, Burrow/Chase, Allen/Diggs, Herbert/Ekeler
Definition of a Smush: Two players who are in the same offense but are independent of the other’s production. This is a safer bet because you are betting on independent performances.
Examples of a Smush: Kelce/Rashee Rice, Tannehill/Henry, Chase/Higgins, Kirk/Etienne
Using the "stack or smush" strategies for offenses like the Jaguars, Dolphins, or Chargers can be advantageous in your Underdog Best Ball league. Trios I love this season include Lawrence/Kirk/Engram, Hurts/Smith/Brown, and Cousins/Jefferson/Addison.
While making sure you aren’t going “all in” on one team, it’s your duty as a Best Ball owner to buy into an offensive system and bank on them, producing the “hidden points” throughout the season.
Remember, smush has capped upside but an extremely high floor if banking on the correct offense. Stacks have enormous upside but potential risk if one piece of the offense falls apart.