Fantasy football and sports betting are two variants of the same thing. Whether you’re drafting a player in the fifth round or debating the order of your confidence pool in Week 4, you’re making football decisions (bets) based on your knowledge base and process. My betting process is built on my knowledge of league-wide talent and my ability to make bets that consistently end in closing line value.
That’s why I’m max entering Underdog’s Best Ball Mania III this year. As of this writing, I’m 130 entries deep, which amounts to $3,250 in entry fees. I’ll finish off the last 20 entries between now and opening day. With another two and a half weeks left in this massive tournament, I wanted to discuss some of the players and situations I’ve bet on, as well as some of those that I’ve bet against.
High Exposures That I’m Still Buying
Trevor Lawrence: A year ago, Lawrence was not only the first overall pick, but one of the highest-regarded quarterback prospects in history. He struggled throughout his rookie year, while enduring one of the biggest coaching debacles in recent memory. This season, he’ll enjoy a significant coaching upgrade and an improved offensive roster. Progress isn’t guaranteed, but there is a very obvious path to significant improvement for Lawrence this season. I’ll bet on this type of situation in the 13th and 14th round whenever I can.
Khalil Herbert: David Montgomery is one of my fades this season. That stance starts with the Bears having one of the least reliable offensive lines in football. It’s followed up by Chicago entering a rebuild, where there are clear paths to the team struggling throughout the season. I tend to not pay premiums on running backs in situations like this one. I will, however, bet on their discounted backups. This is especially true when they are a player like Herbert with a reasonable path to an increased role.
Kadarius Toney: In Brian Daboll’s new Giants offense, Toney is the only player on the roster that has any chance of filling the Stefon Diggs role. Toney has out-of-this-world change of direction ability, and we already saw him command nine or more targets four times last season. That number would be greater if Toney didn’t suffer from minor injuries throughout his rookie campaign. Toney’s injury history and the Giants’ volatile quarterback situation represent the downside cases here. I could make that same downside case for Elijah Moore. The Jets wideout has more competition for targets and still goes a full round ahead of Toney on average. Toney is a home-run swing that I’ve been taking since the opening of this tournament. Right now, he’s my third highest exposure overall.
D.J. Chark: Late last season when the Lions offense was on the rise, there were a number of times where Jared Goff gave Josh Reynolds a deep shot. In those moments I found myself thinking “this offense needs a real field stretcher”. Enter Chark, who has some skillset parallels with Goff’s former Rams teammate Brandin Cooks.
Nico Collins: Houston’s Davis Mills led offense was trending up at the end of last season. That’s when Collins began consistently catching my eye. The 6-foot-4, second-year receiver is a natural skillset compliment to speedster Brandin Cooks. How a player fits within an offense is one of those details I value, and that’s what my enthusiasm on Collins is built on. Our Nic Bodiford did a very deep dive on why he thinks Collins is in position to take a leap this season. I was routinely taking Collins in the 17th and 18th round for months. I’m still comfortable taking him at his current ADP when it fits my roster construction needs.
David Njoku: I’m one of those guys that has loved Njoku since he was in college at Miami and his deployments in Cleveland have baffled me. Njoku flashed some of his dynamic talent at times last season, though his role remained maddeningly inconsistent. With the Browns having extended him and Austin Hooper now in Tennessee, there’s a finally clear path to role expansion for Njoku. Njoku should be fine with Jacoby Brissett, who has supported usable fantasy outputs for tight ends in the past. Then, once Watson returns later in the season, Njoku suddenly becomes a major upside option at the position. Give me dynamic athletes with a realistic path to role expansion in the later rounds all day.
A Few ADP Fades
Dak Prescott: This isn’t an anti-Dak stance. I’d just rather take Derek Carr or Kirk Cousins 2 or 3 rounds later. The Cowboys offensive roster has bled significant talent this season, while Carr and Cousins both find themselves in improved situations. I have stacked Dak a few times with CeeDee Lamb and/or Dalton Schultz, but I am more underweight on Dak at his current ADP than any other difference making quarterback.
Nick Chubb: Chubb is one of the best pure runners in the NFL, and he has a realistic path to leading the league in rushing. That said, he’s in a timeshare with another significant talent in Kareem Hunt. Chubb is in a similar situation to Dallas’s Ezekiel Elliott, who I can still get in the fourth round. Further, Elliott’s quarterback isn’t suspended through the first eleven games. If Watson was set to play the whole year my stance on Chubb would be different. In that scenario we could reasonably expect more scoring opportunities and less defensive attention on Chubb.
Ronald Jones: In 130 Best Ball Mania drafts, I have one share of Ronald Jones. I’ve been lower than consensus on Jones since my pre-draft evaluations when he was at USC. While he has improved in some ways, he’s a one-dimensional player that didn’t make it work with Tom Brady. “This guy underwhelmed in Tom Brady’s offense, but I still expect him to take a step forward in his new home” sounds like the foundation of a bad decision, doesn’t it?
Keenan Allen: Keenan is as steady as they get while being featured in one of the league’s most dangerous offenses. I’m not really looking for steady in large field tournaments; I’m looking for upside. There’s a very real chance that Mike Williams ends up as the top dog in the Chargers’ offense this season. I’ve taken Allen a few times to pair him with Cooper Kupp as a Week 17 game stack. Otherwise, I have Allen as a late third-round option on Underdog, which makes him an ADP fade for me.
Mark Andrews: In order to get even a little overweight on players taken in the first two rounds, you have to limit your exposure elsewhere. This year, I’m taking that stance on a tight end coming off a career year in which he earned increased volume in games played by backup quarterbacks. Having watched every snap of each of those contests, I don’t expect some of those play designs to exist with Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Speaking of Jackson, he’s never topped 3,200 yards passing in a season to this point in his career, and he’s only breached 3,000 yards once. I’ve loved Andrews since his college days at Oklahoma, but Jackson’s offense is going to have to radically shift for Andrews to match his production from last season. I’d rather take Kyle Pitts in the third or Darren Waller in the fourth if I want a premium tight end.
How I’ve Handled The Green Bay Packers
I’ve been buying discounted shares of the Packers offense since this contest opened. First, I took running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Allen Lazard in every early draft I could. Jones was routinely going in the early third round, Lazard in the 10th through 14th during this span. Once their ADPs corrected, I began taking my foot off that gas on both players. At the end of May Lazard was my highest exposure player and Jones my highest exposure running back. Right now they are both still third at their respective positions, driven by the early closing line value I got on both players.
I’ve been taking tight end Robert Tonyan on a consistent basis in the 15th plus round. I completely faded Tonyan last year as I expected major touchdown regression. This year his injury situation has driven his ADP low enough where I see him as a low-risk, high-reward option, especially right now. I’ve also been sprinkling in shares of wide receivers Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb, and Romeo Dobbs towards the end of drafts.
Since Dobbs’ ADP has skyrocketed this preseason, No. 34 overall pick Christian Watson’s ADP has freefallen. I took very little Watson when he was going in the ninth to tenth round. However, I am routinely buying the dip right now. I find Watson to be fascinating, the kind of receiver that I wish Aaron Rodgers got to play with five years ago. I’ve expected Watson to take time integrating into this offense even before his injury. That said, I still like his chances of becoming a factor late.
I’m slightly overweight on both Aaron Rodgers and A.J. Dillon. I’m actually a little surprised that I’m not more heavily exposed on Rodgers, which may be something I slightly modify in my final 20 drafts. Dillon is going right where he should as he’s a solid option as things stand now. However, he becomes a league winner if Aaron Jones misses significant time.
An Unconventional Week 17 Game Stack
Seahawks vs. Jets: A lot can change in the next four plus months, but this is a game that most will ignore that I see some specific potential in. First, the Jets selected cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner with the No. 4 overall pick in last year’s draft. Fast, rangy corners like Gardner are the sort that have given D.K. Metcalf trouble, dating back to his college days against LSU’s Greedy Williams. I’m not high on Tyler Lockett’s prospects over the full season, but I absolutely love his upside in this matchup.
On the Jets’ side, there are a number of ways to get to a bring back in this contest. First, Seattle’s style of defense often invites dump offs to running backs. I have paired Lockett with both Breece Hall and Michael Carter on purpose in this tournament. Seattle’s style of defense also allows for situations where a perimeter wide receiver ends up in one-on-one situations downfield. When Julio Jones was a Falcon I was massively overweight on him whenever he played the Seahawks for this reason. The Jets don’t have a defined alpha receiver like Atlanta did in Jones. Therefore, all three of Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson, and Corey Davis have appeal.