Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 dark comedy, Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is a Cold War satire which emphasizes the theme of “mutually assured destruction.” Basically, the USSR and the USA each withheld use of nuclear bombs due to the knowledge that the other would retaliate with their own nukes. This situation would create nuclear armageddon and usher in the end of the world.
Having completed our film study, what does this have to do with fantasy football? Stay with me.
In this 2022 best ball draft season, a popular and sensible draft strategy has emerged, which many sharp drafters are adopting: Week 17 stacking and correlation. It checks out logically. In the championship, you need spike weeks from as many of your players as possible. By stacking and correlating teams projected for Week 17 shootouts, you gain an advantage over entries which have not. Therein lies the problem; this Week 17 stacking/correlation strategy is no secret. It is known to the masses, and is increasing in popularity as the summer rolls on.
A winning concept in daily fantasy sports is to fade the most popular players. In large-field tournaments, you don’t want to play too much chalk. The reasoning is simple: if everyone is playing the same players, then those similar lineups are not going to be unique enough to secure the top prize. Even if those chalky players explode for you, they explode for everybody else just the same. Differentiation is key, especially when that “surefire shootout” turns out to be a defense-dominated snooze-fest.
Some food for thought regarding the Mahomes era:
- The Chiefs have scored 4.4 fewer points at home than away.
- Chiefs opponents have averaged 5.7 fewer points as visitors.
- Chiefs at home vs Denver – the highly sought Week 17 correlation – averages only 37 total points. It’s true that Russell Wilson is a difference this year. His presence could start to change those averages, but the numbers don’t lie.
- This particular game suffers from being a “late-season divisional matchup.”
This brings us to the current state of affairs in the Underdog Best Ball Mania 3 tournament. I can only hear people talk about stacking and correlating the Week 17 Broncos – Chiefs, Cardinals – Falcons, and Bills – Bengals matchups so many times. Even “sneaky” stacking/correlations using the Vikings – Packers and Bears – Lions games are well known by now. So many BBM3 drafters are stacking the same players from the same games in the same week, that one might say they are welcoming the mutually assured destruction of their entries. This scenario is fantasy football armageddon, and it is playing out in real time.
It may be surprising to some, but having the best score in Week 17 is only part of the battle. Getting into that final round is paramount. Your entry could outscore all the others by a country mile in Week 17, but if you didn’t advance past weeks 15 and 16 first, what you score in Week 17 is a moot point. After emerging victorious over your 11 draft room opponents during the initial 14 weeks, your entry then needs to continue winning for 3 straight weeks to bring down the top prize. That is why it will be so important for you to consider how you can stack and correlate throughout the 3-week playoffs.
This is a perfect opportunity to pivot away from consensus; but not just by using the lesser-publicized Week 17 games. Galaxy-brain harder! Before the crowd catches on, become an “early adopter” of the next logical strategy: stacking and correlating Weeks 15 and 16, also.
There are plenty of solid opportunities to explore. Checking the Weeks 15-17 playoff schedule, the most efficient “team cluster” is also realistically attainable, considering ADP. Vikings – Giants – Colts. This cluster is the only team combination during the playoffs which sees one team play two opponents, who then play each other. The supplemental “one-off” games for each of these teams during the 3-week playoffs include the Packers, the Commanders, and the Chargers.
Player combos can be had in a variety of ways, so draft-slot is not a major factor when considering feasibility. At current ADP, a draft slot in the early first round usually gives you your choice of Jonathan Taylor or Justin Jefferson in the main cluster. A mid-first round draft slot allows you to take Austin Ekeler as a supplemental piece, or Dalvin Cook from the main cluster. If you are picking in the late first round, Cook has fallen there, but your best move, if he is gone, might be to pick a player on an explosive offense outside of these clusters, and/or at a position that could be considered weak within this cluster, like TE.
A good selection might be Kelce in the latter situation, or one of Diggs/Adams/Lamb in the former. As the second round winds back through, Saquon Barkley and Aaron Jones make their appearances. Then as you approach and progress through the rounds 2/3 turn, we see WRs from the Chargers in Williams and Allen, and Michael Pittman from the Colts. As the draft goes on (being attentive to ADP), mix in players from other potent offenses, complete secondary stacks, and ensure proper roster construction.
Getting any of the QBs from the main cluster shouldn’t prove to be too difficult, because the cost of Kirk Cousins, Daniel Jones, and/or Matt Ryan are all fairly reasonable. Cousins will be in a more pass happy offensive scheme this year under new offensive coordinator Wes Phillips. Daniel Jones can also celebrate the addition of a significantly more competent coaching staff. Matt Ryan may be playing behind the best offensive line he’s ever had, with teams focusing their primary defensive efforts on stopping the run game and generational talent Taylor.
Looking to the supplemental cluster, you could level up by taking Justin Herbert – especially if you are stacking him with any of the three aforementioned Chargers skill players. Or you could turn to reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers, whose wide receiver stacking options are uninspiring yet very affordable. Targeting the third supplemental cluster QB – Carson Wentz – is not without risk, but we can’t ignore him as an option. The Commanders’ WR room does not lack talent, with newly-extended McLaurin and 2022 first-rounder Jahan Dotson, and there are two excellent pass catching running backs on the roster for check downs and designed plays. Try not to miss on an elite TE, but if you do, the options in both the main cluster and the supplemental cluster are easy to procure considering ADP.
This exercise can work with other team clusters as well. Some intriguing options include clusters featuring elite teams like Buccaneers – Bengals – Cardinals (players from Bills, Broncos, and Panthers make for supplemental pieces), or sneaky, less-desirable clusters, like Bears – Eagles – Bills (supplemented by Lions – Dolphins – Cowboys). The possibilities go on.
When drafting your BBM3 entries, the goal is to be unique without illogically giving away too much ADP value. So be creative, but draft smart. Inevitably, when you are tempted to laser-focus your attention on drafting only correlated players from the popular Week 17 games, don’t succumb to tunnel vision. Of course, you can build your portfolio and get your desired exposures. Sure, itch that scratch by having a few entries with heavy Week 17 chalk – but don’t neglect stacks and correlations for weeks 15 and 16. Just remember that drafting the same player and team combinations as everyone else is akin to mutually assured destruction. I hope to see you in the final. Don’t bomb!