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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article re-examining optimal roster construction strategy for Underdog best ball leagues — and specifically looking at data from Best Ball Mania II to see what worked in 2021.

Underdog was kind enough to release all BBM2 data to the public. On the one hand, that’s highly relevant information we can use to inform our drafts this summer. On the other hand, it’s an incredibly small sample size that could mislead us if we fail to analyze it within the context of individual player-level outcomes.

For example, teams that took their TE1 in the first three rounds last season made the playoffs just 14.5% of the time, well below the baseline rate of 16.7%. Does that mean taking an elite TE isn’t viable on Underdog? No — it just means Travis Kelce and Darren Waller (who only played 11 games) fell short of expectations. George Kittle had a slightly above-average Advance Rate (19.4%), but the shortcomings of Kelce (13.0%) and Waller (11.2%) were too much to overcome. Kyle Pitts, for reference, was only selected in the first three rounds in 0.5% of drafts. In this case, it doesn’t make sense to change our macro-level strategy because of two individual player seasons.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of accepting small-sample results as truth simply because it’s the only information available. With that being said, that doesn’t mean the data is useless; it just means we need a healthy dose of context when interpreting it.

Today, we’ll dig further into Underdog Best Ball Mania II results and discuss player-level outcomes at running back and wide receiver that may be confounding what look like macro-level roster construction ideas. We’ll also look at NFL seasons prior to 2021 and data from other best ball platforms to sort through what’s real and what’s not. Let’s get right into it.

 

2021 RESULTS

Before we start relating outcomes to individual player seasons, we’ll start by taking a broad view of different builds grouped by the number of total running backs they drafted, the number of early (defined as within the first two rounds) RBs they took, and how many backs they selected in Rounds 3-6 (the running back dead zone):

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