Editor’s Note: Justin Herzig has been grinding the Best Ball lobbies since the format took off. His best ball results include winning Underdog’s inaugural Best Ball Mania in 2020 and finishing 4th in the DraftKings Millionaire in 2021. In 2023, he finished 22nd in Best Ball Mania and 2nd in the DraftKings $555. In this article, Justin breaks down the process behind his best teams from this season.
Best Ball Mania IV
I drafted this team (see draft board below) on July 20 from the 11 spot. I started a lot of my drafts from this slot with a WR-WR start, and after grabbing CeeDee Lamb in the first round, I grabbed the best player available, Amon-Ra St. Brown, who also happened to give me Week 17 game-stack correlation. With my next two picks, I grabbed two RBs that both provide substantial individual game performance and would also be most likely to be peaking during the fantasy playoffs. We expected Breece Hall to start slow coming off the injury, and history has shown us rookie RBs ramp up as the season progresses. It didn’t hurt to also have Jahmyr Gibbs fit into the Week 17 game stack and align to an overall bet on the Lions having a strong offense.
At this point in the draft, I have two RBs I really like, but ones that are likely to take time to shine. Thus, I expected this to be a draft where I grab another 4-5 RBs that can help carry the load until Hall and Gibbs break out. With six RBs, and not having an elite QB or TE at this point, I assumed I would only be able to draft seven WRs and need to hammer those while I could. I grabbed Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, which filled my position of need and set me up for an additional team stack in the Bucs. In Round 7, I grabbed another WR to give me a solid core of five WRs in the first seven rounds, before further leaning into the Tampa Bay stack with Rachaad White.
Based off my next pick being 107 and that being near Dak’s ADP, and that my only competition for Dak at this point are the Pollard and Cooks owners who already had QBs, it was likely Dak would fall to me, so no need to reach. And if he didn’t, I could always still grab Goff, Baker, and a third QB. Dak did fall to me in the ninth round and I followed that up with David Njoku in the 10th, as it was a position of need and gave me a Week 17 mini-stack with Breece Hall. In the 11th round, I further leaned into my Cowboys stack with Michael Gallup and grabbed a RB that was expected to play a role early in the year, which was important given my RBs so far. In the 13th round at pick 155, I was shocked to see Jared Goff fall to me. I am usually not a fan of drafting two QBs from the same Week 17 game, as it limits my exposure to shootout games and two QBs from the same game already often correlate. However, ADP value far surpassed the Week 17 small hit and I happily drafted Goff as my second QB, not even taking a chance the 12 spot on the turn could take him despite already having two QBs.
I followed that with another RB I expected to be on the field early and in a situation where RB roles had a level of ambiguity. I was now down to four picks remaining and knew I would need to take two more TEs, and likely another RB and WR. Juwan Johnson was getting buzz, was a position of need, and a bring-back to my heavy Buccaneers offense investment, and Isaiah Hodgins was best WR available. I then finished the draft with my third TE, Hayden Hurst, of which I’ve learned from this mistake and am calling this the Dawson Knox principle (more on this coming during the summer). And with my final pick, I considered Baker Mayfield because of my heavy investment in Tampa, but I felt it was more important to get a third RB and CEH was a guy I liked because of draft capital, competition, and just being an active RB on the Chiefs.
This team put up 170+ points in both of the playoff weeks and put up a strong performance in Week 17 with my game stacks going off:
David Njoku + Breece Hall
Chris Godwin + Juwan Johnson
DAL-DET game stack
This draft is a good example of using the ideas within the Best Ball Pyramid to help with each pick. It includes solid roster construction (2-6-7-3), multiple team stacks (DAL, DET, and TB w/o QB), ADP value (Jared Goff great value), my player takes (young RBs likely to peak during playoffs), balanced positional capital, and strong Week 17 correlation.
It was a fun sweat and had a few chances to crack the top 10, but no complaints with a 22nd-place finish out of 667K entrants!
$555 DraftKings Millionaire
While I was quite excited to get another team in the BBMIV Finals, I think my most impressive result was getting three teams through to the $555 Finals. Having more than 10% of a 29-person final, and all three teams, in my opinion, live, I liked my chances to make a run at the million-dollar top prize. Unfortunately, my run ended just short as, despite Jayden Reed only needing one more 20-yard catch or two catches for 11 yards, he did not return for the second half due to injury and my team finished in second place for $150K.
If you have read my DraftKings Best Ball Strategy article, my very first sentence states, “We must adjust our strategy to the rules and scoring.” And I think this is often overlooked for people playing DraftKings when most analysis and content is centered on Underdog structure. I won’t regurgitate everything from that article, but I suggest reviewing it and you’ll see a lot of the themes present in this lineup, particularly about RBs. Consider the below excerpt as you review this team.
And zero RB is exactly what I built with this team. While we cannot see the draft board, I’ll try to recreate my picks to the best of my memory, but it’s possible I’m a round off on a couple of guys. Similar to the Best Ball Mania IV team, I likely had an end-of-round slot, either 11th or 12th. I’ll break down each of my two picks at the turn.
1. CeeDee Lamb
2. Amon-Ra St. Brown
If WR-WR was a common start for me on Underdog, it was almost an abnormality if I didn’t start WR-WR at the back half of DK drafts. The upside for elite WRs with DK scoring is hard to even match by elite RBs — while far more likely to hit their ceiling seasons. Give me the two guys who are the focus of their offense and have Week 17 correlation.
3. Lamar Jackson
4. Amari Cooper
I am often waiting on QB on DraftKings, but Lamar as a late third-round pick, when elite guys were often going in the second round, was too good of a value to pass up. It was also a nice structural edge that you could draft Lamar and easily stack him with Zay Flowers and/or Rashod Bateman based off how their ADPs fell. Amari Cooper was probably the best WR available and follows my desire to draft WRs that are expected to be the focal point of their passing game, with macro offensive upside.
5. Chris Godwin
6. Miles Sanders
You can’t have too many high-upside WRs on DraftKings. I fully expect to start four of them every week, and grabbing Chris Godwin further strengthened the most important position. Miles Sanders did not work out, but I was comfortable grabbing my first RB after already having an elite QB and four WRs.
7. Zay Flowers
8. James Conner
I almost always took either Zay Flowers or Rashod Bateman at this spot after starting with Lamar Jackson. I slightly preferred Flowers on DraftKings given his expected usage as a higher-volume, lower-aDOT WR. James Conner was a solid value at this spot, and on a team I’m expecting to take 6+ RBs, I needed someone I could count on getting substantial volume early in the season.
9. Zach Charbonnet
10. Dalvin Cook
Zach Charbonnet was a guy I thought was a perfect fit for this build. He’s a pass-catching RB that could be a league-winner with an injury to Kenneth Walker. And when I go zero RB, I like to mix in RBs with substantial upside along with guys who can help early while I’m waiting for breakouts. Dalvin Cook is a guy I only had on 3% of DraftKings teams, but I probably was looking for early-season production and talked myself into him as a bring-back to Amari Cooper in Week 17.
11. Jamaal Williams
12. Michael Gallup
After ignoring RB for the first five rounds, I had now hammered it in five of the last six picks, hoping to create a balanced rotation of guys that could help early (like Jamaal Williams while Kamara is suspended, or Dalvin Cook while Breece Hall is recovering) with RBs that could break out at any time. Jamaal also provided a mini-stack correlation with Chris Godwin for Week 17. I had the luxury to miss on some of these picks because if this team was to thrive, it would be heavily carried by the elite WRs and QB. Michael Gallup gave me another piece of the DAL passing game and DAL-DET Week 17 game.
13. Sam LaPorta
14. Jayden Reed
Similar to Gallup, Sam LaPorta further strengthened my DET stack and that Week 17 game while also filling a major position of need. While I am highly unlikely to draft four TEs in 18-round structures, I am perfectly content doing it on 20-round teams. And when I do it, I like to look for upside, specifically in TEs that are most likely to thrive in the fantasy playoffs. Jayden Reed was also a strong target of mine all offseason, as I expected him to beat out Romeo Doubs for the No. 2 WR position. He also highlights a strategy of mine that when I get elite WRs early, I care more about finding upside with my other WRs than safety that most likely won’t even count for my team.
15. C.J. Stroud
16. Juwan Johnson
I can’t tell you exactly why I drafted C.J. Stroud on this team. Perhaps QBs were running thin at this point, or maybe I thought I’d stack him with a late WR, but with taking Lamar early, I probably just grabbed him as one of the last QBs available. Juwan Johnson was a similar pick to my Underdog draft — strong buzz in camp, position of need, and part of the NO-TB Week 17 game stack.
17. Noah Fant
18. Leonard Fournette
19. Clyde-Edwards Helaire
20. Logan Thomas
I’ll bucket the final four picks together, as these were dart throws at positions of need. Two TEs brought me up to four for the team. Two more RBs brought me to seven. Those were clearly my weakest positions, so it made sense to overload them with volume to try and hit on some strong pieces. I’m sure I’ll have nightmares continuing to think about what might have been if CEH was the starting RB instead of Isiah Pacheco in that final week.
Overall, I think the No. 1 thing this team should highlight is the ability to build very strong zero-RB teams, especially on DraftKings. On a team that I, for the most part, didn’t hit on a single RB, it still advanced to the finals and almost took it down. Alvin Kamara, Kenneth Walker, and Isiah Pacheco were all questionable going into the week. Had one of them missed, this team may have just had enough firepower to get there.
$2,000 DraftKings Luxury Box
Before jumping into the team, I think it’s important to discuss the structure of this tournament. The regular season is like any other where the top two teams advance to the playoffs. But once in the playoffs, Week 15 has 3/6 teams advance, Week 16 has 3/6 teams advance, and then the finals feature only three teams with payouts of $15,000, $25,000, and $50,000. Because of this, I shifted my strategy slightly from most other tournaments. First, I threw Week 17 correlation completely out the window. That’s important when we need to beat a ton of teams in the finals, not just two. Second, once in the playoffs, you don’t need a ceiling performance to advance each week. While I usually lean toward players that are most likely to spike in the playoffs, for this contest, it was actually more difficult to advance out of your regular-season draft room (17% chance of happening) versus getting to the finals once in the playoffs (25% chance of happening).
I’ll go through my draft similarly to the above, picking from the 12 spot.
1. CeeDee Lamb
2. Bijan Robinson
It is not often Bijan would fall to the 1/2 turn, and when you combine that with his expected passing-game role, I chose him over a second elite WR to pair with CeeDee Lamb. And without Week 17 correlation mattering, I wasn’t tempted to take Amon-Ra instead.
3. Brandon Aiyuk
4. Amari Cooper
After not going WR-WR to start, I double-tapped two elite WRs at the 3/4 turn in Aiyuk and Cooper. Cooper is more of the focal point of the passing offense archetype with Aiyuk bringing spike weeks given the 49ers’ explosive offense.
5. Diontae Johnson
6. Jerry Jeudy
Noticing a trend with my early picks on DraftKings? You can never have too many early WRs, as I drafted five in my first six picks. Diontae has always been a great PPR play given his ability to earn targets, and I expected a sophomore jump from Kenny Pickett this year (oops!). I didn’t have strong feelings on Jeudy one way or the other, but he was the best WR available in a portion of the draft I believed to be a dead zone at other positions.
7. D’Andre Swift
8. Deshaun Watson
D’Andre Swift was a guy who, for most the summer, I was fading. There were too many unknowns with Swift and the other RBs for a backfield that was going to be losing goal-line touches to Jalen Hurts all year. However, in mid to late August, it became more clear that Rashaad Penny would not be a factor at the same time Swift’s early ADP started dropping and becoming more tolerable. This felt like a good time to increase my exposure and grab my RB2 for the team. And Deshaun Watson was an easy pick to stack with Amari Cooper. There was no need to be as concerned about a Week 17 Thursday game in the cold versus the Jets when the finals would only feature three total teams.
9. Daniel Jones
10. David Njoku
Daniel Jones was one of my most-drafted QBs this year and a solid complement to Deshaun Watson when considering ADP investment for the position. And David Njoku furthered the Browns stack. When drafting someone like Watson, where his ADP is depressed due to the higher likelihood of floor outcomes, when stacking these teams, I like to go all-in. Because when we’re right, not only do we have the Watson upside we had seen in previous years, but we’re getting his pieces at the depressed ADP prices. And when it’s wrong, who cares if we would have finished third instead of 12th?
11. De’Von Achane
12. Elijah Mitchell
Achane and Mitchell were two of my highest-drafted RBs this summer. Both were in offenses we expected to be very strong, but what their roles would be was unclear. Achane was undersized and had to compete against Mostert and Wilson. Mitchell would never surpass a healthy CMC, but with one injury, he could be a league-winner. I liked the upside scenarios for both and felt their prices more than accounted for the downside years where no ceiling pans out.
13. Gerald Everett
14. Donovan Peoples-Jones
At this point in the draft, I have 2 QBs, 4 RBs, 5 WRs, and 1 TE. If only 18 rounds, I’d probably have stayed with just two QBs. But on DraftKings, without an elite QB, I almost always would draft three. With only Njoku, I knew this would either be a 3- or 4-TE build, but if I went TE now, I could probably limit it to just three. And then the rest of the spots would be at RB and WR. It made sense to then grab Gerald Everett, a TE in an explosive offense, which is a great indicator for TEs breaking out. This move gave me flexibility to make this a 3-TE lineup. And Donovan Peoples-Jones furthered my investment in the Browns’ passing offense.
15. Kendre Miller
16. Jerome Ford
With six picks left in the draft, I’m looking to take 1 QB, 1 TE, and 4 RBs/WRs. I could either grab one RB now and another later, making this a 3-7-7-3 build, and wouldn’t have hated it given I invested so heavily in WRs in the first six rounds. But I had two RBs I liked to give me enough confidence to stop at six RBs and get up to eight WRs. Kendre Miller had a similar risk-reward scenario to De’Von Achane but on a worse offense. Kamara would have an early suspension and I didn’t have faith in Jamaal Williams repeating his Detroit magic, so it gave me hope Kendre could find a major role in that offense. And after a hot start to camp for Jerome Ford and his ADP rising, a preseason injury turned Ford back into a value and a guy I loved taking when betting on Cleveland’s offense.
17. Darius Slayton
18. Puka Nacua
19. Isaiah Likely
20. Baker Mayfield
My final four picks rounded out my WR corps with very different profiles. Darius Slayton was a stack partner with Daniel Jones that had potential to be the No. 1 WR in that offense. And Puka Nacua was a complete unknown but had substantial upside after the Cooper Kupp injury seemed to be worse than initially believed. Isaiah Likely was my fifth-most-drafted TE on DK at 16%, as I believed it was crazy to be able to get a player in the final rounds with weekly top-five positional value given one injury. And it wasn’t wishcasting, but something we’d actually seen the year before. I pay for similar upside at the RB position in Elijah Mitchell in the 12th round; why not for the TE position in the final rounds? And while Baker was Mr. Irrelevant for this team, he amazingly ended up being the player who carried my team as the only healthy QB for the second half of the season.
I only had one bullet in this tournament, and it was great to run well and have that Baker pick make all the difference, even in just making it to the playoffs. You gotta have some run good to win a best ball tourney!
$50,000 Best Ball Side Bet with Dan Zack
For those not familiar with this side bet, I’ll start by providing a little backstory. Over the past couple of years, as the poker industry has seen a boom, we have seen a great deal of excitement around Heads-Up bets between many of the industry’s top pros. They were exciting to follow, great for the game, and a fun way for pros to get more skin down in spots they felt they had an advantage. It gave me the idea of how cool it would be to do something similar for best ball.
I put out a tweet explaining such and seeing if anyone would be interested. It led to a fun discussion and a couple of people reaching out expressing interest in participating, including Dan Zack, 2022 World Series Poker Player of the Year. Dan Zack is one of the top poker players in the world and without a doubt one of the sharpest guys out there. He’s gotten deep into the best ball streets the last couple of years and had success using similar tools to the poker world, such as running simulations. I felt confident in my ability but believed he’d be a strong competitor. We eventually came to terms on a bet for the BBMIV contest with the goal to structure it in a way that rewards success in the tournament without altering how we’d be optimally drafting for the tournament. Here were the terms.
The final results of the bet are as follows:
Dan Zack’s regular-season advance rate: 18.0%
My regular-season advance rate: 26.2%
Dan Zack’s average ROI per team: $5.90
My average ROI per team: $155.86
Total results – I won $47,556 of the $50,000 bet.
I also had a few other side bets with the same structure and was fortunate to win at similar percentages.
I appreciate all of the support everyone has provided throughout the year and it’s been a blast seeing all the success for the ETR community. I have a great deal of lessons learned this year I’ll be sharing and am looking forward to diving further into the data this summer. You can find all of my content, analysis, learnings, etc. on my Twitter (@JustinHerzig).