Manipulating Values on the Gauntlet for Underdog Fantasy

by Chase Vernon, January 12, 2022

The 2021 regular season is over, which means absolutely nothing to those of us who obsess over fantasy football. I kept seeing tweets reading “Week 18 sucks for fantasy” and “It’s stupid to have your fantasy championship in Week 18.” While I agree with the latter, I loved the final week of the regular season and capitalized on the irregularities. However, the season isn’t finished, and a big reason is the Gauntlet from Underdog Fantasy. 

Now, the Gauntlet is typically out of my price range. I like playing rolling out tons of five-dollar contests, maximizing my exposure in tournaments while trying to hit big. The Mitten and Mitten 2 were both contests I was trying to achieve max entries. However, at $25 on Underdog, the Gauntlet seems a bit daunting. 

The Concept Supporting Values for the Gauntlet on Underdog

In my third draft, something hit me as I saw both Dak Prescott and Matthew Stafford fall further and further down the board. I had a plan though. Already having drafted two quarterbacks, I loved my team. I couldn’t throw away a chance to win the big money just to win a week or two. It shocked me as they both went undrafted.

Underdog Gauntlet

Dak Prescott and Matthew Stafford both made it to the end of the Underdog Gauntlet undrafted

Against my better judgment, I entered into a fourth contest. I still came in with a plan but I was watching falling ADPs—particularly those who fell a round or two. Odell Beckham and Clyde Edwards-Helaire both took significant dips. I realized quickly, unlike the Mitten, people playing in the Gauntlet were far more stubborn. They came in with a game plan and stuck to it just like I was doing. I didn’t have any Rams, nor Chiefs; I had no chance to build successful stacks. At the tail end of my draft, I got sniped on my quarterback Ryan Tannehill, leaving me with only one quarterback on a weak Cincy stack which had neither Ja’Marr Chase nor Tee Higgins

It took me a minute but I started to think, what if you could find a way to submit a significant amount of entries without bleeding out all your profits from the season? What if you could just focus on values after the first three to four rounds? If I could pay for my lineups focused on stacks by playing entries concentrated on beating the first round, it could balance out my cost, similar to playing cash games in DFS. 

 

Now, if you’re playing three Gauntlet entries on Underdog, this isn’t the piece for you. However, if you have patience and dedicate a substantial number of lineups to winning the wild card while others focus on the future, the worst outcome could be breaking even.

The Professional Advice for the Gauntlet on Underdog

I’ve taken strategic advancements toward almost every one of my entries in the Mitten and the Mitten 2. Stacking and working around the field has been challenging yet required to hit big. If you haven’t checked out Solving the Gauntlet by Jakob Sanderson, it’s a must-read when you’re finished here.

However, I’m not here to preach any strategy; I’m here to do the opposite. 

When the seasonal best ball started, I was a big advocate on taking values and allowing the players who fell to differentiate my lineups. These paid off big with players such as Deebo Samuel and Chris Godwin. Using the same Underdog seasonal method can also be helpful for the Gauntlet.

You can’t differentiate your team but so much. 

The Issues Behind the Strategies Currently Proposed for the Gauntlet on Underdog

Taking three quarterbacks in the Gauntlet for Underdog is somewhat counterproductive. Only one quarterback can start each week, and when it boils down to the final two weeks where you could win significant money. Most experts have discovered that selecting multiple players from four different teams versus three can significantly increase your opportunity to find success in the Conference Championship and Super Bowl.

 

The issue becomes making it to those last two rounds. The likelihood of doing so is about six-percent. Not great when you consider you’d have to lay down $3,750 to max out the contest—at least not great for the peasants like me. 

The most noteworthy factor is the difference between the Gauntlet and the Mitten. Only one of the six teams advance in each round of the Gauntlet versus two of the six in the Mitten. So if you draft three players from a team on bye in the Wild Card, five of your seven remaining players have to slap. 

Once again, another major issue occurs. Five of those players who have a bye are going in the first four rounds. By going with No. 1 seated builds, you have to hope to land top producers on other teams with at least one other quarterback stack. 

At this point, I’m just rolling out strategies and thought processes written by people who are much more intelligent than I. So I propose throwing every last plan out the window and incorporating what I did to start the year in best ball: Draft best player available. 

Crazy right? 

No correlation; no reaching for stacks. My only two rules are to make sure they play in the first round and get at least one quarterback. Once again, I want to remind you to get off the mentality of winning tournaments and think more towards just winning one week. Why? 

 

If you make it past the first round, you double your deposit. Sure, half your players might be eliminated because you had players pinned against each other, or your shares were spread across so many other teams. However, it doesn’t matter because you profited a minimum of $25. Each win pays for a correlated entry which has a chance at a bigger prize. Why is this more effective than a correlated entry?

The Numbers to Support Targeting a First-Round Victory 

If you stacked multiple receivers with any quarterback from the NFC for 2020, you likely lost in the first round. Also included from the AFC were Philip Rivers, Ryan Tannehill, and Baker Mayfield.

Two of the top five quarterbacks for the 2020 Wild Card weekend lost. Of the top five running backs, only one correlated with a quarterbacks success. Of the top receivers, only one went on to play in the divisional round. Three others came from the Steelers, with James Conner finishing as the RB4. Since the Steelers lost, the team who would have stacked them heavy had almost no chance at winning the tournament. 

The stack of the Steelers would have worked for the point I’m trying to make, but the chance all five players were drafted to one team is slim. Over the past five seasons, finding correlations of three or more players from the same team who can produce at a top tier in the wild card round prior to 2020 is slightly above eight percent.

Instead of focusing on stacks and correlations, look for values from those who can get you past the first round and into the green.

Treat these drafts as auctions rather than DFS entries. The immediate ROI is significantly more crucial than the future opportunity of a stack.  

 

Players like Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Odell Beckhams, and Elijah Mitchell can be the 2021 version of Ben Roethlisberger, Chase Claypool, Marquise Brown, and Kareem Hunt.  

Players to keep an Eye on at Current ADP for Round 1

These players are slipping past their current ADP or whose ADP is far too low. Keep in mind, we are just trying to double our money. 

Quarterback

Jalen Hurts, QB6: ADP 57.4

Dak Prescott, QB9: ADP 29.5

Running Back

Najee Harris, RB3: ADP 57.3

James Conner, RB5: ADP 43.3

Wide Receivers

Tee Higgins, WR10: ADP 22.8

Deebo Samuel WR3: ADP 34.5

 

As you might have noticed, I have no one inside the top 20. Whether you want to build stacks here to allow you to compete past this round on the Underdog Gauntlet is up to you. However, expect a good portion of your lineup to be eliminated after the first two weeks. If you’re drafting values, your focus should be on the players, not the teams. 

Tell me why I’m right or wrong on Twitter. I always appreciate the feedback.