✍️ Way-Too-Early Underdog Best Ball Breakdown

Fantasy football is our religion...

Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by Renewal by Andersen Full Service Window and Door Replacement

Is anyone else absolutely PSYCHED for the Pro Bowl? Yeah? No? Oh…

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by Renewal by Andersen:

  • Underdog 2024 Best Ball Tournaments are LIVE

  • Utilization Report: CMC is basically Superman

  • Stop blaming Dan Campbell for Sunday’s loss

  • 2024 Mock Draft: Garrett Wilson Round 1? In this economy? 

  • It’s 1/30. Take it away, Ian Hartitz…

Fantasy football sickos of all shapes and sizes: You came to the right place.

There is still one game remaining in the 2023-24 NFL season, but that didn’t stop the fine folks over at Underdog Fantasy from kicking off their first 2024-25 best ball tournaments of the new year:

  • "The Big Board" features $2 million in prizes ($200,000 to first!) at a cool $10 entry.

  • "The Little Board" costs just $3 to enter with a 20-entry max to win $150,000 in prizes – including $15,000 to the overall winner.

At the risk of pissing off our family and friends by participating in 2024-25 fantasy football discourse in January (!) – let’s get weird and take a look at some early average draft position (ADP) surprises.

👀 Quarterback is looking DEEP

This would feel like a ridiculous thing to say a month ago with the seemingly endless stream of injuries wreaking havoc on fantasy managers, but suddenly it looks to be the case with most parties tentatively expected to be healthy ahead of the start of next season.

Whether it’s Trevor Lawrence (QB16) and the hope that he gets just a bit more help from his friends in 2024, rallying around Matthew Stafford (QB17) and a Rams offense that looked as good as any group in the league down the stretch, or simply banking on modern science getting Kirk Cousins (QB19) and/or Aaron Rodgers (QB20) back to something close to full health by Week 1: There are some quality late-round locked-in starters with a recent history of putting up some serious fantasy football goodness.

Hell, that doesn’t even include more messy but still potential upside guys like Geno Smith (QB21), Deshaun Watson (QB22) and Daniel Jones (QB23), or signal-callers who at a minimum should start the heavy majority of next season with good health such as Baker Mayfield (QB25), Derek Carr (QB27), Russell Wilson (QB28) and Bryce Young (QB29).

Maybe just maybe 2024 is poised to be the year of the late-round QB (shoutout JJ, he’s the man).

🚀 The 2024 rookie class isn’t sneaking up on anyone

Particularly at WR, where potential top-10 picks Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR20, pick 33), Malik Nabers (WR28, pick 49) and Rome Odunze (WR35, pick 61) are already locked in as WR3 options.

Additional incoming first-year talents that crack the top 150 overall players feature:

  • QB

    • Caleb Williams (QB18, pick 135)

  • RB:

    • Jonathan Brooks (RB39, pick 129)

    • Blake Corum (RB43, pick 144)

    • Trey Benson (RB45, pick 150)

  • WR:

    • Brian Thomas Jr. (WR41, pick 77)

    • Keon Coleman (WR49, pick 100)

    • Adonai Mitchell (WR56, pick 118)

    • Troy Franklin (WR60, pick 130)

    • Ja’Lynn Polk (WR68, pick 143)

  • TE

    • Brock Bowers (TE12, pick 108)

Additional potential top-10 QBs Jayden Daniels (QB24, pick 173) and Drake Maye (QB26, pick 181) are also in the late-round mix. The former QB in particular sure seems like someone capable of providing big-time fantasy value from day one, as the 2023 Heisman Trophy winner totaled 186-885-11 and 135-1134-10 rushing lines during his two seasons at LSU.

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Fantasy Life Utilization Report

Whether you’re a Chiefs fan, 49ers fan, fantasy/gambling degenerate, or simply someone who just likes to watch some football: Knowing ever-changing player utilization will help YOU be a more knowledgeable viewer and thus a better overall person.

Something like that? It sounds right — and with that, we turn to Professor Dwain McFarland and his critically acclaimed Utilization Report.

👑 Patrick Mahomes rises to the occasion (again)

The Chiefs haven’t been the juggernaut offense of past seasons, but they have found a way to get it done when it mattered most. By historical standards, yesterday was another subpar day for Mahomes with 241 yards and one passing TD.

However, the boxscore doesn’t tell the whole story.

Mahomes was on pace for an impressive passing day with 161 yards and a TD in the first half, with the Chiefs CHOOSING to attack the No. 2 pass EPA defense. While every other QB in the Conference Championships delivered a negative CPOE, Mahomes posted a sterling +8%, according to NextGen Stats.

Kansas City dropped back on 65% of plays in the first two quarters. However, with a 10-point lead and Lamar Jackson only completing 42% of his passes in the first half, the Chiefs only dropped back 53% of plays in the second half.

No offense in the NFL scores more TDs per drive than the 49ers (34%), which could cause the Chiefs to keep the speedometer pegged in the Super Bowl. The Lions did most of their damage on the inside, with Sam LaPorta (32%), Amon-Ra St. Brown (32%) and the RBs (21%) accounting for 85% of the targets. Kansas City’s strengths are also at TE, slot WR and RB.

Outlook: Mahomes looks more like a mid-range QB1 looking ahead to 2024 unless the Chiefs upgrade their receiving corps, but the Super Bowl matchup plays to Kansas City’s strengths, leaving the door open for a vintage Mahomes performance.

Fantasy Life Utilization Report

🏆 Christian McCaffrey: Utilization Superman

McCaffrey dominated the 49ers’ backfield in the regular season but has taken it up another notch in the playoffs. He has accounted for 95% of the snaps and 71% of the rushing attempts while also notching an elite 91% route participation. His 26% target share leads all San Fransisco pass catchers.

Fantasy Life Utilization Report Christian McCaffrey Game Log

Elijah Mitchell stole a carry inside the five-yard line in the Championship game (Week 21), but that came when McCaffrey exited the game after awkwardly landing on his head. The 49ers are funneling their offense through CMC despite trailing conditions.

San Francisco trailed the Packers by four-plus points on 52% of plays in the Divisional Round, leading to a 33% target share for McCaffrey. The all-around back finished the game with 28 opportunities – 16 attempts and 12 targets. CMC exploded for 31.8 fantasy points.

The 49ers trailed by four-plus points on 68% of snaps in the Championship Round versus the Lions, and that doesn’t tell the whole story. San Francisco was down by nine-plus points on 38% of plays. Despite facing the No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL and trailing, Kyle Shanahan stuck with the run, calling his second-heaviest ground game of the season with a -9% DBOE.

Fantasy Life Utilization Report 49ers Team Style

While it was not an ideal game script for most backs, McCaffrey received 20 attempts and five targets on his way to 29.2 points against the Lions, bringing his postseason average to 26.5 opportunities per game.

The last time we saw an RB with a utilization profile as robust as McCaffrey in the Super Bowl was Jamal Lewis in the 2000-2001 season. Lewis averaged 27 opportunities per game on 25.75 attempts and 1.25 targets per contest.

Outlook: McCaffrey has the strongest Super Bowl utilization profile we have seen for an RB in 23 years.

Around the Watercooler (August 2022)

📺 Where do the Ravens and Lions go from here? Ian and Dwain recap all the Conference Championship action.

🏈 The Ravens didn’t exactly attempt to establish the run on Sunday. But this is still pretty wild.

🚨 ICYMI: The 2024 Big Board is LIVE on Underdog Fantasy. What do the draft rooms look like?

👀 Longtime Saints WR Michael Thomas has some THOUGHTS on his future. Comeback szn?

😮 Lions OC Ben Johnson remains a hot head coaching candidate. But is Washington really a slam dunk?

🚓 All of a sudden the analytics police hate Dan Campbell. Pete is here to tell everyone to chill the hell out.

💍 This prop bet is pretty ridiculous. Then again, +190 isn’t bad!

🤣 Brandon Aiyuk reacts to getting second place on SportsCenter’s top-10. Still a helluva play!

🎉 The Falcons’ new world order is set. Great day to be great.

Way too early 2024 Fantasy Life Mock Draft

Is it way too early to be doing 2024 mock drafts?

Maybe — but good thing Sam Wallace doesn’t care and is here with THOUGHTS on how Fantasy Life’s battle of the titans went down; particularly in the second half of the first round…

1.08 - Amon-Ra St. Brown (Kendall)

Before the season, our own Matthew Berry made Amon-Ra St. Brown his 2023 “Ride or Die” pick and he couldn’t have been more right.

Talk about a guy who keeps elevating his game to greater heights each season. The “Sun God” was arguably the MVP of the fantasy playoffs. From Weeks 15-17, here were his per-game averages:

  • 10.3 targets

  • 8.3 receptions

  • 102 receiving yards

  • 1 TD

  • 25 PPG

Simply elite. He’s ready to be valued in the same tier as the other WRs drafted ahead of him in this mock draft.

1.09 - Bijan Robinson (Sam W)

Depending on how this offseason goes, this pick feels like a bit of a tier-break so I was somewhat disappointed. Still, having the choice between Bijan Robinson and the next few players isn’t a bad place to be. While I never wish for someone to lose their job, I’m glad Robinson is free of Arthur Smith. Despite the inept coaching, the talented rookie still finished as the RB9 thanks to his 214 / 976 / 4 on the ground to go along with 58 / 487 / 4 through the air. His ceiling is RB1 next season with the right usage. Let’s hope that happens.

Way too early 2024 Fantasy Life Mock Draft

1.10 - Garrett Wilson (Ian)

What a world we live in where two Jets players are being drafted in the first round. Garrett Wilson was a popular breakout candidate this season with Rodgers coming in at QB. While that didn’t pan out, Wilson mustered as good of a season as he could despite only 67% of his targets being deemed catchable.

His underlying metrics are still elite. 97% route participation, 30% target share, and 44% air yards share put him in rarified air. Let’s hope the QB situation allows him to truly break out in 2024.

1.11 - Puka Nacua (Cooter)

If it wasn’t for CJ Stroud, fifth-round rookie Puka Nacua would be the easy pick for Rookie of the Year. He literally exploded (okay, not literally, he’s safe, but, you know) onto the scene by tallying 35 targets, 25 receptions, and 266 yards in his first two games.

There was no putting the genie back in the bottle after that. His metrics stack up well against some of the best in the game and he did it while playing alongside a recent triple-crown winner in Cooper Kupp.

Puka Nacua vs. Cooper Kupp Fantasy Life Utilization Comparison

1.12 - Jahmyr Gibbs (Jonathan)

Another rookie (and another Lion) snuck into Round 1 of this “Way Too Early mock” draft. Jahmyr Gibbs began his season slowly, much to the frustration of fantasy managers. He didn’t crack 60% of the snaps until Week 7 and then, from Weeks 7-18, he only averaged 61% of the snaps. Teammate David Montgomery handled 45% of the rushing attempts to just 37% for Gibbs.

Still, when you watch the tape, you see how dynamic he is. He’s a great pick at the turn.

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