Five Takeaways from the Fantasy Football Season
As the NFL season comes to a close and fantasy championships are handed out, it’s always good to reflect on lessons we’ve learned and information we can use moving into next season.
Be wary of offseason noise
Le’Veon Bell was coming off a very solid rookie season. His talent and opportunity were helping him climb up everyone’s ADP, even going as early as the first round. Then the offseason noise started creeping in. The Steelers signed LeGarrette Blount, a talented but tumultuous running back, who began being viewed as a significant threat to Bell’s workload. Even Bell himself made a comment about Blount getting the goal-line carries. Next came Bell’s (and Blount’s) incident with the law. Social media blew up and fantasy players began running panic-stricken, despite the historical track record that Bell would unlikely serve a suspension in the current season. Bell’s ADP began to plummet, dropping to a lower second-round pick, even falling to the third round in some instances. The smoke cleared and the season started with Bell dropping 21/109/1 on the ground and 6/88 through the air on the Browns. Bell went on to have an incredible season and is being viewed as an overall top pick in 2015 fantasy drafts. Bell had incredible production, yet only had four touchdowns heading into his Week 12 bye. This leads us to our next point…
Don’t chase TDs
Admittedly, the touchdown is the ultimate for fantasy. Six points for a single play? That’s how you win! The problem with that thinking is touchdowns are extremely hard to accurately project. Yardage and catches are far more consistent from game-to-game.
Let’s take a look at Mike Wallace:
Week 1: 7/81/1
Week 2: 5/56/1
Week 3: 5/74/0
Week 4: 3/35/1
Week 6: 5/67/1
Week 7 5/46/1
At this point of the season, Wallace owners were thinking they had a WR1 on their hands. He was putting up double-digits every week! Then, Week 8 and 9 happened:
Week 8: 2/59/0
Week 9: 3/50/0
The catches were a little low, but his yardage was right around what he had been producing to that point. The big difference? Clearly the lack of a TD. Wallace did finish having a good fantasy season, but he couldn’t keep up his WR1 pace because it was so reliant on scoring. Savvy fantasy players likely parlayed Wallace into a solid RB2 or TE upgrade foreseeing his touchdown pace as unsustainable.
Be careful with rookie wide receivers
The 2014 WR draft class has done unprecedented things for fantasy this year. The players have been talked about ad nauseam, that won’t be the focus here. It is not an impossible thing for rookie WRs to have a big impact in fantasy, but it is still more the exception when they do. Julio Jones and A.J. Green finished inside the top-20 of their rookie years. They also came into the league with prestigious draft pedigree and a place of solid opportunity. Keenan Allen can also be tossed into the mix as an impact rookie, but it’s very slim pickings besides those three. The way rookies have performed this season, no doubt fantasy players will be more willing than usual to spend a high pick on an unproven player. Just remember what goes along with drafting a player who has never taken an NFL snap…
Look for players headed into high-powered offenses
Emmanual Sanders was seen as a player with good, not elite, talent. He had been a nobody in the fantasy world, aside from a handful of weeks he would be a hot waiver add because of a big TD week (see note 2). When news broke he would be heading to Denver and replacing Eric Decker it created a decent amount of buzz. However, with hindsight, the buzz should have been a roar. Decker was coming off a top-10 season with Manning and Co. while Wes Welker had already begun wilting as a productive player. All of the production couldn’t go to Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas, and Sanders was the beneficiary. For next year, be on the lookout for mid-level talent going to high-scoring offenses.
You can’t win with last year’s stats
The running back is an unruly monster of fluctuation for fantasy football. No other position sees players ascend at a meteoric pace, only to reach terminal velocity on their free-fall from the top. Remember when Doug Martin finished in second, only behind a historic effort from Adrian Peterson? That was the same year C.J. Spiller finished seventh before decimating fantasy seasons the following year. The No. 1 finisher for RB has not repeated at the top since the days of LaDainian Tomlinson. Jamaal Charles was the hot pick for players sitting with the first pick. He finished seventh with almost 100 less points than last year. LeSean McCoy finished second in 2013. To call this season a straight bust is a bit harsh, but the expected return from his draft price? Busted. Players know, or should know, that at least one of the big guns at RB will end up as a bust. The point really is, if you find yourself staring down the first overall pick in next year’s draft, don’t feel shoehorned into picking DeMarco Murray or Le’Veon Bell for fear of mockery. While they are likely to have good seasons, history says they won’t finish as the top two.