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Lessons to Carry from the Previous Season into the New One (Fantasy Football)

by Jason Katz | @jasonkatz13 | Featured Writer
May 16, 2019

Leonard Fournette’s poor production in 2018 when healthy shows the risk you take when drafting players on bad offenses

Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and making mistakes managing your fantasy football team. With the ever-evolving NFL, it is important to adjust with the times. There are always new things to take away from last year’s game that we can apply to make ourselves better this season.

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Last Year’s Strategy is Not Necessarily This Year’s Strategy
This one is directed more towards novice fantasy gamers, but it is still an important reminder for all of us. If you were successful last season using a particular strategy, don’t become married to it. Each year the fantasy landscape changes and the winning approach changes with it. That’s not to say you can’t win with “Zero RB” two years in a row. Of course you can. But if you’re thinking of heading into your draft with the mindset of “I won this way last year, so I’m doing it again this year,” don’t.

On a similar note, just because a strategy you used last year failed miserably doesn’t mean you should automatically dismiss it this year. We’ve all sworn off players that have “wronged us” because of their poor performance with the grand proclamation of, “I’m never drafting him again.” Don’t do that with strategies. Don’t do that with players either.

Draft Players on Good Offenses
Over the course of my 16-year fantasy career, I have undoubtedly done a lot of stupid things. I can’t remember the last time I did something as dumb as select Leonard Fournette over Alvin Kamara in 2018. I always preach that situation + opportunity > talent. So why did I take Fournette over Kamara? I got so caught up in chasing opportunity that I ignored the situation.

Even taking injury out of it, this was objectively a bad pick. Sure, over 16 games there was absolutely no chance Kamara out-touches Fournette. But what good are excess touches if the player can’t do anything with them?

We could safely predict that the Saints’ offense would be vastly superior to the Jaguars’ offense. We could also safely predict that Kamara would substantially out-target Fournette and we know that in PPR formats, a target is worth roughly 2.6 times as much as a carry. The projected difference in carries between Fournette and Kamara was never going to make up the difference.

Very few RBs come from objectively terrible offenses and rarely are they more than low-end RB1s. The top scoring RBs typically come from offenses that are at least average. This is not to say that you should only draft running backs on elite offenses. The same analysis at WR would reach the same conclusion for that position. The point is that teams that score a lot of points tend to have players that also score a lot of fantasy points. Try your best to avoid players on really bad offenses.

You Can’t Get Fantasy Advice From Everywhere
Right now, you are reading one article written by one writer on one website. There are hundreds of websites out there and tens of thousands of fantasy analysts. If you search hard enough, you will find every possible opinion on every player. Do your due diligence, but be sure to figure out who you trust most and draw your own conclusions.

Back in my early days, I would read an article on a player and let it influence me way too much. Then I’d hear someone else say something different about the same player and I’d shift my opinion again. I was too easily swayed by the most recent analysis I heard. You have to do your best to block out all the noise and decide which sources you trust most.

Once you have your primary sources, understand how to use those sources. You can blindly follow a few analysts if you want, but I’ve found that the best way to use analysts is for the information they provide. One analyst may always come with interesting statistics. Another analyst may be a film grinder. A third analyst might teach you about draft theory. Too many fantasy gamers think of analysts as people who tell you what players to like and dislike. While that is certainly part of our jobs, it is more important that you focus on the reasons we like or dislike a particular player so you can process that information, compare it to others, and reach a conclusion on that each player.

Review Your League’s Previous Drafts and Scoring
Never go back too far because things change too quickly. Three years is pretty much my limit. This obviously only applies to leagues where just about every owner returns each season. It can be very beneficial, particularly in auction formats, to educate yourself on the tendencies of your leaguemates.

Does one guy always go QB early? Does another guy spend half his auction budget on two elite players? This information can prove invaluable during your upcoming draft.

As for scoring, this only applies to leagues that may have somewhat unconventional scoring systems. In a basic half- or full-PPR scoring system, your league’s fantasy leaders will look just like the fantasy leaders here at FantasyPros.

But maybe you’re joining a new league with different scoring. Look at the previous season’s top scorers and compare them to the appropriate format (non/half/full) here. Maybe you notice that a bunch of TEs outscored WR3s that you did not expect. Maybe you notice that WRs more heavily outscored RBs. This information can and should alter the way you construct your team.

Don’t Chase Last Year’s Production
The first thing that comes to mind is chasing last year’s elite QB, who likely didn’t even come from the early rounds anyway. Then we have the UDFA RB that came out of nowhere. We have the midseason pickup that went on to win people fantasy championships. We have the WR that broke out because his teammates went down and he was the only game in town.

There are a whole host of reasons that a player’s production can spike. It is important to remember that what a player did last year does not help you at all this year. Process over results.

You Are Going to Make Mistakes
If you take away nothing else from this article, I want you to just know and accept this truth: you are going to mess up. You will make mistakes in the current season that you will want to correct in the following season. It is going to happen. Every year is different. Every season is different.

Fantasy football is a game of probabilities. You make decisions that give you the highest odds of winning. I know you will do your best not to repeat the mistakes of last year. Just remember to not get upset when you make different mistakes this year. The learning process never ends.

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Jason Katz is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jason, check out his archive or follow him @jasonkatz13.

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