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Fantasy Football: 2020 New Year’s Resolutions

by Paul Ghiglieri | @FantasyEvolves | Featured Writer
Jan 1, 2020

For a long time, I believed “New Year’s Resolutions” were a fanciful waste of time. The reason I felt this way is because most resolutions do not stem from inspiration, but rather regret. Too often, folks regret what they did not accomplish in the current year, and they announce a resolution as a way of manifesting an absent resolve that wasn’t there before — and likely won’t be there a month later just because that month is called “January.”

There’s a reason why gyms offer heavily discounted memberships in January. People’s sudden desire to get back in shape is often a recency bias born out of regret that they indulged in too many sweets over the holidays.

Admittedly, for a long time, I had trouble keeping my resolutions. Sometimes, my goals were just too big to accomplish, and I was biting off more than I could chew. Other times, my goal was the product of many other steps, and I was putting the cart before the horse. Lastly, some goals were simply things I was not committed enough to achieve.

However, the real reason I failed to realize those goals is that they were… well, goals in the first place.

Instead, they should have been objectives. Goals are the end result of a process. When you make goals your resolutions, you focus too much on the results and not enough on what it takes to accomplish them.

Instead, make resolutions objectives. Objectives are measurable. They’re manageable. You can gauge whether you’ve accomplished them on an almost daily basis in some cases. Thus, you can rack up wins, and boost confidence, thereby increasing your odds of achieving those goals.

For example, instead of saying your resolution is to get in shape (a goal), outline some objectives that are quantifiable that will ultimately lead you towards accomplishing that goal. Consider these five objectives:

  • I will do 50 pushups a day for the first four months, then 75 pushups a day for the next four months, and 100 pushups a day during the final four months.
  • I will drink at least 80 oz of water per day and take a fiber supplement.
  • I will cut out all sugary drinks over 7g of sugar, all those with added sugars, and I will limit alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks per week, if at all.
  • I will exercise daily — if I only have 10 minutes, I will do high-intensity interval training to maximize my time, and if I have more time, I will do more strength-based training.
  • I will stop eating processed foods and consume at least three servings of vegetables per day.

First of all, those objectives aren’t perfect, and they’re not ideal for everyone. You could even argue some of them need to be more specific. However, all five of those objectives are measurable enough that they produce a more active lifestyle with better eating habits.

You can easily note at the end of the day whether or not you exercised and for how long. You can quantify whether or not you drank 80 ounces of water or not. You can count how many servings of vegetables you ate. Therefore, you can achieve all five of the above objectives and verify that you did so. Now tell me, if you do the five things above for just three months, do you think you will be in better shape later than you are now? For most of us, the answer would be yes.

It’s ok to have a goal in mind, but try to make your resolutions the actual objectives needed to achieve that goal, and keep the goal out of sight and mind while you train your focus on the objectives instead. Your confidence will grow as you find success in accomplishment. And the goal will be achieved, oftentimes without you even realizing it until it happens.

Ok, great. How can we apply this to fantasy football? Well, let’s take a look at some popular goals I have seen from fantasy players recently.

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Draft Day Resolutions

I’m sure all of us have a goal to nail our next fantasy draft, whether it’s a redraft in the fall or a 2020 rookie draft in the spring for dynasty leagues. That’s great, but “I want to crush my draft” isn’t measurable. It’s a wonderful goal, but it’s not quantifiable. You should be looking at volume-based, predictive stats that might give you an edge on the competition. A running back with a high yards per carry number might look good as your 2020 “sleeper” pick, but if the opportunity isn’t there, and you haven’t done the research to know that many of those big runs came on 3rd and long distances against softer fronts, then you might be betting on the wrong horse. Here are some measurable objectives to consider instead:

Identify the top 15 wide receivers in Air Yards from 2019.
These are the yards accumulated from the line of scrimmage to the potential catch point, and they tell you which receivers would have been the biggest yardage producers had they caught all their targets, and additionally, which receivers are likely to receive those targets again. Credit to Josh Hermsmeyer for his work with this metric. (AirYards.com)

Identify the top 15 wide receivers in Target Separation.
This Next Gen stat tells you how much separation a receiver gets from coverage. If he’s not getting much separation, what is his Contested Catch Rate then? You’ll need to head over to Pro Football Focus to find that. Quarterbacks like to throw to receivers who either get open or catch the ball even when they’re not.

Identify the top 15 running backs in Yards Created.
A metric devised by Graham Barfield of NFL.com, YardsCreated.com tells you how many yards a rusher gets beyond what gets blocked. Running backs who create yards for themselves are more likely to get the ball behind weaker offensive lines, and they’re the biggest beneficiaries of O-Line upgrades.

Identify the top 15 running backs in Juke Rate.
While not a predictive stat, PlayerProfiler.com’s Juke Rate metric does measure efficiency in that it tells you how adept a rusher is at evading tackles, and therefore, how dynamic he can be. In some cases, a committee running back with a high Juke Rate figures to be more productive with his touches.

Identify the top 15 running backs in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
Unlike DYAR, which measures a rusher’s total value, DVOA measures a running back’s value per play over an average running back in the same game situation.

No, doing the research to compile those four lists alone will not guarantee that you will come out a winner on draft day. In fact, a few of them even require paid subscriptions to view. However, you’d be armed with a lot more useful information about players, and that information could easily influence the tiers you put them in for yourself when it comes time to draft and make those hard decisions while on the clock. It might even shine a light on players you didn’t realize were as valuable as they were in 2019.

Even if you just followed through on one of those objectives above, like say the fifth one involving Football Outsiders’ DVOA, you would discover that on a per play-basis, Raheem Mostert, Mark Ingram, and Kenyan Drake were the highest performing running backs. Ingram benefits from the extra attention Lamar Jackson garners as a runner. Mostert and Drake are perfect scheme fits in their respective offenses; Mostert hits the hole without hesitation, a perfect compliment in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s zone running scheme, while Drake thrives between the tackles in a gap scheme, something head coach Kliff Kingsbury employs in Arizona. Should Mostert or Drake find themselves getting more carries in a starter’s role next season, either could be massive values given their potential for production.

Ingram likely remains undervalued as a 30-year-old back, but he has only carried the ball more than 200 times just four times in his nine-year career, and he’s still a dual-threat runner. If Jackson regresses or defenses adjust, the team may lean on Ingram even more next season, perhaps making him one of the higher upside RB2 candidates available.

Changes in scheme, coaching, free agency, and incoming rookies will all impact what we know today about players currently on NFL rosters, but those five measurable objectives above will almost certainly give you an edge you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Fantasy League Resolutions

Let’s say your goal is to improve the quality of your fantasy league. Whether you’re the commissioner or just a league member, we’ve all been in leagues that felt stale or boring. In some cases, it can feel like a chore just to find 10-12 people who will stay interested and keep the league competitive. In other cases, the league has been running for so long, so it may have become a little tired and in need of some upgrades.

Again, saying, “My resolution is to make my league better” isn’t measurable. It’s not quantifiable. What objectives can you achieve to make it so?

Award the final playoff spot to the highest-scoring team if that team didn’t already qualify based on record.
This idea seemingly gains popularity with each passing year, and it’s one I’ve tried to push in all my leagues. As much as many of us want our fantasy leagues to mirror real football, the fact remains we can’t play defense against our opponent in fantasy. There’s simply no way to stop the other person’s players from putting up points. If we want to prioritize skill over luck, then we should reward skill accordingly.

Institute a consequence for the player who finishes last in the regular season.
Too often, owners give up when it becomes apparent around Weeks 9 and 10 that they likely won’t make the playoffs. However, if they knew they had to have dinner with a blow-up doll and a sign that says “I Suck at Fantasy Football,” then perhaps they’d be motivated to stay competitive through Week 13 when playoffs for most leagues begin.

Devise a separate reward for the Consolation Bracket.
Coupled with the carrot that is playoffs, punishment alone is a fine motivator during the regular season. Once the regular season ends, however, if you want the rest of the league to have something to play for, consider eschewing punishment — e.g., the Toilet Bowl — for a secondary prize instead. It could be a monetary prize, or you could consider something I do in one of my home leagues and award the Consolation Bracket winner with the privilege of choosing his or her own draft slot in next year’s draft.

Add IDP players to league play.
Confession: I’ve been playing fantasy football since 1994, which might be longer than the majority of industry experts you’re familiar with, and I had never played in an IDP league before 2019. A dynasty league I joined featured three IDP slots, and I have to say, it added a wonderfully fresh and competitive slant to the game. Whether it’s adding just one IDP spot, opening up three and requiring owners to start at least one DB, LB, and DL player, or any variation in between… making IDP part of your league will definitely enhance the enjoyment and make watching games on Sundays that much more exciting.

Once again, not all of the aforementioned objectives are for everyone, but a league in desperate need of a makeover would almost certainly be more intriguing and interesting with those changes and alterations.

Regardless of what your goals are for 2020, deconstruct them down to the individual, measurable objectives that you can easily assess and achieve with the right amount of focus, effort, and effective strategies.

With that, I wish you a happy new year and a slew of fantasy success in all your leagues in 2020. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter if you’d like to discuss goals and objectives in greater detail, and I’m always happy to throw in my two fantasy cents if you need it.

Paul Ghiglieri is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Paul, check out his archive and follow him @FantasyGhigs.

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