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Taking Stock of Every Player on Your Fantasy Football Roster

by Matt Barbato | @realmattbarbato | Featured Writer
May 14, 2020

Value matters most in fantasy football, and Dak Prescott was a bargain in most drafts last year.

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It’s time to start thinking about your fantasy football roster.

Yes, you read that correctly. It’s time to log into your fantasy football platform and put last season’s roster under the microscope.

For some of you, this may bring up joyous memories of a glorious title run. For others, it might bring back bad memories of early-round busts or late-season heartbreaks. Regardless of how last year went, taking stock of your entire roster is a valuable learning process as you prepare for next season.

The most prepared fantasy football players are often the most successful. Here are some tips for taking a deeper look at your roster to help you learn and adjust from last year’s wins and losses.

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Value matters most

When going through this exercise with your team, keep the word value in the back of your mind. At the end of the day, fantasy football is about finding the most productive players at the best possible prices.

Getting the best bang for your buck is especially important in keeper and dynasty formats, where bad values — or in some leagues, bad contracts — can be detrimental to your fantasy hopes. Let’s use quarterbacks as an example of how to properly gauge value.

Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson finished second, fourth, and fifth, respectively, in fantasy scoring last season. While only 17 points separated the three players, their ADPs were far from similar. Watson was taken as QB2 with an average draft position (ADP) of No. 37 overall. Wilson was the eighth quarterback off the board with an ADP of No. 82. And Prescott was the 17th quarterback off the board with an ADP of No. 122.

Each quarterback had a spectacular season, but it’s clear that Prescott was the best value of the bunch. He produced the best season and came at the cheapest cost in drafts.

If you’ve got some tough decisions to make in your league, let value be the tiebreaker when comparing players.

Identify your “steals”

Whether your team won the championship or missed the playoffs entirely, chances are you had at least a few steals on draft day or through a trade. When evaluating your roster, highlight the players that significantly out-performed their ADP.

In a keeper or dynasty league, steals will often become the building blocks of your roster. It’s easier to find early-round studs, but the best teams separate themselves by finding the gems that everyone else is envious of come season’s end. The more steals you can find, the easier it is to build a great roster.

Lamar Jackson is an excellent example of a draft-day steal. We all know he posted a ridiculous, MVP-caliber season. But did you remember when Jackson was drafted? He was the 14th quarterback taken with an ADP of 106. That’s right — the league MVP was a 9th-round pick last summer.

Courtland Sutton is another excellent example from 2019. The Broncos wideout finished No. 17 among receivers in standard leagues, but he was the 44th receiver drafted last summer. In fact, Sutton was drafted after guys like Corey Davis, Dante Pettis, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Jackson and Sutton were my final two picks in my keeper league last season. And both played enormous roles in helping me win a fantasy title. Steals equal success.

When combing through your roster, take a close look at your steals to see what common traits they might have. Were they undervalued because of inexperience? Did they happen to play in high-powered offenses? Identifying these similarities will make it easier to find steals in future drafts.

Learn from your mistakes

Perfection is impossible in fantasy football. While I might’ve slipped in a small brag about drafting Jackson and Sutton in the paragraph above, I also wasted picks on Pettis, Dion Lewis, and Duke Johnson in that same draft.

The best way to become a better fantasy player is to learn from the busts. When evaluating what went wrong, start by remembering your rationale for taking the player in the first place. Do some quick research to see if there was any information you missed or that you might’ve overlooked in your decision.

In the case of Pettis, I thought he had the talent to become the No. 1 wide receiver in San Francisco. However, I ignored the troubling quotes coming from Kyle Shanahan that said he was still trying to “earn a role” on the team.

Next, try to identify what went wrong during the season. Perhaps the player started hot but cooled off considerably in the second half. Did the player miss games, or were they impacted by an injury? Did the player’s situation change dramatically? Was the team’s offense more dysfunctional than you expected? Or, maybe the player just isn’t that good? Any of these factors could play a role in why a pick didn’t turn out as you expected.

For Pettis, a lot of factors were at play. He started the season in Shanahan’s doghouse and turned out to be a mediocre talent. The emergence of Deebo Samuel and the Emmanuel Sanders trade put him even further down the depth chart. San Francisco’s power running game led the way and allowed the 49ers to play with a lead in the majority of their games, which resulted in fewer pass attempts.

Learning from these mistakes will help you better identify players who have bust potential, keeping you from making the same mistake twice.

What’s sustainable and what’s a fluke?

To limit the impact of randomness in fantasy football, we must properly decipher which performances are real and sustainable and which ones are flukey.

To do this, start by looking at game-by-game outputs to gauge consistency. Was your player’s season a steady ride, or was it a bumpy roller coaster with high peaks and low valleys? How many top-2o weeks did they have versus weeks outside the top-30? Did the majority of your player’s production come in only a handful of games? These questions can help you reach clarity as you evaluate whether your players are legit or a mirage.

Let’s use Tennessee Titans receiver A.J. Brown as an example. Brown finished 10th in standard leagues and 21st in PPR last season. That’s pretty impressive for a rookie. However, a deeper dive into Brown’s production pokes some holes into his output. Going into Week 11, Brown ranked 49th among receivers in standard and was 55th in PPR. He then caught 25 of his 52 receptions, racked up 605 of his 1,051 yards, and caught five of his eight touchdowns during the final six games of the season.

While there’s no doubt Brown has potential, I think he’ll be overvalued in drafts next year because of his strong finish. I also think the Titans went on a magical ride with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback that will be hard to replicate. Brown’s someone I’d be happy with on my team, but I’m not going to draft him as the 10th best receiver in standard leagues.

Don’t just look at a player’s final stats and take them at face value worth. Push deeper by looking into how the player got there. 

Keep these tips in mind to complete an honest assessment of your roster that will provide an enormous competitive advantage over your league come draft day.

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Matt Barbato is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @RealMattBarbato.

Dynasty, Featured, Featured Link, NFL