Fantasy Football, Season Diagnosis

Fantasy Football Season Recap – What I’ve Learned This Year

colin-kaepernickLife isn’t fair, and neither is Fantasy. That’s what I’ve come to realize this year in the wake of a garbage election and a garbage performance by me in my Fantasy Baseball league and both my Football leagues. The world didn’t end in November, but my seasons sure did. Things have been looking dour for a while, and somewhere between me getting a job and finding more important things to do and not wanting to justify why everything is going so horribly for my teams lies the real reason to why I haven’t been writing these recaps.

I wish there was more to report. I’ll start by sharing a couple of unwritten fantasy rules: You’ll always lose only because someone else’s team went bat shit crazy, that amazing play you just saw that would’ve saved your day will always get called back on a fucking penalty flag, and your team will start doing well AFTER it stops mattering.

Week 13
Opponent Rhydon Dis – Julian
Outcome 99.36 – 119.36
Meltdowns Player Team Points
QB Colin Kaepernick San Francisco 49ers 2.16
RB1 Doug Martin Tampa Bay Bucs 12.80
RB2 Devontae Booker Denver Broncos 9.70
WR1 Jordy Nelson Green Bay Packers 17.80
WR2 Taylor Gabriel Atlanta Falcons 4.40
TE Travis Kelce Kansas City Chiefs 14.00
FLEX Jeremy Hill Cincinatti Bengals 10.50
K Dustin Hopkins Washington Redskins 13.00
DST Baltimore Ravens 15.00
BN Terrelle Pryor Sr. Cleveland Browns BYE
BN Vernon Davis Washington Redskins 4.70
BN Alshon Jeffery Chicago Bears SUS
BN Terrance West Baltimore Ravens 18.80
BN Andrew Luck Indianapolis Colts 29.72
BN Jordan Matthews Philadelphia Eagles 0.00

Travel back with me to Week 13, where in each league I set possibly the worst lineups I have ever set, or at the very least made one crucial decision that specifically cost me a win. This decision has a name, and his name is Colin Kaepernick. CK has been the subject of a lot of criticism and attention in recent months, and all the while his San Francisco 49ers team has been pretty awful. Yet somehow, he found a way to consistently put up monster fantasy points…until that one week when he didn’t. Prior to Week 13, Kaepernick was behind only Aaron Rodgers in overall fantasy scoring for the previous 4 weeks. And knowing I needed to swing for the fences if I wanted to make the playoffs, I streamed Kaepernick against the Chicago Bears over Kirk Cousins (who had just come off a 40 point week but was playing Arizona) and Derek Carr (vs. Buffalo) in one league and Andrew Luck (potentially banged up, playing on Monday night, but playing against the Jets) in the other. Kaepernick threw for only 4 yards. He was sacked 5 times and rushed for only 20 yards on six attempts. It was a disaster, good for -3 points in my PPR league where sacks are penalized. Meanwhile Carr notched 27 and Luck carved up the Jets for 29.72 points. Starting Luck would’ve won me the day, simple as that. The other league was a failure unto itself, but starting Carr would’ve led to a 30 point swing that would’ve at least put me in shouting distance (I would lose to the eventual league champion on one of her down weeks).

Week 13
Opponent Too Live Crew – Cindy
Outcome 67 – 109 L
Wildcats Player Team Points
QB Colin Kaepernick San Francisco 49ers -3
RB1 Devontae Booker Denver Broncos 10
RB2 Lamar Miller Houston Texans 3
WR1 Tyreek Hill Kansas City Chiefs 11
WR2 Taylor Gabirel Atlanta Falcons 9
WR3 DeAndre Hopkins Houston Texans 14
TE Eric Ebron Detroit Lions 7
K Matt Bryant Atlanta Falcons 12
DST Philadelphia Eagles 4
BN Jordan Matthews Philadelphia Eagles 0
BN Derek Carr Oakland Raiders 27
BN Kelvin Benjamin Philadelphia Eagles 3
BN Jay Ajayi Miami Dolphins 14
BN Randall Cobb Green Bay Packers 10
BN Kirk Cousins Washington Redskins 19

Granted, a playoff spot was out of my hands at that point. I needed a certain combination of teams to lose in each league in order to sneak my way into the final playoff spot, and neither outcome happened. Still, winning and coming up short feels a lot better than getting crushed any day of the week. Since then though, my team has performed beyond expectations and even netted me a pair of victories in Week 14 as I played for a consolation spot.

That loss taught me at least one lesson, but the failure of this season didn’t hinge on one moment or botched call. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Don’t Rely on Bortleing

Matthew Berry and the ESPN Fantasy Focus podcast coined this term to refer to when a player fails so badly but finds a way to succeed. Named for Blake Bortles of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who continues to put up consistent fantasy numbers despite playing from behind and being generally awful, is the best example of this, but Kaepernick isn’t bad either. The 49ers are even worse this year than the Jaguars, and though they tend to be brutal, Kaepernick somehow finds a way to get it done. But it’s that one week that you need to count on him that he’ll let you down, that he’ll crash and burn. My rule for next year is to not trust any player not on a good team. Kaepernick is the top scorer through 4 weeks? I don’t buy it. Terrelle Pryor was great for a while, an easy WR1. But all of a sudden he may as well be droppable, and that’s all to do with Cleveland. You think DeAndre Hopkins, Brandon Marshall and Todd Gurley can overcome bad quarterback play and blocking? Think again. We’ll see next year, but save Jordan Howard or maybe Philip Rivers, there may be very few exceptions to this rule.

Don’t be afraid to cut players loose

DeAndre Hopkins, Brandon Marshall, Allen Robinson and Todd Gurley were the non-injury busts of the year. How many teams took one of those guys over David Johnson, Mike Evans or Ezekiel Elliott? Probably every league has at least one. And how many of those teams held tight when they could’ve made a waiver pickup or a trade that would’ve been the difference maker? I traded away Jordan Howard to acquire DeAndre Hopkins, and look how that turned out. I traded Brandon Marshall for Alshon Jeffery, but I should’ve done it weeks earlier. Football is a short season, and with these high priced guys, you need to know when to panic.

But Hold Tight on Others

I said to cut bait on guys like Hopkins and Marshall, but there were a number of players this year who I drafted in low rounds who I hoped would pan out into better players and show some value down the stretch. The same goes for players who appeared on the waiver wire and showed some early promise, but didn’t light it up right away. I think of guys like Jimmy Graham, who disappointed after two weeks but returned to TE1 form not long after that. Or consider Sterling Shepard, who I drafted as a WR4 in each league only to drop him and wish I had him later when guys like Jordan Matthews and Kelvin Benjamin were flaking. There’s Jamison Crowder, who I owned as a bye week fill in early in the season and owned him only to play a good matchup. But had I found room for him on my bench instead of chasing week to week production, I would’ve found a (mostly) consistent wide receiver. There are a few other players this year who have produced #1 or #2 overall value even though on a week to week basis in the rankings, the only look like #3s or #4s.

Don’t Get Too Excited

Part of holding tight means not going crazy with waivers. One of the rules of fantasy is that your team is ever evolving and can always be improved. Picking up a player, even though you don’t start him right away, or ever, is perfectly fine. But going overboard and having that become the norm every single week is where you run into problems. A couple of the more exciting pickups of the year were Jerick McKinnon, Terrance West and Devontae Booker. All three were thrust into workhorse back roles, and though they showed flashes of performance, fizzled out or proved to be inconsistent. Racing to add these players means making room by cutting those who shouldn’t be, overlooking steady production elsewhere and ultimately relying too heavily on these players. Part of the decision to trade away Jordan Howard was I felt I had a surplus at running back with Lamar Miller, Jay Ajayi and Booker as my other three. At the time it looked like Booker would be an easy Top 20 play week to week should Ajayi or Miller be unavailable, but that wasn’t the case. Essentially, I need to be more frugal on waivers.

I’m looking forward to bouncing back next year. And in the interest of a competitive spirit, I’ll be sharing some of my rankings and Do Not Draft players for next year in a coming post.

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