Every year we all think we have it figured out. The truth is, things change in this game so often that we are not always able to predict which draft strategy will work best or which position will provide the most or least value on your team etc… Sure, we do learn some lessons from the previous season and hope that the trend will continue into the next, making us all Nostradamus of fantasy football. Here are 3 lessons that I learned from the 2016 fantasy football season:
Don’t Let The Year of the “Barfy Tight End” Scare You in 2017
Ahhh yes, the “Barfy Tight End”, a phrase coined by our very own Mike Wright. Mike was on to this trend early into the 2016 season. There were times where I thought he was over-reacting but in an overall sense, he was right. Let’s face it, there was not a healthy, elite tight end last season. The injuries to both Gronk and Jordan Reed played a major role in the lack of overall production from the tight end position. Travis Kelce led all tight ends last year in both standard (138) and PPR (223) scoring. Both fantasy point totals were the lowest scored by the top fantasy tight end in over 15 seasons. I went back and assessed the fantasy production of the top 10 tight ends every year from 2006 – 2016 and was relieved with what I discovered. The 2016 season was the worst season for the top 10 tight ends in both standard and PPR formats since 2008.
To put this in perspective, in 2016 the average fantasy points for the top 10 tight ends, were 117 (standard) and 188 (PPR). The total average of the top 10 tight ends from the 2009-2015 seasons was 132 (standard) and 205 (PPR). This means, on average for the past 7 seasons before the horrific 2016 season, the top 10 tight ends averaged 15 more fantasy points in standard scoring and 17 more fantasy points in PPR scoring.
If this data remains consistent, the 2016 season of the “barfy tight end” is an anomaly and 2017 will yield much better results. Don’t let 2016 scare you off of this productive position on your fantasy team. If anything, because of 2016, you will now be able to get a top 10 tight end at a much better value in drafts!
Scarcity of Running Backs & Depth at Wide Receiver
I have been very vocal about why I consider myself a #ZeroWR guy. The primary reasons, position scarcity of running backs and the depth at the wide receiver position. Last season, in PPR, there were 26 running backs that finished with 150 fantasy points or more compared to WRs which had over 50 players finish the season with 150 fantasy points or more. “But, Nate that was PPR, of course the WRs will have more fantasy points than RBs”. Fair enough. In standard scoring, there were 21 RBs that finished with 150 points or more and only 11 WRs.
Does standard scoring favor RBs? Yes, but only for the top RBs in the game. There is still more production depth at the WR position. Last year, 36 RBs scored 100 or more fantasy points in standard scoring while 49 WRs managed to accomplish 100 or more points. Simply put, the production in running backs fall off a lot faster than the production of wide receivers. You can maximize your scoring potential by drafting the few fantasy productive running backs earlier since they will not be there in the later rounds, where you can still find great wide receiver fantasy production. Wait on wide receiver, you’ll be happy you did.
Trust Your Decisions & Don’t Feel Obligated to Stick to a Specific Draft Strategy
This is more of a lesson we should take into every new season. It’s not necessarily something learned just from 2016. As I wrote this article and dug into some research to support my strategies and views, I realized that there are valid points to most strategies out there. If everyone that won their fantasy football leagues did the “Zero RB”, “Zero WR”, “Late Round QB” or any other strategy, then EVERYONE would be doing that. Be smart during your drafts. Feel free to test out some different strategies when mock drafting but do not feel tied to that strategy come actual draft time. The truth is, the way real drafts go almost never match up to how your mocks go. People have invested in their leagues and are done “trying things out” come the real draft day.
There is a reason so many people have strong views on different drafting strategies; they all have the potential to work. What does this tell us? It tells us that winning your league is not done in the draft. The people who win their fantasy leagues are those heavily involved with trades, waiver wire pickups, latest player news, and trends. If you want to win your fantasy football leagues, stay active. Pay attention to the players in your league and what makes them tick.
Ask yourself the following questions. How can you put together the right trade package to land “your guy” from another team? Who has been producing on waivers, not just in the last week but in the last few weeks? What trends are you seeing? What are some big name players on your team falling off in production that you can still get great trade value for before it’s too late? Who is injured and who is next in line to take the bulk of their production? I can sit here and list a thousand other questions for you to think about throughout any given season but we don’t have time for that.
At the end of the day, you need to invest your time by listening to what the fantasy football experts are saying and making your own determinations from there. Do your own research because your eyes will likely open up to a different mindset than what you were previously thinking. Trust your ability and gut to make the right moves. Be confident in yourself because you are the one that makes the final decision on who you draft, what trades you accept or decline, who you claim off waivers, who you sit or start, the list goes on. Educate yourself as much as you can with tools like the Ultimate Draft Kit, and make your own decisions based off of that knowledge. This is called doing your best and that is all you can ask for. Good luck to you in your 2017 fantasy football season and don’t forget to have fun!