Don’t Overvalue Playoff Matchups in Fantasy Football

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We are now more than a week removed from the release of the NFL Schedule.  This means that we have all had ample opportunity to over-analyze the upcoming slate of games and some of us will, unfortunately, fall into a very dangerous trap: looking ahead to fantasy playoff matchups.  Moving a player up in your draft rankings because of a seemingly favorable Week 14-16 schedule is an ill-advised venture for several reasons.

Defenses Are Difficult To Predict

In order to know which matchups are favorable in fantasy football, we need to know who the top defenses are in the first place.  This is a fool’s errand and is illustrated by looking at Defense/Special Teams ADP compared to the end of year rankings.  Last season, the top 5 fantasy defenses were Jacksonville, Baltimore, Philadelphia and both Los Angeles squads.  However, not a single one of these teams was identified preseason.  The Eagles had the highest ADP and weren’t selected until DST #11.  On the flip side, Denver was drafted to be the best defense in the league and finished the year ranked 20th.  There is no way to reliably predict which defenses will be stout versus soft in the NFL. This exercise is much less likely to be successful when you try to project four months into the future.

The Player May No Longer Be Relevant

Fantasy owners will be intimately familiar with this concept.  We have all drafted a player early in our drafts and had the pick turn out to be a complete bust.  This can happen due to trade, injury or even just poor play.  I pulled the top 100 players from 2017 ADP and compared it to the end of season rankings.  If you define a fantasy starter as an RB or WR that finishes in the top 36 at their position and a QB or TE who finishes in the top 12, you will find that 44 out of the top 100 players selected in 2017 drafts were not startable assets by the end of the season.  So even if you somehow correctly predicted which defenses to target, there is still a nearly 50-50 chance that it won’t matter anyway because that player will be on your bench, or worse, the waiver wire by the time you get to the end of the season.

You May Trade The Player

I don’t know about your leagues, but I prefer to play in leagues with active owners (like the ones you can find over at footclanleagues.com).  This means that trades are frequent.  Conservatively, I average 2 to 3 trades per season.  If each trade consists of a player or two from my roster this means that at least 2 and as many as 6 quality players from my team will finish the year on my opponent’s roster.  Their championship week matchup certainly isn’t going to be helping me then.

The far better strategy here is to draft players based on season-long projections and then mid-season, once we have a better idea of who the studs are and which defenses are vulnerable, trade for players that will help you make that playoff push so you can win a #FootClanTitle.

What If You Don’t Make The Playoffs At All?

This is the saddest truth on this list.  At best, 50% of the teams in your league will make the playoffs, with only 2 owners making it as far as the championship in Week 16.  If you build your roster to win that late in the season, and somehow accurately predict the players and defenses to target, you may still miss out because your team struggled as your players faced tougher schedules during the fantasy regular season.

Conclusion

While the release of the NFL schedule is fun and very informative, make sure that you resist the urge to peek too far ahead.  Take note of the bye weeks and maybe a few early season matchups you may want to target, but please let other people in your league be the ones chase the pot of gold that lies at the end of the rainbow.  If they pass up on superior players to target those matchups, you will benefit and can laugh as they get themselves eliminated from playoff contention with the wrong players on their roster.