Whether you’re a fantasy analyst or fantasy gamer, you should always spend some time on reviewing your process. Identifying areas you excelled and areas you failed will only make you stronger moving forward. Below are five questions that some of the TFA crew answered on our own process. Feel free to list your own hits and misses of 2016 in the comments below.
1. What was your biggest hit?
Kirk Cousins, Redskins
There were plenty of players I was high on this season, but Kirk Cousins really stands out to me. Many in the community had different takes on Cousins heading into the season. Some felt that Cousins 2015 season was a fluke and he was bound to regress. Well, for me. I felt that the Redskins offense was going to be very similar to the previous year. They failed to improve their rushing attack, which led to Cousins throwing the sixth most pass attempts (39 per game) in the league. He finished as QB5 after completing 72.5% of passes (7th-most), for 4,917 passing yards (third-most), 25 touchdowns (13th most), 12 INTs, and also found the end zone four times on the ground. Considering his ADP of QB14, he was the perfect late-round QB to target in 2016 and should have just as bright of a future in 2017. – Kevin Steele (@FantasyWrath13)
Cole Beasley, Cowboys
My biggest hit would have to be Cole Beasley. I owned Beasley in nearly every league I was in and for a good portion of the season, he anchored my receiving corps with a steady floor.
Cole Beasley finished the season with 833 yards on 75 receptions and 5 TDs making him the WR33 just behind Dez Bryant in PPR scoring, always PPR scoring. Beasley averaged 12.08 points per week and his weekly scores are listed below totaling 181.25 points. Through week 11 Beasley was the WR 22 which would have gave your team a fighting chance considering he was waiver wire fodder in even dynasty leagues this last summer.
Beasley wasn’t a league winner by any means but several hits with guys like Cole Beasley can make up for the misses on guys who underperform their high ADP or simply get injured. Hitting on contributors like this are the potatoes to the meat on a fantasy team. They aren’t the main course and they aren’t the most expensive, but potatoes and steak go together and create championship meals. – Justin McCasland (@MaclandJ)
DeMarco Murray, Titans
My biggest hit would probably be Demarco Murray. He was a top-5 RB all year and I owned him in almost every re-draft league I played in. For a talented starting running back to last into the 5th round of many leagues was a little bit ridiculous in my opinion. Watching Chip Kelly horrendously misuse him led many astray, but I knew he still had talent and would thrive in a system better suited to his needs. – Zach Marmer (@leagueedge)
LeSean McCoy, Bills
This year as a whole was one big hit for most of my leagues. I have played fantasy football a long time, but have never won four championships (out of 15 leagues, made playoffs in 11, 6 championship games) in one season. This year I did. I say that not to brag, but just to express how thankful I am for this, as it will probably never happen again.
The biggest part of that success came from snagging three specific players in nearly half of my leagues: Matt Ryan, LeSean McCoy & Antonio Brown. Antonio Brown was an obvious pick. And truth be told, QBs are a dime a dozen. So McCoy ended up being the most impactful player for me. Many people were down on McCoy, but as I wrote about in July, that was a huge mistake. In my single season redraft leagues, I grabbed McCoy in the 3rd (or 4th!) everywhere. In my dynasty startups, I was able to get him in the 5th or even 6th rounds because people hate running backs. LeSean McCoy was on two my championship-winning teams and four other rosters that made it to at least the league semi-finals. – Travis May (@FF_TravisM)
Matt Ryan, Falcons
This represented a difficult pick between Matt Ryan and Jordy Nelson for me since I supported both heavily in the preseason and both really outshined the critics. I have to go with Matt Ryan though, of course. Ryan finished the regular fantasy season as the #2 overall fantasy QB with 4944 yards, a massive 38 touchdowns, 74.3 completion %, and only 7 interceptions. I called Ryan one of my top undervalued fantasy players heading into the 2016 season, and he certainly proved me right. And, yes, I do think he will lead the Falcons to the ultimate victory in Superbowl 51.
Davante Adams, Packers
It’s been an inside joke for a majority year with my TFA peers, but I can’t help but tout my Davante pick back in week four of the season when the guy was rotting on the waiver wire. Flash forward to the end of 2016 season and Adams finished as WR 7 in standard leagues and WR 9 in PPR. He finished ahead of Amari Cooper, Jarvis Landry, Brandin Cooks, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate. Hell, like I said, Adams was on waivers a quarter of the way into the season. Now I definitely didn’t see THAT kind of production coming, but when you have receivers that play in dominant passing offenses every option is relevant. The one thing I questioned was his catch rate which was still average for the season, but when you’re seeing 121 targets production is bound to follow. I’m hoping for a lot more Davante Adams calls next season. – Ryan Williams (@ryanalexander_w)
2. What was your biggest miss?
Marvin Jones, Lions
He sure made me look good through the first 7 weeks of the season, snagging 623 yards and 4 touchdowns on 33 catches. Jones ranked as #6 fantasy WR at that point, but we all know how this ended. He finished the 2016 season at the #37 fantasy WR overall, topped 50 yards only 3 times and had zero touchdowns past week 7. His poor second half performance quieted the expectations that Jones is a #1 WR and he’s been quoted as admitting drop issues and poor performance (but without much of an explanation). Either way, we can expect Jones’ hype to be tempered in 2017. – Jennifer Smith (@FF_Female920)
Markus Wheaton, Steelers
I felt pretty good about the wide receivers who I wanted to target in mid-late rounds as sleeper picks. One player, I was WAY off on was Markus Wheaton. With Martavis out for the season due to suspension and the Steelers having young talent that had little to no NFL experience, I thought Wheaton was in a prime spot to shine in 2016. Boy, was I wrong! The fourth-year receiver played in only three games finishing with just four receptions, 51 yards, and one touchdown. Ouch. – Ryan Williams (RyanAlexander_W)
T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars
Yeldon was someone I thought would take the next step this season. I wasn’t as confident in Chris Ivory as others were and at least I got that part right. Yeldon only managed 465 yards on 130 attempts for a sad 3.6 YPC. Yeldon was a better receiver this season and had some flex-worthy games in a pinch. I wouldn’t be surprised if Yeldon had serious competition via the draft this offseason. In 2017, Yeldon’s best bet is to get in the game as a 3rd down specialist with upside if the starter goes down. His value will likely bottom out this summer if/when another RB is brought in. In PPR leagues I will likely be buying him for nearly free and effectively doubling down on my biggest miss.
— Justin McCasland (@MaclandJ) March 25, 2016
I also owe Travis an avatar for 2 weeks. I’ve conceded this loss considering the math makes Yeldon catching up an impossibility. – Justin McCasland (@MaclandJ)
Allen Robinson, Jaguars
This isn’t entirely his fault, but for as horrific as Blake Bortles was, Robinson had his fair share of drops and inconsistent play. This miss has a lot of layers to it. Allen Hurns was either injured or inconsistent which meant that teams could focus all of their defensive attention on Robinson. The lack of a running game didn’t help either. The Jaguars defense made strides this year, so while they still lost a lot of games, they weren’t in catchup mode 100% of the time like in 2015. All of that combined for a disappointing year for one of the most talented receivers in the NFL. One can only hope that the situation improves for the Jaguars next season. – Zack Marmer (@Leagueedge)
Latavius Murray, Raiders
I call him Latavius MEHrray because I have been down on him for the majority of his career. Coming into this season I bunched him together with JereMEH Langford and MEHtt Jones as future failures waiting to happen. Well, I went two for three; not bad.
Latavius just missed RB1 status in many PPR scoring formats on the season. He more than returned draft investment this year rushing for a career-high 12 rushing touchdowns, and catching 33 balls through the air.
However, the future still doesn’t shine as bright for the bad Murray. If the touchdown opportunity doesn’t repeat itself he’ll fall off a cliff in fantasy. He only managed 788 yards on the ground this year. Plus, Oakland has two other running backs that took action from Latavius this year. He will yet again be a running back that I am fading for 2017. Hopefully, I’m not so wrong this time. – Travis May (FF_TravisM)
Heading into the season, I was very high on Michael Floyd to take the next step and emerge as a possible WR1 candidate in the explosive Cardinals’ offense. After a slow start to the 2015 season, Floyd broke out and appeared destined to take over the throne as the Cardinals WR1, however, Floyd was an utter disappointment. To make matters worse, he was busted for driving under the influence which led to him getting cut and signing with the Patriots. He finished the regular season with 33 receptions on 67 targets (49% catch rate) for 446 yards and 4 TDs. He’s slated to become a free agent in 2017 and is a player who has the ability to turn things around, although his value will ultimately be determined by where he lands. – Kevin Steele (@FantasyWrath13)
3. What surprised you most?
Wide Receiver Regression
The absolute biggest surprise this year to me was the devastation at the wide receiver position. Injuries are nearly impossible to predict, but Keenan Allen, Sammy Watkins, A.J. Green and more all went down for significant periods of time. Then you had guys like DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson absolutely disappear for most of the season. It was definitely a frustrating year if you owned any of those guys. I somehow managed to make some trades and take advantage of some massive RB value to offset some injuries to my WR corps. That won’t have an effect on how I view WR fragility moving forward. RBs are still the more susceptible position to injury. Don’t believe anything otherwise. – Travis May (FF_TravisM)
A lot surprised me in 2016 from a fantasy perspective, but I think the thing I was most surprised about was how much the Denver Broncos offense struggled this year without Manning. I think I underestimated how good a “bad” Peyton Manning is just because he’s Peyton F’ing Manning. Siemian was a QB I sought out in 2QB leagues – his 191.6 fantasy points (standard) were just a hair better than Ryan Tannehill’s and not good enough to even crack QB2 production. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were two players I expected to repeat their numbers to help the young QB get acclimated and they both saw a decrease in production scoring only 10 total touchdowns and having their aDot drop from the year prior. Oh, and CJ Anderson tearing his meniscus didn’t help their offense at all. The Broncos offseason will be one I’ll be paying close attention to. – Ryan Williams (@ryanalexander_w)
Davante Adams without question. This guy had bricks for hands for all of 2015 and was the model of inefficiency. Then in 2016, the switch flipped. Despite being the starting receiver for the Packers in 2015 and #2 to Jordy Nelson this year, he increased his catches from 50 to 75. In addition, his yardage increased from 483 to 997 and touchdowns from 1 to 12. The real question is whether or not you can trust him in 2017. I’m going to predict that 2015 was a fluke. Adams has always been talented. He was part of the legendary 2014 class of receivers and showed flashes of potential as a rookie. As long as Aaron Rodgers is at the top of his game throwing him the ball, I think Adams has, even more, room to grow as Jordy Nelson ages. – Zack Marmer (@leagueedge)
Running Back Health
The biggest surprise to me this season is how so many running backs managed to stay healthy. I’m not upset that this happened because it will without a doubt lead to a “running back early” draft renaissance in 2017. Couple this with the influx of high-end running back talent in this 2017 draft class and the wide receivers are going to fall like crazy. I’m going to stick with my ZeroRB strategy going forward while reminding myself and others that this strategy is not rigid, but a mindset that is supported by years of data; not just one outlier season. – Justin McCasland (@MaclandJ)
Honestly, the amount of serious, fantasy-season changing injuries surprised me across the board, stretching all the way to the very end of the season. Keenan Allen, Tony Romo, Eric Decker, Danny Woodhead, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Teddy Bridgewater, CJ Anderson, Eddie Lacy, Melvin Gordon, AJ Green, Doug Martin, Derek Carr. I could go on and on. I know there is always a long list of players every season but it seemed like many game-changers and typically consistent players wereon the IR or injury report in 2016. Some returned from injury but were absent in critical weeks or got you into the playoffs and then went down, while others never returned and owners were forced to work the waivers. Either way, between this and under performers, this fantasy season was tough on owners. Congrats to those who ended at the top! – Jennifer Smith (@FF_Female920)
Running Back Renaissance
While there were plenty of misses in the first few rounds such as Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley, Eddie Lacy, Doug Martin, Lamar Miller, and Jamaal Charles, the production by the top running backs far out exceeded what many could have predicted. David Johnson exploded for 410 PPR points (26.6 FPpG), which were the most fantasy points by any player since LaDainian Tomlinson (432) and Steven Jackson (411) in 2006. His historical season won many fantasy owners championships, but he wasn’t the only running back who exceeded expectations. Ezekiel Elliott finished with 325 PPR points (20.3 FPpG) was the fourth most by any rookie running back post-merger. Then there was Le’Veon Bell who missed the first four games due to suspension but still managed 315 PPR points (26.25 FPpG).
After a brutal year in 2015 for running backs, this season gave us a glimpse from the days of yore when running backs dominated the fantasy landscape. Many will tell you that the sexy ZeroRB strategy was a colossal failure. Then you take a look at the top 12 backs and you see Melvin Gordon, DeMarco Murray, Jordon Howard, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Frank Gore. What do all of these backs have in common? They were all mid-to-late round picks. Sure, the wide receiver position was a bit of a failure, but to say Zero RB was a failure is just as ludicrous. In 2017, I will again run Zero RB if I don’t have a top 5 pick. – Kevin Steele (@FantasyWrath13)
4. Which rookie (not named Ezekiel Elliott) are you most excited for their long term success?
This one is without a doubt Michael Thomas. Nearly everyone missed on Michael Thomas being as dominant a talent as he turned out to be this season. Thomas was underrated in nearly every draft this past offseason thereby giving owners in the back half of rookie drafts an excellent weapon. The New Orleans Saints rookie put up 1,137 yards on 92 receptions and nabbed 9 TDs. Thomas had an impressive catch percentage among receivers only being outdone by Eddie Royal and Cole Beasley.
Michael Thomas finished with a catch% of 76% for 3rd among WRs ? 92 receptions for 1137 & 9 TDs!
— Justin McCasland (@MaclandJ) January 18, 2017
Thomas finished the season as wide receiver 7 averaging 16 points per game. The Saints passing game is a gold mine considering Brandin Cooks finished as the wide receiver 9 averaging 16.1 points per game. (PPR scoring according to profootballfocus.com) It’s become apparent that the decline of Drew Brees has not occurred and that offense is going to continue to pass the ball a lot. There are times in Dynasty where you buy high on a player and Thomas is someone I would recommend doing so on. – Justin McCasland (@MaclandJ)
Carson Wentz, Eagles
For how terrible this class looked going into rookie drafts last year, I am actually excited about a few players going forward. The guy I will go with is Carson Wentz. This is admittedly a little biased coming from a Philly fan, but I think there is a ton to like from Wentz going forward. The rookie inherited one of the worst receiving corps in the league. He was without star right tackle Lane Johnson for 10 games, and there was barely a semblance of a run game. Despite all of that, Wentz completed over 62% of his passes, came just shy of 4,000 yards and had 18 total touchdowns. Give this guy a couple more weapons, and I see him as a perennial pro-bowler for a long time. – Zack Marmer (@leagueedge)
Michael Thomas, Saints
I’m excited about any wide receiver targeted by Drew Brees 119 times (more than any other Saints receiver) on a team that throws the ball more than any other offense. Brees ranked in the top 3 for passing attempts every season since 2010. Thomas finished the season as the #9 overall fantasy WR (standard scoring according to profootballfocus.con) with 1137 yards and 9 TDs on 91 catches. He also had a 77% completion rate. Sign me up in 2017, please. – Jennifer Smith (@FF_Female920)
Josh Doctson, Redskins
Michael Thomas has to be the most exciting rookie player not named Zeke, but his price has already soared through the roof. He won’t be a good value on draft day next year. The rookie I am most excited about moving forward is probably going to be Josh Doctson. Why? He’ll be absolutely dirt cheap but could accidentally fall into a WR1 role by mid-season. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are free agents. Jamison Crowder is a merely a slot WR. Doctson had the best NFL combine of any WR last year. His potential to break out and cost you nothing are high. – Travis May (@FF_TravisM)
Dak Prescott, Cowboys
For me, it’s hands down Dak Prescott. What this kid was able to do as a rookie, leading Dallas to a first-round bye and the best record in the NFC was just remarkable. A lot of people in the sports industry wrote the Cowboys off from making the playoffs after Tony Romo went down week 3 of the preseason. I thought Dak’s preseason was a façade, but he translated his game to the pros flawlessly and was a stud QB1 for fantasy owners. Only five QBs finished with better fantasy numbers as he was top 15 guy in PPR formats due to his rushing ability. With the team all but his (Romo will probably be gone before 2017 starts), I’m really intrigued what Prescott can do in year two with the Dallas offense. – Ryan Williams (@ryanalexander_w)
Corey Coleman, Browns
We saw flashes of his enormous upside in 2016, although, he was limited by four different QBs and a broken hand. He finished with 33 receptions, 413 yards, and 3 TDs. His athletic profile is most comparable to that of Odell Beckham Jr according to PlayerProfiler.com. Of course, he has a long way to go to reach that potential. The Browns will need to improve their QB position to reach his full potential.- Kevin Steele (FantasyWrath13)
5. What is one lesson you will take away from 2016 that you will apply to 2017?
I’m probably going to sound like a broken record here as I’m sure that other writers have pointed to this as well, in hindsight, but don’t overemphasize past trends when you’re prepping for your draft. Zero RB, Zero WR, etc. strategies weighed heavily as we prepared for the 2016 draft with analysts arguing back and forth about which strategy is better. As we saw this year, trends (like the injury-palooza of 2015 for RBs) don’t necessarily dictate end results. Now, we are in the business of predicting and giving advice about what is MOST LIKELY to happen based on the past, so give us a break; however, overemphasizing on strategy or one position over another can get you in a tight spot. I know injuries to my heavily targeted players like Keenan Allen and Eric Decker really put me in the hole right away in some leagues. So, I’ll most likely be going BPA and having a little more balanced of a perspective heading into 2017. – Jennifer Smith (@FF_Female920)
The lesson I learned in 2016 is to stay true to my own evaluations on a player and not to overemphasize another analysts opinions on a player. This coincides with a need to dig deeper on players myself in the offseason and to develop strong opinions on them in order to not be swayed by the Draft Twitter player of the week.
I know the title is lessons learned in the singular form but I felt like another lesson I learned was too good not to share. Play Fantasy Football in a way that you enjoy it. I’ve said many times before that this hobby of ours is meant for enjoyment and if it’s bringing us true pain and suffering for any reason then we’ve gone horribly wrong somewhere. Step away from leagues that you dread, take a break from Twitter if the conversations steer away from football, trade that player away for that pick or player you believe in if it makes you happy; trade polls be damned! Do it for the joy or find something else that provides it to you. – Justin McCasland – (@MaclandJ)
The lesson I learned this fantasy year was to invest in your own research. It’s never too early to start watching film from the previous year. Take your own notes. Listen/reach out to others for advice, but make your own decisions. And don’t forget reasons you liked a player even with their situations changing. I talked on our TFA podcast this week about how my notes on Jay Ajayi from the offseason helped me to get a fantasy RB1 in the ninth round in one league. If you’re going to lose in fantasy, lose with your plays. – Ryan Williams (@ryanalexander_w)
In redraft leagues, be careful how you value positions. 2015 led us to overvalue wide receivers in 2016. In reality, if you had David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, or Ezekiel Elliot on your team you probably made the playoffs because of that running back. If you valued tight ends highly in 2016, it probably screwed you as the whole positional group was awful as a whole. The best strategy for drafting in a redraft is taking the best player available. This means valuing player against player regardless of position and knowing who to value higher. Stud players are stud players regardless of position and should be valued as such. – Zack Marmer (@leagueedge)
Solomon, son of David in the Bible put it best in Ecclesiastes 1:9. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Fantasy football is a game of cycles, patterns, statistics, and strategies. At this point, it’s all been said and done before. The most important thing in fantasy football is to sift through the noise to find what’s really credible and trustworthy. There is so much information out there. There are so many analysts trying to tell you that their strategy is the best. They’re probably wrong. Find some people you trust and learn from them. But in the end, look for patterns, gaps in value, and trends that you can exploit. Above all, trust yourself, and go with your guys. If you don’t, you’ll regret it in the end. – Travis May (@FF_TravisM)
One thing I learned from this season was to stay true to your thought process. It’s easy to allow all of the outside noise to cloud your beliefs. The herd mentality is real around the fantasy community. You should tout a player because you believe in him, not because Evan Silva, Matt Harmon, JJ Zachariason, or any other terrific fantasy analyst we have in the community touts a player. If anything, you should question everything and do your own research. Block out the noise and develop your own hot takes. – Kevin Steele (@FantasyWrath13)