It’s been a long, unpredictable fantasy season. I went on record to make a few on-the-books predictions, and I made plenty more predictions before the season. Now that all of my teams are eliminated from championship contention, I would like to take some time and look back on some of my predictions. I want to do this for multiple reasons:
- This industry is extremely unpredictable, and I want to emphasize that even the “experts” are wrong quite often. I have been playing for around 12 years and I made a ton of bad predictions.
- When you look back at predictions, you can see why then went awry and notice patterns. Injuries are largely unpredictable, but there are other patterns of why players do and don’t pan out. Noticing those trends are helpful for making future predictions.
So let’s go prediction by prediction and break down why my crystal ball was sometimes clear as day and others dark and misleading.
Original predictions can be found here or on various TFA offseason podcasts.
Sleeper: Ryan Mathews
Well, this one I wasn’t totally off on. He definitely wasn’t an RB1, but when on the field, he was a serviceable RB2. Problem was that he missed a solid chunk of time due to injuries (as usual) and went through games where other backs were featured.
Why this one went wrong:
I overlooked (perhaps a bit too hopefully as an Eagles fan) the fact that Matthews has always been injury prone. Lane Johnson got suspended for 10 games which seriously hampered the offensive line as a whole. While he did score 9 times, he wasn’t very reliable as a pass-catcher as he had been the previous year.
Matthews isn’t to be trusted. There is a good chance he won’t be on the Eagles roster come next year, and there aren’t many places he goes that I would use more than a flier draft pick on him.
Breakout Player: DeVante Parker
Parker was a player who looked poised to have a breakout campaign coming into 2016. In his last 6 games of 2015, he was producing high-end WR2 numbers. Parker has again flashed the ability that made him an NFL first round selection but hasn’t been able to do that consistently.
Why this prediction went wrong
Miami has primarily leaned on the run game and defense this year, and Parker has been nothing more than a high-upside WR4. The passing game still clearly runs through Jarvis Landry in Miami. While Adam Gase wasn’t exactly the quarterback whisperer he was hyped up to be, the rest of the Dolphins stepped up their play and brought a playoff berth to the first-year head coach.
I also predicted later in the offseason that Kenny Stills would finish as a better receiver than Parker. I was correct about that, but neither receiver was more than a dart throw. Miami has an identity now, and it’s their defense plus Jay Ajayi, not Ryan Tannehill and the receivers as many predicted.
Bounce-back candidate: Demarco Murray
Change of scenery was all that I thought Murray needed. Only a year removed from his 1,800-yard season in Dallas, the talent couldn’t have evaporated in one bad year with a horrible Philadelphia team. The main concern was Derek Henry stealing touches coming into the year.
Why this prediction came true
After a season of watching Chip Kelly run Murray East and West, I had a feeling that moving to a system much more privy to Murray’s strengths would be beneficial to him. I was dead on as Murray was a top-5 running back all season and an absolute steal at his 4th/5th round ADP. Henry didn’t concern me because at worst they would split early-down duties and Murray would be used heavily on 3rd downs. Murray showed the world he still has plenty left in the tank and exceeded even my expectations despite targeting him everywhere in PPR leagues.
Henry did show he has the potential to be a bell-cow on early downs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Murray is overvalued going into next season. He should still be useful, but I don’t think he will match the stats he put up this year as long as Henry is around and proving useful. He probably has one more year left of usefulness in his age 29 season, but a 3rd/4th round pick is likely the sweet spot to strike on him in 2017.
Bust: Michael Floyd
I couldn’t understand his 5th round ADP coming into this season as I just have never seen the potential for Floyd to break out. His talents weren’t even elite at the college level, so it has not been surprising to me that he hasn’t been a pro-bowl talent in the NFL.
Why this prediction came true
DUI aside, the Cardinals had a ton of receiving options and an overrated quarterback coming into 2016. It was clear that David Johnson would be the offensive focal point, so it just seemed that there wouldn’t even be enough targets to go towards Floyd. Even I couldn’t have predicted that he would be as bad as he was this year, but I also knew to avoid him at all costs.
I’m still not touching Floyd with a 10-foot pole unless he sucks Calvin Johnson’s soul out of him and doesn’t get suspended by the league. He is an afterthought going into 2017.
Players I was high on:
Here is a list of some players I was high on coming into 2016. Some produced, some didn’t. Let’s reflect and learn on some of these players.
Why people left Hilton to the 3rd round with a healthy Andrew Luck is anybody’s mystery, but I was happy to own him in almost all of my redraft leagues. He is a great route-runner with elite quickness for a great young QB. I expect another top-10 season as long as he and Luck are healthy.
I was half right about Moncrief. I did say that he would be a big touchdown threat, and I was right about that. He has 7 touchdowns despite missing 7 games to injuries. The disappointing part is his lack of yardage totals. Perhaps if the Colts can get an offensive line this may improve.
Nelson was another guy I targeted everywhere in drafts. In 2015 it was painfully obvious how much he meant to Green Bay’s offense, and he proved that he deserves in the top-tier of receivers when healthy.
After a year where Manning only had OBJ to throw to, I expected him to move into the top-10 fantasy QB tier with Cruz back and Sterling Shepard hyped up so much. I was wrong. Eli is what he is; an interception throwing QB who will also put up decent TD numbers. I thought the Giants Defense would improve, but not to the level that Eli wouldn’t have to make 50 throws a game still.
I will admit I bought hard into the pre-season hype surrounding Shepard. He has produced like a WR3, which is what I probably should have expected, but I drafted him like a WR2. Year 2 should bring even better things for the talented rookie.
Through the first quarter or so of the season, Marvin Jones was a WR1. Then his play absolutely fell off of a cliff. If he can’t produce with the number of targets he’s getting from Matt Stafford, I don’t see him ever producing.
Blake Bortles definitely held Robinson back, and with a proper QB, he could return similar numbers to his 2015 campaign. He wasn’t properly used, and teams game-planned to stop him. Allen Hurns wasn’t the threat he has been and nobody else (except Marquise Lee flashes) stepped up. Jacksonville is going to have a lot of changes this offseason (again) so we can only hope it improves Robinson’s situation.
After a sophomore “slump” I was all over Evans to become the monster he was always capable of and then it happened. There is no reason he can’t put up stats equal to or better than this years for the next decade.
Injured before the conclusion of week 1, Allen’s hype is just that. Hype. Keep an eye out in the offseason, if he recovers well he could be a steal if he slips in drafts.
I said on a podcast late in the offseason that Travis Kelce would be the TE1. In a weak year for the tight end, he proved to be just that. He was being drafted later than injury-prone guys like Gronk and Jordan Reed, so I waited a couple rounds and grabbed the guy who has been Mr. reliable for the Chiefs.
-Duke Johnson Jr.
The Duke/Gio Bernard hype coming into fantasy drafts was at a very high point before we realized that Hill and Crowell would be the bell-cows and that neither team would be very good. Drafting him expecting RB2 numbers on a WR friendly team was a little ambitious.
Diggs has been solid in a bad Vikings offense. In a west coast system, he could be a superstar. How the offseason goes will be critical to Diggs’ stock. The development of Theilen and Laquon Treadwell could affect his role as well.
Snead hasn’t been bad, it’s just that Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks have been worlds better. He was a decent flex play all year, and for his late-round asking price, that seems like a draft pick nicely spent.
Players I was down on:
For the first five weeks of the season, this looked like a good prediction. Then Marvin Jones disappeared and Tate re-emerged as Stafford’s go-to option. He became a solid PPR WR2 after week five. Expect similar next year if the situation remains the same.
Jackson has actually had a nice resurgence campaign and was red-hot down the stretch. I usually don’t gamble on players that make a living on the deep ball, but Jackson has been better than advertised.
Benjamin wasn’t awful, but he didn’t live up the cost of drafting him. The Florida State product won in his rookie year because he was the only option on offense and he is big enough to be a red-zone threat. Touchdown regression and other offensive options were Benjamin’s downfall this year.
Jones isn’t good at football, and eventually got overtaken by Robert Kelley. He shouldn’t be relevant in 2017.
Dez has been pretty good when he is actually on the field. Problem is that the Cowboys are a running team with Dak and Zeke, so he isn’t force fed. He should be better in 2017 with a full offseason working with Prescott as QB. His situation was more of why I was down on him than his talent.
Much like with Dez, the situation made me skeptical. With Lamar Miller in tow, I expected Hopkins ridiculous target share to decrease, and it did. I couldn’t have predicted what a downgrade Brock Osweiler was over Brian Hoyer, but it certainly didn’t help.
Lacy got injured, but I wasn’t buying into the hype that Shreddy Lacy was going to be much better than the 2015 version. We will never know, but Green Bay could definitely go a different direction at RB this offseason.
Stewart missed some time, but he was yet again inconsistent. I’ve never been high on his talent, he just plays in a scheme that fits his style of play. He is a touchdown-dependent play on a team where Cam Newton tends to steal a lot of rushing touchdowns. It’s a headache that some choose to deal with.
Two Major trends that I noticed
1. Talent doesn’t always win, but lack of talent almost always loses
After the season that Allen Robinson and DeAndre Hopkins have had, I still don’t think that anyone would say that either player isn’t talented. Both are great receivers with awful quarterbacks. In a different situation, I would bet on both to succeed.
However, lack of talent will always produce poor results. The athletes in today’s game are just too good to allow it. If you aren’t up to NFL standards, you will be exposed before long. Players like Matt Jones, Jeremy Langford, and Pharoh Cooper were all destined to fail because of a lack of NFL talent. The only reason players like this get drafted is positive situations. Avoid these players despite good situations because there is almost always someone waiting in the wings with more talent to take over. Cooper never really had a job, but Jones and Langford were both looking like starters coming into 2016.
2. No-name players that make a name for themselves in training camp/preseason should not be ignored
Here are some names of fantasy relevant players in 2016: Adam Thielen, Robert Kelley, Tyrell Williams, and Tyreek Hill. Raise your hand if you predicted that any of these players would be worth owning back in July. I’m sure many people would not have even known who these players were. Every season has players that come out of the woodwork before the season begins, and are regularly no more than late-round flyers. If you see a player garnering attention that is relatively unknown, it is probably a good idea to scoop that player up and stash him until he shows signs of regular season consistency. These players are essentially free, and make headlines for a reason.