Fantasy Football: Best Laid Plans
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This month, I made my annual visit to New Jersey to visit my oldest daughters. As a surprise, they bought tickets to Sunday’s Giants game against the Cardinals.
Even though I claim to prefer sitting in my warm, dry home with relatively free refreshments and NFL Red Zone supplementing my NFL TV-viewing choices, I was excited to go to my first live Giants game in over 30 years.
But it did induce a bit of anxiety when it came to last-minute fantasy football changes.
As my daughters waited in the car for me, I made one last sweep of my ten money teams and checked my fantasy football apps for updates.
Before shuffling off, I dropped Terry McLaurin from three teams and replaced him with receivers playing in better-weather stadiums.
But I did not do the same with David Johnson. In fact, I took him off the bench in one league and dropped Chase Edmonds based on the latest news that Johnson was active and expected to play Sunday.
Then I enjoyed a sandwich and barbequed ribs in the parking lot of the Giants’ MetLife Stadium before watching the Johnson strategy explode before my eyes.
Barely halfway through the first quarter, Edmonds ran in his second 20-yard touchdown. The steady drizzle appropriately became a drenching rain.
It seemed my fantasy football week was a washout.
Not As Bad As It Could Have Been
As it wound up, there was no last-minute announcement I missed about Johnson. He was active, and it was a fantasy-football roster-wrecking coach’s decision to stay with Edmonds on a damp and ugly day in New Jersey.
Maybe, if I was home and really concentrating, I would have stayed with Edmonds on a hunch about the weather.
But since my opponent fielded Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, and Will Fuller, each of whom left their games early, I pulled out the victory. I didn’t even need the 0.2 points contributed by Johnson.
And before you say it, yes- I own a smartphone. But since I am such a Sunday homebody (or hotel-body), I’ve never bothered to put more than fantasy football alerts on my phone. I can’t actually access my teams if I am away from my laptop.
I know. How “old school”.
Lots of Decisions Work Out Differently Than Expected
Someone tweeted words of encouragement this week to a young woman contemplating a full-time commitment to her fantasy football podcast and website.
“Where else can you be right 15% of the time and be considered a genious?” he wrote.
Besides the fact he misspelled “genius”, I’m right way more than 15% of the time with my advice, and I don’t consider myself much better than the other fantasy football writers and prognosticators out there.
I am only a little bit better.
My goal every week is 60% accuracy across all projected sleepers and starts/sits. But if you get just the right 15% of predictions correct, I suppose you can look like a genius.
For example, most of us missed the boat on Chase Edmonds this week. But if you followed my advice to drop Terry McLaurin (2.1 PPR points, WR-83) and replace him (as I did) with Detroit’s Marvin Jones (43.3, WR-1), Buffalo’s John Brown (19.3, WR-11), or Jacksonville’s Dede Westbrook (17.7, WR-13), you’d forget about the Arizona misstep and start following me on Twitter (@OppsPat).
The Big Picture
Fantasy football’s unpredictability is arguably the most predictable aspect of the game. Each week, injuries, a hot hand, or even a rainy-day coaches’ decision can sabotage the best-laid plans of any team manager.
What is important, however, is the big picture. Even the most superb weekly decisions are quickly forgotten when we look at the draft moves, waiver pickups, and trades made by the eventual league champions.
Now that we are at the midpoint of our fantasy football season, the picks we tried to shrug off as flukes have to be considered the real deal or the biggest disappointments to date.
Which draft picks look like disasters as we head into the home stretch? Who made the right calls? Is there a correction coming in the second half?
Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst-looking choices of the 2019 fantasy football draft and see which ones will hold up or continue to sink our lineups the rest of the way.
Some statistics might be skewed because of bye-weeks and the pending Monday Night Football game, but they are close enough to judge.
Current QB-1 Lamar Jackson isn’t our biggest steal at quarterback. His ADP of QB-12 indicates he was considered a starter in one-quarterback leagues. Many of his owners drafted him only because their preferred options were off the board, but he is clearly a winner draft pick.
Dak Prescott was still available at QB-15 in most leagues. This was despite three straight top-10 finishes and the addition of Amari Cooper full time. Prescott’s status as the QB-4 after Week 7 makes him a bonafide steal.
Matthew Stafford wasn’t even considered a second-line quarterback. If he went off the boards at all, he went off at an ADP of QB-26. After 7 weeks, Stafford is the QB-12. Before last season’s injury-handicapped season, Stafford was a top-12 quarterback for 7 straight seasons.
There is no reason to think these three will not continue their current pace. Jackson will use his legs or arm to roll through the Ravens’ schedule. Prescott has weapons and is on pace to get his traditional 6 rushing touchdowns. Both have proven to hold up regardless of matchups.
Stafford is vulnerable to negative matchups but other than two meetings with the Bears and his second game against the Vikings, there are few worries about putting Stafford in your fantasy football lineup.
Jared Goff had detractors wondering if he could maintain his growth enough to warrant his QB-9 ADP. Jameis Winston was touted as a sleeper in a new offense, even as Jameis doubters feared he was the same turnover machine as always.
Their current QB-17 and 18 standings seem to prove the Goff and Winston critics justified, but at least neither of them had fantasy football owners reaching for them in the mid-to-early rounds only to disappoint.
There were times I felt like the only Baker Mayfield alarmist in the fantasy football world. My warnings about the new head coach doubling as his offensive coordinator and a youthful acceptance of the Browns’ proclaimed playoff status diminishing Mayfield’s fire did little to lower his ADP.
Many of Mayfield’s owners grabbed him in the 7-8th round, sure they had a championship-level passer. Believers can cite the Browns’ bye week as part of the reason for Mayfield’s current QB-27 status, but 5 touchdowns and 11 interceptions are more telling.
Mayfield has a tough schedule ahead of him. He could jump up and feel inspired when folks start proclaiming the Browns’ playoff chances dead. But I don’t think his “us against the world” speech will inspire the team enough to expect much more from the young quarterback. Stream others.
Running Back Hits
Austin Ekeler still ranks as the RB-3 in PPR leagues after the third week of Melvin Gordon’s return. Certainly, we can understand why Ekeler fell to the RB-29 ADP with the Gordon holdout situation. It goes against my “draft, trade, and waive to win THIS week” philosophy, but it was understandable.
The thing is, Ekeler is not likely to fade completely. Even when/if Gordon gets back up to speed and makes a difference in the Chargers’ offense, Ekeler’s effectiveness warrants some usage. He will probably be the receiving/change-of-pace back even after Gordon starts clamoring for 25 touches to get into his Gordon groove.
The potential monkey wrench is Anthony Lynn’s obsession with Gordon. But you have to keep playing Ekeler until he stops putting up 100 total yards per week. Also, don’t trade him until we see if Gordon is still with the Chargers after the NFL trade deadline.
Mark Ingram’s ADP of RB-22 seemed too low to me. He is on many of my rosters, selected ahead of Kerryon Johnson, Devonta Freeman, and the rookies Montgomery and Jacobs. Ingram’s RB-10 status is probably a little higher than where he’ll end up. But it is not likely to change enough to consider trading him.
Philip Lindsay was off my radar. In fact, I touted Royce Freeman ahead of him in an obvious committee. However, Lindsay’s current RB-13 ranking makes his ADP of RB-26 a bargain. He is at risk of slipping due to the uncertainty of Denver’s offense. But Lindsay could also move up the ranks if Joe Flacco remains enough of a threat to keep defenses from loading the box.
Running Back Misses
One can’t blame fantasy football owners for being somewhat concerned about James Connor (ADP: RB-5) and Le’Veon Bell (ADP: RB-7). But even in their disappointing starts, they are RB-2 worthy. That makes the odds of a return to fantasy stardom possible, especially if either of their teams can establish a passing game.
Joe Mixon, however, is a real flop. Even after salvaging his 9-carries-for-19-yards Week 7 with a touchdown, Mixon is the RB-34 on the season. This was supposed to be Mixon’s year to shine. He was healthy and had an improved offensive line.
He can always get hot as we saw at the end of last season. But all he has done so far is to increase the value of Andy Dalton and the Bengals wide receiver troupe. I dumped Mixon everywhere I had him.
Kerryon Johnson remains a marginal RB-2, but at his ADP of RB-10, his owners were expecting much more. It could be coming, but preseason prognostications of Detroit becoming a run-heavy offense seem to have been erroneous.
Wide Receiver Hits
Every season, there are a handful of wide receivers who jump out of the late rounds to win fantasy football championships. Some are highly discussed as preseason sleepers. Others are highly debated.
Some see their projections and ADP rise and fall as the season approaches. Chris Godwin climbed from the 30s to become the consensus WR-16. He should have climbed higher as he sits in the current WR-2 spot.
Cooper Kupp (ADP: WR-22) found himself in the middle of the “Can-any-quarterback-carry-three-wide-receivers” debate. Maybe Jared Goff can only feed two a week, but Kupp has been one of the pair every game and earned a WR-3 ranking in the first half.
Denver’s Courtland Sutton was largely ignored once Emmanuel Sanders showed everyone he was completely healed from Achilles’ surgery. Sutton dropped to an ADP of WR-45 but has taken over the top role in the Mile-High City. He is the WR-10.
All three of these wide receivers can be expected to maintain a top-level rating if nothing changes on their teams. Rookie Terry McLaurin, who came out of the unranked ADP ranks to take the WR-19 spot through Week 7 is another story.
Besides the overall instability in Washington, the acting head coach is determined to feature the running game. McLaurin’s 2.1 PPR points in Week 7 can be shrugged off to a muddy track neither team could matriculate, but don’t be surprised if McLaurin falls in the fantasy rankings over the second half.
After saying that, let me declare DJ Chark the steal of the 2019 fantasy football draft. Chark’s ADP of 78 reflected his late-round flyer status, based on the theory that Nick Foles has to throw to somebody other than Dede Westbrook on occasion.
The Foles-Westbrook preseason connection was real enough to keep Chark’s projections low even as other Jaguar options fell by the wayside. When Foles went down, Gardner Minshew made Chark the receiver he threw to the most.
Foles could come back before the season ends. This will lead to speculation whether Chark or Westbrook is the WR-1. Foles is a veteran passer. He won’t ignore Chark or Westbrook.
Chark might slip from his current WR-5 to more of a top-15 type, but that’s enough to keep starting him.
Wide Receiver Misses
WR-1 Devante Adam’s turf toe was a blow to many fantasy football rosters. But to be honest, he didn’t win many games for people before his 10-catch, 180-yard performance in Week 4 ended with him limping off the field.
Adams was the WR-64, 17, and 50 over the first three weeks, making my preseason caution flag about top corners blanketing the only proven Packers wide receiver each week look pretty savvy.
Now, I worry Aaron Rodgers’ increased familiarity with his other options will hurt Adams’ status even more. He’ll remain a must-start unless you found more viable options in his absence. He is still high on my potential “Bust-of-the-Year” candidates list.
Odell Beckham Jr has been sucked into the Cleveland Browns’ vortex. His current WR-28 ranking makes the preseason debates about whether he was a top-3 or top-6 receiver seem silly.
But Beckham is still a potential game-changer every week. His bye has passed, and his fantasy football ranking will creep up. It would not be surprising to find him in the top-10 before year’s end, although Mayfield’s psyche will play a role in that.
The bust of the year so far is easily JuJu Smith-Schuster. We all wondered how much better last year’s WR-7 could be when he wasn’t sharing the field with the WR-1. Regardless of our position, we assumed he would have a quarterback.
Mason Rudolph’s hesitancy (or restrictions?) from throwing the ball downfield makes Smith-Schuster a total washout. His WR-41 status is not likely to improve much in the second half of the season. The most Rudolph seems to be capable of is keeping Ben Roethlisberger’s name a topic among Steelers’ fans.
Tight Ends and That One DST
There’s not much to say about tight ends as the extreme changes and touchdown-dependency make choosing one each week a crapshoot.
But I will give kudos to the fantasy football owners who bet on Dirk Koetter making Austin Hooper (ADP- TE-10; currently TE-1) relevant. Those who rolled the dice on Darren Waller (24/2) and Mark Andrews (13/4) picked winners, too. I would roll those three out every week for the rest of the season.
All right. I’ll also say, “I told you so” to everyone who picked OJ Howard or Jared Cook and expected them to be weekly regulars. I admit, however, that even though I said Cameron Brate would be higher-ranked than Howard, I expected them to be in the TE15-18 range, not wallowing in the 27-36 depths.
Kudos also to that one guy in each league who never has to stream his or her defense. What the Patriots DST is doing this year is unbelievable. It’s even scarier when you realize they always play better in the second half
Who did you miss or hit on? Share it below!