Mon Dec 21st 2020
2020 Week Fifteen Review
You Started Who Against Me?
Amazingly, we've made it to the final week of the fantasy football season. In a year filled with uncertainty, the NFL season moved along with very few hitches. Best of all, with few exceptions, fantasy teams were not adversely affected by COVID. A few starting players missed games to COVID, and the entire Denver team was unstartable the week that they did not have a quarterback, but for the most part, fantasy teams cannot blame COVID for how well their teams did this year. Even so, starting rosters were filled this week by some very surprising players.
I hope your teams fared better than mine this week. I lost three out of four semifinal games, leaving me just one opportunity at a championship in my eight dynasty leagues. I also made the final in one of my two redraft leagues. Win or lose; it's a joy to watch football all weekend and cheer on all of my teams, and I am so glad that we will complete the fantasy season this Christmas weekend.
After following all of the games, here are my thoughts on week fifteen (playoff week two). I'll also reflect on my five worst calls of the year.
Week Fifteen Observations
Surprise Playoff Line-ups
- One of the things that stood out most to me this week was the players who started in line-ups this week. No one would have expected to start some of these players in their semifinal playoff matches, but they did, and it worked. I was knocked out of the playoffs by a team that started Ryan Tannehill, who is quietly the 7th ranked quarterback headed into the week and 37 fantasy points this week. Another team benched Tannehill for Philip Rivers this week and still won his game since Rivers had a decent day, scoring 19 points. Managers started J.D. McKissic on several teams that advanced to the finals this week after scoring 21 PPR points this week. One owner in my leagues advanced to the final with McKissic and Salvon Ahmed as his starting running backs. They combined for 40 points. I have Salvon Ahmed on my roster in four of my eight dynasty leagues but did not have the guts to start him. If I did, I would have made advanced to the final in one league. Tony Pollard got his first NFL start on Sunday and scored 28 fantasy points, more than Ezekiel Elliot has scored in a game this entire season. Even in the playoffs, streaming quarterbacks and handcuff running backs carry teams to wins. Even in dynasty leagues, some of these players were on the waiver wire when the season began.
Waiver Wire Wonders
- This year, several players on the waiver wire to begin the season became every-week starters and incredibly valuable dynasty assets. Dynasty managers grabbed James Robinson off the waiver wire after the Jaguars traded Leonard Fournette to Tampa Bay. In most dynasty leagues, Ryquell Armstead was already on rosters and thought to be the lead running back after this trade. Savvy dynasty managers quickly picked up Devine Ozigbo, who was on the waiver wire, but the more Savvy managers picked up James Robinson instead. I'll write about it here instead of below on my Bad Takes List, but this was my biggest regret of this season. I picked up Ozigbo in many leagues instead of Robinson, who became one of the best and more reliable fantasy running backs this year and became the most tradeable dynasty player this season because of his sharp rise in dynasty value. If that's my biggest regret, my biggest success was being the first manager to pick up Mike Davis off the waiver wire when reports circulated that Caronlina's new coaching staff liked Davis as Christian McCaffrey's back-up ahead of Reggie Bonnafon. Davis contributed to many of my wins this season and was in the starting line-up in three of my four semifinal games this weekend. Unfortunately for Robinson and Davis managers, they did not help teams advance to the championships most likely. Other waiver wire darlings did, though. Robert Tonyan has moved from the waiver wire to an every-week starting tight end that is encroaching on the top tier of dynasty tight ends. Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed provided the safest RB-2 floors for the managers who were wise enough to pick them up off the waiver wire this season, averaging 12 points a game. These players contributed to fantasy wins this year and saw their dynasty stock rise from the entirely unranked to the top tier in the case of Robinson and Tonyan and the middle tier in the case of Gaskin, Ahmed, and Davis.
Tight End Deadzone
- Robert Tonyan is approaching the top tier of tight ends because of his consistency scoring touchdowns, but the elite tier of tight ends is a small group. If this year has taught me anything, having a top tier tight end on your roster makes a massive difference in a team's success. Travis Kelce and Darren Waller lead their teams in targets, receptions, and yards. It's almost unfair to have them rosters because they provide such an advantage to teams at the one position. In six of my eight leagues, one of the Super Bowl teams has either Waller or Kelce. In a tight end premium league, I traded Jerry Jeudy and a 2021 first and second-round pick for Kelce and have not regretted it one bit. Kelce is the 7th highest scoring player in the entire league, including quarterbacks. Waller and Kelce types don't grow on trees, and most NFL teams will not run offensive schemes that involve the tight end as a primary target, but I think I am going to spend more time this offseason trying to determine the tight ends that could move into this top tier or at least populate the tier below. I've typically punted at drafting a tight end early in start-up or rookie drafts and have not made aggressive trades for tight ends. I've been content to try to find tight ends to give me touchdown upside week to week. This strategy has not worked for me. I plan to make trades this offseason for tight ends that have Kelce and Waller's athleticism and are among the leaders on their team in targets. I've not given it the time and thought that I would like to yet, but I imagine the tight ends I would think about first this offseason would be T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, Dallas Goedert, and Logan Thomas. I also will be more willing to draft a top tight end prospect in rookie drafts this year, like Kyle Pitts.
Can't Find The Endzone
- One of the things that stood out most to me this week was the frustrating fact that many leading wide receivers on their teams did not score touchdowns this week while the ancillary wide receivers on their teams did. Tyron Johnson scored, not Keenan Allen. Jake Kumerow scored, not Stefon Diggs. Michael Gallup scored, not Amari Cooper. Chad Hansen and Keke Coutee scored, not Brandin Cooks. Zach Pascal scored twice, not T.Y. Hilton. Darnell Mooney scored, not Allen Robinson. Dez Bryant and Miles Boykin scored, not Marquise Brown. Most of the leading receivers did well this week, but they lacked the touchdown that could have carried fantasy teams to victories. Maybe this happens most weeks in the NFL, but this week it felt particularly noticeable, perhaps because I needed more points from some of these wide receivers in the close games that I lost this week. There's no analysis here, just a little frustration of what could have been if these guys could have been the recipient of even one of their teams' touchdowns.
Running Away With It
- I think Carson Wentz has lost his job. Jalen Hurts played well enough this Sunday to cause the Eagles to seek a trading partner for Wentz. His contract, however, may prevent them from doing so and leave them in quite a bind. Hurts did not carry his team to a win like he did last week, and his completion percentage (55%) leaves much to be desired; his 401 offense yards and four touchdowns kept the offense moving, something Wentz could not do at all this year. What excites me about the prospect of Hurts becoming the starter in Philadelphia is all the shares I have of Mile Sanders, Dallas Goedert, and Jalen Reagor. While Hurts spread the ball around to many players on Sunday, Goedert and Reagor were his top two targets with eight each. Sanders, Goedert, and Reagor are the future of this offense. They are young and the best athletes on the team. All they lack is someone to distribute the ball to them and keep the offense moving. Hurts' dramatic play allows me to end the season with hope for the future of the Eagle's offense, an offense I used to trust. My only regret is that I don't have Hurts on any of my rosters.
Bad Takes List
Last week I wrote about five players I believe I was right about and made moves to acquire last year. This week I'll be honest about players that I was wrong about. We all make mistakes in dynasty, so we have to be honest with our hits and misses. Here are my five biggest misses from last year.
- I already wrote about how Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed were some of the breakout stars this year off the waiver wire. I was surprised that it was them and not Jordan Howard or Matt Breida. I made my offseason decision on Howard by following the money and the draft. Miami did not have a starting running back on their team headed into the offseason. They signed Jordan Howard to a two-year deal in free agency, and then they traded for Matt Breida during the NFL draft instead of drafting one of the incredible running backs in the 2020 class, even though they had a ton of 2020 draft picks. It just seemed to me that Howard was bound to be the first and second down running back on a team that would like to establish the run. I was right about the offensive philosophy but was wrong about their loyalty to the player they had paid (Howard) and traded for (Breida). I've learned that Brian Flores is a no-nonsense coach who will play the best players no matter their pedigree or pay. This reality is a good thing to note for the future when evaluating players and prospects, especially undrafted free agents like Gaskin and Ahmed, who dominated carries in the games they started this year. I traded a 2020 second-round rookie pick for Howard last year and wished I had the draft pick back, as it would have resulted in the likes of a player like Tee Higgins and Michael Pittman. I also traded Howard straight up for Tevin Coleman, which is more of a wash at this point since neither player has much dynasty value. I also drafted him in the 11th round of a 14-team start-up draft last year. I've yet to cut him since this league is so deep, but he's likely to get dropped from my team at the cutdown date. Howard was the player I was most hopeful for this year and more wrong about this year.
- I did not make any trades for Jack Doyle last year, but I did pick him up off the waiver wire once Eric Ebron signed with Pittsburg, and I drafted him in the 14th round of a 14-team start-up draft. I've always believed that Frank Riech's schemes open tight ends, and with Ebron's departure, I figured Doyle would be the first in line to benefit. After the Colts signed Phillip Rivers in free agency, my confidence went through the roof for Doyle because Rivers has a long history of targeting tight ends often. I feel like the process was right, but the result was not what I expected. I was disappointed when Doyle was splitting time with Moe Allie-Cox and Trey Burton. So far, on the year, Doyle has 459 snaps, Allie-Cox has 451, and Burton has 321. Doyle does lead the team in snaps (barely), but he was not the player schemed open in the redzone. Trey Burton, with the fewest snaps, is the player Riech used instead. With far fewer touches, he still has far more fantasy points this season. Even so, Burton was hardly a startable tight end this year. The Colts' tight ends became an unstartable mess, and Doyle never started a game for me this season. I've continued to keep him on my roster in a few leagues, but I have also dropped him from my roster in other leagues. I think Moe Allie-Cox will overtake him in snaps next year and compete with Burton for schemed-up redzone looks. I was wrong on Doyle, but it has not been that disappointing.
- I had Antonio Gibson as my 28th ranked rookie in the 2020 class, and as a result, did not draft him anywhere. While his college film was full of highlights, he only touched the ball 77 times in college. College experience and production are among the factors I weigh the heaviest when looking at prospects and creating rookie rankings, so I decided I could not trust Gibson as much as 27 other guys. Also, the fact that he was a running back and wide receiver in college made me suspect that he'd be more of a gadget guy in the NFL. I still stand by the line of thinking that caused me to rank him 28th, but I should have allowed his draft capital to change my opinion more than it did. Gibson was drafted by the Football Team early in the third round, and the team claimed that he was drafted to play running back, not a receiver. Coach Rivera's offseason comparisons to a role like Christian McCaffrey had with him in Carolina seemed outlandish and more link coach-speak to me, so I refused to move Gibson up my board. I didn't have the opportunity to draft him in rookie drafts because my buddy Dave Mugge drafted him in every league we're in together. He was right, and I was wrong. If low-volume, multi-use, highlight-film prospects like Gibson come out again, I will have to rethink my evaluation of them.
- At the end of last season, I was convinced that Herndon would be the next breakout tight end. After missing the 2018-2019 season due to injury, managers dropped him from most of their dynasty rosters. This time last year, I picked him up in every league where he was available. Herndon had one of the most productive rookie tight end seasons ever, and people forgot about it his second year when they dropped him. When I made moves for Herndon, New York's only returning wide receiver was Jamison Crowder. I thought it was very possible that Herndon would be the second most targeted pass catcher in New York this year. Then the Jets signed Breshad Perriman in free agency and drafted Denzel Mims. Still, I was confident in Herndon's upside. Well, Adam Gase and the Jets were one of the worst offenses and teams in the NFL this year, and Sam Darnold missed about a third of the season. Even so, those excuses are not to blame for Herndon's lack of fantasy production. By midseason, I dropped him from all but one of my leagues, which is a tight end premium. I am still hopeful that the Jets' offense will be reborn after Gase gets fired and they get a new rookie quarterback, but I'm not going to run to the waiver wire like I did this time last year to pick him up. I'll either miss out on the opportunity or have to outbid a team next year after he proves something.
J.J. Arcega Whiteside
- I did not make any offseason moves for J.J. last year, but I did keep him on all of my rosters well into this season, and I pumped him up as one of my favorite bounce-back candidates for this season. I was dead wrong about him. Even when Philadelphia drafted Jalen Reagor I did not waver in my belief in J.J. I suspected he would win the starting role opposite Reagor. When Travis Fulgam came out of nowhere to dominate targets and receptions for Philadelphia in the middle of the season, I was finally willing to cut my losses and admit that I evaluated him poorly. At least I was not the only one. The Eagles famously drafted J.J. ahead of D.K. Metcalf, Diontae Johnson, and Terry McLaurin. The Eagles have historically been one of the scouting departments I trust the most. When they drafted him in the second round, I assumed they knew what they were doing and would give J.J. every chance to start, even after an awful rookie season. I should have been more willing to drop J.J. quickly after the Eagles drafted four wide receivers in the NFL draft. I'm still going to put faith in some teams' scouting departments ahead of others, but in the future, I will pay more attention to what a team's draft picks say about their evaluation of players already on their roster.
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