The 2016 fantasy football season saw Dak Prescott burst onto the scene with a top-10 fantasy finish, Blake Bortles recorded his second straight QB1 season, and Cam Newton went from GOAT to WOAT. There was much more to the fantasy season than those three occurrences though, which is why we gathered some of the TwoQBs staff for a Year in Review roundtable.
1. What was your biggest whiff of the 2016 fantasy football season and what did you learn from it?
Anthony Amico: My biggest whiff of the season was probably Coby Fleener. I thought he was going to be the second best tight end in fantasy this season behind Gronk, playing the “Jimmy Graham role” in New Orleans. Obviously that did not pan out as I had planned, particularly from a usage standpoint. This was another reminder that when players change teams, it is better to play it safe and take them when they are a value. I was willing to reach way too much.
Joe Siniscalchi: Ryan Fitzpatrick was easily my biggest whiff of the season. If a QB has a massive outlier season later in his career, it is probably an outlier, not a sudden improvement in talent. Fitz checked all of the boxes. Great campaign in 2015, great weapons, and a proven system. Unfortunately, he turned back into the pumpkin he’s been for the majority of his career. Moral of the story – be cautious of the journeyman QB in his 30s after a breakout year.
Joshua Lake: Philip Rivers, oof. I loved Rivers this year, and he disappointed. He wasn’t dreadful given his ADP, like Cam Newton, but he certainly underperformed. It is hard for me to take a lesson away, given that the Chargers suffered an absurd number of injuries. I wonder how Rivers would have looked if they’d had 50 percent fewer injuries on his team.
Salvatore Stefanile: I thought about this long and hard because I believe transparency is an integral part of the fantasy football community. How can you trust the information you’re reading if the messenger isn’t willing to show his or her results and own up to their mistakes?
Drafting early-round quarterbacks in redraft leagues isn’t my “thing” and it’s easy to bypass the elite signal callers with high price tags like Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, etc. However, Blake Bortles, who could of been had roughly 50 picks later than Newton, was off my radar. I didn’t think he could repeat his 2015 season, and he didn’t, but he didn’t have to. Bortles was the QB11 (through 16 weeks) and was a much better pick than a couple of quarterbacks drafted ahead of him in Newton and Carson Palmer. Sometimes good enough is simply good enough and you shouldn’t dismiss a player because of a bias you have against them or the belief they can’t repeat an insanely good fantasy season.
Sean Fakete: Davante Adams was horrendous in 2015. He rated as the second-worst wide receiver in all of football according to Football Outsiders’ DYAR metric, a yardage-based measure of how a player performs compared to a replacement-level player. Sometimes a bad football player is actually a great fantasy player, see Blake Bortles. However, this is generally not the case for wide receivers, so I felt safe assuming Adams would be just about worthless in fantasy this season. I was wrong.
By that very same DYAR metric, Adams ranked 16th in 2016. He flat out improved a ton as a football player. With that improvement came a jump from the WR78 in 2015 to WR7 in 2016, using standard scoring. In hindsight, Adams making the roster in August should have indicated that his price (undrafted in most leagues) was too low. Being tied to a great quarterback always helps a fantasy wide receiver’s outlook and basing expectations on one subpar season is bad analysis.
Greg Smith: I’ll go the opposite direction on a Green Bay receiver and take the L on Jordy Nelson. Entering the season, I had little confidence in Nelson’s ability to stay healthy in his return from a torn ACL. I faded him in my rankings and in drafts. You know what happened next. Nelson played a full 16 games, ripping off top-30 weeks in all but two of his fantasy-relevant games, including seven top-12 weeks. He ultimately finished as a top-3 wideout across all traditional scoring formats. To make matters worse, I somehow dismissed the injury risk associated with Jamaal Charles and his ACL recovery. I could have faded both Charles and Nelson, or not worried about the health issues in either case. I got greedy and played doctor, knowing that not all injuries are created equal. Unfortunately, I crossed the wires and missed on my evaluations for both players.
I had too much emotional attachment to Charles as an elite fantasy commodity, and that bias colored my perception of his value in too rosy a light. In the end, I don’t regret opting for different takes on similar injuries because certain signs could have steered me in the right direction for each player. With Charles, the extensions signed by Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West should have been bigger red flags. With Nelson, there were reports of an easier road to rehab based on a “clean” tear of his knee ligament. My takeaway for the future is to dig deeper on offseason reports like these, rather than project what I want to be true into my evaluations.
2. What was the one call from the 2016 fantasy football season you got right you’re most proud of?
Anthony Amico: Especially since we are a 2QB fantasy football site, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Dak Prescott. He will finish his rookie season as a clear QB1, coming in as the QB6 through 16 weeks. Admittedly, he was far better than even I anticipated, and didn’t rush for nearly as many yards as I thought he would. But with six touchdown runs boosting his overall production, he ended up being a huge steal as a rookie.
Joe Siniscalchi: My bold prediction of Sam Bradford finishing in the top-24 in terms of points per game is proof even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. After completely changing situations, Bradford managed to put together a quietly solid campaign compared to his disaster season in 2015. Even after being traded just before the start of the season, losing his offensive line and running back, and playing with a group of wide receivers that lacked quality, he was able to be a solid contributor to 2QB squads. It’s not how I imagined he’d get those points, but Bradford somehow made it there.
Joshua Lake: Matt Ryan. To be clear, I did not predict he’d be a top-five QB, but I certainly thought he was a value at his ADP. From him, I am reminded not to take one-year aberrations as the new normal; instead, look at a quarterback’s track record.
Salvatore Stefanile: As a writer for a fantasy site that specializes in the quarterback position it’s hard to pick out your hits and misses because you have more opportunities to fail or succeed. One of my go-to 2QB draft strategies is ‘Studs+Streaming’ and the streaming duo I highlighted this year was Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo. If we sub in Dak Prescott for Romo then the Stafford/Dak duo combined for 17 top-12 finishes on the season and were both top-10 fantasy signal callers this year. Streaming the QB2 slot can be hit or miss, but the Stafford/Prescott duo came through.
Sean Fakete: Tyrod Taylor was my main target at quarterback in drafts this season. As a proponent of the late-round quarterback draft strategy, I love to target quarterbacks with added rushing potential. This season, Taylor had by far the highest rushing expectation of all quarterbacks with an ADP outside of the top-12.
He finished the season as the QB7 overall, while throwing the fewest number of touchdowns (17) of any quarterback to finish in the top-12. His legs paid off in a big way. He led all quarterbacks in rushing attempts and yards, and tied for the most rushing touchdowns, while posting a 95-580-6 rushing line. Averaging 18.06 points a game with 5.88 by way of his legs, Taylor exceeded the expectation tied to his ADP this season.
Greg Smith: I strongly opposed tight ends as early-round commodities this season. While I’ve waffled on the position’s value in seasons past, a light went on for me in my 2016 draft prep. Many view high cost tight ends as luxuries, and there’s certainly comfort in luxury, but what I saw this season was the danger of overindulgence. The one-of nature of tight end makes it far less important than our multiple-starter roster spots. Yes, when an elite tight end hits and stays healthy all season, it’s a huge boon to your fantasy roster. But the opportunity costs associated with Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, etc. are too high considering the beatings those players take to consistently produce elite fantasy value.
3. What’s one lesson you learned from the 2016 fantasy football season that will help make your 2017 fantasy football season a successful one?
Anthony Amico: The biggest lesson I learned is to just always chase volume at the skill spots. Too often I think we take someone in fantasy because we like their “talent”. However, not only are we not really sure what “talent” actually is, we still need that player to get the football to actually produce. This seems simple, but it is a rule I violated this year, particularly when it comes to avoiding players with big workloads just because I didn’t like them. No more though!
Joe Siniscalchi: Save at least one spot on your bench for a weekly flier addition. Rather than be late to the ball on players who are about to be handed a job, use that spot on someone who is quietly primed to see major touches in a few weeks. Be patient, but be ready to cut bait when it seems apparent that nothing is happening. All it takes is one dart throw to hit to turn your season around or put your team over the edge (see Jordan Howard, Jay Ajayi, Rob Kelley, Rishard Matthews, Davante Adams).
Sean Fakete: Late-round quarterback strategy means something different in 2QB leagues. I played in my first 2QB league this year and my season did not go well. I made a few in-season mistakes, but by far my most detrimental decision was to apply my normal LRQB strategy to the 2QB format. All of my successful fantasy teams have been built on late-round quarterbacks and streaming the position, so I decided to roll with it.
Drafting Carson Wentz, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jay Cutler in a 2QB league was just getting too cute and honestly a little cocky. As I have now learned, a 2QB late-round strategy includes at least one middle-of-the-pack quarterback plus another one or two quarterbacks. The key is to get that mid-round guy you can trust most weeks of the season and rotate your second quarterback spot. You are playing with fire if you attempt to stream both the QB1 and QB2 positions.
Greg Smith: I’ve learned to better vary my approach with FAAB across different leagues. I preach and practice aggression on the waiver wire, but I’ll admit patience in that arena is often a virtue. I’ll still spend early in most leagues because the preliminary weeks of the season will always offer the most potential year-long upside, but a diverse set of strategies is important when you play in a lot of leagues. In future seasons, I plan to take my foot off the FAAB gas in a league or two, and save more buying power for the later weeks. I find it helps my fantasy game to work out as many metaphorical muscle groups as possible.
4. Which quarterback do you anticipate avoiding in 2017 drafts?
Anthony Amico: I’ll probably avoid Matt Ryan next season. His monster 2016 campaign will almost assuredly keep him in the top-six or so of quarterback ADP, but I almost always draft my quarterbacks late, and I never like to pay for a career year. Through 16 weeks, Ryan’s touchdown percent was up over two percent from his career average, and his yards per attempt was up 1.9. Even if he doesn’t come down all the way back to his career numbers, I think some regression is likely. That means stay away.
Joe Siniscalchi: For what he’s going to cost, I’ll probably avoid Matt Ryan. I like the talent, but after one year of being truly elite, his cost will be way too high next season. Waaaay too risky.
Salvatore Stefanile: I’ll keep this short and simple — any quarterbacks who cost a first or second round pick.
Greg Smith: What Sal said, and to be honest, I’m probably not touching the quarterback position in the third round either.
Sean Fakete: Matt Ryan deserves the MVP award this season. He is more talented than the general football-watching public realizes and has been underrated as a signal caller throughout his entire career. But his QB2 season this year is not repeatable. His seasonal quarterback ranks through his career up until 2016 were 15, 19, 8, 8, 7, 15, 7, and 19. Going into 2017, I would expect his quarterback ADP to be top-6, which is higher than he had ever performed prior to this season. Ryan is all-but-certainly losing offensive guru Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator and will also be battling regression next season as his TD percentage, yards/attempt, and quarterback rating were all career highs. I think it’s safe to project him as a top-10 quarterback in 2017, but I won’t be willing to pay for a repeat of 2016.
5. Which quarterback do you think will be most undervalued in 2017 drafts?
Anthony Amico: I could see Cam Newton falling way back down the board in 2017 and he’s someone I would target heavily as a result. Cam’s 2016 touchdown percent is down over three percent from last season and .9 percent from his career average. His yards per attempt is down a full yard from last year and .6 yards from his career average. His 353 rushing yards is the lowest number of his career. With all of that said, he is still the QB12 in fantasy points per game, though he will finish much lower than that in total points due to games missed. If he’s being taken outside of the top-10 quarterbacks next season, I’m going to be all over it.
Joe Siniscalchi: This is a toss up between Tyrod Taylor and Cam Newton. The way things are transpiring in Buffalo, it appears Taylor is likely to be playing elsewhere in 2016. His situation can’t get much worse than it was in Buffalo, where he still managed to finish in the top-seven in points per game. People will see him being forced out as a knock on his talent, which is something I’m not buying.
As for Cam Newton, he won’t be as great as he was in 2015, but he certainly is due for positive regression in 2017. He set career lows in rushing yards, had his second lowest amount of touchdowns in his career, and had the lowest quarterback rating of his career. Playing behind a ragtag offensive line with injured running backs and underachieving receivers for much of the season affected Cam’s performance. If he slips a bit in drafts come August, I’ll probably bite.
Joshua Lake: Whichever QB is starting in Cleveland. That team is on the rise, and they have weapons to surround the quarterback. I’m also very interested to see what they do with all their picks in this year’s draft.
Salvatore Stefanile: RG3 or Cody Kessler. If either one of those two is named the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns early in the offseason I’d take a late-round flier. Turmoil surrounds the quarterback position in Cleveland, evidenced by the fact they started three quarterbacks this year and had around 16 take snaps under center. However, four different Cleveland quarterbacks had one top-12 finish this year (RG3, Kessler, Josh McCown, and Kevin Hogan) and their combined fantasy points would have been good enough for QB22. I’d be shocked if a CLE QB had a 2QB ADP higher than QB24 next season.
Sean Fakete: Russell Wilson played a decent portion of the 2016 season injured. He finished as the QB12 after starting his career ranking tenth, eighth, third, and third among quarterbacks. Hobbled by leg injuries, Wilson had his worst rushing season of his career with only 259 yards and one touchdown. Potentially also due to limited mobility, he had a down year passing with a career low TD percent of 3.8 percent. Prior to 2016, Wilson averaged greater that 6.0 percent over the course of his career. The Seahawks are throwing more than ever, as Russ had a career high 353 pass attempts this season. Wilson is a classic positive regression candidate both through the air and on the ground on a team that wants to rely on him to win games.
Greg Smith: While I’d love to double-down on one of my 2016 misses with Jameis Winston, I think Andy Dalton is a safer answer. In the first 16 weeks of this season, Dalton had as many top-20 weeks as Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, and Winston. He performed at that level despite injuries to A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and Giovani Bernard. I can envision Dalton sliding behind younger and/or “sexier” options like Mariota and Winston in 2017 ADP, only to bounce back and deliver a top-10 finish with shades of what Matt Ryan pulled off this year.
6. Which quarterback who finished outside of the top-12 in 2016 fantasy scoring do you see crashing the leader board in 2017?
Anthony Amico: Philip Rivers seems to be a pretty obvious candidate to me to get back into the top-12 in 2017. Even without Keenan Allen in 2016, he managed to throw for over 30 touchdowns and slightly more than 4,000 yards. With Allen in the fold, Hunter Henry a year older, and the rest of the receiving core intact, Rivers should storm back in 2017.
Joe Siniscalchi: Carson Wentz started off hot, then predictably struggled for much of 2016. His performance was still commendable for a D-1 rookie who went from inactive to starter days before the season opened.With a full offseason of prep as the starter, and a stable of young pass catchers, I wouldn’t be shocked if Wentz took a huge step forward in year two.
Salvatore Stefanile: The easy answer would be Cam Newton, who went from QB1 to QB16. Ben Roethlisberger (QB13, but QB9 in PPG) would be another easy answer. However, my choice is Colin Kaepernick. Chip Kelly is out in San Fran, but Kaepernick showed he’s still a valuable fantasy asset. If he’s a Day 1 starter, be it as a 49er or elsewhere, Kap has a QB12 floor because of his rushing abilities. He was 0.2 points away from being a top-12 fantasy QB on a points per game basis this year and the combined fantasy points of Kap and Blaine Gabbert would have been good enough to finish as the QB9.
Sean Fakete: Ben Roethlisberger was the QB18 this season. He did miss a game due to injury and sat out Week 17 to rest for the playoffs, so this is kind of cheating. Big Ben was QB8 in points per game while dealing with quite a few of his top weapons missing time. Freak-of-nature Martavis Bryant sat out the entire season on suspension and could be back next season to boost Roethlisberger’s outlook. Le’Veon Bell missed four games this season between his suspension and rest. Missing games due to injury is common for Ben, but with (hopefully) a full spread of offensive options next season he will be poised for a top-12 scoring season.
Greg Smith: Please consider the top-12 quarterbacks in points per game so I can cherry pick Russell Wilson as my answer. With full seasons from Jimmy Graham, Tyler Lockett, and C.J. Prosise, Wilson’s chances of finishing as the #1 QB in 2017 are higher than many quarterbacks who could be drafted higher, including Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Cam Newton. I will likely rank Wilson accordingly, as part of a top-three with Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck (order to be determined). If Seattle’s signal caller comes at any sort of discount, he’s the guy most likely to challenge my dedication to avoiding quarterbacks in the first three rounds of drafts next season.