Reflecting on My 2016 Pre-Draft Analysis
I favor full disclosure and transparency in nearly every area of life, and fantasy football analysis is no different. If anyone takes on a role wherein they suggest players or tout specific strategies, I believe they simultaneously take on a responsibility to accept responsibility for those calls, whether they pan out or not.
Now that we have reached the end of the 2016 fantasy football season, I am taking a few hours to reflect on my own pre-draft analysis and see how I fared. Below, you will see my calls from this offseason. Each image will link to the article itself, if you’d like to see the greater context.
My hope is twofold: First, I’d like to see if I can learn and improve from this reflection. Second, I think it appropriate to let you, the reader, see the good and the bad on full display.
Late-Round QB is the New Black
In May, I wrote that Late-Round QB was here to stay, and I believed we would not see a huge spike in QB ADP as the offseason wore on. Here’s what I had to say:
As you can see from the updated ADP graph below, QB ADP generally rose as the summer progressed. Casual drafters filtered in, and QB ADP kept climbing.
I still believe that the community will wait longer on QBs each year, and this year’s failures of Cam Newton and Russell Wilson will only help shake drafters’ confidence that a top-drafted QB is an elite fantasy pick.
Speaking of Cam Newton, I was completely opposed to drafting him, and I said so. I also stuck to my guns fairly well, not owning Cam in a single redraft league and only 4% of my MFL10s. Here’s what I wrote in August:
With three games left in 2016, Newton has 20 fewer passing TDs and five fewer rushing TDs than he did in 2015. Regression hit hard. Through 14 weeks, Cam is QB14 in points per game, and he’s QB17 overall. Not good, particularly considering his QB1 price this offseason.
This example further convinces me to treat career years with hesitation. I will continue to look at a player’s career trajectory as one factor in deciding how much weight to put on the last season’s results.
Many people were all over Ben Roethlisberger this summer, but I was firmly out. In August I wrote:
Roethlisberger is QB10 overall and QB8 in points per game. But for much of the year, this looked like a bad call. Only with some recent struggles has Roethlisberger slipped down below his QB6 price from the draft season.
More importantly, I was dreadfully wrong about taking Carson Palmer over Ben. Palmer is QB18 in PPG, and he hasn’t looked good. I underestimated the likelihood that Palmer would both regress and reach the dreaded age cliff this season.
Drafting Ben didn’t destroy your season or even come close. Drafting Palmer might have.
Here’s one I definitely did not get wrong. In August, I dismissed Bortles in writing:
Earlier in the summer, I had called his ADP ridiculous, when compared to Matt Ryan’s price:
Blake Bortles is being drafted 43 picks before Matt Ryan right now. I’m betting that looks ridiculous by October.
— Joshua (@LakeTwoQBs) May 10, 2016
Oh, and I had felt the same all the way back in February, three days before the Super Bowl:
Blake Bortles is going to ignite a firestorm of debates all offseason. Matt Ryan’s going to outscore him in 2016 anyway. idc idc
— Joshua (@LakeTwoQBs) February 4, 2016
This is my favorite call of the entire 2016 season. I received an immense amount of backlash on Twitter for suggesting Blake Bortles wasn’t a clear QB1, and I knocked this one out of the park.
I hated Bortles’ inaccuracy, and he has completed 58.7% of his passes this year. (His last two year’s numbers were 58.6% and 58.9%.)
I hated Bortles’ chances at living up to a QB9 price, and he’s QB13 in PPG and QB12 overall.
Importantly, we need to acknowledge that Blake Bortles has not been disastrous for fantasy purposes. He has still been a viable starter most of the year, even though he is bad at real football. Never confuse bad at football for bad at fantasy. Bortles, Colin Kaepernick, Tim Tebow, and Terrelle Pryor (as a QB) have all shown us the two aren’t always joined at the hip.
If I was known for anything this offseason, it was my love of Philip Rivers. I wrote about him everywhere. He was my earliest QB to target, and I wrote him up in February and then in March, excerpted here:
I will never forget Rivers’ 2016 season as long as I play fantasy football, and I will forever wonder just how successful he could have been. Through 14 weeks, Philip Rivers is QB13 overall and QB15 in PPG, and he spent nearly the entire season without Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson, and Danny Woodhead. He also lost Antonio Gates and Melvin Gordon for portions of the year. Had the Chargers offense been as it was this offseason, Rivers could have lit the world on fire.
Rivers was a fine pick at the QB13 price, but he wasn’t the upside play I hoped he would be.
My second-most common tout of the offseason was Andy Dalton. I dismissed the losses of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, choosing to believe that A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and Giovani Bernard were enough. I also saw a stable organization, despite the loss of their offensive coordinator. At two different times this offseason, here is what I wrote:
And how are we looking? Dalton is QB16 in PPG and QB14 overall. That’s right about dead even with his draft price, but it hasn’t been good. As with Rivers, you got a decent value if you drafted Andy Dalton, but you didn’t get the upside I had envisioned. Similarly, you can ask how he would have looked without a major injury — this one to Tyler Eifert — but injuries play a far smaller role in explaining Dalton’s season than they do for Rivers.
This one worked out swimmingly, and I could not be more happy about it. I am a lifelong Redskins fan, so I get a double-helping of joy in seeing that my call was right and it means the team has likely found a starting QB for the foreseeable future. Here is what I wrote about Cousins this offseason:
From Cousins, I take away a lesson that we should strongly consider boosting our outlook for players who unexpectedly step into a starting role and perform well, because they can benefit from an entire offseason as the expected starter, now with a full year of starts under their belt. This year, no one fits that mold — to my mind — better than Dak Prescott. If his late-season struggles cause a drop in value this offseason, I’ll be a buyer.
In the TwoQBs Bold Predictions article from August, I spit this fire about Matthew Stafford:
Stafford is currently QB11 in PPG and QB9 overall. No matter how you look at it, he has made my “bold prediction” come true. Stafford has not only thrown for volume, but he has been efficient doing it. He his completing two-thirds of his passes, and his TD rate is above his career average. More importantly, his interception rate is far below his career average, allowing the Lions to sustain more drives, leading to more fantasy points.
Incredibly, Matthew Stafford will only be 29 going into next year, already with eight consecutive seasons as an NFL starter. He will probably cost a fair bit, but I am buying in dynasty.
Matt Ryan is another of my 2016 success stories, perhaps my biggest. In March I wrote about Ryan, and we’ve already seen my tweets taking Ryan over Bortles.
Matt Ryan is the QB2 overall, and he is QB3 in points per game. I liked Ryan coming into the year, but I wasn’t even close to predicting this level of success. In fact, I loved Ryan for his floor, not his ceiling. I thought he was an ideal QB2 with some chance at QB1 production, but he has flirted with numbers making him THE QB1 this year.
Matt Ryan is a case study for targeting established veterans in good pass offenses when the public finally lets them fall in drafts. He is also a picture of the need to avoid making a mountain out of a bad-season molehill when a QB has a long track record before that year.
I was far from the biggest Tyrod Taylor proponent this offseason, and I actually took on a role of throwing cold water onto the TwoQBs’ hype train for the man. But even I could see value when he fell to an ADP of QB18:
Bingo. This was another victory for me, calling Mariota “an incredibly enticing late-round option.”
The young man is now QB4 overall and QB6 in PPG, despite a dirt-cheap QB21 price this year. I wish I had pounded the table harder for Mariota, to be honest.
I hated Jay Cutler this year, and I said so. I made the case that he had no weapons, had a history of low fantasy scoring, and had a coach not prone to supporting top QBs. After all that, I concluded with this:
It is hard to say whether this was right or wrong, given that Cutler didn’t play much this year. If we only take the four games where he threw more than 25 times, Cutler’s PPG would make him QB33 on the season behind such bright lights as Brock Osweiler, Blaine Gabbert, and Case Keenum. Both Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley have better PPG averages this year than does Cutler, and they’re leading the same team.
After that way of looking at things, I feel better calling this call a success. It’s not a strong success, because I can’t take any credit for predicting an injury, but I see enough evidence to suggest that Cutler would not have been a good pick even had he stayed healthy all year.
Last but not least, I suggested Joe Flacco as a late-round target, particularly for 2QB leagues. I wrote these two blurbs about him:
Flacco is QB19 in PPG and QB18 overall. He hasn’t been a world-beater, but he has been a fine value off his QB27 price. These last few weeks have been particularly strong for the Ravens QB, which helps if you were in the playoff hunt in your 2QB leagues. In 1QB leagues, Flacco was near-worthless, except as a streamer off waivers in a few good matchups.
What Does It All Mean?
Overall, I see wins and losses, but my primary goal wasn’t to build a scoreboard for myself. I’d like to see if I can draw out larger conclusions as I prepare for another offseason of analysis. Over the coming weeks — my favorite part of the fantasy year — I will have time to dig in deeper and look for lessons and trends.
I’ll close things with a question: What lessons have you learned and what takeaways are you bringing into the 2017 offseason?