2016 fantasy football resolutions: In drafts, focus on wide receivers
New Year’s Eve is a time for celebration, while New Year’s Day is a time for rest and relaxation. The first Monday after is the time to really embrace those New Year’s resolutions—all the more reason to make resolutions you won’t have a chance to carry out for eight or nine months.
That’s when we’ll all be sitting around draft tables, assembling fantasy football teams for the 2016 season. Some memories of 2015 may have waned by then, which makes it even more important that you resolve to follow these tenets.
Feel free to share your fantasy resolutions for 2016 in the comments.
1. In standard formats, my top three will be Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr.
Both receivers finished with at least 349 more receiving yards than Adrian Peterson, the leading rusher, did yards on the ground. Receivers are now generally safer than backs, and the best of the best also have higher ceilings. There are no surer stars in the fantasy game than Brown, Jones and Beckham (OBJ finished just 35 receiving yards shy of Peterson’s ground yardage).
2. I will carry that thinking through my drafts and auctions, embracing zero-RB.
Four receivers (Brown, Jones, DeAndre Hopkins and Brandon Marshall) had at least 1,500 yards this season (and Beckham likely would have if he didn’t have that one-game suspension). Seven more had at least 1,200. Twenty-two racked up 1,000 yards. A whopping 10 receivers had double-digit touchdowns, including five with at least 12.
Meanwhile, just seven running backs had 1,000 rushing yards, and the list of RB1s included Devonta Freeman, Doug Martin, DeAngelo Williams, Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Danny Woodhead, all of whom had average draft positions outside the top 20 at the position. Freeman, Williams and Johnson were basically free. Focus your resources on receivers.
3. Yet, I will still trust Le’Veon Bell with all my heart.
BIn about five-and-a-half games this season, Bell had 556 rushing yards, 24 receptions, 136 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. That comes out to 15.86 points per game in standard-scoring leagues. DeAngelo Williams, meanwhile, finished the season as the No. 4 fantasy running back, doing a fine job in Bell’s stead. The two of them combined for 278.5 points this season. Devonta Freeman, who was the top fantasy back, had 232 points.
Bell is expected to be ready for the start of next season, and will be stepping right back into that great environment. When Bell is healthy, there’s little question that he’s the best running back, from both real-life and fantasy perspectives, in the league. He’s the one back who would make me question the Brown-Jones-Beckham triumvirate at the top of the draft.
4. I will continue to wait on quarterbacks in one-QB leagues.
This isn’t a resolution as much as it is an affirmation of a long-held strategy. This year’s top-10 quarterbacks by points per game (minimum 11 games played) included Cam Newton (first), Blake Bortles (third), Carson Palmer (sixth), Ryan Fitzpatrick (ninth), and Andy Dalton (10th). All of them were 11th or worse in ADP at the quarterback position. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck played just seven games, while Aaron Rodgers finished 14th. There’s no reason to dive into the quarterback pool early.
5. I will do my best to eliminate the PPR scourge.
PPR scoring was created to level the playing field between running backs and wide receivers. Even when it was well intentioned and in vogue, it was nonsensical. Is one catch for zero yards really worth the same to a player’s team as 10 rushing yards? Of course not.
Now, however, PPR scoring is archaic. Receivers don’t need their point totals artificially inflated to catch up to running backs. The nature of the league today has done that, and then some. As such, PPR scoring, which was always unnecessarily duplicative, no longer serves the purpose for which it was created. If your league still insists on using PPR scoring, it should be no more than a quarter-point for every catch. Anything more is overkill and has an effect on the game that isn’t actually reflected on the field.
6. I will target Melvin Gordon as the poster child of the “Last Year’s Bums” team.
Gordon’s rookie year was nothing more than an unmitigated disaster. He ran for just 641 yards on 184 carries and failed to hit pay dirt even once on 217 touches. Wisconsin running backs—from Ron Dayne to Michael Bennett to Montee Ball—have a terrible track record in the NFL, and their erstwhile offensive line teammates have flourished at the pro level. That has created the narrative that Wisconsin’s line and overall system is more responsible than the running backs are for their college success. That should also help bury Gordon on draft boards next season.
The fact remains that he has the pedigree that made him the 15th overall pick in last year’s draft. San Diego dealt with an unconscionable number of injuries on its line this season, something that can’t possibly repeat itself next year, unless they have historically bad luck. With an intact line in front of him and a year under his belt, Gordon will have a great chance to put his dismal rookie season in the rear-view mirror. Do not forget about him in 2016.
7. I will continue beating the drum for two-quarterback leagues.
This was one of our resolutions for last year, too, and an effort we need to keep up until two-QB leagues are the standard. The old one-QB construct simply doesn’t work anymore. For one thing, it makes the “wait on a QB strategy” too easy to execute. For another, one-QB formats turn one-third of the league’s quarterbacks into complete non-factors, and another third or so into streamers, at best.
It was three or four weeks before Dalton’s ownership rate climbed north of 50%. Fitzpatrick’s still sits in that range. Tyrod Taylor is south of 60%, too. That’s entirely because of one-quarterback leagues. Not only are two-quarterback leagues do two-QB formats do a better job of mirroring the importance of quarterbacks in real life, they create more opportunity for pursuing different strategies, both in your draft and during the season. That’s something everyone should embrace.
8. I will avoid buzzy, expensive running backs who don’t have a track record.
This season, it was C.J. Anderson and Jeremy Hill. In 2014, it was Montee Ball. The year before that, Doug Martin and C.J. Spiller broke the hearts of fantasy owners. Year after year, early-round running backs with nothing more than one good season (if that) build their popularity throughout the summer, only to go bust and ruin fantasy seasons. Keep this in mind with respect to Devonta Freeman (who I don’t like) and David Johnson (who I like very much) in 2016.
9. I will not forget the Jaguars on draft day.
Let’s play a little game. Can you name the only team in the NFL that had a top-five fantasy quarterback, one top-five receiver, and another top-12 receiver? That trio resides in Jacksonville. Blake Bortles finished the season as the No. 3 quarterback, while Robinson and Hurns checked in at fifth and 12th, respectively, at receiver. All told, Bortles had 4,428 yards, 35 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, 310 rushing yards and two scores on the ground. Robinson caught 80 passes for exactly 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns, and Hurns finished with 64 receptions, 1,031 yards and 10 trips to the end zone.
All three players will be in their third year in the league next season, giving them a chance to continue to grow together. Add T.J. Yeldon and Julius Thomas to the mix, and you have what could be one of the most potent offenses in the NFL on your hands, so long as Bortles can cut down on the mistakes. No matter what, though, this will be an offense worthy of fantasy investment.
10. Most importantly, I will follow my convictions.
This is one a resolution we need to drive home every year. You’ll be able to find hundreds of rankings when you’re prepping for your drafts next summer. You should absolutely use those (especially the ones on SI.com) to help with your player evaluation, but you should ultimately trust yourself. Don’t be afraid to break from the rankings and reach for a guy you believe will have a breakout season. Conversely, if you think a player as the look of a bust, yet all the rankings are telling you otherwise, entertain the idea that you, and not the industry, are right. Those of us in the industry are here for a reason, but we all have our misses. Win or lose, do it with your players.