- Taking stock of the preseason calls that went right, and the ones that were a bit off the mark.
We at SI.com realize that by Saturday of semifinal weekend, you’ve pretty much made all your lineup decisions for the week, and roster tinkering for the season. The time for advice this season is all but behind us. So, instead of looking forward, as we typically do, we’re going to take a look back to kick off the Week 15 Cheat Sheet.
Let’s do a little self-audit. Take a look at your rosters. Who's the one player most responsible for your fantasy success this season? Conversely, what tout of yours proved to be a swing and a miss?
Michael Beller: Hello, Mark Ingram. He was the 28th overall player in my rankings during draft season, despite the additions of Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara. What I saw was a player who had the best year of his career in 2015, and then topped all of those marks in 2016. Entering his age-27 season in what was expected to be an elite offense, I felt Ingram had all the elements in place to be a rock-solid RB1.
It took longer than expected, and it required the Saints admitting that the Peterson experiment was a failure, but once the Saints gave Ingram the respect he deserved and embraced the fact that he was one of the best offensive players, he became the fantasy weapon I thought he would be. He enters Week 15 No. 6 back in standard-scoring leagues and the No. 5 back in PPR formats. With 971 rushing yards, 46 receptions, 298 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns, he’s well on his way to his third-straight season setting new career highs across the board. I got him in as many leagues as possible, and he’s one of the primary reasons I’m playing for a championship berth in my most important league, the Skokie Fantasy Football League, which my closest friends and I began in 1998. For that, I say thank you, Mark Ingram.
To my editors, I say, is there any way we could scrub “Wide Receiver Breakouts: Terrelle Pryor on the verge of WR1 status,” from the internet? I was all-in on Pryor this season. After he topped 1,000 yards in the dreadful Cleveland offense last season, I thought he couldn’t help but build on that by teaming up with Kirk Cousins in Washington. Instead, he was arguably the greatest bust of the season. Pryor lost his starting gig by midseason, and while he ended the season on IR, the injury had nothing to do with his flop. He finished his first year in Washington with 20 catches for 240 yards and one touchdown, or what Antonio Brown calls a solid two weeks. Thankfully, draft and auction flow prevented me from infecting most of my teams with the Pryor virus, but those unfortunate words that kick off this paragraph will live forever on the internet.
T.J. Hernandez: I’m right there with Beller. Going into draft season, the one player that I was buying as much as possible was Mark Ingram. He had shown in previous seasons that he didn't need a huge workload for fantasy success. Over the first month of the year, the fantasy community was down on Ingram after a slow start, but a look at his touch and snap shares showed a player that was seeing even more work than in the past. Following volume with running backs almost always proves to be the path to success, even if the fantasy production doesn't show up right away.
My biggest whiff of the year was easily Andy Dalton. The thought was that a full season with a healthy A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert could catapult Dalton to a QB1 season, something we've seen him do before. Unfortunately, Eifert's injury struggles continued in 2017 and the Bengals proved simply to be a bad offense. Since my shot on Dalton was based on regression analysis that has proven to be quite predictive, this isn't a call that I regret. Rather, this serves as a lesson to remind owners that our biggest risks should be taken later in drafts. When a player like Dalton flubs, the sting is minimal and it's quite easy to rebound.
John Paulsen: One early-round pick that really paid off was Travis Kelce. I thought he was a great target in the third round, especially in PPR leagues. He’s currently on pace for 256 points in that format, which would be the highest scoring season by a tight end since Rob Gronkowski’s 266 points back in 2014. It would also be the fourth-highest total at his position in this decade.
I stung myself in a couple of leagues by drafting Marcus Mariota, who I thought was poised for a top-five season after posting solid QB1 numbers on a per-game basis in his first two seasons. In 2016, he had a 26-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio, we know he can add points with his legs, and the Titans supplemented the passing game by drafting Corey Davis and signing Eric Decker, enhancing Mariota’s upside. Unfortunately, he has just 10 touchdown passes against 14 picks in 12 games, a career-high by a wide margin. I still like Mariota long-term, so don’t be surprised if I’m touting him again next season as a dirt-cheap pick in the late rounds.
Jennifer Eakins: I earned playoff berths in all three of my redraft leagues, and Travis Kelce was the rock in two of them. He’s second among tight ends with 16 PPR points per game, and first in total points with 208.2. Kelce is ninth among all pass-catchers with 945 yards, giving his owners a pseudo wide receiver in the tight end spot. I’m counting on the four-year veteran to bring me two more monster performances and feel quite confident, knowing that Kansas City’s next two opponents rank in the lower half of the league in tight ends in adjusted fantasy points allowed.
One guy I was super high on heading into the season who didn’t pan out exactly as planned was Austin Seferian-Jenkins. There was a buzz around Jets training camp that his attitude and work ethic had improved tremendously, and that his route-running and big-play ability were unstoppable. The Jets depth chart was riddled with question marks at receiver, giving Seferian-Jenkins a real chance to emerge as a key offensive weapon weapon. He turned in a few solid games this season, but was never more than a stream play. He’s 19th among tight ends in total fantasy points in PPR leagues, behind the likes of O.J. Howard, Ben Watson and Tyler Kroft.