The 2017 NFL regular season comes to a close on Sunday, the final day of the year. As you’re considering your resolutions for 2018, don’t neglect your fantasy leagues. Changes you plan to make now can help you win your league next season.
This has become a yearly staple here at SI.com, and it’s something I always look back to and consult when the following fantasy season arrives. Here are my five New Year’s resolutions for the 2018 fantasy football season.
1. I will not conform to any pre-set strategy
Even if you’re a fantasy veteran who knows the league well, you can’t expect to do little or no draft prep or planning and come out with a good team. As such, most successful fantasy owners go into their drafts with a specific strategy, and the right tactics to carry it out. That’s good. What’s just as bad, however, is sticking to that strategy no matter what.
Every draft and auction is an entity independent of every other draft and auction. Average draft position is a great tool to use as you prepare for your drafts, but no draft is going to follow it to the letter. Opportunities will be presented to you that you didn’t expect, while others that you planned to have at your disposal will be taken away. That’s simply the nature of a fantasy draft or auction. That’s why your strategy needs to be nimble. If you go into your draft dead set on sticking to your pre-determined strategy, you’ll be blind to unforeseen opportunities, and you’ll end up forcing square pegs into round holes. If your strategy gives you the flexibility to take advantage of those opportunities, however, you’ll be in position to come out of the draft with one of the better teams in your league.
2. I will value offenses over individual players
The top-five teams in yardage through 16 weeks are the Patriots, Saints, Steelers, Eagles and Chiefs. The Patriots, Saints and Eagles are also in the top five in scoring, joined by the Rams and Jaguars. Those seven teams produced six top-10 quarterbacks, six top-10 running backs, three top-10 receivers and the top-three tight ends. Some of those players, like Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, were always going to be among the best fantasy players, and required hefty draft capital. Others, however, like Mark Ingram and Tyreek Hill, were available in the middle rounds, meaning any owner wisely targeting strong offenses could’ve ended up with them at what turned out to be a bargain price.
We talk so much about environment and opportunity in the fantasy game. The offensive environment in which every player finds himself affects his production. Good offenses convert third downs, sustain long drives, turn red-zone possessions into touchdowns, and make explosive plays. Bad offenses don’t do any of that with consistency. When an offense fails to pick up third downs and settles for field goals in the red zone, the players on that offense suffer from a fantasy perspective.
Is Dion Lewis more talented than Isaiah Crowell? Probably not. Either way, it’s a fair comparison in terms of football skill. Lewis, though, rode the Patriots’ offense to 977 total yards and seven touchdowns through Week 16. Crowell had 1,014 total yards, but just two scores. Lewis plays in one of the best offenses in football. Crowell plays in one of the worst.
When you sit down to draft next summer, make sure you target the great complete offenses as much as you target the great individual players.
3. I will remember that a star running back is the best player a fantasy owner can have
Antonio Brown is a freak. He caught 101 passes for 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns in just 13 games this season (and one quarter of the Patriots game in which he tore his calf). It was his fifth straight year with at least 100 receptions, and the fourth time in those five seasons that he reached 1,499 yards. He’s one of the best, most consistent skill-position players in the league, and he’ll rightfully be back toward the top of the draft board in 2018.
And yet, four running backs—Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Le’Veon Bell and Leonard Fournette—scored more points per game than him in standard-scoring leagues. Even in PPR formats, where Brown is seemingly unbeatable, Gurley and Bell were better than him on a per-game basis. Brown was on pace for a 121-catch, 1,857-yard, 11-touchdown season, and he still couldn’t quite get past the top-scoring backs in the league.
Of course, not all receivers are Antonio Brown. He and DeAndre Hopkins were the only receivers to average more than 14 points per game in standard formats. Eight running backs hit that mark. Brown and Hopkins ranked third and fourth among backs and receivers in per-game PPR scoring, but after them the next six players were backs. After two straight seasons of running backs asserting their dominance, it appears the revolution receivers launched in 2015 was short-lived. Keep that in mind as you enter your fantasy drafts and auctions next season.
4. I will hunt for late-round quarterback value in the right places
Whether you play in a traditional league or a superflex league (which you should be doing), one of the most valuable players you can find is a late-round quarterback who puts up QB1 numbers. It happens every single season. This year, Alex Smith (QB3), Carson Wentz (QB7) and Jared Goff (QB9) pulled off the feat. Anyone who got them in a traditional league found a regular starter with one of their final picks. Anyone who scooped them in a superflex league got a QB1 at a QB2 price. Chances are most of those teams were successful this season.
What do I mean by “the right place” for late-round quarterback value? Well, take a look at two of those quarterbacks above. Goff and Wentz were the first and second overall picks in the 2016 draft. Heading into their second seasons, both of their teams made substantive changes around them. The Rams jettisoned the antiquated Jeff Fisher for offensive guru Sean McVay, gave Goff an entirely new receiving corps with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Sammy Watkins, and improved the offensive line by signing Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan. The Eagles, meanwhile, gave Wentz a big receiver in Alshon Jeffery, and solidified the run game with LeGarrette Blount. That, plus their pedigree heading into their second seasons, should have been reason enough to believe in both of them.
Late-round quarterback value is out there every season. If you know the right place to look for it, you can secure yourself one of the most lucrative types of player in any fantasy format.
5. I will trust myself above all else
This final resolution brings us full circle. Resolution No. 1 stressed that you should not hew to a pre-set strategy, and that anything can work so long as you end up with the right players. At the core of that is the trust you must have in your own convictions. There is no shortage of rankings and opinions at your fingertips every summer as you prepare for the coming fantasy football season. Some of those are more helpful than others, and you should consult some, especially those here at SI.com, to assist you in your prep. At the end of the day, though, it’s your team. You’re the only one who has to live with said team. Your thoughts and beliefs should be its guiding light. Whether you win or lose, you should do so with your players.
Happy New Year, everyone!