If you’re a veteran of this fantasy football stuff, you know there aren’t really weird seasons. Every season is strange in its own, unique way. And as usage trees get wider and more striated, the task of projecting player usage and performance gets harder and harder.
That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It also means we can be successful with a lower hit rate. We can miss a ton of stuff and still have a nice season. I feel like that’s where I’m at, halfway through 2019.
My portfolio is on solid ground through the opening two months — call it a B season, maybe a B+. The spread picks are in the black, and if the fantasy year ended now, I’d make a reasonable profit. Most of the primary fades missed. Some of the draft targets clicked. But it hasn’t been a smash year by any means, and there’s plenty of blood on my files, too. Regrets, sure, I’ve had a few.
In today’s piece, let’s focus on some of those misses. And these won’t be backhanded compliments; the aim is to really own stuff I’ve gotten wrong, and hopefully learn something from it.
• In one slow draft, I shrugged off the need or appeal of Austin Ekeler — even as I already had Melvin Gordon. Comically bad. Ekeler’s rushing hasn’t been much better than Gordon’s road-to-nowhere, but Ekeler is an electric receiver and the Chargers have made use of that. If Los Angeles is going to reenter the playoff hunt, Ekeler needs to become this team’s central focus again.
• I was open to taking Dalvin Cook, but I never viewed him as a priority pick — and that bites you in the wallet. He’s become the best answer in the second round, one of the rare, true league winners. A strong defense, a credible offensive line, a team that stays committed to the run, it all adds up. In several leagues, I jumped on James Conner when Cook was the right answer. (And yes, Alexander Mattison should be rostered in every league. It’s Handcuff Season, mates. His rostered percentage (31%) makes no sense. Please fix this. He’s long gone in my pools; in many instances, to me.)
• Most of my Oakland analysis goes down as a big miss, not counting the Antonio Brown fade (and come on, that was obvious). I saw Oakland as a lock to finish under 6.5 wins; that’s in jeopardy now. I underestimated Jon Gruden’s willingness and ability to feature his primary guys. I didn’t act proactively with Darren Waller or Tyrell Williams. I didn’t see how safe the floor is under Josh Jacobs. Heck, Derek Carr is a reasonably safe play these days, even if the upside is modest. There was screaming value with the Raiders, and I didn’t collect on it.
• It’s painful to be sitting out the Cooper Kupp show. I feel justified fading Brandin Cooks, and my Robert Woods shares are probably an eyelash unlucky, with a fluky touchdown rate. But I didn’t think Kupp would be full throttle right away off a major injury. Instead, he’s smashing everything in his path. I’m getting none of this. It hurts.
• Bruce Arians doesn’t have a history of using tight ends, which made O.J. Howard a tricky breakout proposition. At the end of the day, I expected Arians to recognize and deploy talent — and I couldn’t stop thinking about Howard’s ridiculous 2018 efficiency metrics. Who’s to blame for Howard’s lost season? Arians? OC Byron Leftwich? Jameis Winston, the ultimate trick-treat quarterback? Howard himself? Maybe there’s no right answer. But I’m sure sick of the bagel parade.
• I don’t have Aaron Jones anywhere. I can’t even give you a good answer. It’s not like I was a Jamaal Williams guy. I was open-minded to the coaching staff being an upgrade. I had lukewarm expectations on Aaron Rodgers (another miss), but it didn’t necessarily block me from this offense. Yes, Jones has been touchdown-fortunate, and no, that YPC is not exciting. But he’s a dynamic receiver on a team desperately in need of them.
• I have a little Mark Andrews; I wish it were more. His opportunity log is lovely — at least seven targets in every game. I loved Andrews’s explosiveness as a rookie, but I was concerned the Ravens might not feature him this quickly and emphatically. Baltimore got it right.
• I expected the dots to connect for Carson Wentz. Tons of talent on that offense, with a variety of skills. But DeSean Jackson got hurt early and Alshon Jeffery looks 50 years old. Red ink at quarterback is seldom a kill shot, it’s the easiest position to U-turn out of. But I’m taking a loss on Wentz.
• My other two proactive quarterback picks were Matt Ryan (good) and Cam Newton (disaster). With Newton, I fell in love with a collapsing price and what I perceived to be a safe floor, given Carolina’s strong receivers and Newton’s rushing backboard. I didn’t properly consider Newton’s summer dings or the attrition of eight physical NFL seasons. There was a lot more risk with Newton than I initially recognized.