By now I’ve told you about how to draft, how to read match ups, and how to go about the waiver wire, and you may be thinking, “how can fantasy football be broken down any further?” Well, fantasy football to many is just another way of picking players to cheer for on Sundays, but to some it is a game of statistics. The part of it that intrigues me the most is the difficulty in figuring out what to expect from players going forward.
Nobody that I know of can predict the future, but I have a bet some can get a better feel of what to expect by looking at statistics and making assumptions when dealing with each individual player. A player’s age, team, opponent, style of play, injury status, recent production (or lack there of) all come into play when fantasy experts try to make a read on what to expect going forward.
This is a not a post where I am going to tell you what I feel like is going to happen, but it’s a time where I am going to tell you that your decisions on how a player is producing and your feel of whether or not that will continue throughout the season is crucial if you want to make a run for the title. Every year players will fall short of their projections early on, and other players will exceed their projections early on. And what is there to take from this obvious, generic statement? That some of these players, from the busts to the gems, will either keep producing or keep failing.
This is the part of the season where it takes the most time in research to make smart moves for your team. You will see some owners jump all over the quick starts and be selling the failures for pennies to the dollar. Other owners will be too afraid to make a move and stick to what they have and hope for the best. These generalizations of fantasy owners makes up about 75-80% of people I have played against in my own leagues.
If you want to be considered good at fantasy football each and every year, it doesn’t just take a few minutes here and there of research every week. Sure, you may get lucky in the draft and never have to worry. But the NFL is an unpredictable league because of the physicality and injuries sustained to players on a weekly basis, so you owners out there that bought into Julio Jones and thought you never had to worry about wide receiver that year got royally screwed.
Point #1- never become inactive at any position. Injuries happen to everyone and settling on any one position is a poor decision.
After clearing out the obvious, I want to take a look at this past year and where early hot performances could be predicted with a little research that the trend would not continue…
Eddie Royal, WR– Royal hadn’t been a factor in any offense since his rookie year in Denver, but after the first 2 weeks of the season he already put up 5 TDs and 114 yards with 10 catches. Where do I begin? First, anyone that thinks that is going to continue is crazy or just doesn’t understand the NFL. His production was surely to decrease, but what surprised me was the fact that some people still believed he could be a factor to fantasy owners going forward. Even with Philip Rivers looking like his former self and Royal’s one year of solid production, the way he was putting up the production would not last. He is a small slot receiver who did his damage with the Broncos with a Wes Welker style of play. To make this more clear for you, Eddie Royal is and will never be a red-zone threat in the NFL. That was easy to see and the stat lines he put up were a fluke as his production fell back to earth and became droppable shortly after 2 weeks.
Martellus Bennett, TE– The fantasy football world right now has two elite tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. After that, owners are scrambling and trying to buy in on who will fill in the rest of the top 10 at the position, and hopefully finding the hidden gem in the mess that is the fantasy tight end. Bennett got off to a hot start in 2013, putting up 10 catches for 125 yards and 3 TDs, and many believed that his size and athleticism would finally translate into a red-zone monster. You know why I knew this wouldn’t continue? Brandon Marshall. Jay Cutler has shown for the past few years now that he has a favorite target at all times when throwing the ball. Why would he change that this year? Brandon Marshall is a tall, physical wideout who can use his body to get open and beat even two defenders by himself. Bennett’s perceived role as the go-to guy in the red-zone was made by people who were desperate to label someone as the next stud for tight ends. Yes, Bennett is a solid pass catcher and is a big body for quarterbacks to throw to when the field is smaller, but you can’t just forget about a player that is still in the prime of his career and has shown no signs of slowing down. Once Alshon Jeffery started showing his worth Bennett’s value fell and became a situational starter for owners.
Steve Johnson, WR– typically a consistently solid wide receiver in terms of production, some people questioned his ability to keep it up this year with a rookie quarterback set to start for the Bills. After 3 weeks Johnson put up 17 catches for 236 yards and 2 TDs, and the hype train took off and everything seemed okay. What have we learned over the years? Rookie quarterbacks tend to be inconsistent, and their production can vary from week to week. If you want to counter this argument with last years class of quarterbacks, then have fun riding that year from now on because those guys don’t come by very often. Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson are franchise QBs that rarely come into this league and even more rarely produce consistently at a high level their rookie year. EJ Manuel was considered a prospect with raw talent that would need time to become a legitimate option at QB, so why would a few weeks make people throw those assumptions away? Of course, injuries and lack of consistency made Manuel’s production plummet, and just like everyone expected in the preseason, Johnson’s production failed to reach his previous years because of it.
Darren McFadden, RB– This is not because any particular stretch by McFadden this year, but it’s that players who have a long history of injury can NEVER be counted on. Darren McFadden is the poster boy for this trend, and even when he has a big game owners are reluctant to forget about his injury history and jump on board. Don’t fall in love with a players production when he has a trend of struggling to stay healthy.
With a few of these players mentioned, let’s take a look at some players who came out hot early on that nobody saw coming, but also could use research to show this production could continue…
DeSean Jackson, WR– In a new offense where you expected a lot of production due to the high pace and total number of plays, Jackson’s hot start continued throughout the season and became a solid #1-2 option for fantasy owners. Not many people bought into Chip Kelly’s immediate impact in the league, but once he proved the offense was real and that Nick Foles could be a solid starter, Jackson’s production going forward was never in question.
Jamaal Charles, RB– Not that nobody saw this coming as a viable #1 option, but not many seemed to think Charles would be the #1 (or at least #2) running back in fantasy this year. After this weeks historic performance, he has solidified himself as the #1 RB in fantasy this year, and its logical to see how this happened when you factor in the new coach’s offense and how it had a history of relying on quick, explosive running backs to put of stats to succeed. Charles’ talent was never in question, but his lack of touches in the offense in previous year limited what he could do for fantasy owners. Once Andy Reid proved his trust in Charles it should have become obvious this guy was about to have a breakout year.
Peyton Manning, QB– Similar to what was said about Charles, Peyton Manning’s value as a viable #1 option was never in question. What people didn’t see coming was how productive that Denver offense was going to be. In his 2nd year in Denver Manning has exploded on the stat line and has been lighting up opposing defenses on a weekly basis. The number of talented receivers in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas made it easy for him to pick apart coverages as they couldn’t focus on just one player. After seeing what they were in the first couple of weeks, it was easy to assume Manning’s production would not fall back down to Earth.
Predicting in the preseason as to who is going to do what is not nearly as accurate as to what you see on the field over the first few weeks in the season. With that said, some of the production shown early on is not going to be sustainable over the course of the season. If you own one or more of these players that you see has put up numbers you don’t think can be sustained, start asking around your league to get a sense if anyone believes in what your player has been doing.
Taking one of thee over-performing players and trying to target someone who has come out of the gates slow is a smart option if you can pull it off. The key in this is knowing the other owners in your league. Know their tendencies of trading and get a sense of who they don’t like on their team and who they like on your team.
Remember this as well: It is not about who wins the trade, but if your team improves with the trade. Don’t be stuck on figuring out if you are getting ripped off or not. Focus on your team and if you think the trade will make your team better.
Trading isn’t an easy thing to pull off, and only few have a history of being good traders, but if you are able to apply your own research and predict how players’ stats will continue or change, you will have a big advantage against your league.