I started writing fantasy football articles for the Dynasty Football Factory Redraft team about one year ago, shortly after the 2017 season wrapped up. I felt a void after I no longer had any rosters to tweak on a week-to-week basis, and I knew I wanted to stay involved year round.
After an offseason of following free agency, the draft, training camps, and the preseason, I was thrilled to get the chance to write a weekly start/sit article. It was a whirlwind of researching trends and matchups to pump out approximately 2,000 words of fantasy advice weekly. I now truly understand the meaning of process over results.
Now that the season has come to an end, I want to reflect and share some of my best calls and biggest whiffs. More importantly, I want to share the fantasy football lessons I learned in the process. Some of them were exactly what I expected, while others were quite as surprising.
One more thing before we dive into the recap; I made a conscious effort to choose my must-starts and must-sits based on players that fantasy owners could plausibly be struggling with or overlooking each week. It would have been easy to tell you to start Patrick Mahomes and bench Kelvin Benjamin all year long. With that in mind, let’s take a look at my best and worst calls of the year.
Worst Week: Twelve
This was a tough call, as week eleven was pretty brutal as well. Following it up with another dud in week twelve was adding insult to injury. Unlike week eleven, it was my must-sit calls that had me reconsidering my process. They finished on average at just over 16th at their respective position, practically in the top-tier. That week alone I recommended sitting Deshaun Watson (QB1), Phillip Lindsay (RB13), and Corey Davis (WR4).
Best Week: Fourteen
I’m not going to lie; it felt great to dole out my best advice of the season in week one of the fantasy playoffs. The best start calls I made were Aaron Jones (RB7), Amari Cooper (WR1), and Rob Gronkowski (TE2). I also made my best must-sit call of the season, suggesting to bench Jared Goff, who put up negative fantasy points against the Bears that week.
Worst Must-Start: Dalvin Cook, Week 11
Best Must-Start: Amari Cooper, Week 14
Worst-Must-Sit: Deshaun Watson, Week 11
Best Must-Sit: Jared Goff, Week 14
So what did I take away from the season of trying to give start/sit advice on a weekly basis? Here are the biggest lessons I took away.
Starts are easier than sits (Except defenses)
Every week I started by looking at the upcoming matchups on Monday morning. Just the scheduled games. No position rankings or points allowed to positions. Every week I was able to jot down several players from each position that I wanted to highlight as must-starts, they just jumped off the page. That wasn’t true when it came to finding players to sit. I was frequently stuck without any must-sit candidates at first glance. The more I dug into the matchups, the more must-starts I’d find, but that wasn’t always the case with the must-sits.
The exception was team defenses. I was never much of a streaming defense guy until this season, and I’ll never go back. Between avoiding the offensive powerhouses, road teams, and high Vegas over/under, it became relatively easy to know which average defenses to steer clear of on a weekly basis. I never wanted to recommend a dominant defense, especially at home, no matter the matchup. We all saw what the Bears did to the Rams in week fourteen.
Quarterbacks are the most difficult to predict.
The most humbling, or maybe embarrassing, stat that I found in my year-end self-evaluation: my must-sit quarterbacks out-performed my must-start quarterbacks. The starts finished as the QB13.1 on the season, just outside of top-tier contention. Conversely, my must-sits average finish was QB12.2 (Thankfully this was the only position where the must-sits outperformed the must-starts). This was in large part due to Deshaun Watson, who burned me as the QB1 in both week eight and week fourteen, when I advised to keep him on the bench.
There were a total of ten quarterbacks that finished in the top 12 after I recommended sitting them. I figure there are a few reasons for this. There’s a smaller margin for error at the position, only as many as 32start each week, and that number is even lower in bye weeks. It’s also tough when you’re trying to avoid the cream of the crop and the bottom of the barrel at the position. Nevertheless, I need to up my quarterback game.
Tight ends are just the worst*
I think everybody that paid attention to fantasy football this season picked up on this one, so I won’t go into detail. I’ll just mention a few oddities that prove the point. Evan Engram only played eleven games this season and finished as the TE12, barely edging out OJ Howard, who played ten. Rob Gronkowski finished as TE11 with 107.7 points in ½ PPR formats; That point total was doubled by the top three tight ends. The TE24, Greg Olsen, scored 66.6 points. The position was ridiculously top-heavy and difficult to predict once you got past the top three.
*Kickers are the worst, but I purposely didn’t mention kickers all season.
There’s a fine line between sneaky and stupid.
This is my biggest takeaway of the season, and probably the reason I predicted quarterbacks so poorly. Just because a defense allows a lot of points to a specific position on average doesn’t always mean that a third string player is going to light them up. Just because a team’s defense has been good through four weeks doesn’t mean they’re about to shut down a top quarterback. There’s no better feeling than hitting the right sleeper and taking your victory lap, but it’s not worth the risk if you’re benching a proven commodity for a glory play.
I hope I was able to help at least a few people make some decisions this season. Even more importantly, I hope you took more of the good advice then the bad. It was a small thrill to get some of you reaching out to me on Twitter @aalarson. I’d love to hear about it how it went. Even if you just want to vent at me for any bad advice.
If you want a detailed breakdown, check out the spreadsheet I used to track everything.