As the fantasy football season draws to a close, whether it be mercifully for some of us or triumphant for others, there are some decisions to be made. In this column, we are going to discuss four of the most important topics while looking either towards the playoffs or looking towards next season and a new start.
So, you drafted David Johnson in the first round and while you were disappointed in his early-season production, you still managed to get into the playoffs. Now what? Despite his disappointing start you continued to start him week In and week out. Now, in the playoffs, you decide to be trendy or clever and start someone like Jalen Richard or Gus Edwards over him? Don’t get cute. Edwards had a great game in Week 11 sure and Richard may be the best running back on the Raiders. Well, don’t forget. David Johnson has been great for years and not just one week here or a few games there. Johnson, Melvin Gordon and players like Julio Jones or Antonio Brown are your first-round picks and although they may have had a stinker or two this season, they were first round picks for a reason. They are elite and can bust out at any time. They are also the consistent players who even when they don’t have the 25- and 30-point games give you the high floor not seen in the flash in the pan players like Edwards or Richard. As said above, dance with who brought you. Don’t get cute. Would you rather start a stud and lose by a point or two or start a long shot and lose by 20 because they did not get any snaps after having one good game and you got cure thinking they were a lock to repeat?
When it comes to the playoffs, finding the right roster is the most important aspect of winning. Whether it means handcuffing Todd Gurley with Malcolm Brown or Kareem Hunt with Spencer Ware or looking at your roster and honestly taking into account of where it is weak you need to make sure you have the proper players.
You may look at your roster and see a number of solid receivers, but are they the right receivers to get you wins in the matchups coming up in your playoffs? Should you maybe go out and pick up a player like Duke Johnson Jr. to give you high floor potential over a player like Jordan Howard who, while talented, is losing more and more work in the Bears backfield. Don’t get caught up on the name or draft position when keeping someone on your roster. Is it smart to drop Howard or even Rob Gronkowski for Malcolm Brown in Week 3 after a few bad games? Of course not. But in Week 12 when we have seen Howard and Gronkowski disappoint all season it is smart. When it comes to these types of players, they did not bring you to the playoffs. You got to the playoffs in spite of them. For a lot of the season, they were probably on your bench waiting for their turn to start again for you.
Don’t fail to drop someone because of pride. Don’t forget, ego is the pill that deadens the pain of stupidity. In other words, don’t lose because you are unwilling to admit a mistake and correct it. Make sure you get those handcuffs and backups for the playoffs. Even if it means dropping someone you spent a high draft pick on who cannot help you anymore.
In the grand scheme of things making the fantasy playoffs is pretty easy, that said, make sure you’re the team that is playing chess as opposed to checkers. There are six spots for 10 or 12 teams so as long as you are in the top half, you are in. Of course, luck has a big part in it as well. Luck of the injury bug not taking your star player. Luck your first-round draft pick won’t act like an entitled baby and sit home all season in some form of stance which no one, including his teammates, agrees with. When it comes to the playoffs though, this is where the skill of fantasy football shines. You need to decide who to start, what waiver moves to make on a weekly basis to give you the best chance. Even if you have a first-round bye, you have to decide who to grab on your bye week looking forward to their matchups in future weeks.
And that is the key. Looking at future matchups and finding the players who should have the greatest chances of success in the coming weeks, not just this week. It is important to look at who a team is going to play when coming to decisions on those fringe players. Are you going to sit Julio Jones because he is going against the Ravens? No. But would I favor John Brown in the same game against the Falcons over a similar receiver like Courtland Sutton against the Jaguars? Absolutely. So, when you are looking at things like this make sure you are taking into account all the playoff weeks. Maybe you don’t want to drop Brown for Sutton for one week knowing the upcoming game for Brown is juicy and someone else who is prepared will grab him as soon as you drop him.
Look at the playoffs as a three-week marathon, not a one-week sprint. If you only play for this week, you will lose next week as you shot your shot all in the first week and left nothing for the more important games. The championship games.
As you can see, each down has gotten longer and longer in explanation. This is for a very good reason. As the downs move on, it takes more and more to figure out what to do. It is easy to do something on first down with no pressure. But as you move closer to a turnover it takes more analysis to get to the next set of downs. In this case, the next set of downs is what to do once you have missed the playoffs. Whether you are in a dynasty, keeper or redraft league, there are still options and things which need to happen.
In redraft leagues, it is really quite simple, after looking to see where you could do better next season, did you draft correctly, what types of trades did you or didn’t you make which you would do over again, or even what start/sit decisions were made throughout the season. The situations may be and will be different next year than they were this, but you can still take this season and all previous seasons as a blueprint of what to do and what to try to do differently. Nothing is foolproof, but we learn from our mistakes and this is most important. Well, there is one thing more important. Playing out the season. Just because you are not in the finals does not mean you should give up on playing. You should still try to the very end and keep playing as if you were winning the whole league. Make waiver moves, set lineups and try to play spoiler for that team who is trying to make the playoffs by beating you in the final week. Nothing beats winning the championship for sure, but there is a real pleasure in giving your all and not just folding up the tent and allowing another team to run over you when you could have pride and respect for yourself and the league and compete until the end.
For keeper leagues, you have the added situation of deciding which players you want to keep next season. Is it worth keeping Le’Veon Bell at a first-round price not knowing what team he will be on? Does your league not even have a penalty for keepers and you can just keep whomever you want and not worry about the draft round? Make sure you know your league rules and what to expect from others in your league. After a few seasons, a pattern will emerge which will help you decide who to choose. Whether your league mates notoriously keep running backs or young players or for some reason quarterbacks, you need to know this going in, so it can help you make your choices also and bring you closer to a championship next year.
Lastly, dynasty leagues. Maybe the most difficult but also important league type to get ready for next season. Now is the time to look at your entire roster as well as the rest of the rosters in your league and see what you may want to trade for in the offseason, or who is on an expiring contract and maybe switching teams which may buoy their value. A player like T.J. Yeldon or Tevin Coleman who may have a certain level of value now but will gain exponential value when and if they sign as the starting running back on a new team like Jerick McKinnon this season or Michael Turner in years past.
Also, take a look at what draft picks others have in the upcoming rookie drafts. Is there a rebuilding team who may want to trade a player or two for a draft pick hoping to build for the future? Making these decisions starting now will help as the offseason progresses and will not only give you a leg up on your competition, but also keep the offseason interesting so it does not drag and drag until the draft and training camp when he decides things like Royce Freeman is the back to own in Denver and John Kelly is the backup in Los Angeles, not Malcolm Brown. Hey, that’s why we play the game, right?