Fantasy Football 2015 Outlook: Things We Learned
The Superbowl is over and it's now back to the drawing board for football fans, especially fantasy football players. Nobody likes the lengthy NFL offseason, but I'm here to tell you to embrace it. It's going to be another tough ride going without football and fantasy football for so long, but there is a lot to look forward to. Free agency, which begins March 10th 4 P.M. EST, is right around the corner and not so long after that comes the NFL draft. There are more than the usual high prized free agents on the offensive side of the ball than usual in Demarco Murray, Marshawn Lynch, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, and Randall Cobb just to name a few. There is also the looming status of Adrian Peterson, who could be one of the steals in next year's fantasy football drafts if people shy off of him just because he only played one game the previous season. We saw what last year's NFL draft did in terms of fantasy football with Jeremy Hill and Odell Beckham Jr. making some of the biggest impacts. This year's NFL draft just may be what the doctor ordered as early rumblings have it being one of the strongest running back drafts in recent history. That is music to fantasy football players' ears. Let's get to what we learned during the 2014 Fantasy Football season and how it should affect you moving forward.
1. The State Of The Running-Backs: It's obvious. The depth at RB continues to decline and decline year after year. There's some hope that this year's NFL draft will bring some stability to some backfields, but don't bet on it. Coaches still love using two back systems even though that doesn't work too well in most cases as proven by the Bengals who ended up committing to Jeremy Hill when things weren't going too well towards the end of the season. Once Hill got the bulk of the carries, he turned into a fantasy stud. As the statistics show, teams are passing more and more which has resulted in the decrease of true fantasy running backs. At the end of the day, taking the stud running backs early is the way to go. I usually advocate taking at least two running backs in the first three to four rounds depending on what your league settings are. If you look at the statistics and history of how fantasy drafts go, it is just 10 times more likely that you fill find a starting caliber wide receiver late in the drafts or on the waiver wire as opposed to running backs. This brings me to my next point.
2. Wide Receiver Depth: You just don't need to draft wide receivers early. There is absolutely too much depth at the position. A wide receiver should not be taken in the first round. Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckahm Jr., Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, and Jordy Nelson (Just to name a few...) all have a shot at leading the league in fantasy points at the WR position. Antonio Brown, who led the league this year in receiving yards and fantasy points among wide receivers, was a late second or early third round pick in drafts this past season. Odell Beckham Jr. was a waiver wire pickup. Jeremy Maclin was a mid-round pick. I don't need to go on. The point is that you can wait on your wide receivers. The thinnest postions is where you should focus your early round draft picks on; running-backs and tight ends.
3. Running-Back Handcuffs: Before this season, I was against handcuffing your own running-backs and wasting a roster spot for someone's backup. There are just so many limited roster spots in fantasy football and you need as much depth as you can get on your roster with so many injuries year after year in the NFL. Seeing what happened in Denver, Cincinnati, Minnesota, and Miami to name a few places has changed my mind. Everyone was drafting Montee Ball in August and by December it was the third string running-back putting up almost 20 fantasy points per game. Meanwhile in Miami, Lamar Miller became arguably a top ten fantasy football running back option as soon as Moreno went down and he became the bellcow. It's going to be something you go back and forth on, but at the end of the day, it's better to be safe with your stud running-backs.
4. Understanding The Waiver Wire: You've just got to know when and when not to use your waiver pick up. Even if you are just sitting there at the #1 spot early on in the season, be patient. Injuries to running backs are inevitable in the NFL. I almost exclusively reserve my waiver wire pick-ups to backup running-backs who will get the starting gig. There's no need to waste it on a defense or a wide receiver that's had a good game or two. There is a ton of value to find on the waiver wire. Odell Beckham Jr. and C.J. Anderson were on countless fantasy championship teams. What were they? Ding, ding ding. Waiver wire pickups!
5. State Of The Tight End Position: The tight end position is worse than the running-back position. Gronkowski is a definite back-end first round pick. Jimmy Graham, even though slowed down to end the season, is still worth a second round pick. Graham was playing injured in a down year for New Orleans and should have no problem returning to form. After that, the position gets extremely thin. Some tight ends just can't stay healthy and others just don't get the opportunity such as Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce. I always said Julius Thomas was being drafted way too early. Even when he had success early on in the season, he was touchdown or bust. After Week 1, he never topped 70 yards and topped 50 yards only three times. He's a nice option if he stays in Denver with Peyton Manning, but I wouldn't be looking at him in the early rounds as people were. After Gronk and Graham, it's a toss up and we will have to let the offseason play out to see who the breakout candidates will be, but it's looking likely if you don't have Gronk or Graham that you will have problems at the position yet again.
6. Wait On Your Quarterback: People are going to get all excited and take Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck after the years they had, but year after year we realize wasting high picks on a quarterback hurts the depth around the rest of our fantasy team. Spend your picks wisely. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger could have both arguably been found on the waiver wire. Russell Wilson was being taken after the 10th round and he finished 3rd in fantasy points at the position. Philip Rivers is another great example. The list goes on and on. Your quarterback could be found in the mid-late rounds of fantasy drafts.
7. Defenses: In Weeks 1-16 of the NFL season, Seattle was ranked 12th among fantasy defenses. They had an ADP in the 7th round. My work here is done.
Enjoy the offseason and I will be giving you my thoughts on all the NFL moves that affect our beloved fantasy football on Twitter where you can follow me @HarutNFL_FFBall.