Top 10 Things I Learned Playing Fantasy Football in 2012
It seems like every fantasy football season we talk about how much crazier THIS season is than seasons before. 2012 has proven to be no exception to that trend. From first-round busts to waiver-wire breakout players, owners have seen a little bit of everything this season.
As we wind down another great fantasy year, here are the top 10 things that I personally learned this season playing fantasy football.
10. Thursday night NFL games are hard to watch
In years past, the Thursday night game was something that I used to really look forward to. Once upon a time, Thursday football meant that it was Thanksgiving Day, so in addition to mid-week NFL action you also had great food and a day off to enjoy. Then the league decided to add a larger schedule of Thursday night games, which was still OK by me. You knew the season was in the second-half, the holidays were nearing and it was just enough football to keep you satisfied.
Here in 2012 we’ve gotten a Thursday night game just about every week, and they have really been (for the most part) lousy games. From the Cardinals’ first loss in week 5 (which they are still looking to recover from, having gone winless since) to the fantasy void that was the Saints/Falcons’ game in week 13, we haven’t seen much to be inspired about as fantasy owners. While we hear that the Thursday night games are bad because the teams only have a short time to prepare and get healthy, I think it may be as much about the teams that are on the schedule. With every NFL team getting a prime time game, you’re going to see some bad teams which amount to unwatchable games.
To finish this on a quick positive note though (hey, I’m trying to get into the holiday spirit here!) we did see a few terrific Thursday night performances if you were smart/lucky enough to start: the Giants’ Andre Brown in week 3 versus the Panthers (28 points), Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin against the Vikings in week 8 (36.4 points), and/or Knowshon Moreno of the Broncos in week 14 against the hopeless Raiders (26.7)
9. More than 4 teams should qualify for the playoffs in 20-team leagues
A bit of a personal rant here, but if you slog your way through the season in a 20-team league, riding an injured and unproductive Darren McFadden and playing waiver wire roulette every week, you should not miss the playoffs to a team with a worse record than yours. Its fine to have divisions during the season, but you need to re-seed for the playoffs. This ain’t the NFL, and our league shouldn’t reward the teams in our version of the old NFC West. That is all.
8. Kevin Ogletree was not worth your number-one waiver priority
And don’t say I didn’t try to warn you… After his dream performance in week 1 against the Giants (31.4 points) I know lots of folks that looked to pounce on Ogletree as this season’s Laurent Robinson. The end result (assuming you stubbornly rostered him throughout the upcoming weeks) was underwhelming to say the least – a measly 54.5 points in the next 13 weeks. Hopefully you dropped your second kicker when you claimed him so the damage was minimal.
7. Don’t avoid rookie QBs
It used to be that drafting a rookie QB was a 10th round (or later) endeavor. Once in a while we would see a rookie QB come into the NFL and be efficient, and on the rare occasion be a player worthy of fantasy relevance. In today’s fantasy football world, with so many colleges running pro-style offenses and the NFL rules emphasizing the QB and the passing game, drafting a rookie QB doesn’t seem like the gamble it used to be.
From Cam Newton and Andy Dalton in 2011, to Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III taking the 2012 season by storm, we’ve now seen rookie QBs come into the NFL and produce right away.
And while I’ll agree that Newton, Luck and RG3 are the exception in terms of talent and production, just look at some of the other rookies which have made a mark this season in 2012 – Russell Wilson and Brandon Weeden have had their moments. Ryan Tannehill and Nick Foles have been serviceable. Even Kirk Cousins has looked good in his limited time filling in for RG3.
6. Defense matters
While the Bears’ defense certainly drew all of the fantasy love over the first half of the season (I actually called them my first-half MVP on one podcast appearance), there have been some dominating defensive performances over the season. Through the first game of week 15 there have been 41 defenses which scored 15+ points for their fantasy owners. Thirteen teams have put up 15+ points in two or more games, led by the aforementioned Bears’ team which has done it in four games. When you’re getting double-digit points from your defense, it matters.
5. Kickers don’t
Conversely, through the first game of week 15 there have only been 12 kickers which have scored 15+ points for their fantasy owners, and only two kickers have done it more than one week – the Giants’ Lawrence Tynes (twice) and the Lions’ 62 year-old marvel Jason Hanson (twice). (OK, Hanson isn’t really 62 but he’s been in the league for more than 20 years so it seems like he must be ready to collect Social Security by now…) I was asked on a podcast if I felt kickers should be banned from fantasy football. At the time I answered that I didn’t think so but after this season’s numbers I might change my mind.
4. Patience is a virtue
Earlier I mentioned Kevin Ogletree. He is a nice example of how rushing off to snatch the flavor of the week, especially early in the season, can be a risky move. Giving up too early on players you’ve drafted can be just as risky. Sometimes we wait for a player to get healthy and sometimes we wait for a player to get back on track – whichever the case, being patient with your players can pay big dividends.
In 2012 Cam Newton owners were wondering if they wasted a pick on the second-year QB. Through week 11, Cam had only produced two games above 23 points, and people suggested that, indeed, he might be replaced by the 8 year-old kid in the Play60 commercial. Newton has paid big dividends lately, however, averaging 37.3 points over week 12 through 14.
The Redskins’ Pierre Garcon splashed onto the scene in week 1 with his 16.9 point output against the Saints. Owners had visions of RG3 “Griffining” on a weekly basis as the Garcon connection seemed to be a guaranteed success, however, thanks to a bad digit Garcon scored less than five fantasy points from week 2 through week 11. Again, if you were able to stay patient (and could afford the roster spot since Garcon never went to the IR) you have been rewarded as Garcon has averaged 15.6 points per game in weeks 12 through 14.
Finally, what player challenged owners’ patience this season more than Mr. Megatron himself? The first-round pick scored 13.5 (or fewer) fantasy points in seven out of Detroit’s first eight games, and looked like the player we expected him to be only in the week 3 overtime game against Tennessee. Benching Calvin, even trading Calvin, was popular talk among fantasy football owners during that stretch but again, patient owners have seen the results of waiting. Johnson has averaged 20.4 points over his last five games.
3. The season is NEVER lost
I played in a two-QB league for the first time this season, which was actually very fun. (If you haven’t found one yet, I’d recommend it next season!) I hosted the league for some of my Twitter followers, so it was a league that I definitely wanted to do well in. After five weeks, my team was 1-4 and things were not looking too good – I had made some bad decisions (drafting Rashad Jennings and Greg Little to name a few) and I wasn’t feeling too good about my team.
Over the next eight weeks, I went 7-1, with the only loss coming in a week 10 game where I lost by 1.16 points.
How did I turn things around? To be honest, I really didn’t do much. Several of my players finally found their groove (Dez Bryant, Jacquizz Rodgers, Cam Newton to name a few) and I traded Steven Jackson for Owen Daniels which really helped me at TE. I made some good weekly spot play pickups (Beanie Wells scoring two TDs, for example) and things worked out for me.
The point of all of this is that you never know how things will turn out, so you can’t give up. Ever. Even in my leagues where I am out of the playoffs and well below .500 I’m making waiver moves and playing my strongest lineup. You owe it to your fellow league owners to play to win, every week until the season is over.
2. There truly are times that you can bench your studs
I generally manage my weekly roster on the conservative side, and tend to adhere to the old rule of “always start your studs”. It is sound advice, but there are times when you must let your eyes make the decision as opposed to your brain. Examples this season include: Chris Johnson and his weeks 1 through 6 performances (O TDs and his sub-10 point average production in PPR formats), Aaron Rodgers’ current streak which began in week 11 (18.8 points per game and only 4 passing TDs), and of course Larry Fitzgerald’s season of misery which has culminated with his weeks 11 to 14 statline (6 catches for 67 yards and no TDs. Over FOUR games.) Ouch.
1. Daily games are the future of fantasy football
Let’s face it. Millions and millions of people play fantasy football, and they don’t ALL do it simply for the fun and competition. Lots of them do it to win money. From a small league with co-workers, family members or friends, up to the high-stakes leagues where winners walk away with thousands of dollars, a big part of fantasy’s appeal is the fact that the champ gets some change.
With the approval of Uncle Sam, there are now quite a few daily/weekly fantasy sports sites online where people can register and draft a team for a particular week only. Not only can you get your favorite player on your fantasy team every week, you’re not stuck with them for an entire season if the player underperforms or gets hurt.
From one-on-one challenges, to games with several thousand contestants, the daily/weekly fantasy football trend is here and I expect it to explode in 2013. If you’re not familiar, or would like to check it out for yourself, here are some links to help you along the way:
DraftDay – best freerolls here
FanDuel – my favorite of the bunch
FantasyFeud – you can use recruiting code 44E37BDF :)
I’ve had really good success playing these games throughout 2012. I’ve won several games with hundreds of opponents and placed inside the Top 10 more than a dozen times. I’ll be passing along some of my tips each week next season, so keep an eye out for that heading into 2013…
I hope your 2012 fantasy football season has been a success, if not with a deep playoff run, then at least with some entertainment and some fun. And ask yourself, if it weren’t for the fact that you started Vick Ballard or C.J. Spiller, would really have watched the Colts/Jags and Bills/Dolphins games on Thursday night? Even though the games have been bad, we watch and we root, because after all, fantasy points are at stake.
Enjoy your holidays and good luck in your fantasy playoffs!