Fantasy Football Advice | 10 Lessons & Takeaways from 2018 Fantasy Football

by Nick Ercolano January 22, 2019

Fantasy Football Advice | 10 Lessons & Takeaways from 2018 Fantasy Football

As with anything in life, you will go through your trials and tribulations. Love, business, sex, school, friendships. Fantasy Football is no different. This was a big year for me. I've always been able to spot trends, and break down numbers that were complex, and give them to you in a simple way. It's a big reason a lot of you guys fuck with my pre-season summer content. That's all and good, but I'm finding out that some of that stuff doesn't really account for much in terms of predictiveness. 

I felt like I truly evolved this year. I broke through. In terms of fantasy. Still very much personally a piece of shit. But hey 2019, we coming. For real though. I understand the game way better then I did before this summer. Thanks in part to a lot of the great minds in the industry. Warren Sharp, Evan Silva, Graham Barfield, to name a few. The majority of people are just groupthink, but no matter how much coffee you pour into the cup, the cream always rises ladies & gents. That's just big facts.

So, with that being said, I'm going to share with y'all the 25 biggest takeaways & lessons learned from the 2018 fantasy football season. Some of these will be extremely helpful. Some of these will be very basic, but I understand that not everyone in my audience has been playing fantasy football for as long as I have, or might even have just started this year.

Also, these are just ones that *I* personally learned this year. I started a Twitter thread asking people and there were a ton of good replies. Most were kind of basic, like don't draft a QB early, like I done known that shit for half a century now, so I'll only be sharing the ones I learned.

That's okay, we gone make sure the whole family eatin on this one. And tbh I might repost this video again right before drafts kick off next summer as a reminder.

1. Coaching Changes CAN Be Massive

I learned this early & I learned this often. I ain't gonna say any names, cause I'm not a spiteful person. But fuck you Steve Wilks. Fuck you David Johnson. And FUCK Mike McCoy. Byron Leftwich, you're still cool in my books. I'm out. Nah, but these type of things are far more important than I realized going into the season. Do you understand how bad of a coach you have to be to make not only David Johnson be terrible, but Melvin Gordon as well. Mike McCoy's resume is as bad as Bill's is good.

It's something I need to do a far better job on from an analysis standpoint. I don't think every situation needs to be broken down like the fuckin beta kappa step team, but on the ends of the spectrum, the great coaches that get it (McVay, Reid, Payton) are just as impactful as the ones that don't, I.E. McCoy. It's important to follow beat reports closely. Who is calling the plays? Who's scheme is being utilized in the offense and who is really making the impact? 

2. Get. Your. Mans.

This isn't something I've necessarily learned this year, but it's a good talking point regardless because you can always look back on your draft and regret picks. But if you choose your guys, the only person you have to blame is yourself. This year was actually an unusually good year in terms of top draft picks panning out, there weren't many busts within the top 30. But I can personally tell you of like 6 times over recent years where I drafted someone at my pick, not because I really wanted them, but because the "value" fell to me. Last year, I took Dez in the 3rd round in the ETGD, it was pick like 27 or 28. I wanted Keenan Allen. I remember saying it into the camera, but I had done so many goddam mock drafts and I just said to myself "he never falls this far", this is just value you can't pass up. Guess what. It was definitely value I could have passed up.

The day after the NFL season kicks off, ADP's go out the window. They are irrelevant, so don't let them be your fuckin bible. Instead, purchase the BDGE draft guide next year that has a bible in it! Nah, ADP is just a tool to help navigate value, it's kind of like the price tag of a player, but you're in Thailand, where anything is negotiable. Ja feels? For real, though. Drafting your guy and having him hit is amazing. Just as not drafting your guy and him hitting feels awful. Just draft your fucking guy.

3. ALWAYS Diversify the Revenue

If you watched my preseason videos, you heard me say this exact phrase way too many times.

Especially at the top of your draft.

Fantasy football in 2017 was not kind to me. 2018, however, was very different. I made the playoffs in 6-of-8 leagues, about 6 points away from shooting 7/8. And I know a lot of you will say yeah you should be in 8 of 8, but at the end of the day, injuries happen this game is highly impacted by luck, so I consider it a good year. Alright, fuck you.

I attribute that success, a lot of it, to diversifying the players that I drafted in my many leagues. And this I think is a point to make with people that play in multiple leagues. Maybe even two actually. But I play in five, so drafting all of the same players in five leagues is a sure fire way to end your szn before it starts.

The one thing that holds constant, and you should always remember this, and it's a big reason I never ever try to argue with people in the preseason about player analysis, I just tried to give the unbiased, big facts, is that we're all going to get about 50% of the predictions we give wrong. So, if you're so sure about something, and it falls into that 50%, you sound like a douche. That should actually be a point on it's own. So 26 things. Stop being a douche in the preseason because you're probably wrong.

But back to what I was saying. The underlying universal principle to preseason fantasy analysis is that you're going to get a shit load of things wrong. So, knowing that, you can't pick all of the same players on your teams. You get me? 

The worst and I guess the best part about this year, is that I did I follow this principle, but only to an extent, which made me realize it's even more important at the top of the draft. So back to why this was an interesting year, is that I'm an asshole and invested HEAVILY into David Johnson, I owned him in 3-of-5 redraft leagues. I had the chance to draft Todd Gurley in all three of those leagues. Despite doing that, I still had a good year. I probably could have cleaned house in my leagues if I went the other way. But having even gone Gurley in one or two of those would've ensured those championships. However, I did a good job throughout all of the other rounds, for the most part, mixing my teams with a variety of players. With guys I loved, guys I liked, guys I had no idea about, even guys I hated. As long as you draft well throughout, your teams should still be strong. That doesn't mean you can't own multiple of the same player. But I think if you're in a tie-breaker scenario when drafting, it should help. In the leagues I care most about, I'll get my guys, maybe in a league I care a little less about, I'll pass on that guy and go with the other guy because I don't feel as strongly about him, but hey sometimes that one ends up being the right play.

The other thing is like, even if you draft well, say you did go with A.J. Green, Emmanuel Sanders, Gurley on the majority of your teams, an injury makes you super vulnerable, even if the players are performing well. 

Always diversify the revenue.

4. Running Backs Don't Matter

....In real football. But they matter so gawd damn much in fantasy football.

For those of you living in the stone age. Running backs don't matter. I'm sorry if you take offense to that. If you do, idk why tf you do, you probably got some bigger issues going on in your life, but it's just a fact. Outside of the truly exceptional, like Saquon Barkley, or the truly terrible like Javorious Allen, any of the tops like RBs in the world will produce similar numbers given the same situations, it's a fact at this point. They have almost no impact on the overall game compared to the QB position, DE, CB, etc. 

Again, don't get mad. I have no personal stake in this. I just stick with the big facts.

But in fantasy? They are still the king. The queen. The prince. The prince's girlfriend. And his wife on the side. The single biggest advantage a fantasy football team can have is owning an elite fantasy running back. Looking at my leagues. Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, C-Mac, Zeke. Those guys are in every one of your playoffs.

It was something I preached all summer. The top RBs are far more important. This is not taking into account hit rates. Of course, I would have rather rostered Julio Jones over David Johnson looking back, but hitting on a high-end RB in fantasy like a Melvin Gordon at the 8 pick is far more valuable than hitting on a high-end WR like Julio at the 8. 

Why? Julio finished this year as WR5, averaging 16.7 half ppr FPs/game. The WR20 averaged 13.1 PPG, a 3.6 WoW positional advantage. Melvin was RB2, averaging 22.6 FPPG. Even going just down to RB10 drops you off to 15.4 FPPG, 7.2 points, or double the positional advantage, for half the ranking drop. If take RB5 to be comparative, Kamara, averaging 20.3 FPPG, Chris Carson is RB20, at 11.3 PPG, a 9 point WoW dropoff.

Anywho, this lil WR renaissance was easy to see coming. Doesn't change the big fact that running backs still got the sauce mane.

5. Injury Optimism Is TOO Real

At all costs, avoid players injury in the preseason. Be skeptical even prior to that. The perfect examples this year were Doug Baldwin, Greg Olsen, Randall Cobb, Jerick McKinnon. You could see these years coming from a mile away. I wanted nothing to do with them. And if you watch the ETGD video I drafted both Baldwin and Olsen and hated myself for it, but only because the discount was massive. It wasn't massive enough. Baldwin fell to me in the 6th, Olsen in the 9th, both guys were going a full 3 rounds ahead of that per their ADP. As soon as McKinnon's calf injury happened early August, I said knock him down from a 3rd round pick to probably outside of the top 6 or 7 rounds. Players and teams rush themselves back onto the field far too quickly, far too often. The re-injury risk with those kinds of things, like calves, ankles, hamstrings are soooo high without optimal rest time. People get ridiculous injury optimism, but I'm telling you, I don't care how flashy the player's name is unless you're getting an absurd discount, don't waste a pick.

Don't find injuries, they'll find you.

6. While You Can't Predict Injuries, They're Definitely Worth Factoring Into Your Draft Rankings/Projections

Here it comes, blah, blah, blah u can't predict injuries. Obviously, but once injuries happen, the re-injury risk is massive compared to healthy players. However, injury history has to be taken into draft capital. At least weighed as a risk, at the minimum, even if it's dropping a player down just half a round. The best examples of this are Fournette, Goodwin, Gronk, Freeman. All came into this year with a massive injury history, and all missed big portions of the year. Y'all know how high I was on Fournette. And every time I talked about him, I would say, the only risk here is injury, if you're a risk-averse player, look elsewhere. Again, I know you can't predict injuries, but Fournette now has back to back absolutely injury saturated NFL seasons on his resume. Heading into 2019, I likely won't be even looking at his name until the 4th round. Yup, he'll give you round 1 type weeks, but he's almost guaranteed to miss extended time. Just take this stuff into consideration. I'm not saying its be-all, end-all, but it weighs it into your projection. You can't be completely sold on an injury happening, nor can you say that they'll stay healthy. And it's not always as easy as drafting handcuffs. With Fournette, it's not like Yeldon backed up with first-round fantasy value. Devonta Freeman, same thing with Tevin Coleman. Like most of fantasy football as a whole, your players staying healthy is luck, but in this situation, you can partly make your own luck.

7. Avoid Non-Passing Catching RBs.

This is more important now than ever with the way the NFL operates and is moving towards. We're seeing guys like Matt Breida, who you don't see as a workhorse back far surpass the fantasy value of guys like Jordan Howard & Derrick Henry, simply because of his involvement in the passing game. And of course, there will always be one or two guys each year that defy this rule. Surprisingly, Philip Lindsay is one of them ( __ catches), Jordan Howard, Nick Chubb, Adrian Peterson. But those type of backs also provides you with bad floors. Game scripts can easily knock them out.

I'm not saying avoid them altogether, but if you're deciding between a runner and a running back that catches passes, it should be a no-brainer. ***Fact check*** There was not a single running back that finished inside the position's top-10 that didn't catch at least 45 passes. Over the next few years, we're finally going to see these fossil HC's make their way out of the NFL as they make room for the younger, innovate more adaptive types that understand how to run offenses efficiently, one of the major ways is throwing to running backs. Throwing to running backs early and often. Not just on 3rd and long screens. But on first down to pick up an easy 7 yards. Why does that have to be so farfetched? You just got an easy seven yards. You'd be lucky to get that on a 1st down run, but defenses practically donate that type of 1st down play to offenses. Obviously, this will make pass-catching RBs that much more valuable.

Of course, this isn't always as easy. Like how we heard all summer Jordan Howard would be a 3-down back, and catch a ton of passes. Yeah fake news.Jordan Howard fantasy football

8. Stay Away From RBBC's (Especially Early In Drafts)

The early-to-middle rounds of fantasy drafts this year was absolute madness looking back on it. Starting after pick 30, according to ADP data from 4for4 Fantasy Football, running backs were:2018 fantasy football ADP

Nearly every single one of these running backs fit the criteria of entering the season in a heavy RBBC, or with coaches who have historically always used an RBBC. Drake had Gore there. Despite what people wanted to believe, they literally said all summer Gore was going to be used and was listed as the co-starters. from June through August. And people act surprised when they split carries. Alex Collins, a guy whose talent got me more excited then reasonable expectations. Harbaugh used a committee nearly all of 2017 and did not once commit to Collins as the workhorse during the summer. Henry, sure he finished strong, but for the first 13 weeks of the season Lewis out-touched Henry 180-140. They signed Lewis to a lucrative contract this summer, the signs were more than obvious that this would be a committee. Ajayi is the guy that was touted as the horse all summer, however, Doug Pederson NEVER, ever rides just one running back. Ever. Sure, a few of the backs sprinkled in big fantasy games throughout the year, but good luck guessing which one to play weekly, and those guys don't give you league-winning upside. The list goes on in the middle rounds of wasted draft picks at the running back spots.

I would say that if a running back is in a bad offense, coupled with an RBBC, just fade them all together at their ADP, I.E. the highest drafted player on this list, Kenyan Drake.

Now, I'm not saying fade RBBC's all together, because when you look at the guys that emerged as true fantasy assets from the majority of these backfields, it was almost the latter drafted teammate in every case, ESPECIALLY those in above average offenses.

People drafted Jamaal Williams in the 7th. Aaron Jones in the 11th was the right pick. People drafted Rex Burkhead, Sony & James White were the guys. Rashaad Penny -> Chris Carson. Chris Thompson -> Adrian Peterson. Royce Freeman -> Phillip Lindsay. Carlos Hyde - Nick Chubb. Marlon Mack was the first one off the board for Indy, but still a much later round draft pick.

This isn't a formula, by any means, but if you're going to invest in an RBBC, the discounted player turns out to be the right move many a time. And you have to be patient with them. Most of these guys emerged over the 2H of the year. So, if you want to fade altogether when drafting, cool, but make sure you're early on them on the waiver wire by at least a week or two.

9. If you have someone playing on TNF, play them in their position, not the flex.

This ain't anything. Just a tiny little trick, but make sure the early week players are slotted in the positional roles of your lineup, so in the case where the guy who hasn't played gets hurt mid-week, since he's now correctly positioned in your flex spot instead of an RB or WR slot, you have more options on your bench to choose as a replacement.

10. Steaming defenses is ALWAYS the best move.

Another one that's not necessarily new to me from this year, but I think a lot of you guys probably learned.

Looking at this chart, and to be honest, this is better than most years, it's basically saying that people drafting defenses early have no idea wtf they're doing. Someone in your league, if not multiple people are going to use an early pick on a defense, let them. They are dumb. Not Smart. The highest drafted fantasy defense NEVER finishes on top. Ever. You're using an 8th, 9th, 10th round on the Jaguars when you could've grabbed one of these RBs in an RBBC.

I literally went back and calculated my streaming defenses this year and my streams came away with 139 fantasy points, good enough for DEF2 only behind Chicago.

Streaming wise, y'all know the formula at this point if you've been following me. Pick a team that's favored, playing at home, with a low over/under total. If they are a better real-life defense, that's always a tie-breaker for me. Of course, look at things like the health of the players, turnover prone QBs, things like that. OL/DL matchups are also huge.

I'm also perfectly fine rostering multiple defenses at once looking down the road. I prefer to do this later on in the season, however, when you don't necessarily have to use all of your roster spots on streaming.



Nick Ercolano
Nick Ercolano

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