Top 10 Lessons Learned from the 2019 Fantasy Football Season

by Nick Ercolano February 13, 2020

Top 10 Lessons Learned from the 2019 Fantasy Football Season

1. YOU Are Going to be Wrong About a LOT of Shit, & So Am I

"I'm going to get 55% of things I say right, and I'm going to get the rest wrong." It's a statement I echo going into every fantasy szn. Because it's true. The absolute best gamblers in the world will hit on 60-62% of their wagers over the long run.

I'm talking top 1%ers. 60 to 62% people.

I wanted to dedicate a giant section of this video to just screenshots of u guys being assholes in the comment section about things you were wrong about but went nuts on me for. But, this is my video to come clean and hopefully help y'all out. This isn't just gonna be me sitting here listing off the dumb shit I said all summer, we're going to dive into them and see where we can learn.

So, I repeat, we're all going to get shit wrong, every year, in every league. So, have your opinion, relay it like a normal, objective human being and stop being a cunt on the internet. That is my message in 2020.

 

2. Coaching is the 1st, 2nd and 4th Most Important Thing in Fantasy Football

If you're wondering what number three is, it's talent. You might ask where opportunity is. Talent doesn't always dictate opportunity, but coaching does.

For better or worse, what we find most of the time, is that coaches are going to do what they want, whenever they want. Regardless of what you want to happen, regardless of what you think is going to happen, or what should happen. An NFL head coach is hand-picked as one of 32 qualified people in the entire world. They've followed their gut to get to where they are, in that elite company, so they are going to do whatever it is they want 99% of the time.

I wanted to take a look at some of the coaching changes that took place this previous summer, with HCs and OCs and pick out some things we can learn from. There is no agenda behind this, and I'm sure I left out some coaches, but here are the more notable hires that I thought of, off the top of my head when I was writing this article.

 

nfl coaching changes

 

Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. But we could've predicted a lot of these shifts with near certainty.

For example:

  • Dirk Koetter heading back to ATL. His pace and passing % was extremely high during his time in ATL from 2012-2014, as was it during his time in TB.
  • Green Bay, their pace was slow and they ran the ball a lot. Very similar to what Matt Lafleur did in Tennesee in 2018. People wanted to label him this high-flying product of McVay, but the actual numbers with him as an OC said otherwise.
  • Minnesota's passing % dipped by nearly 14%, which is massive. We knew with Stefanski taking over as the OC, the offensive philosophy was in store for a monster swing on the pendulum.
  • The Cowboys pace under Kellen Moore was a thing of beauty. Passing rate went up by just 1.3%, but Dak crushed career-highs in passing attempts by 70 (596), passing yards by over 1,000 (4,902) and passing scores by 7 (30).
  • Adam Gase. He's not on the chart, but guy is just absolute trash.

Again, hindsight is 20/20, and a lot of factors go into this EOY numbers, but when doing outlooks on fantasy players, coaching situations need to be a main focus, no longer a secondary factor.

I'll be putting out a full coaching breakdown video once all of the vacant HC and OC landing spots have been filled. And I think the this year's draft guide will have a much bigger section dedicated to coaching, in terms of historical data for each HC and OC.


3. Injuries. Still. Matter.

People will call me out for fading Cooper Kupp. I did so because he was coming off of a torn ACL, that happened in around Week 10 or 11 of the 2018 season. We know medically, that these take 9-12 months to fully recover from. FULLY RECOVER. Not have a beat reporter tell you that he looks 100% in shorts.

However, for every Cooper Kupp that I told y'all to fade because of injury, there are like nine A.J. Green's, Delanie Walkers, Greg Olsens, Will Fullers, Cam Newtons, Eric Ebron's, Devonta Freemans, James Conners, Emmanuel Sanders that I also wanted to avoid because they came into the year under-rested/recovered. Eventually, that shit plays itself out.

Same reason why I wanted Dalvin Cook this year, because he was two year's removed from ACL. Allen Robinson. Two years removed from ACL surgery. It's why I'll be investing heavily into Derrius Guice next year.

So, was I wrong on Cooper Kupp. Obviously, guy was WR7 in FPPG this year. So what was the take away. I will still, be completely risk-averse when it comes to injured players going into the year. But, I will leave a little wiggle room for younger players. I think age will factor into the recovery speed/process more than I had imagined. Kupp was just 26 entering the year, the prime of his athletic career. 

Older players coming into the year injured will still be far off my radar. 


4. Fat Running Backs Will be the Death of Me

I think rather than looking at general mistakes I made, we should dive into specific players.

I addressed Cooper Kupp, and I would make that mistake again. It's part of my process regardless of this one particular outcome.

The rest of my mistakes generally revolve around fat running backs. Ok. They're not fat. But they're the big guys. And most of the time the big guys don't catch many passes.

 

4. So, Derrick Henry.

Straight up I was wrong. Dude is a beast. 18 touchdowns, the rushing crown, over 1700 yards from scrimmage, in 5 games.. But I'll be honest, if you told me in the beginning of the year he was going to catch 18 passes, I probably would still fade him like an asshole. He's a first-round pick next year.

 

5. Mark Ingram

Let's take a look at what I said about him pre-season.

So I was dead accurate on 90% of what I said, but fatally wrong on one thing.

  • He'd get about 14 carries a game. 210 carries in 15 games = 13.6 carries.
  • He'd be very efficient on those carries, probably between 4.7-5.0 yards per carry.. Averaged 5.0 yards per carry.
  • Wouldn't be very involved in the passing game.
    • 30 targets ranked 45th among RBs
    • 26 receptions ranked 41st among RBs

I was subjectively excited towards Justice Hill, love the kid as a prospect but he flunked big time in any sort of impactful way. Discounting Week 17 where Ingram didn't play, Hill averaged 3.9 touches/game on the season. But if you followed me along during the preseason it was very, very clear that Hill was not in the running to compete for an impactful role in the offense.

justice hill fantasy football

With Ingram, I'm not sure anyone could've predicted that this Ravens team would route the entire NFL. 33.2 ppg was #1, SF who was #2 was sub 30 points. The Ravens were the best offense in the NFL and it wasn't close. It wasn't in my range of outcomes. I like to think of things on a spectrum when evaluating players. Floor, ceiling and most likelihood of something happening. I thought the offense would have it's ups & downs and be an above-average offense. I wasn't someone that didn't like Lamar coming in I just didn't think Lamar would make this offense elite. And it led to an enormous amount of scoring opportunities for Ingram. 15 total touchdowns this year. Tied for 3rd most GL carries on the season. My analysis was almost accurate down to the bullseye, but the offense being so good led Ingram to scoring so many TDs. 

 

6. Josh Jacobs

The moment you've all been waiting for. Understandably so.

All summer I just talked shit about him being objectively unathletic. I bought in on the analytics.

When I went back to search exactly what I wrote on Jacobs during the summer, I was like fuck this is going to be embarrassing, but most of it made sense.josh jacobs fantasy football outlook

The guy was every bit of a beast in the NFL in his rookie season as he was on film at Alabama. No denying that. Guy broke tackles like pregnant bitches breaking water, one of PFF's most elusive backs on the year, you don't need analytics to back this up.

My concerns were that we've never seen him carry a full workload. Not in college, so why are we so quick to assume he can do it in the NFL. Over a longer season, with bigger, faster, stronger, harder-hitting guys.

He did wind up getting hurt. Throughout the season he was coming out of games like this shit was pickup basketball and first run-back of the summer. Ankle, foot whatever. Never missed significant time, so props for the toughness. Then he fucked up his shoulder, cause the dude runs hard.

I was also concerned about the receiving side of things, which I was proven right in a sense. He was basically Mark Ingram on a worse offense this year. 20 receptions in 13 games, caught or fewer passes in 6 of 13 games and that's always my concern for a running back like this. Unless you're on an amazing offense, like Ingram where the scoring opps are flooding in, you're going to have a hard time providing a great weekly ceiling if you don't catch passes. He was more of a floor play this year if we're being honest, he had fewer than 12 points in 8 of 13 games.

All around Jacobs was fantastic in 2019. It's going to be important to keep an eye on reports out of Raiders camp, imo, to determine his fantasy value. Richard and Washington are both UFA this summer, so that could open up a massive boost to Jacobs' value as a pass-catcher. If both guys leave and they don't sign a pass-catching RB as competition, Jacobs will definitely be in the 1st round conversation.

I'd be lying if I said I still wasn't a little concerned about durability, but I'm not about to throw some propaganda at y'all.

https://twitter.com/dynogametheory/status/1224864638115778561?s=12

 

7. Leonard Fournette

Falls into the category with Kupp I suppose. Though a little different because he didn't go into the year injured. I just didn't want to deal with him if he did, which he always is. As you can see throughout this article, I'm extremely risk-averse when it comes to injuries. Something I frequently say, in fantasy football don't find injuries, they'll find you.

Fournette realistically wasn't good. He was a pure volume back, who had an injury designation coming into the year.

He had the 3rd most touches of all RBs in the NFL this year. 265 carries, but 76 catches on 100 targets. He only played 15 games, he would've been 2nd over Zeke if he had the full 16. He scored three touchdowns on the year. He had the one massive game in Week 4 where he went for 225 yards on 29 carries.

My thoughts on Fournette going into the year were that he's an okay running back, on a pretty bad team, with a bad offensive line.

I think he is a mediocre talent. The team isn't good. They were 6-10. They averaged 18.8 ppg, 26th in the NFL. Their offensive line ranked 27th in RBing per FO. 25th per PFF. He ranked 38th among RBs per PlayerProfiler.

I never thought his involvement in the passing game would be subpar, he's always been targeted on the field, but the 100 targets was not on my range of outcomes to be honest. Over the last twelve years, only 13 different RBs have eclipsed 100 targets, they were the legit pass-catchers - Ekeler, Cohen, Cmac, James White, Saquon, Kamara, Lev Bell, David Johnson, Woodhead, Forte, Jamaal Charles, Sproles and Ray Rice. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like a product of the system that Fournette was in, he can catch the ball, but he's not someone you draw up pass plays for. The way I look at it, and this is probably a discussion for another video, maybe RB rankings in general, but if you're not schemed into the game plan as far as pass-catching as an RB, like used in the slot, getting wheel routes, etc, then as soon as there are more legitimate targets on the team, it's coming out of your share. He had 100 targets on the year, with 27 air yards lol. He's just a dump-off guy and Idk if you can rely on that YoY. Maybe you can, but.

Regardless, yeah, tons of touches, I didn't want to deal with the injury risk, so I faded. He's played in a ton of straight games (week 17 of both seasons was out, for suspension and illness, not injury), while carrying a monster workload, so the outlook on his injury risk has to fade a bit, of course.

 

8. Always Diversify the Revenue

I say this year-in and year-out. There are guys I love, guys I hate, but since I play in a bunch of leagues, I always diversify my teams with varying players. Fortunately, the guys I was most heavy on were Aaron Jones, Austin Ekeler, and Deshaun Watson/Russell Wilson. But that could've just as easily been Kerryon Johnson, Matt Breida and Jared Goff given preseason ADP.

I always diversify my teams, because I know that, going back to rule #1, I'm going to be wrong on a lot of shit. Like would I had liked to have owned more Derrick Henry, Cooper Kupp and Leonard Fournette. Of course. And I should have.

If you were all in on JuJu this year, and you kept drafting him in the 2nd, you could've had one team with JuJu, one team with Michael Thomas.

This shit really works, I'm telling you. It makes fantasy more fun too. Your teams should vary a lot. Don't go out of your way, at bad value, to pick guys you haven't invested in yet, but when it's a tie-breaker, always lean towards diversifying the portfolio, thus diversifying the revenue, thus diversifying the profit.

 

9. Well-Rounded Teams >>>

This was the first year that I can remember in a long time where I went out of my way to draft well-rounded teams over straight value. And it worked. Maybe this was just a one-year sample and it's too small, but I really enjoyed it.

A lot of the time I tend to draft based on value, with a mix of get your guy. If that meant going RB/RB/RB, I would do it. This year I actually shied away from that approach. I really liked the idea of having at least one RB1 and one WR1 in my lineups. Or, since I play in only Superflex leagues, a high-end QB1 with an RB or WR1- led me to have a lot of Watson this year, which advertently led me to near suicide in Week 16.

When you draft based on value and are really heavy at one position, you make your team vulnerable. For instance, in the one league, I didn't make the playoffs this year, the BDGE staff league, I didn't take a WR until round 6. I took 3 RBs, a QB and a TE (it was TE premium). It actually might have been until round 7. I'll be honest it was the last draft I had of the summer and I wanted to mess around and experiment a bit. After fading WR for that long, my WR1 was Calvin Ridley. He was a mix of great, inconsistent at best and then hurt. I faded the WR position again until 3 rounds later cause I thought I saw more great value on the board. My next four WR picks were Josh Gordon, Marvin Jones, Michael Gallup and Geronimo Allison. So, you can imagine how that team wound up. I was too vulnerable at WR. And especially the league being deep, we started a ton of guys with big benches, so there were very few great pickups on the wire, another thing I should've factored in when fading one position.

For instance, I'm looking at the board now, it was until round 6 that I faded, my 5th round pick was Sony Michel, a couple of guys still on the board at that pick were Amari Cooper, Cooper Kupp, Kenny Golladay, D.J. Moore. Not good Nick, not good.

You can draft based on value, but value, a lot of the time is just perceived value and doesn't translate into actual success. I mean, realistically, value is kind of just a made-up thing based on a public ADP data.

It's much easier to move pieces around, smartly attack the waiver wire and build a stacked roster through a well-rounded team. If you're stacked at RB, or only at WR, the other positions on your team become extremely vulnerable. Your WR1 is a WR2 in reality and making them more likely to bust. Or if he gets hurt, you're really fucked. A more well-rounded team lets you be more flexible on the waiver wire too. If you don't have a glaring weakness you can go for best available rather than only the best ____, because you need that position badly.

 

10. Statistical Regression is Not a Thing in the NFL

IT IS, but not over the course of one season. It's only 16 games. That's the problem.

You can say something like: Aaron Jones is going to score fewer than te 19 touchdowns that he scored in 2020 than he did in 2019, understood. But none of y'all with a lick of fucking confidence can tell me whether that fewer is going to be 17, or 14, or 11, or 7. Without being able to accurately predict that, saying someone is going to regress is worthless.

You have to take into effect that Jones was one of the best GL backs in college at UTEP, ran for 17 his senior year. And has been arguably the single best GL back in the NFL since he came into the league. He was top-5 in the NFL in goal-line carries behind Aaron Rodgers. So, when we talk about statistical regression, 90% of the time it's shit analysis. While it may be right, it's almost all way too general to actually matter.

When you have such a small sample of things, when you're looking at TD rate for a running back or wide receiver, the difference between like 8 fantasy ranks is a defender slipping once, a terrible missed tackle. Over a 16-game, 200 touch sample, that can make a massive difference statistically. Over the course of an NBA season 82 games, or MLB 162 games, those things work themselves out.

So, this isn't to say regression in either way is not something to factor in, but for the most part when you hear it from fantasy analysts, it's fluff.

 

 



Nick Ercolano
Nick Ercolano

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