A beautifully decorated tree. A stocking in the early morning teeming with surprises. A great Roast Beast straight out of the oven and ready for carving. If you celebrate Christmas, you may well have many traditions and associations with the season going back years. As I think back on the last decade of celebrations, though, I find I have a growing number that have to do with fantasy football. 2018 marked the fourth consecutive year (and the seventh in ten years) the NFL played at least one game of the week 16 schedule on Christmas Eve or Christmas. Even when the games don’t fall on a holiday, they have been no more than a day or two off. Sometimes the final week just adds to holiday glee. Other years, a finals loss ruins a perfectly good holiday.
I played in three dynasty football leagues this year and one keeper.
- In one, I had the 8th best regular season record and was odd man out of the playoffs on a three-way tiebreaker.
- In another, I settled in as the 8th seed of 16 teams but lost in the first round.
- My 8 seed in another league upset the 1 seed in the first round before succumbing on a stat correction in the semifinals.
- The fourth team narrowly lost by 1.4 points in the championship game.
Needless to say, despite my success getting to the playoffs (I went 3 for 3 on playoff teams in redraft as well), this time of year is usually when I feel most burnt out on the sport. While it is still fresh, December me would like a word with August me on some things not to forget when next season rolls around.
- You can never have too many running backs. The value of running backs is nothing new to fantasy players. In August we all look at the 32 RB situations imagining we all know roughly how they play out, partly from listening to months of coverage of guys who believe they know how they play out. I always lose appreciation for how the position blows up during the season as players at this position get hurt, lose favor in committees, even get cut. No other sport can rival fantasy football at having players absolutely disappear more quickly. On my runner-up team, I went from Le’Veon Bell to James Connor to Kerryon Johnson to Frank Gore to Kenyan Drake to Jeffery Wilson to…Latavius Murray for the finals. In other leagues, (in addition to more shares of some of the above guys) Dion Lewis, Lamar Miller, Kareem Hunt, and, yes, Todd Gurley left me high and dry when I needed them most. In deep dynasties next year I want to be even more aggressive targeting early-emerging RBs like Philip Lindsay and scrapping for potential handcuffs like Damian Williams and CJ Anderson all the way through the season.
- Draft a top LB in IDP. I play three IDP dynasties. In one, my defense was revived this year by adding Roquan Smith and unleashing Jaylen Smith to go with my old core of Kuechly, Lavonte, and Hitchens. In another, late pick Fred Warner surprised in the first half but 3rd round rookie pick Darius Leonard carried my competitor past me in the finals. Everything depends on format, but in leagues where the top IDPs can score similar to top RB/WRs, the difference-makers are just as critical on the defensive side. The conventional wisdom is there will be LB value freely available. Get elite LBs.
- Don’t get too cute with trades. In my keeper league (where players are kept with round value), I made a trade at the end of the 2017 season designed to let me get a stud rookie this year. Specifically, I traded Christian McCaffrey for non-keepers to help my 2017 squad, with the ulterior motive being to keep “open” my first round pick slot this year for a crack at Derrius Guice, Kerryon Johnson or Nick Chubb – reasoning that other teams would keep all their first round stars to allow me the pick of incoming players. Alas, the best I could do at my draft slot was to pick up Luke Kuechly. Luke certainly didn’t hurt my team, but in retrospect I would have won a title in 2018 with CMC.
To my fellow runners-up, go focus on basketball and hockey for a while and take a brief mental break from your dynasty teams. April will be here before you know it, and with it NFL draft time. You have a whole offseason to think about improving your chances for next year and making savvy trades. We’ll get ’em next year.