The day after Week 16 of the NFL season ends is the time for bragging about your Fantasy Football championships and commiserating about your failures, so indulge me for a moment:
-I can't believe I set a single-game scoring record in my 20-year-old Fantasy league in the championship game. I'm the best!
-I can't believe I lost in a different league because I started Dallas Goedert over Irv Smith. I'm the worst!
The joy of victory. The agony of defeat. Other people like to say they don't want to hear about your Fantasy football team, but I'm not other people. So if you want to share in your overwhelming triumphs, brag about your league-winning last-minute lineup switch or agonize over your tough-luck loss, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe I'll share some of the best over the next few days in the Fantasy Football Today Newsletter -- which will be publishing regularly throughout the offseason, so make sure you subscribe here.
And, for those of you still playing this week, don't worry, I haven't forgotten about you. I'll still be keeping up with the news this week and giving lineup advice, so keep sending in your lineup questions if you have them. In fact, here are Jamey Eisenberg's top waiver-wire targets at each position for Week 17:
- QB - Philip Rivers (70%)
- RB - Jeff Wilson (66%)
- WR - Sterling Shepard (55%)
- TE - Irv Smith (18%)
- DST - Packers (67%)
- K - Brandon McManus (23%)
You can read the rest of Jamey's waiver wire column here. Of course, I'll also be looking back at the season that was and ahead at the offseason and 2021 over the coming days and weeks, beginning with some reflections today on the biggest lessons I learned from the 2020 Fantasy season. The Fantasy Football Today team will also be highlighting our early rankings for next season over the course of the next week, so make sure you tune in to FFT live on CBSSports HQ everyday at noon -- and I'll be sharing my rankings and some thoughts on them throughout the week as well, so stay tuned for that.
We've got a long offseason coming up, so let's try not to forget what we learned in 2020. Start here.
Three lessons from the 2020 Fantasy football season
It's not that I didn't know any of these lessons already, necessarily, but 2020 really strengthened my convictions. Here's what I'll be taking into the 2021 offseason and beyond:
1. Avoid the "Running Back Dead Zone" like the plague
Shouts to friend of the pod Ben Gretch for introducing me to this term back in the summer of 2019 because it's really changed a lot about how I draft for the better. What is the dead zone? It's kind of fuzzily defined, but most years, it is Round 3 through Rounds 7 or 8, and if you avoided running backs in that part of the draft, you probably had a pretty good season, because here's what it looked like based on CBS Fantasy ADP:
- Rounds 3-4: James Conner, Todd Gurley, Chris Carson, Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson, Melvin Gordon, Mark Ingram
- Rounds 5-6: Jonathan Taylor, Raheem Mostert, Cam Akers, Leonard Fournette, Devin Singletary, Kareem Hunt
- Rounds 7-8: J.K. Dobbins, Tarik Cohen, D'Andre Swift, David Montgomery, Antonio Gibson, Phillip Lindsay, Ronald Jones, Marlon Mack, Zack Moss, Jordan Howard
How many players from that group would you say you were legitimately happy to start for more than a few weeks at a time? Montgomery, Gibson, Swift, Jones, Hunt and Taylor, for sure; Carson and Johnson when they were healthy. That's pretty much it. The rest had a few weeks here and there, but this range of the draft featured more outright wastes of a pick and roster spot than guys you could count on.
The young guys were the only ones who really hit among this group, and even then Akers, Dobbins, Moss, Singletary and Lindsay were all waiver-wire fodder for long stretches of the season. The problem in this range is you're either paying for veterans who are seemingly locked into roles and have solid-looking Day 1 projections, but have more ways for things to go wrong than right; you might feel OK about them when you look at your draft day projections, but if the volume isn't there for whatever reason, they'll bust. Otherwise you're paying for unproven players with questionable roles. They are the better bets, but you also have to be patient with a lot of them while they work their way into the role you hope they get; if you dropped Dobbins at the Ravens Week 7 bye, you basically got nothing out of him.
RBs picked from this range can work out, but it's basically always going to be the least efficient possible usage of your resources. Look at it this way: If the RBs who go in this range were likely to be good, they'd be elite players. But you're still paying close to an elite cost.
We'll be unveiling our rankings over the next week, and I'll be going position-by-position in the newsletter, but based on my first run through of my 2021 rankings, I think my ideal strategy is going to be to grab one or two RBs in Rounds 1-3 plus an elite TE, and then I won't touch RB until Round 9 or so. It worked this year.
2. Rushing quarterbacks over everything
Of the top 12 QBs in Fantasy points per game (min. 5 games), Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill and Justin Herbert were the only ones not to rush for at least 20 yards per game. And this is a new phenomenon. From 2014 through 2018, only 20 of 60 top-12 QB seasons featured at least 20 rushing yards per game. The influx of young, dual-threat QBs has changed the landscape, and if you don't run, you probably need two touchdowns per week to be a top-12 QB -- and that's not even counting Taysom Hill and Jalen Hurts, who averaged enough to be in the top 12.
Cam Newton, Carson Wentz and Daniel Jones are the only QBs to rush for 20 yards per game and finish outside of the top 12 in points per game, and they combined for just 47 total touchdowns and 60 combined fumbles and interceptions in their 39 games. If you're even passable as a passer and can run, you're ticketed for the top 12. It's a reason to consider Jones a sleeper for 2021, and it's why Hill and Hurts will be in my top 10 at the position if they are starting.
And it's why Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Zach Wilson could make this a very exciting rookie class for QB.
3. Stop trying to make breakout tight ends happen
If I try to argue, at any point this offseason, that this is the year the breakout tight ends really break out, please send me an email at Chris.Towers@CBSInteractive.com and I will send you my home address so you can slap me. We should know better at this point, but we never seem to learn. I tried to make the case for why it wouldn't happen in 2020 here, but you can still see how I managed to talk myself into as many as 18 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) tight ends being worth starting.
In reality, Travis Kelce and Darren Waller (and George Kittle when he was healthy) were the only tight ends really worth much of anything this season. Even Mark Andrews, who is third in PPR points per game at the position, was outscored by 27 running backs and 36 wide receivers on a per-game basis. Outside of the top three, your best-case scenario this season was roughly comparable to a fringe No. 3 WR.
Spoiler alert: Kelce, Kittle and Waller will be first-rounders in my rankings, at least initially. The gap between Waller (16.9 PPR points per game) and the No. 12 TE (Dallas Goedert, 10.6 points per game) was bigger than the difference between RB5 (Aaron Jones) and RB30. It was bigger than the difference between D.K. Metcalf (WR6) and Sterling Shepard (WR42). They're the biggest advantage you can find in the sport.
2020 Fantasy Football Superlatives
I went on CBS Sports HQ after Monday's Bills-Patriots game officially ended the Fantasy season and was asked to provide my picks for Fantasy MVP, Biggest Bust and Best Waiver-Wire Pickup, so I figured I should share them with you fine folks, too.
MVP: David Montgomery
If you asked me before Week 16, I would've said James Robinson, a late-round pick who emerged as an elite Fantasy RB. But … he wasn't there for the championship game. And Montgomery was. In fact, if you had Montgomery and you made it to the championship game, he's probably the biggest reason. He averaged 22.4 PPR points over the final five games and 22.6 over the final three, including a whopping 29.2 in Week 15 to carry you to the finals. Montgomery, the 80th pick in CBS Fantasy drafts on average, ends the Fantasy season sixth in points at the running back position. What a glow up.
Biggest Bust: Todd Gurley
Gurley was the 28th pick in CBS Fantasy drafts on average, and it actually looked like a pretty good idea early on. Oh, sure, he only had more than 65 total yards four times in the first nine games of the season, but he had double-digit Fantasy point totals in seven of those nine. He still had that nose for the end zone. From the Falcons Week 9 bye on, Gurley scored 23.4 points total -- I should know, I traded Jalen Reagor for him in a keeper league in Week 10. Whoops. There might have been worse values, but nobody let you down quite as much when it really mattered.
Best Waiver-Wire Pickup: Myles Gaskin
There were plenty of good options for this one: Justin Herbert, Mike Davis, Justin Jefferson, Chase Claypool, Nelson Agholor, Robby Anderson … but Myles Gaskin wasn't even a name on anyone's roster coming into the season. It was a legitimate shock that he was Miami's lead back in Week 1, and while his RB28 ranking overall may not seem like much, Gaskin was about as reliable as running backs came when he was healthy -- he had at least 14.2 PPR points in all but two games. He missed some key time with an injury and a positive COVID-19 test in the second half of the season, but Gaskin earns this spot for his dominating 33.9-point performance in Week 16. Thanks for helping me bring that trophy home, Myles.
The Larry Fitzgerald Memorial "For The Love Of God, Get Him A New Quarterback" Award: Jerry Jeudy
I want to include this one because it struck me while doing my rankings how badly I wanted to rank Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant high, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Jeudy has had his problems with drops -- 12 of them, second in the league behind Diontae Johnson -- but he's also had the second-lowest rate of catchable passes thrown his way at 57.3%. Drew Lock has the lowest on-target pass rate in the NFL and the second-highest bad-throw%, per Pro-Football-Reference. Any one of those players could be a star -- we've seen flashes from all three -- but it's hard to see how it actually comes together until the offense takes a step forward. And it's hard to see that until the quarterback gets a lot better.
Lock heads into Week 17 of his first full season as the starter with 14 passing touchdowns and 15 interceptions, leading the league in the latter category despite playing just 12 games to date. In his 17 games overall in the NFL, he has a 3.8% touchdown rate, 3.2% interception rate and just 6.5 yards per attempt; Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Brandon Allen and Joe Flacco have started the other 14 games for the Broncos since the start of the last season and have combined for a 2.9% touchdown rate, 2.9% interception rate and 6.8 yards per attempt. Worse, to be sure, but not much, and it's hardly a murderer's row of NFL quarterbacks he's outplaying.
Maybe Lock figures it out in Year 3, but John Elway's track record of identifying and developing quarterback prospects shouldn't give you much reason to be hopeful. I'd love to see someone like Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz or (especially) Jameis Winston end up starting for the Broncos in Week 1 of 2021. I don't want to write off Lock, because Josh Allen has convinced me anything is possible, but I also don't want to chase Allen, because he's a unicorn, and they are fast like horses. Right now, it's awfully hard to get excited about the Broncos offense, try as I might.