With just Week 16 left in the regular season, a vast majority of dynasty leagues are awarding their championship trophies this week. For dynasty GMs, it is time to get back to business - improving their roster through trades, rookie draft strategy, and proper player valuations for next season. Here are some lessons learned from 2019 and strategies for 2020:
Patrick Mahomes II back to the pack
Mahomes was the toast of the quarterback position in 2018, lapping the field in aWORP (Adjusted Wins Over Replacement Player, which combines start rate and production over baseline to capture true impact) but came back to the crowded top tier in 2019. The No.1 overall quarterback is a dicey bet to repeat as a high impact option the following year and Mahomes was the latest example after his torrid touchdown marks last season. Mahomes' WORP on the season dropped by more than 30% year over year and a similar amount in aWORP/G. The field gained on Mahomes too with Lamar Jackson surging to QB1 with Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Dak Prescot all clustered around 1.00 WORP spanning the 13-week regular season. Jackson is now firmly in the regression crosshairs for 2020 with his historically high touchdown rate as a passer.
Running Backs: Ride the Wave
Being in the volume business at running back with dynasty bench spots is the probability play to get the injury odds in your favor to preemptively acquire predictable running back starts for a discount. Injuries were down in a general of recent seasons at the position, however, and the 25% mark of NFL backfields with the pre-Week 1 starter missing at least five games was the lowest rate since 2015. Also, the averaged missed games by an NFL starter of 2.78 was the lowest since 2015. The commonly mentioned phrase on my podcast channel (Under the Helmet) where we discuss all 32 backfields each week was 'rolling snake eyes' in 2019 as some of the clarified backup situations did not hit with a starter injury. These would include Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Aaron Jones, Chris Carson, Joe Mixon, Ezekiel Elliott, and Christian McCaffrey of note. The takeaway is not to fade collecting backup running backs in 2020. On the contrary, it is to bet on regression to the historical average injury rates and missed games and double-down on those clarified backups like Alexander Mattison, Ryquell Armstead (or other in Jacksonville if applicable), Rashaad Penny (or other in Seattle), Giovani Bernard, Jamaal Williams, Tony Pollard, and (TBD in) Carolina. Can these starting running backs not miss a fantasy regular-season game two seasons in a row? The odds are stacked against them. One final note on running backs - Christian McCaffrey set a new record for WORP for a running back (3.08) since I began collecting data in 2014, nearly a full win of impact over RB2 Dalvin Cook.
Wide Receivers: Survive with a Chance to Thrive
On the flip side of running backs in 2019, wide receivers had the feel of a M.A.S.H. unit for much of this season. Injuries plagued many big names at the position. Mike Evans, Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Chris Godwin missed time just as the fantasy playoffs were in full swing. Antonio Brown changed teams and then played just a single game for the Patriots (non-injury). Adam Thielen, Davante Adams, T.Y. Hilton, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller, and Alshon Jeffery missed a chunk of the season. A.J. Green missed the entire season. Corey Davis and Brandin Cooks were on a milk carton for portions of the season. The list goes on and on. The set-it-and-forget-it studs at wide receiver were more valuable than ever as a result. Michael Thomas was the crown jewel with more than 30% more aWORP/G impact than any other receiver. DeAndre Hopkins and Julian Edelman were the only other receivers to have more than six high-impact performances by aWORP measures. Michael Thomas had an eye-popping 11 to pace the position in yet another category.
With the macro view for dynasty, how many receivers are in the cornerstone tier? If being picky, one can mention as few as five receivers: Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Mike Evans, Amari Cooper. All are 28 years old or younger for the kickoff of the 2020 season with strong track records of production. Potential inclusions could be Odell Beckham (down year with lack of touchdowns and underperforming Browns offense), D.J. Moore (still developing, 23 years old, quarterback question mark), Keenan Allen (28 years old, competition for targets), JuJu Smith-Schuster (historic career start, but lost year with injury and Ben Roethlisberger out), Tyreek Hill (off the field), Julio Jones (31.6 years old, lack of touchdowns in career), and Chris Godwin (one big year).
Tight ends: Kelce and Ertz back to earth
Kelce was still the TE1 in WORP, repeating from 2018, but like his teammate Patrick Mahomes II, Kelce's gap closed to a minimal level. Kelce's 1.78 WORP in 2018 morphed into 1.14 this season with Zach Ertz, Austin Hooper, George Kittle, and Darren Waller all within 0.50 Wins Over Replacement Player during the regular season. Hunter Henry had a pocket of challenging impact to that top group, Mark Andrews was a shade short of the tier, Evan Engram got off to a hot start, and Will Dissly is a 'what if' scenario with a season-ending injury for the second straight year after a quality start. Tight end is an annual arms race for finding the next tier crasher for a substantial discount. Darren Waller was the central figure in 2019 and Will Dissly was on track early to be the other. How about in 2020? Early names to consider are O.J. Howard (post-hyper sleeper), Noah Fant (on 'success' track after promising Year 1), David Njoku (see O.J. Howard), Ian Thomas (possible breakout if Greg Olsen is not back), T.J. Hockenson (electric start but non-factor otherwise, bet on pedigree).
2020 REGRESSION CANDIDATES
The 94% regression rate threshold for touchdown rate (per completion) for quarterbacks is above 9.5%. The quarterbacks currently qualifying in 2019 for regression next year include Lamar Jackson (13.5%), Matthew Stafford (10.2%) and Ryan Tannehill (9.9%). The average regression is -2.9%, which on 325 completions would be more than nine touchdowns lost the following season. On the interception side of regression (on a per-incompletion rate) has a 90% regression rate (2.7% boost in interception rate) historically. Tom Brady, Carson Wentz, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes II, and Gardner Minshew are the hotlist quarterbacks to see a rise in interceptions next year. To end on a positive note, Jared Goff, Andy Dalton, and Joe Flacco are set to see a positive regression for touchdown rate if they see 250+ attempts next season and the same holds true for interception rate for Jameis Winston, and Philip Rivers.
Aaron Jones is the glaring touchdown regression candidate for 2020 with a ridiculous 14 scores on 188 carries where even a >6% rate has regressed by more than 2.5% on average in 25-of-27 previous cases. On the positive regression track for next season, Leonard Fournette (250 carries, 3 touchdowns), Joe Mixon, LeVeon Bell, Devonta Freeman, Alvin Kamara, and Miles Sanders are the big names on pace to see a strong uptick.
WIDE RECEIVERS and tight ends
The wide receiver position lacks many regression candidates downward for 2020. Kenny Golladay qualifies above the 15% threshold with 10 scores on 56 receptions. Darius Slayton and Marquise Brown are also on the hotlist. D.J. Moore, Tyler Boyd, Robert Woods, Odell Beckham, Larry Fitzgerald, Darren Waller, and Tyler Higbee are on the positive list to boost their touchdown rates (sub-5%) from 2019.
final stash players
With this week likely the final waiver wire and FCFS pickup cycle in nearly every dynasty league, here are a few select stash players to consider with those rotational roster spots as GMs drop their kickers, defenses, and in-season type bench players for offseason and 2020 upside:
- Teddy Bridgewater (Free agent, could garner starting job or continue to be valuable Drew Brees handcuff)
- Taysom Hill (Could be viewed as offensive weapon by NFL in free agency or potential starting quarterback)
- T.J. Yeldon (Day 2 pedigree, could be Devin Singletary handcuff in 2020)
- C.J. Prosise (Day 2 pedigree, finally healthy)
- Travis Homer (Prosise a free agent and Rashaad Penny possibly missing a chunk of 2020 with injury)
- Rodney Anderson (Talented but derailed by injuries to-date, starter potential if healthy for a stretch)
- Blake Jarwin (Could be Cowboys starter if Jason Witten retires again)
- Drew Sample (Day 2 pedigree, wide-open depth chart to gain starting role)