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The 2020 Footballguys Players Championship (FPC) is just a few days old. Dr. Abib Agbetoba pulled off the improbable feat of winning this competition for the second consecutive year, taking home a $500,000 prize for his 2020 efforts, to complement his 2019 overall prize of $250,000. With the competition now in our rearview mirror, and folks now refocusing their attention to playoff contests in a matter of days, it's worthwhile to reflect on the ups and downs of this contest, its controversies, and the reality that it was quite possible that the contest would have been canceled completely or been abbreviated in some fashion.
The road to the championship actually began way back at the end of April. The first drafts kicked off on April 26th, right after the NFL draft had completed (virtually). Concerns about the impact of COVID were being factored into draft strategies, and it was questionable as to whether the season would even go off as scheduled. In fact, the FFPC instituted contingency rules based on the number of weeks completed by the NFL. Six weeks had to be completed to be deemed official, otherwise all entry fees would be refunded. Similarly, if the season was cut short before the completion of the full 16-week competition schedule, league prizes would be awarded based on standing at the time of termination, and funds earmarked for the postseason brackets would be shared as well. The uncertainty about season length, as well as concerns about dealing with unexpected player absences, prompted some notable high stakes players to sit out the competition completely. For the majority of players, however, it was business as usual as they filled the draft rooms on a regular basis.
Sliding Rookie Value
Early drafts saw Clyde Edwards-Helaire coming in with an ADP in the 2nd/3rd round range after being drafted mostly in the 6th/7th round in best-ball drafts conducted prior to the NFL Draft where he was selected by the Chiefs. The draft also had an impact on the draft positions of Aaron Jones and Miles Sanders, who seemingly swapped draft slots with the Eagles not drafting a complementary running back to Sanders, and the Packers drafting A.J. Dillon, raising concerns about Aaron Jones' role in the offense and the possibility of a timeshare. Rookies in general saw significant ADP shifts in Footballguys drafts relative to where they were being selected in Best Ball. The prices on Justin Jefferson and Brandon Aiyuk increased, for example, after landing in favorable situations.
The NFL Schedule
In May, the first bombshell dropped on the drafting community. The NFL schedule was released on May 7th. The most interesting scheduling note was that the bye week of Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers was slated for Week 13, which coincides with the league championship games in the FPC. Given that many of the elite players being drafted at the time, most notably the consensus No. 1 overall pick Christian McCaffrey, play for the Panthers and Buccaneers, it put drafters into an awkward position. There are generally two schools of thought on this subject. Some choose to ignore championship bye week snafus when they draft their teams, and others tread these waters carefully not wanting to potentially sabotage their chance at a league title. In retrospect, it was mostly a moot point regarding McCaffrey, as it ended up not mattering so much, to put it nicely.
Twitter Weighs In
If you weren't following the discussions on Twitter around the FPC during the preseason, you are truly missing out on some great exchanges. There is an entire subculture within the FFPC community that critiques draft boards, discusses strategies, debates the merits of which players are going to be the ones who will be league winners, and where they should be drafted. Players such as Tyler Higbee can be polarizing figures within drafts. The drafting community was largely divided on whether his end of season breakout in 2019 was a mirage or not. Ezekiel Elliott also bore the brunt of criticism by the Tony Pollard truthers. Sometimes the discussions get heated and egos get challenged, but in the end, differences get settled inside the draft rooms and over the course of the season as the leagues play out. Interestingly, the concept of chasing player stacks from the same team garnered more popularity as the drafts played out during the preseason. This was fueled, in part, by the Twitter discussions. Ultimately, it did turn out that a player stack played a significant role in the fortune of the top finishers of the contest, but it was not the stack that many had foreseen.
As things progressed through the summer months, certain NFL players chose to opt-out of the 2020 season, leaving many drafters staring at a hole in their rosters until the first preseason waiver run would arrive just before the start of the season. Damien Williams was the most notable player on this list, and when he opted out, the Clyde Edwards-Helaire phenomenon took off, with him becoming an instant first-round pick for the remainder of the summer. Fantasy players envisioned Helaire grabbing six to eight passes a game. As it turned out, he ended up with half as many catches as another player named J.D. McKissic who was completely undrafted until very late in August, when Bryce Love was reported as the likely odd man out in Washington.
The Waiver Wire
Fast forward to the first preseason waiver run of the contest. This was a pivotal moment for teams in the contest as the most impactful free agent of the year was added to rosters. With the Jaguars releasing Leonard Fournette and placing Ryquell Armstead on the COVID-19 list in the first week of September, FPC players mostly went after Devine Ozigbo in the first waiver run. While Ozigbo was picked up by 552 teams in the 900 FPC leagues, James Robinson was quietly added as the alternative choice, being awarded to 379 teams at a third of the median FAAB price of Ozigbo. The rest, as they say, is history. Robinson's performance through weeks 1-13 of the competition left him ranked as RB4 overall in the contest during that time frame. Robinson even went unclaimed in a large number of leagues in the first waiver run. Two days before the second preseason waiver run, James Robinson was officially named the starting running back for the Jaguars. In the second run, Robinson was picked up in all but eight of the remaining leagues with a median FAAB price of 203 dollars (versus 45 in the waiver run just a few days prior).
The Season Begins
The regular season brought the typical week to week drama characteristic of fantasy seasons, but the number of injuries to highly drafted, elite players seemed unprecedented. Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Michael Thomas, Joe Mixon, George Kittle, Austin Ekeler, Julio Jones, Nick Chubb, James Conner, David Johnson all were out for significant periods of time. Those are just the players who had an ADP within the first two rounds of drafts! That's nearly half the player pool in those rounds. The list is much longer than that and was just related to physical injuries. The fallout from COVID-19, in terms of scheduling complications and sudden player deactivation, led to a managerial nightmare for team managers above and beyond traditional injuries.
Big COVID News - Part 1
Week 4 brought controversy in the competition. The Titans - Steelers game was moved to Week 7 due to COVID. This left many managers who chose to fly solo with one quarterback on their roster without any backup options facing the likelihood that they would have to compete without a quarterback that week and take a zero. After some very emotional “debates” on Twitter, the decision was made to add an unprecedented third waiver run for that week on Sunday morning. In addition, the second waiver run of each week moving forward would be moved from Friday night to Sunday morning. This time change was mostly well-received and seems likely to stay that way in the future.
Big COVID News - Part 2
Week 12 was interesting because the entire depth chart at quarterback for the Broncos was ruled out for the game due to COVID contact. The result of this was one of the strangest waiver wire and lineup snafus of the year. Kendall Hinton, designated as a wide receiver in the player pool, was called up to play quarterback. Hinton was the most added player during the second waiver run of Week 12, added by 288 savvy players who had the opportunity to game the system and play a quarterback in the wide receiver position. As it turned out, the move backfired for the 129 of those 288 teams who started him, as Hinton had a terrible game and scored negative .65 points. Some of the wide receivers who were benched by teams in favor of Hinton included Deebo Samuel (24.3 pts), Jarvis Landry (28.3 pts), Mike Evans (20 pts), and T.Y. Hilton (18.1 pts).
The week-to-week grind of waivers made it a year unlike any other. For many, it was an exhausting experience, and for those players who entered multiple teams into the competition (some drafted over 100 teams), there is no doubt they celebrated after the final waiver run prior to the games of Week 13.
Taking Home the Championship
This brings us to the Championship Round sprint of the competition - Weeks 14 through 16. We mentioned at the start of our journey who won the competition. It's an incredible story, and having listened to two of his interviews, one with Sigmund Bloom and the other with Eric Balkman, he seems like an incredibly humble and down to earth individual. It's interesting to note that last year he won the competition without a kicker the last two weeks, and this year, he took a zero at running back with Benny Snell in the final week. Good things happen to good people it seems.
A Deeper Look at Winning Rosters
What does it take to finish at the top? First and foremost, firing multiple bullets in the competition does improve your chances. The overall winner had 68 teams in the contest. If you are a good player, and you can increase your exposure within the contest, it will benefit you. In the end, you need to have the players on your roster who excel during Week 14 - 16 and be in the championship round. Some preliminary analysis was performed in looking at the rosters of the top-10 finishers in the competition. Here are the points of interest with respect to those Top 10 teams:
- Stefon Diggs was rostered by every team in the top 10. #LEAGUEWINNER
- Josh Allen was on four of the top 10 teams (specifically 1,4,5,7)
- Six of the top 10 teams had Alvin Kamara, who had the legendary six-score performance to kick off the Week 16 games
- As instrumental as James Robinson was in getting teams into the Championship Round (he was the third-highest rostered running back among Championship Round teams - 17.89%), he was not on any of the top 10 teams
- Logan Thomas was the most commonly used tight end among the top 10 teams and was basically free in drafts (16th round or higher or even undrafted)
- The top-scoring kickers and defenses during Week 14 - 16 were not rostered by the top 10 teams
- Tyreek Hill was a top 10 performer during Week 14 - 16 but was NOT on any of the top 10 teams (which seems strange)
If you drafted teams in this year's competition and were plugged into the stacking phenomenon, you can see that it is a legitimate strategy. Figuring out which stack to pursue is the challenge. The Josh Allen/Stefon Diggs stack was there for anyone to have in any draft given their respective ADPs of 11.05 and 6.06. Next year brings another opportunity in this contest to leverage lessons learned and win the overall title.
For more FFPC and FPC info, head over to our friend Darren Armani's site. His FantasyMoJo.com has everything you could want on these high stakes contests.