With just Week 17 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 2021 and strategies for 2022:
CONTEND UNTIL ELIMINATED
One of the bigger mistakes by dynasty GMs is throwing in the towel too early. Some lose in September and are already looking for the exit. Others double-down on not contending in the offseason with being stuck in the middle of the standings the worst potential outcome.
My take: Contend until you are officially eliminated. This is a very NFL-type take. Two games to play and need two wins? Try to win the first one and go from there. Need some wins and some help with a month to go? Take it week by week. Things look rough in July? Wait until October to assess things, minimum.
The best team in a dynasty league does not always win the title. Fellow Footballguys staffer Adam Harstad has broken down the math of winning a title in a variety of circumstances in previous articles. In short, the 'field' has a better chance than any singular team, even once the playoffs start.
To include one 2021 glaring example of not throwing in the towel from my own dynasty portfolio, one of my weakest teams is in the championship game this week. This team finished 7-7 with a tepid 60% all-play record. I needed a win in the final week to scrape into the postseason. After 10 weeks, I was 3-7. After Week 6, I was 1-5 and 0-4 after the opening month. These are woeful season starts. It is also easy (or easier) to throw in the towel in a devy league (with Superflex and 2TE with premium scoring dynamics) as the trade options are vast to acquire future picks or devy players in exchange for current production.
Instead, I held firm with Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger as notable quarterbacks, James Conner and Alexander Mattison provided timely starts with point-per-carry for the stretch run. Mike Evans and Amari Cooper did the same as I rose in the standings. Having a strong corps of tight ends was a major impact as well with Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert, plus Zach Ertz, providing a punch at arguably the most position in the format.
Both weeks of the playoffs, I have the highest score, including taking down the top seed in Week 16. Will I win against the No.2 seed this week? Only time will tell. While blowout outcomes happen all the time in fantasy football (most matchups are not overly close), view matchups in the 40-60% prism. Even if a favorite, do not assume more than a 60% favorite. If an underdog, there is still probably at least a 40% shot at a win. This applies most importantly in the playoffs where every team has played well at some cross-section of the season to deserve to be there.
Entering the offseason, it is vitally important to have your goal as contending and making the postseason in 2022. That is 11 months away. The offseason of drafting, trading, and the waiver wire sets the table. Trading, the waiver wire, and setting lineups during the season have the same goal in mind - contend this season. While a simple premise, most leagues have some teams operating under a different vision, improving the odds of the remaining teams to achieve said goal. The final reminder is a point from early in this section - contend until you are officially eliminated. At 0-4 and 3-7, I was not officially eliminated in this example and, more obviously, no team in the league is eliminated in the offseason.
RUNNING BACKS: A WEEKLY GAME
Think of running backs like puzzle pieces. It can be difficult to see how they fit together in the offseason or even in September and October. Footballguys Dynasty Show Co-Host Jordan McNamara has referenced the running back position as fitting together 14 weeks of lineups with two (or more as applicable) quality starters. While having the same options each week would make that puzzle an easy one to solve, the NFL regular season of matchups and injuries is far from an easy one to solve. This dovetails with the above 'contend until eliminated' mindset. Rostering a significant volume of backup running backs requires patience to actually benefit from evolving depth charts and injuries around the NFL running back water cooler.
This is why looking at the seasonal PPG of running backs or their aggregate finish only tells part of the story and frankly for only the declared starters for most of the season. What about the rest of the position? These pockets of clarity, whether a single game or handful of weeks are hyper-valuable to the actual mechanics of navigating a successful dynasty season.
James Conner: Chase Edmonds exits and provides for Conner clarity for four games (Weeks 10-14 with a bye mixed in there). Conner's impact? 15, 21, 19, and 33-point games for the stretch run of the regular season.
Cordarrelle Patterson: Did anyone think in August Patterson would be a weekly starter? Seven games of at least 15 PPR points and having wide receiver eligibility on some platforms.
Devonta Freeman: NFL unemployed to having seven games of at least 10 PPR points over his last 10 games (pre-Week 17).
Devin Singletary: Zero clarity early in the season to 14, 16, and 18 PPR points the past three games with strong market share numbers.
Khalil Herbert: David Montgomery was out Weeks 5-8 and Damien Williams went down in Week 5. The clarity zone for Herbert was Weeks 6-8. In that span, Herbert had 46 PPR points and at least 20 touches each week.
D'Ernest Johnson: Who had Johnson as a preemptive pickup when Nick Chubb went down midseason? Kareem Hunt missed Week 7 and Johnson was a clarified start, the same occurred with Chubb missing Week 10. Johnson logged 24 and 22 points in those games as a poster child for concentrated impact not shown with cumulative seasonal production.
Rex Burkhead: A messy Houston backfield turned clarified late in the season with Mark Ingram II gone to New Orleans, Phillip Lindsay to Miami, and David Johnson injured. Burkhead provided a massive Week 16 of 28 points on 24 touches, a career day.
Darrel Williams: Clyde Edwards-Helaire missed Weeks 6-10 and Williams averaged 18 PPR points over the span. Edwards-Helaire is also set to miss Week 17, another strong starting opportunity for Williams to close the fantasy season.
Justin Jackson: Like Rex Burkhead, Jackson took until late in the season to find clarity. Austin Ekeler missed Week 16 and Jackson's impact swelled to a one-off performance of 19 touches, 162 yards, and two scores - 34 points in the pivotal fantasy semifinals.
Sony Michel: Michel, mired on the Patriots, does not even get traded to the Rams until Cam Akers goes down with an Achilles injury. Michel sees Weeks 2, 13, and 14 without Darrell Henderson in the lineup and Henderson is now out again in Week 17 with clarity.
Rashaad Penny: Who counted on Penny being a thing in 2021 considering how his career has gone plus the beginning of the season? With Alex Collins out in recent weeks, Penny finally healthy for a stretch, and Adrian Peterson a non-factor, Penny is RB2 in total points over Weeks 14-16.
The 49ers: Trey Sermon had clarity in Weeks 3-4 and Jeff Wilson in Weeks 14-16 with Elijah Mitchell (who had Mitchell as the clear starter to open the season back at rookie draft time?). Sermon was tepid with games of 8-10 PPR points, but Wilson is RB15 in total points over the past three weeks including a 19-point peak.
Ronald Jones II: For all the hand-wringing about Jones over recent seasons, especially since Leonard Fournette arrived, Jones saw a clarified start in Week 16 to the tune of 16 points with another clarified start coming in Week 17.
D'Onta Foreman: Two games without Derrick Henry or Jeremy McNichols were optimal start zones for Foreman, and Foreman has produced three games of at least 10 points since Henry departed with an injury down the stretch.
This is a massive list of running backs fitting into the puzzle pieces of lineups in 2021 with clarity. While rostering all of them in any singular league is an impossibility for the entirety of the season, keeping running backs in your focus throughout the year for increased probabilities of clarified starts is paramount. Some of the above were clarified backups for most of the offseason, some not until the week before they saw their clarified opportunity. The key is allocating roster spots towards the venture.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS
Whether in one league or 20, the weekly player churn through the waiver wire and first-come, first-serve avenues are critical to improving your team. To use one league as an example where players are unlocked when dropped through waivers, etc. and available for pickup, here are some of the adds and flips I was able to execute as a result of the shallow-moderate rosters and attention to detail.
Acquired, from September forward
- Jeff Wilson
- Alex Collins
- Devonta Freeman
- Khalil Herbert
- Ty Johnson
- Rex Burkhead
- Ke'Shawn Vaughn
- D'Ernest Johnson
- Emmanuel Sanders
- Isaiah McKenzie
- Dawson Knox
- Tyler Conklin
EARLY 2022 REGRESSION CANDIDATES
Russell Wilson: His lowest TD rate since 2016 and an Aaron Rodgers 2019-like 18 touchdowns prompting discussion of a major fall off or "beginning of the end" dialogue with Wilson. Buy the dip surely to be there in trading and startup drafts at least early in the offseason. Wilson could be on the move to another NFL team as well for the fading Seahawks. Wilson is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when examining TD-INT Rate Ratio.
David Montgomery: More of a buy recommendation for Montgomery than overt regression, Montgomery should have a locked-in backup with Khalil Herbert, who is no threat to the lead job but a strong talent in the secondary role. Also, Montgomery dealt with a weak Bears offense, especially passing game, in 2021 to siphon scoring chances (five touchdowns total, two scores since Week 4). Montgomery is still under his rookie contract and any passing game uptick or quarterback progression from Justin Fields would be a positive for Montgomery in 2022.
Laviska Shenault Jr: A factory reset in Jacksonville is coming this season and Shenault also possesses the undesired award for most receptions at wide receiver without a touchdown (56) through Week 16. Shenault is one of the few locked-in pieces around Trevor Lawrence entering the quarterback's Year 2 with D.J. Chark Jr slated for free agency and both notable running backs (James Robinson, Travis Etienne) returning from significant injuries. Year 3 is still the most common wide receiver breakout season despite recent early arrivals having microwaved expectations to Year 2 or even as rookies of late. Shenault will enter Year 3 with a cooled buzz and possibly even as a post-hype sleeper.
Kyle Pitts: Being TE5 in PPR points with a single touchdown is quite the feat for any tight end, especially a rookie. Pitts has scored just once through Week 16 but is third in the NFL in tight end targets with a robust 101. Pitts has a wide receiver skill set and even a bump to a modest five scores with his current stat line would have Pitts rivaling for TE3 status on the season, again as a 21-year-old rookie. Pitts crashing the very top of the positional board in 2022 will be one of the low-hanging fruit projections and proclamations in the offseason.