What We Learned from the Fantasy Football Season
1. Top Running Backs vs. Top Wide Receivers
This year was supposed to be the year of the running back - draft a running back in the first round or else you’re in trouble! Yet a good deal of those running backs ranked high in the preseason failed to deliver. We aren’t talking about the ones that fell to injuries like Doug Martin or Arian Foster, but the ones that remained at least relatively healthy and never played up to their preseason hype: Ray Rice, CJ Spiller, and Trent Richardson. Then there was the next tier of running back busts, namely Stevan Ridley and David Wilson, that gave their managers almost nothing to work with all season.
Now when you compare that to the production of wide receivers taken in the first few rounds or - in auction drafts - taken at a top 20 overall value, you won’t find nearly as many disappointing numbers. Calvin Johnson, AJ Green, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, and Demaryius Thomas all produced numbers worthy of top 20 picks this year. Julio Jones was on pace for the same before his injury and we can now add Josh Gordon to the list of high profile receivers going into next year as well.
The bottom line is that after Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, and Peyton Manning, wide receivers should start coming off the board quickly.
2. The Value of the Tight End
Jimmy Graham was so dominant this year it’s not even funny: 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns. The next best tight end statistically was Vernon Davis with 850 yards and 13 touchdowns. Then after that, 788 yards and 12 touchdowns (in 14 games) for Julius Thomas. Tony Gonzalez and Jordan Cameron were next, followed by Jason Witten, and Rob Gronkowski was of course right up there with Graham when he was on the field.
Having a top tier, reliable tight end goes a long, long way. Graham is worthy of a late first rounder, top 12-15 value next year without question. Davis and Gronkowski are then probably next in line as top 30 values, then Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron as top 50 values after that.
It’s not pivotal to have a top tier tight end in order to win your league, but with the inconsistency shown from the next group of tight ends like Charles Clay, Greg Olsen, Antonio Gates, and Martellus Bennett, it may be in your best interest to lock up one of the top 5 guys (Graham, Davis, Gronk, Thomas, Cameron) or at least target one of the next tier guys that you truly think is primed for a top tier kind of season. Thomas and Cameron were huge breakout stories this past year, so drafting a tight end late can come with a high reward, but there’s a significant risk attached there as well.