Year in Review: 2023 Lessons Learned & Bridges Burned
Happy New Year! As we flip the calendar to 2024, now is a good time to look back upon the year that was. 2023 was a memorable one. In both good and bad ways.
On the positive side, I’m very proud of the effort I and the FullTime Fantasy team put in.
I had my best outcome in rankings in many years. However, that took a lot of effort. I had to refine my process and that meant spending an inordinate amount of time looking at snap counts, target share, matchups, histories, and many other factors. The results speak for themselves.
Now that I won’t have to do that for eight months, it’s bittersweet. All that prep work made me a better analyst and gave me something to look forward to.
Also, the FullTime Fantasy Discord was busier than ever. I did my best to always answer every question by staying true to my process. Whenever I made the wrong calls, it always bothered me. I also wanted to thank Commish Roy for his omnipresent presence and dedication in Discord and other Fantasy Football World Championship duties.
Speaking of the FFWC, I had a Bestball team finish inside the top-5, which is a first. However, to accomplish that in a year like 2023, a little luck had to be involved. Mainly, by avoiding the injury bug that plagued the season.
That’s just one of the many takeaways that I’m reflecting back on in my 2023 lessons learned & bridges burned.
In some ways, the process of building some of those winning rosters seems like so long ago. However, in other ways, it feels like only yesterday that we were publishing our 2023 rookie profiles and annual Preseason Pro features.
Now is a good time to reflect and see where the process was right and what went wrong.
Early QB Drafting is Dead
For years, successful fantasy football managers have loaded up on skill position players and taken advantage of the depth at quarterback by value-shopping in the mid-to-late rounds. However, that started to change a couple of seasons ago and was notably different this summer.
Elite quarterbacks who stay healthy and deliver 20-plus weekly points started to be drafted earlier and earlier. Guys like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Jalen Hurts started to go off many draft boards in the late-2nd, or early part of Round Three.
While those three signal-callers stayed healthy, each of them had fewer fantasy points scored per week than in 2022. Mahomes, in particular, dropped off precipitously and was out-scored by a pair of QBs who went undrafted in most leagues.
The QB position also seems as deep as ever, with exciting young players entering the fray. This summer, you won’t see me taking a quarterback before Round 6 in non-Superflex formats.
Running Back Revival
Another trend that grows in popularity each summer is the WR-heavy draft approach. However, with significant injuries to Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Cooper Kupp, many a #ZeroRB roster was decimated.
Meanwhile, Christian McCaffrey led all payers with 24.7 PPR points scored per week. CMC stayed healthy and produced 13-plus fantasy points every week. But he wasn’t the only back who was a difference-maker.
In fact, 13 running backs averaged 15-plus PPR points per game. This was up from just nine backs in 2022.
On the other hand, 19 wideouts hit the same 15 PPR points per game mark. That was the same number as 2022 and one fewer than 2021.
An unusual amount of injuries to first-round wide receivers played a big part in that stagnant growth. But, knowing what we went through, gives us reason for pause before we blindly give into group think next summer.
Don’t Save FAAB
I authored the weekly waiver wire piece. One of the key components of that series is to remind readers early on to think long-term and save plenty of FAAB budget flexibility for December.
Unfortunately, in an injury-plagued year like 2023 that also had some amazing talents go undrafted, that sound and responsible advice backfired.
Championship teams are littered with significant additions like Kyren Williams, Puka Nacua, Rashee Rice, and Trey McBride who largely were not drafted in July and August.
When those players burst onto the scene I advocated caution. I certainly recommended “aggressive” bids of up to 25% of your remaining FAAB to acquire their services. However, that wasn’t near enough.
The lesson learned, at least for this unusual year, was to get it while the gettin’ is good. If you blow your budget, you can always resort to trades. Even sacrificing a little in a forced deal is better than watching your league mate hoist the trophy after they seemingly “overbid” for that pair of young Rams’ contributors back in Week 2.
Get. Your. Guys.
Is there a worse feeling than trying to sneak one of your must-have sleepers by one more round only to watch them get selected two or three spots before it is your pick?
That happens far too often and sometimes leads to me going on tilt and blowing an entire draft.
While using ADP can be useful, never assume that the other people in your league aren’t reading the same material as you and doing their homework. Don’t be afraid to askew average draft position and take shots on your players.
Better to go down with the players you cover than watch someone else score 20-plus points per game with a player that you coveted all summer.
I plan on being far more aggressive this year and less concerned with appearances or justifying taking players well ahead of their established draft range.
Were you one of those aforementioned early-QB drafters? Or perhaps you had one of the top-3 picks and snagged Justin Jefferson or Ja’Marr Chase instead of McCaffrey. If you came up short this season, it would be understandable to look at what went wrong and vow to not make that mistake again.
Here are some of the things I’m done with.
I was never a fan of spending first-round draft capital on a tight end. However, Kelce was such an outlier that the justification for doing so was sound. Also, that Kelce/Mahomes stack was a guaranteed playoff spot, right?
In addition to serious regression by both Chiefs, the incessant Taylor Swift/Kelce coverage was too much. Both are amazing talents and wonderful people. But I won’t be rostering Kelce anywhere in 2024. Hell of a ride, though.
He’s the GOAT coach. However, it’s readily apparent who deserves the majority of credit for those fantasy juggernaut New England offenses of the past two decades.
Without the single greatest quarterback in history, Belichick has just become an unlikeable presence who no longer can get the most out of his offensive players.
I kept targeting later-round Patriots thinking that the addition of Bill O’Brien would be what New England needed to start compiling a contending roster again. Instead, they bottomed out and now both parties need a change of scenery.
Belichick will deservedly be coaching somewhere in 2024. Assuming he is given the same power over personnel and the roster, I won’t be counting on a revival of those dominant Patriot teams of yesteryear.
My Sonic Youth shirt
I’m not superstitious but I am a little stitious.
I like wearing shirts from bands that I’m fond of. Anyone who saw me in Canton probably knows this.
However, I had to retire my Sonic Youth shirt after a pair of calamities. First, I wore it on October 7 when my Longhorns lost to OU. That was a bad day not only for any Texas alum but my dog was scared out of her mind and jumped on the bed to get away from me.
Then, without thinking, I next put on that same shirt in Week 8, preparing for another Sunday. Had a great rankings week but Kirk Cousins went down with a season-ending injury.
That was it for Thurston and company. Great band, though. I’ll have to get another shirt.
How are you gonna spend a top-10 pick on a wide receiver, tight end, AND running back and go out of your way to not feature them?
The Fantasy Football season is NOT over!
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