Well folks, we’ve made it to the end. Whether it was a successful year in defending your crown, a mediocre year in which you were saddled with a seemingly endless amount of injuries, or perhaps even your first year playing fantasy football, we have finally (mercifully) reached the finale.
So, how’d you do? Be honest with yourself; it’s the only way you will improve. Reflective practice, on a whole, is a good exercise at the completion of any task, but I’d argue (and have) that in a game setting, such as fantasy football, or poker, or pickup basketball, that it is imperative if you want to make strides to get better. Often, this can be a painful activity (I really traded for Keenan Allen one day before his season-ending injury was announced??) or a reminder (oh, that’s why handcuffing a running back is a good idea), or maybe, for a few of you, a time in which you can proudly pat yourself on the back and revel in your fortune and luck.
For me, it is always a weird, complicated mix of all three. See, back in the day (it was a Tuesday, I believe), I used to just play in a single fantasy league. I had one roster, one team, one set of transactions, one record. This simplified world knew nothing of a weekly advice column, or daily lineups, or twitter recommendations. It certainly didn’t need to track players that were not my own, for what did I care about another team’s misfortune? They screwed up? Woot. More victories for me. I extended my advice to the bare minimum of fellow fantasy fanatics; coworkers, family, close friends. “Should I start Terrell Owens this week?” they’d ask casually at the tail end of a conversation. “Sure,” I’d offer, with roughly as much time thinking about the answer as it took to utter it. Callous? Perhaps. But what else would I offer? I hadn’t considered a player not on my roster all year, and assumed they knew the best option better than I, so what good would my contradictory, made-up advice do?
Now, times, as someone probably still says, have a-changed.
I write a weekly column here that you have all stuck by and read each and every week of the year, chock full of my advice and suggestions. I write a second column solely for our VIP members, in which I not only highlight a particular set of data (Red Zone statistics) but also suggest players, trends and tendencies of NFL offenses to help readers decide between difficult choices of players for the coming week. I host a podcast (The Daily Bite with MJ Brown), generously sponsored by Fantasy Sharks Radio in which I, along with two of my closest and most trusted fantasy colleagues, share our tips, strategies and thoughts to help you win your daily fantasy lineups each week. Add to this the dozens of emails I receive from readers, like yourself, twitter followers, and yes, still those same friends and family members as before, and you have a massive amount of instances where I tell you precisely how I feel and think about certain players, matchups, and teams.
And this, my dear reader, means I have a lot of opportunity to suck.
Maybe I am making this analogy because I am currently crammed into a middle seat on a full airplane as I write this, but these columns, podcasts, email responses, and suggestions all feel very much like partaking in air travel. Eighty-five percent of the time, things can run smoothly, you get to your desired destination on time, and lo-and-behold, your luggage containing that matching salt and pepper shaker set you bought for Grandma arrived fully intact. But heaven forbid there is a delay, or it’s overbooked, or your luggage gets lost, or you are forced between the crying baby and a guy who forgot that deodorant exists. Because if any, or all, of those should occur, suddenly the airline, its employees, its stupid little logo, and heck, even the existence of air travel itself, gets immediately filed into the file in your mind marked “trash bin” and “reasons trains still exist.”
Such is the way of the fantasy sports columnist. If I get 85 percent of my suggestions, advice, and player profiles correct, then you continue coming back, checking in the following week, hoping you arrive at your destination safely and smoothly. But when I miss, when I lose that luggage, or sit on the tarmac for a bit too long … whoa buddy. The backlash is intense. And for this, I can merely apologize, offer you a complimentary beverage coupon, and hope you don’t leave to take up fantasy golf.
So, with that rant done, I want to go way back, to the first episode of Keeping Ahead this year, and see how I did. Remember those days? Cleveland, Detroit, Oakland and Atanta fans were confident this was the year? Jamaal Charles owners had blissfully just picked their franchise running back with the first overall choice? People rostered Charles Johnson, Joseph Randle and Nelson Agholor? Simpler times, right? Well back then, in September, this was my top 15 Keepers on the Watch List ….
Week 1 Keeper Stock Watch – 15 players drafted late in 2015 to keep an eye on
Cody Latimer – Starting off with an oldie, but goodie. Latimer was a frequent guest on this list last year, and, despite Denver losing both Julius Thomas and Wes Welker, didn’t climb very high on many draft boards. He’s had a lackluster preseason as well – which has many owners scared he may not ever live up to his supposed potential. Poppycock to all. Peyton Manning will get him the ball this year. Guaranteed.
Oh good – let’s start this painful exercise with the “G-word.” On what planet did I think this was a guarantee? It turns out that a full year of no production, plus two lackluster preseasons equal a player that you should not draft. Huh. Who woulda thunk it?
Well, at least he stayed healthy, right? This prediction was correct though. I just failed to add in the clause, “… in Week 14 against San Francisco.” Stupid word limit. [MJ’s note to editor: we really don’t have a word count, do we? Can I still use this as an excuse?]
Good golly, three picks in, and have yet to see anything of worth. Granted, I figured there would be a second receiver along with Cooks to get some targets, I just assumed it would be the more natural talent, Coleman, and not a guy named Willie Snead. David Letterman’s school gets me again.
Matt Jones – Not sure if you read above what I said about Alfred Morris. Here’s the skinny – Washington is a disaster. Jones will be the starter in 2016 with a new coaching staff. Heard. Here. First.
Alright, now maybe I am just desperate for a win, but I am counting this one folks. Listen, Jones has not done a whole heckuva lot all year, but between the insistent usage of the less-talented Alfred Morris and the injured offensive line, Jones hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to really shine. I expect those who grabbed and held him all year to be rewarded handsomely come 2016.
Cameron Artis-Payne – Our first three-namer of the year! It’s a lofty club. Reason for his inclusion other than the hyphens? Jonathan Stewart’s treads are going to be pretty worn out after this year.
Points for calling Jonathan Stewart’s injury? Ya, didn’t think so. What I did correctly call however, was that Artis-Payne is the only true three-down back behind Stewart, and, when he finally got a week of rest on the sideline, it wasn’t Fozzy Whitaker or Mike Tolbert in for most of the snaps, it was Artis-Payne. Look for him to carve out a nice 2016 role for himself in the coming weeks.
Ronnie Hillman – All year long, I tried chasing who would be the starting back for Denver. Now we finally have a clear-cut back and I am recommending the backup? Yep, sure am. I don’t trust C.J. Anderson. Sorry.
Uh, kind of. Not trusting in C.J. Anderson wasn’t exactly a bold claim, but let’s remember, he was going in the first round of nearly every mock draft, and in some instances, had experts arguing for him at No. 1. Hillman proved throughout the year to have some big upside, but really both backs were hampered by the ineffectiveness of Peyton Manning. Calling this a half-win.
Tevin Coleman – Still not sure why he dropped so much in drafts. Were we scared of the rookie curse? Oh wait! We still remember Michael Turner and his kid-stuck-in-a-snowsuit routine don’t we?? That’s it. And Coleman isn’t him.
Another contender in the half-win column, I still maintain, as I have all year, that if Tevin Coleman doesn’t get injured in the early weeks, Devonta Freeman never gets the chance to rise as spectacularly as he did. This call was for belief in the Atlanta backfield under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and, for those who grabbed both (and didn’t drop Freeman), congratulations. I will accept my half-thank you cards from you.
An interesting addition to the list here. He has had some great games and now is entrenched as the starter opposite the other Allen (Robinson). He won’t ever win you a championship, but could be a weekly plug-and-play all year long.
Bingo. Bango. Someone in Jacksonville is naming their firstborn child Allen after the year he and Robinson had. Oh, and credit where credit is due: our fearless editor called this shot first.
Tyrod Taylor – Long-time backup in Baltimore becomes starter in Buffalo. That sentence has never produced any semblance of fantasy success before. I think this year, it will.
After missing in comical fashion with the first three choices, I seem to have hit a bit of a stride here in the second half. Taylor was a nice surprise for owners who went the “zero quarterback” draft strategy, and looks to be a solid keeper for multiple years under coach Rex Ryan. FYI – for future reference, I much prefer the “zero-qb” method to “all-qb” method. Just sayin’.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins – No. 2 in our tri-name hyphen club, Seferian-Jenkins could be ready to have the breakout year we’ve all been expecting. Yes, this is my obligatory tight end spot, and no, I don’t feel bad about it.
Do I get one injury reprieve? I do? Wow, thank you, me.
Christine Michael – After having him on the list for every week last year, I almost wanted to leave him off entirely. I have nothing left to say. Then coach Pete Carroll had to go and cut him, leading him to end up in Dallas and back on my list. Sigh. Here we go again.
Talk about a unicorn. I was beginning to believe this guy didn’t exist and then suddenly he starts and runs well for Dallas Washington Seattle. Should Thomas Rawls owners be nervous? Nah …
Tyler Lockett – Speaking of Pete Carroll, he may have found the shiny, new, fast toy he always wanted in Lockett. The rookie’s blazing speed has already been on display in the return game and his size and route running have drawn comparisons to none other than Antonio Brown. If you are new to fantasy, that is not a shabby player to be compared to.
As this column’s No. 1 supporter of the Russell Wilson revolution, I loved the possibility Lockett brought to this offense. It may have taken until halfway through the year, but you may be looking at a Top 5 passing offense for 2016. Let that one sink in folks.
Dorial Green-Beckham – Look at this! A member of the three-name club and a new Beckham! Last year’s Beckham staple on the Keeper List (Odell) kind of did some good things last year, right?
Green-Beckham is finally doing … well, something I suppose. Loads of talent and loads of excuses have piled up all year long for Green-Beckham, and Marcus Mariota’s season-ending injury surely doesn’t excite you chemistry seekers. That said, I am a buyer in talent and it looks as if Tennessee will need him next year if it plans on contending.
Knile Davis – Another long-term favorite of mine. Jamaal Charles will retire or move on at some point. Who knows when that will be, but if it is next year and you have Davis, congratulations on owning a Top 10 running back.
Who knew Charcandrick West would be the one to take this mantle? Sheesh.
Clive Walford – This one is for you, Leigh. God bless you.
A 100-percent buddy pick. And my guess is he still is his keeper. In Leigh I trust.
All in all, not too shabby right? Some definite hits, and some wild misses to be sure, but hey, that’s the game. Now, we have one more week to nail your keepers in place for 2016, so let’s see where we landed finally.