A majority of your league’s owners will wait until the last minute to prepare for next year. By stashing away some key information and making a few mental notes you will have the leg up on them going in to next fantasy football season.
Every season late in the year unexpected players start to emerge and put up respectable fantasy performances. Fantasy owners aren’t the only ones to notice. Their NFL teams and coaching staffs are sure to take notice as well. Often times a late season emergence can translate into a hidden gem or value pick for your fantasy football team next season.
Remember how Ryan Mathews started out his rookie campaign slow in 2010 ceding carries to Mike Tolbert, but late in the season the game seemed to slow down for Mathews and he began to carve out his role in the Chargers’ offense. Mathews was probably even drafted lower this year than last as owners wondered about the limited carries he might get sharing time with Tolbert. In the last four games of 2010 Mathews punched in five touchdowns and began to show the promise that everyone expected from him. He was able to use that momentum to catapult himself in to a top 8-10 running back in 2011(depending on your scoring system)
Marshawn Lynch waited until the playoffs last season to register his first 100 yard game of the season, but that was the game he went “Beast Mode” and showed the Saints and everyone else what he was capable of. Lynch was a draft day gem this year if you were fortunate enough to grab him as a RB3. He started slow if not unspectacular, but if you stuck with him you were rewarded with some great performances down the stretch this season. Lynch has logged six 100+ yard games since Week 9 with nine TDs in those contests.
In the last several games of the 2010 season the explosive New Orleans Saints offense seemed to be honing in on yet another potent receiving weapon. Drew Brees started to target tight end Jimmy Graham late in the season as nearly half of his receiving yards and four of his five TDs came in week 12 or after. I don’t have to remind you of how Graham’s emergence and continued development has carried over in to this season. Graham’s Pro Bowl season has come as he puts up numbers similar to Wes Welker, Roddy White, and Calvin Johnson.
That’s all great but what good does that do you now? Well, none if you don’t have the sense to recognize how valuable information like this can be as you prep for next season. Here are few guys who might see their late season performances carry over to next season as valuable fantasy contributors.
Were you one of those smart owners who were able to snatch up Kahlil Bell late in the season and plug him in for one of your injured backs? Don’t think that the Bears haven’t noticed his success as they evaluate what to do with Matt Forte this offseason. No one player is more important to his teams’ success than Forte, but if Bell shows that he can carry the offensive load the Bears may be inclined to franchise Forte and use Bell in more of a complementary role next season and ease him in to the role as a feature back. This situation will require your attention in the offseason to monitor how it plays out.
Did you spend every week combing through the injury reports hoping that Darren McFadden was coming back this week? If you were able to handcuff Michael Bush with McFadden your pain was eased considerably. Bush has filled in admirably for McFadden pacing the Raiders’ rushing attack for the balance of the season. The Raiders will likely be reluctant to let Bush leave given McFadden’s propensity for injury, but Bush may be ready to showcase his talents as another team’s feature back next season. Keep an eye on how McFadden heals and what uniform Bush is modeling next season to evaluate his fantasy value.
Titus Young has shown some flashes for the Lions in his rookie season, but he has yet to be able to supplant Nate Burelson as the No. 2 wideout. The experience of this season, paired with a full offseason to work with the team will only stand as building blocks for Young entering next season. With the Lions’ playoff situation already decided Young will likely have every opportunity to see plenty of targets in week 17 as Calvin Johnson and Burleson will likely only make brief appearances.
Jared Cook entered the NFL with high expectations. Cook was immediately compared to Antonio Gates due to his size and ability to box out smaller defenders to make the catch. A couple of seasons later and Cook has yet to deliver on those lofty expectations. The last couple of weeks of 2011 have shown the promise and ability that the Titans and, more importantly, fantasy owners have been looking for. Back-to-back games with at least eight catches and over 100 yards and Cook is starting to nose his way back on the fantasy radar. If he can build on this success in Week 17 he is a strong wild card tight end option for you to consider next season.
Another very important factor to make mental notes of is injury situations. You could field a couple of very good fantasy squads with players whose seasons’ have been cut short due to injury. There will be some players to be wary of due to injuries, while others will fly under the radar and be great value picks as they rebound from their setbacks.
Barring a miraculous recovery Adrian Peterson will not be considered in the early first round of your draft next season. Where should you consider him? You have to ask yourself some important questions…can Peterson rehab from his gruesome knee injury in time to be back for the start of next season? If he does, where do I draft him? What will the injury and Toby Gerhart’s ability to fill in mean for Peterson’s workload going forward?
Other players like Kenny Britt may be largely forgotten after suffering an early season injury that put him on the shelf. Britt has had several more months than others to recover and will likely have the luxury of participating in offseason drills to continue his comeback and work on his conditioning. These are the types of details you need to be aware of as you prepare for next season.
One last bit of useful information you need to have as you put this season to rest is the scoring leaders and stats for your league’s scoring system. This information is useful to help you sort the stats that are of particular importance to you. Many publications and sites will give you generic rankings and projections but being able to see how players performed specific to your league’s set of rules will go a long way in how you, not only rank players, but how you establish positional tiers. Any successful fantasy owner will tell you that you draft your team based on what you feel the players will do this season, not what they did last season, but you can’t ignore how the specific roster makeup and scoring system weight the value and importance of certain stats or positions.
I hope you enjoyed your fantasy football season, learned some things, won your league and maybe even took a little money off your buddies. Have a great offseason and keep checking back for more updates!