I’ve been playing fantasy football for 24 years, and since this post isn’t about my fantasy resume, let me just say that my fantasy football team has made the playoffs in my 12-team league nearly 80 percent of the time. The league is extremely competitive. I’ve been to five Fantasy Bowls, winning two championships.
The first 15 years I played fantasy football, I drafted my team, made in-season trades and waiver wire moves and managed my lineup; my entire focus was on positioning my team for the playoffs. Then, one offseason, I had an epiphany. It hit me that I had missed on some players in my draft, because I hadn’t realized how successful they had been in the second half of the prior NFL season.
This may seem obvious, but I decided from that moment that my preparation for next year’s draft had to begin during the season, while I was still competing for the playoffs.
So, I began targeting players who were beneath the radar statistically. How were rookies and second-year players improving as the season moved forward? What older players, who might have outstanding statistics, were declining? Yards Per Carry and Yards After Catch are excellent barometers of a player’s decline.
My best example of a prior year’s in-season player evaluation is Dallas receiver Dez Bryant. Through eight games of the 2012 season, Bryant scored just two touchdowns to go with three games of 90-plus yards. The rest of the way, Bryant found the end zone 10 times and had four 90-plus yard games, including a monster 224-yard effort.
Even in my competitive fantasy football league, numerous owners look only at total statistics when evaluating players. Based solely on Bryant’s second half of 2012, he should have been a top 10 pick in our league. Instead, I drafted Bryant in the middle of the second round. Players taken ahead of Bryant include Steven Jackson, Doug Martin and A.J. Green.
If I had looked at season numbers only, I might have taken Julio Jones or Brandon Marshall instead. Because I kept a careful eye on Bryant the second half of the 2012 season, I was able to nab him for my team this year and enjoy yet another playoff run.
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