The Waiver Wire Wizard Week 18 2021
As I sit here and stare at my coffee mug adorned with reindeer delivering presents, I can't help but be reminded that Winter (specifically the holiday season) is known as a time of reflection. It is a period well-associated with making resolutions and vows, attempting to better oneself or change habits. Therefore, it should be no surprise that this time also coincides with the conclusion of Fantasy Football.
Week 17 marked the finale in the vast majority of leagues - for anyone participating in a league that somehow places value on Week 18, I'm sorry in advance - both for this being my final article of the year and that your commissioner favors that format. Much like the 16 that came before, 17 was ripe with upsets, poor performances from major stars and rookies flourishing. To my dismay, COVID continued to shape the Fantasy landscape, leaving owners scrambling to make last-second add/drop decisions and enact pivot moves on the fly. I was hoping to not type this sentence at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season, but it sadly rings true - in many instances the more "talented" team didn't bring home a victory in the championships this week. Instead, it was made by the owner who luckily benefitted from having the healthiest roster, or those that we able to obtain and reshape their roster at a moment's notice.
It goes without saying that there is little to nothing that Fantasy managers can do about COVID, and hopefully in the seasons to follow it will have less of an impact upon this hobby that we all adore. One can't predict who will be sick or when that will occur - if they were a close contact of someone else or how their body responds to anything. Like so many other factors in this game, all we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best outcome.
But enough about COVID.
I received a number of tweets and comments on social media regarding my followers bringing home a title, and even a few that managed to repeat. To all of you - congratulations on a job well done, and I hope that my opinions and advice expressed weekly aided in even the slightest. To those who made the final but experienced bad luck or letdowns - I feel your pain, and I sympathize with you. I was bounced from a number of leagues on Sunday, and several of the players who I backed the entire year fell very, very flat on their faces (here is looking at you, D'Andre Swift and Javonte Williams).
So, now that the 2021-22 Fantasy Football season is behind us, what should players do? Shut down their brains for the remainder of the year and start paying attention again at the NFL Draft? NO! While the memories remain fresh in your mind about how the season went, it is the time to perform one last action - write down notes for yourself.
No, I'm not looking for you to create a full-fledged diary recalling every action and decision that you made throughout the course of the season. Instead, jot down a few key takeaways that will benefit your mind in eight months when this process starts all over again.
Not sure what I'm referring to specifically? Let me provide you with an example.
My long-standing home league (now entering its 16th year) has an interesting format that uses a keeper system with an auction format with a PPR theme. Historically, I've done extremely well in this league, and even though we use a keeper system, I'm always competitive to the end of each season. Obviously in a system that uses the keeper setting, rookie players are extremely valuable, since they can remain on the same roster for multiple seasons (in this specific league, it is three years before being thrown back into the draft the following year). And since younger talent is so valued, it becomes an inflated commodity to acquire during the draft each year. This season, "RB1" players routinely went for $75 plus (out of a $260 cap), and rookie running backs were highly sought after, even though they haven't proven anything yet in the NFL. Najee Harris went for nearly $82, Javonte Williams $50, Trey Sermon for $25 Michael Carter for $16 and Travis Etienne for $15 (even though at the time it was known he would miss the entirety of the season). Even with Harris and Williams (and to a lesser extent, Carter at the end of the year) performing well above expectation, consistency was rare, and several rookie running backs experienced a "prove it" period trying to fend off veteran talent. Outside of Harris, coaching staffs were extremely reluctant to let rookie running backs inherit the job immediately, forcing Fantasy managers to rethink projections and their weekly lineup decisions. Therefore, a note that I should write myself about this year?
"Try to take a shot in 2022 at a second-tier rookie running back, since they cost incrementally less and could return value on the back-half of the year".
A lesson/takeaway that I learned several years ago and now swear by? "If you draft an RB1/2 that has a clear-cut handcuff, do your best to save a few dollars in the draft to obtain them, rather than combating opponents on the waiver wire". How many times this year would that have proven to be beneficial? Do Darrell Henderson managers now wish that they rostered Sony Michel mid-season? How about Chris Carson managers with Rashaad Penny? Having that sort of insurance policy on your roster does prove to be fruitful more often than not.
So, what did you learn in 2021? Is there a particular player that frustrated you with their inconsistent production? Is there a kicker that you noticed emerging as a reliable option at the end of the year? Write it down! I'm sure there are plenty of folks (myself included) that have poor memories, and will forget what carried you to championship week.
A note that I wrote myself as things began to wind down on Sunday evening?
"Drafting a top-three tight end is not specifically necessary, but try to have one within the 4-8 range next year for the cost-savings".
It isn't a big secret that I went out of my way to support and draft Darren Waller in 2021. After years of ignoring the position and streaming it each week in my home league, I swore that I would get one of the "Big 3" this year, so my weekly floor would be insured. We all know how that went. Waller was only able to play 2/3 of the season due to injuries, but he also suffered from a massive decrease in targets at the expense of Hunter Renfrow when he was actually on the field. Of the 10 games that Waller humbled us with his presence, just two of those came with double-digit targets. Now, one can retort and state that injuries are unpredictable, and I surely couldn't have expected a diminished target share for Waller in 2022, right?
To the injury part, yes, that is true. Any player can be hurt on any given play in the NFL. However, since Waller came into the year with massive expectations and cost me a great deal of draft capital, his loss really crushed my title hopes. Travis Kelce was able to live up to expectations yet again, but both Waller and George Kittle underwhelmed, in relation to what analysts envisioned their "next step" to be. So therefore, rather than investing in either Waller or Kittle in 2022, perhaps I should consider and prioritize the players that finished between TE6-13 instead, as their production was largely similar (the weekly variance in average points was just 1.5 total) and they will come at a greatly diminished cost. Noah Fant, as an example, will finish with more points than Waller in 2022. As will Zach Ertz, Rob Gronkowski or Dawson Knox - yet at all came at a fraction of Waller's price. The amount of additional flexibility I would add by hanging my hopes on a "tier two" option rather than a "tier one" at tight end would also allow me to be more competitive at both RB and WR, the true cornerstones.
And all of that is just one takeaway - there are many others that I've jot down that are specific to myself and my home leagues. Customize yours. Did you notice your co-worker Steve was building a stars-or-scrubs team in the draft and he was willing to overspend on "his guys"? Make him pay for it in 2022! You know your opposition better than I ever could, make sure that you add notes about them as well. "Bob was willing to be a more aggressive bidder in FAAB dollars", and "Ben really wanted to make a trade with several people to get a better wide receiver but he just couldn't close a deal" are notes that you can learn from.
Since I've been playing Fantasy sports for well over 15 years, my notes are both lengthy and ever evolving. The more things change, the more they remain the same, as it were. I still use them as draft preparation each season, and I've reaped rewards from them. Others that I don't mind sharing that I used heading into the 2021 season included:
"Draft a QB that is expected to rush between 300-400 yards for the built-in floor" (that led to plenty of Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert shares) and "Someone other than Calvin Ridley will become a Fantasy force in 2021" (here is looking at you, Cordarrelle Patterson).
In conclusion - make 2022 the first year to jot down notes and key takeaways from your leagues that will help moving forward. This process is recommended by plenty of analysts, and it is a critical step in becoming a better Fantasy player.
Before I conclude and wish everyone a safe and healthy start to their 2022 year, I do want to sincerely thank everyone who has reached out to me on social media and thanked me for this column. I put plenty of pride in it being well-received and (God willing) utilized on the way to Fantasy success. Your words mean more to me than you will ever know. I love writing, and it has brought me to each and every one of you.
Here is to the next Fantasy season, may it be filled with more points scored and predictability! I look forward to returning in 2022, and anxiously await the NFL Draft - (and hopefully a new GM and head coach for my New York Giants). Best wishes to all and stay in touch!