Fantasy in review: looking at this year’s studs and duds

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Dolphins WR DeVante Parker secures his second touchdown of the game in Miami’s win versus the Eagles in Week 13. Despite a slow start to the year, Parker finished the season with a career-best 1202 receiving yards, good for fifth overall in the NFL. (Photo/Mark Brown)

With the fantasy football season officially coming to a close, many team owners have earned the right to call themselves champions of their league. Whether this honor came courtesy of enjoying a player’s breakout season or benefiting from strategic management moves throughout the year, luck, as with every year, undoubtedly played a major role in most fantasy teams’ ability to take home the title. This same luck, though, may also hold some responsibility for the demise of the many teams that fell victim to the league winner. With that said, as the 2019 fantasy football season slowly becomes a distant memory, it seems only right to take some time to examine the many busts and breakouts that likely determined your season in order to uncover your fantasy mistakes this past year and clarify your plan for the next.

Fantasy busts are notorious for dragging teams to the bottom of the standings from the get-go. These players typically consist of those who were fantasy stars the previous year only to greatly underperform the following season. Although many players from this season fall under this category, namely Giants RB Saquon Barkley or Jets RB Le’Veon Bell, there are some that stand out as the most noteworthy busts of the 2019 season. 

Browns QB Baker Mayfield, who ranked as the fifth overall quarterback heading in the year, fell off the draft board in many leagues as early as the mid rounds. As the season would have it, though, Mayfield barely cracked fantasy relevance, finishing as QB18 on the year and leaving many fantasy teams scrambling for a new quarterback. 

Cardinals RB David Johnson, who ESPN fantasy analyst Mike Clay ranked as the fifth overall player for the year, followed a similar narrative. The former fantasy star thought to be in line for a bounce back season after a disappointing 2018-2019 campaign. Despite the high expectations, however, the once-lead back in Arizona watched as head coach Kliff Kingsbury eventually handed his workload to other Cardinals. Fantasy owners who selected Johnson likely suffered the consequences as the first round pick failed to reach the top 25 RB standings by the season’s end. 

In addition to these busts, teams that failed to contend this season may have fell victim to drafting Steelers RB James Connor, former Raiders and Patriots WR Antonio Brown or Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster. 

Johnson hauls in the touchdown pass from rookie QB Kyler Murray in the Cardinals Week 1 battle with the Lions. Johnson finished with six total touchdowns on the year, thanks to the emergence of both Cardinal running backs Chase Edmunds and Kenyan Drake. (Photo/Arizona Cardinals)

Although the aforementioned players (along with others not listed), may have resulted in many fantasy teams’ lack of success, the following breakout stars more than likely made the difference for the teams who brought home the title. 

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson headlines the long list of players who weren’t expected to exceed expectations as much as they did. Jackson, who enjoyed a strong run after the Ravens named him the starting quarterback in the 2018-2019 season, was still written off by many fantasy analysts for his lack of passing success. Also in large part for this reason, ranked Jackson as the sixteenth overall quarterback to start the 2019-2020 year. 36 passing TDs, 1206 rushing yards and seven rushing TDs later, Jackson finished the year as fantasy football’s number one overall quarterback and helped many managers claim first place in their league. 

Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin, another notable breakout star, amassed 1333 receiving yards throughout the 2019 season en route to finishing as fantasy’s number two overall WR. Godwin was in line for an increased workload heading into the year as targets began to open up following the departure of former Tampa Bay receivers, such as Titans WR Adam Humphries. After becoming the clear second option in the passing attack (behind top wideout Mike Evans), Godwin capitalized on his team’s pass-hungry approach and became a fantasy steal in the mid rounds of the draft. Other breakout stars that might have secured your team the championship may consist of players like Rams WR Cooper Kupp, Dolphins WR DeVante Parker, Packers RB Aaron Jones, and Vikings RB Dalvin Cook.

Panthers RB Christian McCaffery flips into the endzone during a week five match against the Jacksonville Jaguars, marking one of the star back’s 19 total touchdowns on the year. McCaffery also racked up a league-leading 2392 yards to help boost his draft status as the number one running back heading into the 2020 fantasy season. (Photo/Carolina Panthers)

Regardless of how your fantasy team finished this year or whether or not you failed to grab many of this year’s stars, it is important to realize that the season is over for all, and there is no use dwelling on what could have been. Instead, hone in on the mistakes that might have caused your team to falter or the successful strategies that caused it to soar. In doing so, you can make adjustments accordingly heading into next year’s draft. If you were one of the many managers who selected a tight end early in the draft, for instance, you may want to consider waiting on one for next year. While many took the former approach out of fear for the consistently low production at the position, many TEs, such as Darren Waller of the Raiders and Mark Andrews of the Ravens, have indicated that there will be plenty of talent at the once-thin position in the later rounds of the draft. Also, as strong seasons from quarterbacks drafted in the later rounds of the draft (for example, Seahawks QB Russel Wilson and Bills QB Josh Allen) have shown, if you were one of the many to elect to take a quarterback in the early rounds, you may also want to consider waiting longer to select one next year.

Evidently, whether your team exceeded expectations or not, there are many ways to turn this past season into future success. Changing or continuing strategies are just a few ways to improve your chances heading into the fantasy year, but, as with every year, some strategies will work one season and fail the next. With that being said, there truly is no way to effectively “prepare” for each fantasy season, as unexpected outcomes are sure to arise every year. Perhaps the best recipe for success, then, for the 2020 fantasy football season and beyond is to continue expecting just that: the unexpected. 

Sammy Rosenthal is a junior at American Heritage School in Plantation Fla. and is entering his third year writing for the newsmagazine; his first year as the publication’s Sports Editor. Sammy takes pride in being a die-hard Miami Heat and Dolphins fan as well as dedicating his Sunday to watching football.

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