New Year’s resolutions

It’s New Year’s Eve, which is always a good time to make New Year’s resolutions. So, I want to share three pertaining to the important subject of fantasy football. My first resolution is to draft Devante Adams in the first or second round. Granted, this resolution could be impacted by draft order. If I have one of the top four picks, it would be hard to pass up Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, or Derrick Henry. But I would take Adams with the No. 5 pick.

Adams was taken with the twelfth pick in my home league draft, but I was stunned to find him still on the board when I was ready to use my 20th pick for my ESPN league team. I had taken McCaffrey with the first overall pick and waited for what seemed like two hours for draft to snake back to me. I was sure I had a bargain when I took Adams at the end of the 2nd round, but I didn’t know how good. His 43.2 points last week in the finals was a late Christmas present.

There really aren’t enough superlatives to describe Adams’ season. I’ll start with the fact that he’s tied for the league lead with 17 receiving touchdowns in spite of appearing in only 13 games in 2020. You can’t depend on touchdowns with a player, but there’s more. He has accumulated 341.8 fantasy points, which is first in PPR scoring. He is averaging 26.3 points per game. One key stat to consider is his 142 targets, which is 10.92 targets per game from Aaron Rodgers.     

My second New Year’s resolution would be to draft Travis Kelce in the second round. This might be difficult because of draft order. Kelce won’t be flying under the radar after the season he’s had. Kelce, fresh off his fourth straight 20+ point performance, broke George Kittle’s single-season receiving record for a tight end with 1,428 yards. He also led the Chiefs in receptions and yards, which is no small accomplishment with Tyreek Hill on his team.

If I miss out on Kelce, I would focus on drafting Kittle. He might be available in the third round, which would be fantastic because Round 3 was the dead zone in at least one of my drafts last year. It will be easier to get Kittle than Kelce because he was injured and missed more than half of the 2020 season. The point is that I want to lock up an elite tight end early in the draft and then focus on loading up on wide receivers and a quarterback in the middle rounds.

When you are preparing for the next draft, you will inevitably read articles from analysts promising you 2021 is different. They will swear this is the year the breakout tight ends break out. It won’t be. If you don’t have Kelce or Kittle rostered by the fourth round, you’d better grab Darren Waller – if he’s still available. Kelce and Waller (and Kittle when he was healthy) were the only tight ends worth their salt in 2020. And Kelce’s PPG average was 4.1 above Waller.

My third New Year’s resolution will be to draft a running quarterback. Eight of the top 12 QBs in fantasy points per game rushed for at least 20 yards per game in 2020. The four exceptions were Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill and Justin Herbert. My minimum sample size is five games started, so I’m not including Jalen Hurts and Taysom Hill, who would have been in the top 12 if they had been regular starters on their respective teams for the bulk of the season.

The dual-QB has changed the landscape of fantasy football forever. What started as an evolution turned into a revolution last year with the record-setting performance of Lamar Jackson. I was a late adopter, and it was just luck that I was able to acquire Josh Allen at the end of the 12th round in my ESPN league. Allen, who is No. 1 in fantasy points scored in PPR leagues, would be the MVP on this team that is chasing a title if I hadn’t drafted Adams at the end of the second round.   

Just FYI, I traded Cam Newton for Brady early in the season in my home league. Brady wound up as the 10th best quarterback and 10th overall in fantasy points. But I still traded for Jackson late in the season because the running quarterback provides the high floor you want. Brady had three 30 + games in 2020, but he had five under 15 points and a 2.36 stinker in week 9. Allen had one game where he scored less than 15. Jackson only had two. Neither had a single-digit game.    

CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK, PART 2

Some of us are enjoying the challenge of participating in the second week of a two-week finals. Adams and Allen have propelled me into a 31-point lead in my championship matchup. This dynamic duo accounted for more than half of my 141.7 points. Like I’ve previously said, it’s better to be lucky than good. But week 17 is a challenge because this is the week that superstars are often rested. For instance, my opponent won’t have Patrick Mahomes available on Sunday.

Mahomes being out is good news for me, but I have my own problems. Christian McCaffrey, my top draft pick last fall, has played only three games this season. Mike Davis, his backup, is listed as doubtful and probably won’t be available on Sunday. James Robinson has already been ruled out, so I may have to start Latavius Murray and Gus Edwards as RB1 and RB2. Another option is Alexander Mattison, the backup for Dalvin Cook. Cook is out, but Mattison is questionable.

If you’re playing in the final week of the NFL regular season, you should look at more than just the injury status of your players. There’s a possibility your fantasy stud will be benched, or get a reduced work load. The Chiefs are an example because they have locked up the best record and a first-round bye. In addition to Mahomes, Kelce and Tyreek Hill probably won’t play. Other less obvious teams to watch are the Steelers, Bills, Packers, Saints, Seahawks and Buccaneers.

I took a look at the Bills playoff scenarios, wondering if Allen might not play, or play only a half against the Dolphins. If the Bills win that game, they finish 13-3 and clinch the No. 2 seed in the AFC no matter what Pittsburgh does. The No. 2 seed would normally be more important because of the first-round bye it brings, but there’s no such bye this season. With the playoffs expanded to seven teams in each conference, only the top seed in each conference gets a bye next week.  

Getting the No. 2 seed would ensure Buffalo gets two home games in the playoffs if it wins in the first round. The only game the Bills would have to play on the road is in Kansas City, if the Chiefs and Bills qualify for the AFC championship game. In spite of the injury risk, I think Allen will play on Sunday. He might head to the bench if Buffalo gets a big league, but I doubt that will happen. The Dolphins are fighting for a playoff spot, and I expect a close game in Buffalo.

The Saints are another team playing for seeding. There are numerous scenarios to consider here because Green Bay and Seattle also factor into equation. The Saints could clinch the top spot and a bye, but they would have to beat Carolina, with the Packers losing to Chicago. I don’t think that will happen. If New Orleans builds a comfortable lead in the second half, and the Packers are ahead, they may rest Alvin Kamara. That’s why I picked up Murray on waivers this week.

While Kamara got the headlines last week with his six touchdowns, 155 rushing yards and 56.2 fantasy points, Murray quietly accumulated 96 total yards and 12.6 fantasy points. That was against Minnesota, ranked 27th against the rush. Carolina is ranked 25th against the rush, so it’s another good matchup for Kamara and Murray. But I think Kamara may not see much action.

With a 31-point lead, I don’t need a blowout performance from my running backs. If I could get 20 points from my RB1 and RB2 tandem, I’d be happy. My stud, Devante Adams, is definitely going to play against Chicago because a win locks up a bye for the Packers in the NFC. If Adams and Allen can deliver at least 20 points each, I’ll feel pretty good about my chances. I’ve also got D.K. Metcalf as my WR2, playing against a 49ers team he torched for 40.1 points in week 8.    

I share this information with you because I want you to know how I think through strategy in fantasy football. My hope is that I am able to help you be a better fantasy manager. You may not have any of the above-mentioned players rostered, and you may not even be playing this week. But if you’re reading this column, it’s clear you want to learn more about winning in fantasy football. If you have learned anything from me, or others, you’ll be a better manager next year.   

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

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