Success Through Failure

113. 86.

Which one is the score of the Fantasy First-Timer, and which is the score of the “fantasy expert”?

w10-results-shot

Saw that one coming, didn’t you?

Yeah, well. When you win seven times in a row, you run out of ways to write the lede.

But the goal of this blog is learning, yes? Learning about fantasy football, learning about how to be successful at fantasy football. I’ve tried to do that by walking you through my decision-making process every week, and by analyzing my opponents where necessary to see what their strengths and weaknesses tell me.

Let’s take a different approach this week and play a game called Did Megan Make The Right Call?

Now, I know before we start that everyone makes the wrong calls. Every week, all the time. No player comes with a guaranteed weekly point total. They come with projections, but the projections are pretty much wildly wrong every time. They’re an interesting guideline for what player might be better than another player, but the point totals are just flat-out wrong. And even the player-vs-player comparison aspect of the projections is often wrong. As they should be – they’re a guess, not a crystal ball.

Every week, every team has somebody sitting on their bench that they could have plugged in for more points. Every week, somebody is sitting on the waiver wire with some monster point total that nobody saw coming – because if they had, they’d be on somebody’s team and not the waiver wire.

So I’m not trying to say that I should have known these things. Far from it. Without the ability to see into the future (which, you know, who do I see about getting that superpower?) I can only make guesses the way other human beings do. But let’s play this game anyway, and let’s see if perhaps determining which calls were right or wrong, and why, helps me to make better calls in the future.

For this exercise, you’re also going to want to know who’s on my bench this week and how they did.

w10-bench-results-shot

Leaving aside Frank Gore, who was on his bye week in Week Ten, I have fifteen players who could be formed into some combination to make up my nine-player team. To say nothing of the several hundred players on the waiver wire who I could have brought aboard for the week – I have two or three slots where players would be interchangeable for that purpose.

So – Did Megan Make The Right Call?

Quarterback

Started: Tom Brady – 10 points
Could Have Started (Bench): Marcus Mariota – 27 points
Could Have Started (Waiver): Colin Kaepernick – 23 points
Right Call?: No – 17 point loss
Analysis: Here’s the thing though – I’m never going to bet on Marcus Mariota over Tom Brady. Never. And I certainly wouldn’t ever think to stream anybody when Brady’s on my roster. Brady would have to be on crutches before I’d ever think, “Gee, I should really consider starting someone else at quarterback.” Then you look at the matchups. Yes, New England faced Seattle this week, and yes, I realized that might limit Brady’s production. I figured more like high teens instead of the high twenties he’s been putting up. But Mariota had Green Bay, who’s not exactly a guaranteed win for a team like Tennessee. On paper, this game is close or goes to Green Bay. On the field, Tennessee was insanely dominant. The two QBs were projected close, but Brady had the edge – 17 to Mariota’s 14 – and in my estimation had the higher ceiling. And I stand by that call. Nine times out of ten, Brady will far outperform Mariota, and the calendar doesn’t come with a big red circle around which week that tenth one will be. Mariota’s great, and I’m definitely still going to hang onto him, but start him over Brady? Start Kaep over Brady? One anomalous week for the Pats doesn’t make this a bad call, necessarily.

Running Back

Started: Ezekiel Elliott – 38 points; Melvin Gordon – 13 points
Could Have Started (Bench): Paul Perkins – 3 points
Could Have Started (Waiver): Bilal Powell – 14 points
Right Call?: Yes – 1 point swing not worth the roster spot
Analysis: Elliott is not just the highest scoring player I had access to, he’s the highest scoring player in the league for the weekend, full stop. By far (the next highest guy had 28). In Week Nine, that honor went to Melvin Gordon. In Week Seven, it went to… Melvin Gordon. These guys are studs, that’s no surprise. There’s no universe where it makes sense to look for guys to replace them in my roster, unless and until they are injured or otherwise not playing. Gordon has his bye next week, but I’ll have Frank Gore to replace him then – another RB who is a remarkable stud. Then there’s my man Perkins, who is clearly not all the way developed into his role in New York – only 3 points tonight – but he’s getting there. I’m holding him until I see him used as a #1 back. That day will come. I hope.

Wide Receiver

Started: A.J. Green – 12 points; Randall Cobb – 3 points
Could Have Started (Bench): John Brown (used at flex) – 4 points; Julian Edelman – 7 points; Jamison Crowder – 9 points; Brian Quick – 1 point
Could Have Started (Waiver): Taylor Gabriel – 13 points
Right Call?: No – the right combo on my bench would have totaled 21 points instead of 15; the right waiver wire pickup could have had it up to 25
Analysis: Mistakes were made here. Mistakes at the wide receiver position are, unfortunately, nothing new for me. But looking at it this way really underlines how much. Why am I hesitating to play Crowder? Sure, he faced Minnesota this week – but Minnesota hasn’t exactly been the crushing force they were early in the season, and Washington’s offense has really gelled. Putting in Crowder for Cobb would have given me 6 extra points, and some weeks that’s the difference between a win and a loss. And it’s not like you can say Crowder’s success comes out of nowhere. He deserves a starting slot. Edelman too had a good game, even when much of his team did not. I’m not exactly sure he deserves the same starting consideration as Crowder, but maybe he deserves flex consideration – more on that a little later.

Tight End

Started: Cameron Brate – 14 points
Could Have Started (Bench): Kyle Rudolph – 12 points
Could Have Started (Waiver): Vernon Davis – 12 points
Right Call?: Yes
Analysis: This was my risk/reward of the week; I took the risk, and I was rewarded. I’m even more gratified to see that Kyle Rudolph also had a good day, as it increases his potential going forward. Who I start week to week will depend on whose matchup I like week to week, but both my TEs remain good options. Nice to see what was one my biggest early-season headaches turn into a position of strength.

Flex

Started: John Brown (WR) – 4 points
Could Have Started (Bench): Any of the WR, RB, TE above, ranging from 3 to 12 points
Could Have Started (Waiver): Any of the WR, RB, TE listed above, ranging from 12 to 14 points
Right Call?: No – up to 8 point loss on bench players or 10 point with the right waiver pickup
Analysis: Using Rudolph here would have increased my score by 8 points. I had reason to be reluctant – his team recently changed offensive coordinators midseason, his opponent Washington has played really well of late – but I had reason to be reluctant on Brown too, and I let him do his thing. I could have gone with Crowder here instead for a 5 point improvement; I could have gone with Edelman for a 3 point improvement. I could have picked up a different WR from Arizona instead of Brown and gotten Gabriel’s 13 points (although Gabriel’s a deep threat risk/reward and all his points came on one play, and Brown’s a more steady, reliable roleplayer, clearly Gabriel has value when he hits). In short, this risk/reward did not play out. The matchup was there, but the talent level and the role on the offense was not (Crowder and Edelman are both #1s on their offenses, while Brown plays behind Larry Fitzgerald). In my own defense, I did know there was risk here, but that’s no excuse in the context of this exercise. I’ll need to be more deliberate and thoughtful in my choice here next week. I faced a weak opponent this week, but if I face a stronger one in the future, I’ll need every single point and I can’t afford to be surrendering any here.

Defense/Special Teams

Started: Houston Texans – 12 points
Could Have Started (Waiver): Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 25 points
Right Call?: No – 13 point loss
Analysis: But Tampa Bay really did come out of nowhere to put up that score. I prefer to be excited about the streamer I did take, because 12 points is still a success. My previous weeks’ streamers have been worth between 3 and 7 points, so to pick one up for 12 is a win. Tampa Bay had to play Chicago this weekend, and Chicago isn’t a good team, but they’re not usually as bad as they were on Sunday. I’ll keep my eye on who they play in the future for potential streaming defense bait, but I don’t expect a score like 25 again necessarily, and I for sure don’t think Tampa Bay is going to put that score up every week – they average 5 points per game, and going into last week that average was under 3. Could I have seen this one coming? No, I could not. No one could. That they’d be successful, sure; that they’d be ridiculous, I don’t think so. I’m happy with my choice of Houston and will hope to replicate my success at choosing a strong defense in the weeks to come.

Kicker

Started: Mason Crosby – 7 points
Could Have Started (Waiver): Dustin Hopkins – 16 points
Right Call?: No – loss of 9 points
Analysis: Is it time to move on from Mason Crosby? Green Bay is in desperate need of turning their season around, and it just hasn’t been happening. You’d have to think they would eventually though, right? Still, it would be smart to have a kicker who’ll be good down the stretch… Again, is Crosby that guy? I don’t think Dustin Hopkins is that guy necessarily, although he would have been for this week, and Washington’s remaining schedule is pretty good… Is Caleb Sturgis that guy? Philly’s remaining schedule is even better, and Sturgis is ranked higher right now. I don’t know on this one, guys, I’m gonna have to keep thinking about it. We may be due for a kicker change.

Overall

Final Score: 113
Best Possible Score (Bench Only): Mariota/Elliott/Gordon/ Green/Crowder/Brate/Rudolph/Texans/Crosby = 144
Best Possible Score (Waivers): Mariota/Elliott/Gordon/Green/ Gabriel/Brate/Powell/Bucs/Hopkins = 172
Analysis: The highest score anyone in my league has had on any one week is 137. I had the potential to beat that with just the guys on my bench, if I’d managed things right. I wasn’t going to make the Brady/Mariota swap, so rule that out, but I easily could have had Crowder instead of Cobb and Rudolph instead of Brown – I definitely considered both those things and decided to go the other way – and that’s an extra 14 points. Two easy changes worth a huge swing. I keep crushing the opposition on the strength of my running backs, which is great, but I’m going to face the best of the best in the playoffs and I need to have the best of my best going for me when I do. No more room for error here.

The important thing to remember, even after all this, is that I beat Batman Foo in dominant fashion, I’m 7-3, I’m still tied for second in the league and in excellent shape for a playoff run, and I’m working a 7 game winning streak that is by far the longest streak anyone in the league has put together. I might have made some better choices, but even so, my choices have been good enough to carry me pretty damn far.

Still, there’s always room to improve and keep learning – and three more weeks of the regular season to put those lessons into practice before we go for the championship.

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