With the 2017 fantasy football season in the books, it's time to take a look back at the season that was. How did players finish versus where they were projected? What were the big storylines? Who was our fantasy MVP?
If you won your league this year, there is a good chance that you had Todd Gurley on your roster. He averaged 21.2 fantasy points each week in standard scoring and 25.5 in PPR. He saved his best performance for the final two weeks averaging 40.8 points in standard and 47.3 in PPR - absolutely insane numbers. He finished the fantasy season as the top running back and fantasy owners couldn't be happier for a guy who was drafted 9th among all running backs and 16th overall back in August.
Zero RB Theory
If you've played fantasy football over the past few years, you've likely heard of the Zero RB Theory. It postulates that the use of running backs has changed sinced the days when RB-RB was the way to go in your draft. It places a heavier emphasis on wide receivers given the overall passing nature of the NFL and the diminishing role of the workhorse back. The theory is used to suggest waiting on running backs during your draft.
Of the top 25 producing players excluding quarterbacks and kickers, 56% were running backs. In fact, the top five players are running backs. We don't see a wide receiver until DeAndre Hopkins arrives at #6. Of the top ten producing players, 80% were running backs.
The data would not suggest waiting on a running back...at least not in 2017.
Projection versus Production
We took a look at both the Top 12 and Top 24 players from each position to see where they ended the year. We are using 12-team, standard leagues as our baseline.
You had a 50/50 chance that your QB1 would finish as a QB1. If you drafted Alex Smith, Carson Wentz, Matthew Stafford, or Philip Rivers, you landed a Top 12 quarterback without having to spend the higher draft pick. If you drafted Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, or Matt Ryan, you paid a higher price than how those guys finished.
Running backs were a bit more consistent, but Kareem Hunt, Carlos Hyde, Lamar Miller, and the Saints duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara proved to be great value picks having outperformed their draft rankings. Some of the guys who didn't pan out included David Johnson, Jay Ajayi, and Marshawn Lynch who were drafted as an RB1 but couldn't finish the season as an RB1.
Only five of the Top 12 ranked wide receivers ended the season as a Top 12. Nobody counted on Tyreek Hill, Keenan Allen, Marvin Jones, Davante Adams, and Adam Thielen having big years. You're probably disappointed if you drafted Odell Beckham, Jr, Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper, or T.Y. Hilton as those guys were drafted as WR1's but couldn't deliver the points. DeAndre Hopkins was ranked 13th back in August but ended the year as the #1 wide receiver in fantasy.
Most leagues draft only one tight end and your odds of drafting a TE1 and having that same tight end finish in the Top 12 was solid at 67%. Gronk was ranked #1 and finished the season the same. Travis Kelce was ranked 2nd and finished the year the same. Zach Ertz outpeformed his projections, but the real tight end values in 2017 were Evan Engram, Jason Witten, and Cameron Brate. The only real disappointment among the tight ends this year was with Martellus Bennett who was ranked 10th and ended the season at #43.
There was really no point in drafting a kicker early as you only had a 33% chance of having that same kicker end the year as a Top 12 kicker. In fact, the best kicker in fantasy, Greg Zuerlein, wasn't even a Top 24 drafted kicker. This is one of the biggest reasons why the kicker position is easily the most streamable position, and you only need to draft one...in the last round.
* Injuries played a big part in 2017. David Johnson, Odell Beckham Jr, Aaron Rodgers, Dalvin Cook, Terrelle Pryor, Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen, Danny Woodhead, Andrew Luck, and DeShaun Watson either missed significant portions of the season or virtually all year.
* The mixture of NFL and politics was never more toxic than 2017 with players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest social injustice. President Trump used an expletive to call out these players simultaneously emboldening his base while angering his critics. Vice President Mike Pence even went so far as to attend a Colts home game knowing in advance that there would be players kneeling only to leave the game in a symbolic gesture of protest. Papa John's founder John Schnatter stepped down as CEO weeks after making controversial remarks about the national anthem protests.
* The NFL relaxed their celebration rules this year and we were treated to JuJu Smith-Schuster locking up his bike and re-enacting the movie Elf, the Vikings playing Duck, Duck, Goose, the Packers jumping into a bobsled, Steelers playing hide-and-seek, the Eagles playing baseball with a hit-by-pitch, Falcons playing basketball, and the Eagles playing bowling.
* Carson Wentz not only was a star for the Eagles but he also got engaged to Meghan Markle (oh, wait - is that Wentz or Prince Harry??).
* Zeke Elliott showed just how the justice system can be manipulated. Will he play? Won't he play? Will he have to serve his suspension? He turned fantasy owners into mini-lawyers.
* J.J. Watt tried to raise $200,000 for Hurricane Harvey relief but managed to blow that up to a whopping $37,000,000!
See you 2018!!