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Things I Learned in Fantasy Football: The 2019 Season

Takeaways from the 2019 season as (partially) told through @MarcasG's tweets.

Tight end isn't deep. Learn to adjust.

Every year, we enter the season trying to convince ourselves that the tight end position is going to be deeper than it was the previous year. Then midway through the year, we lament the lack of quality production at the position and throw up our hands at the prospect of streaming with middling success. By the end of the season, a few unexpected names get hot and we again convince ourselves that maybe things aren't as bad as we thought they were and maybe -- juuuuust maybe -- there's hope for the future. Rinse. Repeat.

At some point, we need to face facts. If everything goes the way we hope, there might be 12 solid tight ends for fantasy managers to choose from next year. But when was the last time everything went the way we hoped? I patiently await your response. I've recently been advocating for getting one of the elite players at the position early just for the peace of mind of being able to plug in a George Kittle and not have to think about it again. That might not be your bag -- I get it -- but if you're waiting on a tight end, you can wait and hope you find a diamond in the rough like Darren Waller or Mark Andrews. Otherwise just prepare yourself for the frustration of streaming yet again. This is our life now.

I wrote about Alvin Kamara in this space recently after people on Twitter dot com were incredulous at my idea that the Saints running back could (and should) once again be a first-round pick in 2020 drafts. Your frustrations have been noted -- and summarily dismissed. Hopefully by the time we get to next summer, you have gotten out of your feelings and started to understand that most things touchdown-related can't always properly be accounted for. What we can count on are things like usage rates and efficiency. Those things stayed fairly static from 2018 to 2019. If there was one disconcerting number, it's that Kamara's rush attempts from 10 yards and in were more than cut in half. Although in that respect, they were more in line with his rookie season when he ran for eight scores. Could we see another season where Kamara's touchdown numbers are again depressed? Possibly. But can we accurately predict how many times he'll find the end zone? Probably not. But all the positive indications of a 2020 rebound are there.

By the way, this also applies heavily to Leonard Fournette. His usage rates increased significantly in 2019. He just ran into an apparent invisible force field that someone maliciously set up at the goal line. Fournette should be a top 15 pick in 2020.

RBs matter in fantasy. Just choose wisely.

I have no interest in revisiting the Ghost of Twitter Arguments Past (if you do, please exclude me from that narrative) but we have seen that there are some running backs who truly matter more than others in fantasy football. Anyone who rolled with Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook or Derrick Henry can accurately speak to that. The problem is that some of the backs we thought were oases turned out to be mirages. Todd Gurley turned out to be the standard bearer of this group but you could just as easily add Melvin Gordon and Le'Veon Bell to this group. Oh yeah, and David Johnson. ('Memba him?) The reasons for this are varied and we'll get into at least one of these later. There are also a few guys in a gray area. Will Aaron Jones and Austin Ekeler fall victim to regression? Can Saquon Barkley rebound? Will Kareem Hunt continue to be a thorn in Nick Chubb's side? Batman '66 announcer voice Stay tuned, dear viewer, for the answers to those and many other exciting questions!

But seriously, there will be some game-changing fantasy backs next year. Guys who will be the undisputed workhorses on their teams with the potential to win you a number of fantasy weeks. It's the reason we still haven't seriously had a conversation about a non-running back in the 1.01 spot. Even in a PPR world, that's not likely to change anytime soon.

If you're a talent agnostic, you've probably long since bought into the idea that scheme matters the most for fantasy (and real) production. If you haven't embraced agnosticism, then this might put you on the path. The following is a list of all of the top 15 positional fantasy performers under Adam Gase's watch as an NFL head coach:

That's it. That's the list. Just four players in the past four seasons. You'll also note that none of the 2019 Jets made the list. The best finish for Gang Green this season was Le'Veon Bell at RB16 -- and it sounds like Gase isn't all that thrilled with his lead running back sticking around. There might be plenty of talent in this offense. Sam Darnold seems to have a bright future. Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder can be playmakers. Chris Herndon (when healthy) has the makings of a solid pass-catching tight end. But as a head coach, Gase hasn't been able to unlock any of that talent. Remember this if you have any Jets on your draft board next season.

Get you a QB who can run

For years, it's been said that quarterbacks who can run are cheat codes (thank you, Rich Hribar, for putting this into the fantasy lexicon) but at this point, it's almost mandatory for fantasy success. It's more than scrambling ability -- though that definitely helps -- but offenses are starting to add more designed runs. If you were to play a drinking game every time an announcer says "RPO", well ... I'd just hope you can call a rideshare service to get home. Of the top 10 QB finishers in 2019, nine of them had at least 218 rushing yards. The only signal-caller who didn't meet that standard was Aaron Rodgers (183 yards). Being mobile also helped keep guys like Gardner Minshew (344 rush yards, QB19), Jacoby Brissett (228 rush yards, QB23), and Daniel Jones (279 rush yards, QB24) as viable streaming starts during the season. Lamar Jackson and his 1,206 rushing yards are undoubtedly an outlier here but with players like Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, and Deshaun Watson posting more than 400 yards on the ground, it's beyond time to change who the earlier QB draft picks should be.

Wait...what? (H/T to Mike Florio and Matt Frederick)

  • Tom Brady averaged 6.6 pass yards per attempt this season. Lamar Jackson averaged 6.9 rush yards per attempt.
  • No surprise that Jameis Winston's 30 interceptions were the most by a top 5 fantasy QB. The next closest (dating back to 2009) were Drew Brees (2011) and Andy Dalton (2013) who each had 20.
  • Just two plays accounted for 20.9 percent of Damien Williams' fantasy scoring in 2019.
  • O.J. Howard had five times as many tackles at touchdowns.
  • Michael Thomas had 374.6 fantasy points this season. All Ravens WRs combined had 359.2 fantasy points.
  • If Christian McCaffrey had stopped playing after Week 12, he would have still been the highest scoring RB this season by more than 20 fantasy points.
  • Tyler Higbee was the TE35 entering Week 13. He finished the season as the TE8.

And one for the road...

Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who is glad that people had the clarity of foresight not to make crummy vision-based jokes heading into 2020. Send him your dad jokes or fantasy football questions via Twitter @MarcasG. If you read all of that, congrats. Follow him on Facebook, and Instagram.

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) makes a deep catch as Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White (44) trails on the play during an NFL football game , Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.

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