Last year, I was a little too high on Russell Wilson. According to my preseason projections, I had him as the sixth best QB in fantasy football. Man, was I way off… he finished eighth. I was being sarcastic there. I wasn’t way off. I was off by two spots. But I’m bringing this up for a reason. I was high on Russell Wilson, not because of his resemblance to Johnny Mathis, but rather, because of the way he finished the last five weeks of the season in 2012. He was the number one fantasy QB during that span, and I figured, chances are, he’ll keep that going into 2013. There’s a place for hunches and gut feelings in fantasy football, but after the mild disappointment I experienced with Wilson, I decided to study the trend. Do players (and defenses) that finish strong one season, perform well the next season? More specifically, do players/defenses that finish in the top five in one year, go on to finish in the top five for the entire fantasy season in the following year? Here’s what I found.
Specifically, I looked at the top five players in the final five weeks at all the fantasy positions from 2010-2012. I compared all those top five players to the end-of-season total point top fives at each position from 2011-2013. Of the 90 players/defenses who “finished strong” (top five at their position in the final five weeks of a season), only 27 players/defenses finished in the top five at their position for the entire following season. I’d say that isn’t much of a predictor of success. Just because a guy gets hot at the end of one season, doesn’t mean it will carry over to the next. Here’s how it breaks down by position:
- 7 of 15 QB’s finished strong one season, and finished in the overall top five the next.
- 5 of 15 RB’s finished strong one season, and finished in the overall top five the next.
- 3 of 15 WR’s finished strong one season, and finished in the overall top five the next.
- 6 of 15 TE’s finished strong one season, and finished in the overall top five the next.
- 4 of 15 K’s finished strong one season, and finished in the overall top five the next.
- 2 of 15 DEF’s finished strong one season, and finished in the overall top five the next.
Again, I’m defining “finishing strong” as a player who finished in the top five at his position during the last five games of the season. The thing that stands out to me me is that the lack of Defenses that carried over their success from the end of one season to the next. I would have thought that a defensive unit that is dominant over the last five weeks of a season would build momentum and continue to put up fantasy points through the following season at a rate better than 13%.
Lesson learned. Don’t put all that much stock in how a fantasy player performed at the end of last year. I may tweak my system and not consider it a factor at all.
That said, I think I’ll just completely contradict myself. Here’s one player from each position that finished strong last year, that I predict will finish in the top five at their position for after 2014 is in the books (warning: not too many shockers here):
- QB- Drew Brees. It would have been too easy to say Peyton Manning. Kaepernick and Foles still have something to prove to me. I think Dalton won’t produce like he did last year.
- RB- Jamaal Charles. Flip a coin between Charles and McCoy. But I’ll mention the addition of Darren Sproles to the Philly backfield as the deciding factor. Sproles will certainly take touches away from LeSean McCoy, which means less yardage and touchdowns. Matt Forte finished strong, and it isn’t hard to image him finishing in the top five. The other choices were DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, who I consider second-round draft picks and inconsistent fantasy players, and thus not in the top overall five.
- WR- Demaryius Thomas. Interesting choices here. But Eric Decker is a Jet now. Josh Gordon may not see the field. Alshon Jeffery is a sexy pick, but still competes with Brandon Marshall for stats. And Cordarrelle Patterson has an unsettled QB situation and a new coaching staff.
- TE- Vernon Davis. Because saying Jimmy Graham would be cheating. Other choices: Gonzalez (retired), Mercedes Lewis, and Jason Witten.
- K- Stephen Gostkowski. All he does is finish in the top 5 every year. And I know you don’t care about the other four.
- DEF- Carolina. As long as Luke Kuechly is a Panther, they’ll be a top five defense. Besides, picking KC or Seattle would have been no fun. Arizona is an interesting team on the rise, and should not be underestimated. And what’s this? The NY Giants finished were a top five fantasy defense during the last five weeks of 2013? They finished 21st overall last year.
This was fun. But again, the prospect of carrying success over from the end of one season to the entire next year is way less than a 50/50 proposition. I’ll be sure to de-emphasize this factor when producing this year’s edition of the Fantasy Football Draft Matrix©.
What are your thoughts? Will Colin Kaepernick establish himself as a top 5 Fantasy QB? Is Matt Forte in that upper echelon? Can Cordarrelle Patterson continue what he started at the end of last year?
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