Thanksgiving was just a couple of days ago, but for many of us the leftovers are still hanging around the fridge. And Thanksgiving is nothing if not a day for a wonderful blend of football and food (ok, and family and friends – those are pretty important too). So how do those two topics coincide in the dynasty world? Well, they don’t – but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to force the topic anyways!
One of the topics I have most commonly gotten into debates with fellow fantasy owners about is positional value. Depending on how long you’ve been playing the game, what formats you play, and the distribution of NFL talent at the time, opinions can vary wildly. And to be fair, those factors will have a large impact on positional values. There aren’t end all be all rules for this. That having been said, if each position was a Thanksgiving dinner dish, here is what they would be – and how that should affect your team building decisions.
Turkey – Running Backs
Most of the previously mentioned arguments over positional value have been with people who thought the running back was the beginning and end of all successful fantasy football teams. And this seems to be a common school of thought across my leagues, likely driven by the prevalence of standard redraft leagues and bellcow running backs in the early 2000s when fantasy football was gaining popularity.
Now, those people aren’t correct. But, the running back position, like the thanksgiving turkey, is still the most iconic part of a winning team. Turkey may not be the BEST part of the Thanksgiving meal – but it is the central piece.
Despite this, there are several knocks on the position. Firstly, like all positions, you cannot win with solely running backs. While the position is important, too many owners make the mistake of focusing every resource possible to ensure they have solid running backs. But a roster with no other positional talent, like a Thanksgiving meal with no sides, is not a winning recipe.
The last several draft classes have produced a cornucopia of running back talent. Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Melvin Gordon, Christian McCaffrey, Kareem Hunt, Joe Mixon, and Dalvin Cook are all 25 or younger and there are plenty of other talented options both older (LeVeon Bell and David Johnson) and less proven (Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, and Kerryon Johnson). The running back position is exploding with talent at the moment, yet like with Turkeys, prices remain surprisingly high. Your best bet is to pay up for 1 big “Turkey” and fill out the rest of your roster with cheaper yet equally delicious “sides”.
Mashed Potatoes and Stuffing – Wide Receivers
Confession time: I hate stuffing (and no it is not because I just haven’t tried your family’s recipe yet). But I figured I would get myself into some trouble if I ignored it entirely based on my personal tastes, so I decided to throw it in with the true GOAT side dish – mashed potatoes.
Regardless of all of our personal opinions on thanksgiving side dishes, I think we can all agree that the sides can make or break the meal just as easily as the turkey. And yet, they typically cost less and require less work to prepare. That’s wide receivers for you. In reality wide receivers can be as reliable, high scoring, and important as running backs, but your fellow owners likely won’t treat them as such.
The problem at WR, is that they are now going through a rough patch in young talent. After the absurd 2014 WR class, recent 1st round WRs have included Breshad Perriman, Kevin White, Devante Parker, Corey Coleman, Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson, and John Ross. Even the more promising picks like Corey Davis, Amari Cooper, and Mike Williams have failed to breakout as true reliable WR1s.
But with a promising class on the way in 2019 that should change, as it did at the RB position. Players like Julio Jones, AJ Green, and Antonio Brown are examples of the value you can capture over a wide receivers career – and they’re still going as they hit 30! Running backs receive the glamour, but more talented people than I have shown that receivers can edge out running backs in dynasty leagues thanks to better health and longer careers. Odell Beckham for example is 2 years older than Ezekiel Elliott, yet Beckham is more likely to still be providing substantial value for you in 7 years.
Cranberry Sauce – Tight Ends
Lets be honest here. Nobody builds their team around tight ends and nobody builds their dinner around cranberry sauce. It’s just a minor side dish that’s probably served out of can in the majority of households in America simply because there are too many more important things to worry about than the cranberry sauce.
Tight ends are similar. Outside of a small handful of players like Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz, there just isn’t that much talent here and it just doesn’t matter all that much. And why pay up for those options when you can instead focus on a fantastic roster elsewhere and just plug-in Jared Cook or Chris Herndon on the cheap as your “canned cranberry sauce option”. Cheap cranberry sauce never ruined a thanksgiving and it wont ruin your fantasy team’s playoff hopes.
Pumpkin Pie – Individual Defensive Players
Like Pumpkin Pie, IDPs are something I had only heard about and assumed I would like long before I ever tried them. However, despite being only a supplemental piece, both are utterly fantastic additions.
If you can find an IDP league with a solid group of owners, I highly recommend it. While IDP scoring rules can vary more than imaginable, you will be hard pressed to find a league where they hold more value than the offensive positions. They’re simply an incredibly fun dessert to add to the main meal.
Leftovers – Quarterbacks
There are just so many damn leftovers every year! It’s almost like you could wait all week and still get the same meal. Wait that sounds familiar…
Yup, it’s the same deal with QBs. Dak Prescott, Mitch Trubisky, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers were ALL outside the top 15 in dynasty QB ADP at the start of the season. QBs are everywhere. And recent draft classes have shown encouraging early returns. Players like Baker Mayfield, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Pat Mahomes are just a small part of a new generation of QBs that will be lighting up NFL scoreboards for years to come. Meanwhile players like Rivers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady are thriving late into their careers. The NFL is brimming with QB talent and QB friendly offenses. They put up a lot of points to be sure, but their replaceability makes them something you can wait on to “eat”.