The Oddity of Fantasy Football in 2016

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Fantasy football is an art enshrined across America. With Yahoo, ESPN, NFL.com, et cetera, there are numerous outlets for football fanatics to draft their own star-studded teams. Whether it be offense only, full team’s, season-long or daily leagues, fantasy football only seems to be  gaining more interest. While there may be many different motives out there for playing this game, at the end of the day everyone wants to win. Fantasy football is about gaining an edge on one’s opponent and besting him or her in a week-to-week matchup. St. Mary’s first-year Zach Thompson states, “I have been playing fantasy football since freshman year of high school … I play because I like winning and it gets me involved with football as well as building friendships that I still have today.”

Several years ago there were certain players in the NFL on whom people relied season after season to put up points. Whether it be a receiver, running back or quarterback, people always knew what they were getting points-wise with these individuals. As a result, there used to be a very specific order in which  players were drafted. Quarterbacks used to be the most demanded commodity, so the best were taken within the first few picks.

This philosophy has changed in recent years due to the increase in solid fantasy quarterbacks and a decrease in solid fantasy running backs. This is because the NFL has become a pass-first league. It is in fact quite common to see teams forgo running in crucial situations because they would rather take a chance and throw the football. Additionally, solid fantasy running backs have been on a decline due to there being more talent in the NFL. Since there are so many talented running backs out there, professional teams acquire more than one quality runner for their team. They then run what is called a committee backfield, one in which two to three, in rare cases four, running backs share the workload for a team. This works well for the football team because it keeps all of the running backs fresh and ready to excel. However, this is bad for fantasy football owners because instead of one feature running back getting all the points, the NFL team’s running points are divided amongst all of their backs. As a result, a running back who is not part of a committee is now more valuable than a quarterback in the eyes of fantasy owners.

Thompson has been following this strategy in his fantasy leagues as of late. “My draft strategy is to try to load up on running backs because there are not a lot of good ones and they also tend to get hurt …. There are lots of good quarterbacks out there in today’s pass-first league. You no longer need to draft a quarterback in the first round; you can even get a decent one in the fifth round who will still put up points.”

Not only is the importance of positions changing, but so are the actual players playing those positions. The league is going through a transition toward younger, more exciting players. This was evident when former fantasy football household names such as Peyton Manning, quarterback, and Marshawn Lynch, running back, retired after the end of last season. Calvin Johnson, who year after year was a top option as a wide receiver, retired too after the 2016 playoffs. Another example is Jimmy Graham, who used to be a premier tight end for fantasy football teams when he was with the New Orleans Saints. Once he was traded to Seattle, he had put up very little fantasy production (until two good games as of late).

The dawn of these older players has led to the rise of younger and exciting new playmakers. Fans have seen rookie quarterback Carson Wentz turn around the Eagles’ franchise, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. catch the world by storm and running back Todd Gurley tread through defenses. SMCM first year student Timmy Prenger believes that these younger players are great for not only the sport of football, but for the fantasy aspect as well. “I think it’s impressive. For example, [Beckham Jr.] made the pro bowl in his rookie season. It brings variety to the table and shows a bright future for the NFL and it’s stars.”

 

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