News & Analysis

Player Showdowns: A look back at some of 2017's top quandaries

Now that we’ve crossed the finish line on the 2017 fantasy season, it’s time to look back at what we got right and, just as importantly, what we got wrong. Below is a recap of how we did in our Player Showdown series from before the season. They represented the toughest fantasy decisions at the time along with a recommendation. Whether that recommendation was right or wrong, there’s something to be gleaned from each one before drafting next season.

Marcus Mariota vs. Jameis Winston

Offseason Pick: Marcus Mariota

Postseason Pick: Marcus Mariota. I’d rather say neither but, for argument’s sake, Mariota was the right pick, as he finished 18th in fantasy scoring, just ahead of Winston at 19th. Winston had the passing advantage, finishing with 3,500 yards and 19 passing touchdowns compared to Mariota’s 3,200 yards and 13 passing touchdowns. But, as we mentioned before the season, Mariota’s rushing ability is the difference. Mariota finished with over 300 rushing yards and five touchdowns compared to WInston’s 135 rushing yards and one score.

Dez Bryant vs. Amari Cooper

Offseason Pick: Amari Cooper

Postseason Pick: Dez Bryant. Much like the showdown above, both players disappointed. While Bryant managed to play all 16 games for the first time in three seasons, he totaled just 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns to finish as fantasy’s 25th-highest-scoring receiver in standard scoring leagues. Somehow, Cooper managed to perform even worse in a well-documented disaster of a 2017 season. He totaled just 48 catches for 680 yards and seven touchdowns to finish as just the 30th-highest-scoring fantasy receiver. Cooper almost proved our pick right down the stretch, scoring in four of his last five games but it wasn’t enough to counter his massive dropoff prior to that stretch, including four games with less than 10 yards receiving.

Todd Gurley vs. Marshawn Lynch

Offseason Pick: Todd Gurley

Postseason Pick: Todd Gurley. Both Gurley and Lynch had red flags heading into the 2017 season. Gurley was coming off a season that saw him average just 3.2 yards per carry and score six total touchdowns despite logging over 300 touches. Lynch was coming out of retirement and hadn’t logged a snap in more than a season and a half. In the end, we chose Gurley since he was ticketed for a much bigger role. He more than delivered as fantasy’s top running back with more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Lynch rushed for nearly 900 yards and seven scores on just 207 carries, but finished as fantasy’s 18th-highest-scoring running back.

Devonta Freeman vs. Jordan Howard

Offseason Pick: Jordan Howard

Postseason Pick: Jordan Howard. Both Howard and Freeman actually finished as RB1s, so choosing either was a good idea. Howard did finish slightly ahead with over 1,200 total yards and nine touchdowns compared to Freeman’s nearly 1,200 total yards and eight touchdowns. But, that’s really only because Howard played all 16 games while Freeman missed two due to injury.

Philip Rivers vs. Ben Roethlisberger

Offseason Pick: Philip Rivers

Postseason Pick: Philip Rivers. Another case where you couldn’t go wrong as both finished as QB1s, but at the time, Rivers was the pick. Both ended up with 28 passing touchdowns but Rivers had slightly more passing yards (4,515 to 4,251) and fewer interceptions (10 to 14). Consistency was the main reason for picking Rivers, as he turned in another 4,200 passing yards and 28 touchdowns, his fifth consecutive such season.

A.J. Green vs. Mike Evans

Offseason Pick: A.J. Green

Postseason Pick: A.J. Green. Both Green and Evans had similar receptions and yards in 2017 with Green totaling 75 for 1,078 while Evans amassed 71 for 1,001. Yet, Green finished as fantasy’s eighth-highest-scoring receiving in standard scoring leagues while Evans finished 21st. The difference came down to touchdowns — Green had eight compared to Evans’ five. Scoring consistency has eluded Evans over his career. He’s averaged eight touchdowns per season over his four-year career, but did that by scoring 12 in two seasons, and 3 and 5 in the other two.

Marcus Mariota vs. Cam Newton

Offseason Pick: Marcus Mariota

Postseason Pick: Cam Newton. Our first lopsided misfire. While Mariota had a disaster of a season compared to the year before, Newton had a resurgence and finished as fantasy’s second-highest-scoring fantasy quarterback. The funny part is Newton’s passing stats weren’t all that dissimilar from his previous season. He threw for 3,500 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2016 compared to 3,300 yards, 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. But it was Cam’s legs (again) that souped up his fantasy stats, literally doubling his rushing yardage from 359 in 2016 to a career-high 754 last year.

Jay Ajayi vs. LeSean McCoy

Offseason Pick: LeSean McCoy

Postseason Pick: LeSean McCoy. While we couldn’t have seen the trade that sent Ajayi to Philadelphia coming, we did predict he wouldn’t be as good as McCoy. He failed to top 4.0 yards per carry in all but two of his seven games while with the Dolphins and never saw more than 15 carries after his trade to the Eagles. On the season he failed to top 900 rushing yards and scored only twice. Meanwhile, McCoy turned in his sixth 1,000-yard rushing season, caught 59 balls for nearly 450 receiving yards, and scored eight total times.

Doug Baldwin vs. Jarvis Landry

Offseason Pick: Doug Baldwin

Postseason Pick: Jarvis Landry. Both Baldwin and Landry turned in solid seasons with both totaling just under 1,000 yards and Landry scoring nine touchdowns to Baldwin’s eight. If this were standard scoring leagues, the difference was negligible, with Landry finishing 12th to Baldwin’s 14th. But if you utilize PPR scoring, Landry just blows Baldwin away. His league-leading 112 receptions propelled him to finish as fantasy’s fourth-highest-scoring receiver in PPR leagues compared to Baldwin’s 75 receptions and 11th ranking.

Travis Kelce vs. Greg Olsen

Offseason Pick: Travis Kelce

Postseason Pick: Travis Kelce. This battle ended up much further apart than originally thought. Olsen was coming off five straight top-10 fantasy seasons at the position, but between injury and other Panthers targets like Christian McCaffrey arriving on the scene, had a horrible year. He had just 17 catches for 191 yards on the season with most of that being tallied in one game in Week 15, where he had nine catches for 116 yards. Meanwhile Kelce had another excellent season with 83 catches for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns to finish as fantasy's second-highest-scoring tight end.

Kenny Britt vs. Terrelle Pryor

Offseason Pick: Terrelle Pryor

Postseason Pick: Neither? After both finished as top-25 fantasy receivers in 2016, expectations were high for the old Browns receiver Pryor (now with Washington) and new Browns receiver Britt (formerly of the Rams). Both turned out to be massive busts in fantasy and real life, turning in similarly putrid stats. Britt and Pryor each caught 20 passes, Britt for 256 yards and two touchdowns and Pryor 240 yards and one score.

Tyler Eifert vs. Zach Ertz

Offseason Pick: Tyler Eifert

Postseason Pick: Zach Ertz. We rolled the dice with Eifert and lost in a big way. Eifert played just two games this season — reinforcing his injury-prone label — while Ertz turned in another top-10 fantasy season with 74 catches for 824 yards and a career-high eight touchdowns as the Eagles head to the Super Bowl. This battle won’t be nearly as close next year.

Derek Carr vs. Matt Ryan

Offseason Pick: Derek Carr

Postseason Pick: Matt Ryan. It was a battle of attrition between Ryan and Carr. Both saw their fantasy numbers slip in a big way from their big 2016 seasons, though only one actually appeared to play measurably worse. Coming off an MVP season, with 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns, Ryan’s surface numbers fell to 4,095 and 20, though his PFF grade and peripherals said he maintained his excellent performance. Nonetheless, he finished as fantasy’s 14th-highest-scoring quarterback. Carr regressed as well, but had a much lower baseline than Ryan. While he threw for 3,937 yards and 28 touchdowns last year, he dropped back down to 3,496 yards and just 22 touchdowns to finish as fantasy’s 21st-highest-scoring quarterback.

Keenan Allen vs. Allen Robinson

Offseason Pick: Allen Robinson

Postseason Pick: Keenan Allen. This pick was almost dead on arrival thanks to a plot twist no one saw coming. Allen was the one with the checkered health, playing just nine games over the past two seasons while Robinson played a full 16 games during that same span. But after just one catch in Week 1, Robinson tore his ACL and didn't play another snap in 2017. Meanwhile, Allen set career-highs in receptions (102), yards (1,393), and scored six times to finish as fantasy’s third-highest-scoring receiver while playing all 16 games for the first time in his career.

Eddie Lacy vs. Latavius Murray

Offseason Pick: Eddie Lacy

Postseason Pick: Latavius Murray. A month into the season, both players looked like busts with their new teams. Murray saw just 14 carries over the first four weeks while he took a backseat to rookie Dalvin Cook. Lacy wasn’t much better, seeing just 36 carries over the same span for just over 100 yards. But Cook tore his ACL and a window opened for Murray to see more carries. He ended up with over 200 carries for over 800 yards and eight touchdowns as the Vikings offense came out of nowhere to shoot up from 23rd in points in 2016 to 10th this year. Lacy, on the other hand, played in just nine games on the season, never surpassed 53 yards rushing, failed to score and wasn’t even active after Week 13.

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