The following is an excerpt from Warren Sharp’s 2024 Football Preview book. In addition to Warren’s deep, detailed write-up on all 32 NFL teams, each chapter features page after page of full-color charts, stats, and heatmaps as well as fantasy analysis from Rich Hribar. Click here for a full chapter from the 2023 Football Preview.

I rarely turn in a soap box style of post.

99% of my fantasy content is objectively based.

But with the offseason on the cusp of getting turned all of the way up once early July hits, I did want to get out and share a few broader thoughts before I get cranked up on content for the 2024 Draft Kit.

As good of a year as I had last year, I still made a handful of mistakes that cost me spots.

I want to share a couple of those mistakes and how we can calibrate around those for the 2024 season.

Lesson 1: Injury Optimism

Injury optimism has claimed the best fantasy gamers a time or two. We all have some red on our ledgers in this department.

Last year, I was aggressively grabbing Tony Pollard in the second round in drafts.

Pollard ended up being one of the larger letdowns when accounting for draft cost.

It would be easy for me to look at things on the surface with Pollard, just shrug my shoulders, and suggest that I was unlucky.

Pollard was a three-down back who had over 300 touches in a top-five scoring offense.

With better touchdown fortune he would have looked like Travis Etienne for fantasy purposes.

While we would often sign up for a truckload of touches in a great offense every time, one thing that I did not properly factor in for Pollard was the impact of the fractured fibula he suffered in the final game of the 2022 season.

I did not factor in enough of a negative outcome. I was focused on the ceiling potential.

Pollard said during the Super Bowl that he never felt fully healthy until nearly three-fourths of the season last year.

Several metrics suggest that was true.

While I was drafting Pollard, several players were returning from injury last offseason that produced down seasons in total.

Kyle Pitts spoke about the severity of the knee injury that ended his 2022 season and how it damaged his ability in 2023.

Returning from a torn ACL, LCL, and PCL in 2022, Javonte Williams was a shell of the runner he had been before injury.

Williams averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per touch. No running back with as many touches averaged fewer yards per opportunity.

After forcing a missed tackle on 31.6% of his rushing attempts before injury, Williams only forced a missed tackle on 15.7% of his rushes last season.

Breece Hall ended the season on a monster tear that aided fantasy championships, so we do not have to completely throw things out. But it also took Hall five weeks to even play 50% of the snaps in a game last season.

Many gamers with Hall were out of the fantasy playoffs by the time he spiked. Despite saving his best for last, Hall also saw a universal dip in output across the board from his rookie season efficiency metrics.

We also need to pay attention to injuries that occur right before the season begins.

Travis Kelce, Cooper Kupp, Darren Waller, and Christian Watson were among the players who suffered preseason injuries and entered the year short of 100%.

All of those players either aggravated those injuries or suffered an additional injury, a decline in their career efficiency metrics, and ultimately letdown gamers that took any “discount” on them entering the season.

Applying to 2024:

Injury optimism is something that has claimed many fantasy souls over the years.

We should always price in downside and underperformance for players that have to ramp up to 100% because football is hard enough when fully healthy.

This is the part where I tell you that I am not a doctor. Nor do I play one here.

We have had many more qualified people step into this space to provide actual informed analysis of injuries.

Some of the people that I follow on the former bird app are:

This year has no shortage of ACL recoveries.

Betz just penned an article highlighting the impact that ACL injuries have had on running backs.

Nick Chubb and Jonathon Brooks are two players returning from ACL injuries this season.

A few other players returning from ACL injuries are Mike Williams, T.J. Hockenson, and Daniel Jones.

If there are any upside outcomes for these players in 2024, they should be considered late in the season as opposed to players getting off to quick starts.

If selecting those players, your roster construction has to account for that.

More than ever, I want to emphasize paying close attention to players who sustain injuries in the preseason and what the data from informed thought leaders in the injury space suggests we do.

Lesson 2: Declining Veterans

This is another one we all have been guilty of.

If a player has already been good, he is tough to let go.

We have seen this with guys who have injury derailments like Odell Beckham, Michael Thomas, and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

When a player has been good over his career, it can be easy to paint an excuse for him when he has a down season.

In 2022, I did this with Allen Robinson.

Robinson was coming off a lackluster season with the Bears where he voiced his disinterest in the organization and played with an inaccurate quarterback.

He went to the Rams that offseason, and I took the bait on his new landing spot being the key to a renaissance now that he was out of Chicago.

It turns out that his best days in the NFL were just behind him.

It was not as egregious as Robinson’s, but last season I believed that Brandin Cooks offered some value in joining the Cowboys.

He was coming off a down year with the Texans, which I colored similarly as I did with Robinson the year before. I learned nothing.

Cooks did end up catching 8 touchdowns, but he also averaged a career-low 41.1 yards per game.

His 3.4 receptions per game were his fewest in a season since 2019.

That was on a team where Jake Ferguson was second on the team in targets.

Not everyone in the NFL gets a graceful exit from the NFL where the plane slowly descends and lands smoothly.

Many productive careers are abruptly ended as we have recently experienced with Julio Jones.

Cooks was not a major miss considering his draft capital, but I want to be better in this regard coming into 2024.

Applying to 2024:

Adjusting for player age is not something new in this space, but we have several players who are not only approaching the age apex at their position but are also coming off of down seasons in 2023.

While there is no shortage of excuses as to why those players had the seasons that they did last year, we should also be prepared for the potential turbulence that the exit may not be smooth.

Davante Adams is perhaps the toughest of these players since he still carries significant ADP and a strong projection.

He led the NFL with 33.0% of his team’s targets and 45.0% of his team’s air yards.

Adams was targeted 175 times overall, second in the league behind CeeDee Lamb.

A huge target earner, what if last season was solely about quarterback play?

18.9% of the targets that Adams had last season were deemed as inaccurate throws per TruMedia.

The only wide receiver with a higher rate of inaccurate targets who also had over 100 targets last season was Marquise Brown (19.0%).

In the fantasy playoffs, Adams had two top-10 scoring weeks in Week 15 (8-101-1) and Week 17 (13-126-2).

While Adams still showed that he was a target earner and we can overlook his efficiency and just chase volume, his yards per route run and yards per target have each dropped from the season prior in each of the past two seasons. His yards after the catch average last season was his lowest in a year since 2015.

As a byproduct paired with quarterback play, he had eight scoring weeks outside of the top 24.

Adams will turn 32 this December.

As noted in the opening section, we could easily use injury impact to gloss over the down notes that Travis Kelce and Cooper Kupp played in 2023.

Kupp just turned 31 on June 15 and Kelce will turn 35 this October.

Stefon Diggs started 2023 on fire.

He went over 100 yards in five of his first six games of the season.

Surely, he is not completely washed if that was the case.

Then the bottom fell out.

He never had another 100-yard game.

Over the final 13 games of the season, he had fewer receiving yards than Khalil Shakir, who had 59 fewer targets over that span than Diggs.

We expect a player as good as Diggs to produce at a higher level than he did to close the season.

Bar none, he is the first finger to point in his decline.

But there were several other contributing factors such as an offensive coordinator change, a reduction in his depth of the target, and the Bills facing a rogues gallery of defenses that were good against the pass last season.

Over that same span, Josh Allen was 15th in completion rate, 18th in yards per pass attempt, and 13th in accuracy rating.

Regardless of how his 2023 season ended, Diggs had his fewest yards per game in a season since 2018.

Diggs will turn 31 this November and now has to share a target tree in some capacity with Nico Collins and Tank Dell, two players who were already impacted greatly by the availability of the other receiver on a team without Diggs.

Not just at the wide receiver position, but this is what makes it tough to aggressively look at the upside for someone such as Alvin Kamara even though we have seen front-end seasons and scoring weeks from him.

Over the past three seasons, Kamara’s 8.7% explosive run rate ranks 65th at the position. He posted a 13.6% career rate before those three seasons.

His 2.51 yards after contact per rush were the fewest of his career, a number that has gone down from the season prior in five consecutive seasons.

Kamara will turn 29 this summer.

No rules have seemingly applied to Derrick Henry, but he also fits in here.

Henry is coming off a season in which he scored fewer fantasy points per game for the second consecutive season.

His RB16 rank in points per game was the first time since 2018 that he was not an RB1 in that category.

Henry rushed for a career-low in yards per carry.

He also played just 53% of the snaps last season, his lowest rate in a season since 2018.

But Henry still led the NFL in rushing attempts for the fourth time over the past five seasons and is joining a Baltimore system that is a top-down improvement versus what Henry had in Tennessee the past two seasons.

These are all players that will still project well since projections are influenced by opportunity firsthand.

It is not hard to make a bull case for any of them because they have been great fantasy assets more than they have not been.

But we also should be cautious about their career arc carrying some weight in their most recent struggles even if we know there were compounding issues such as injuries and team environment.

I believe one or all of these players could bounce back in 2024. I doubt all of them bottom out in unison.

But betting on the base rate, all of them do come with a downside that is not completely priced in.

For players such as DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen, the downside is being priced in.

In most cases of player choices, betting on the ascending career arc is the safest move to make when breaking a tie.

While those are expensive examples of potentially trying to catch a falling knife, I believe the examples of Robinson and Cooks truly apply in the area where gamers are grabbing players such as Ezekiel Elliott and Tyler Lockett.

Those are players who I am going to make beat me in all formats.

Lesson 3: Focus on the Process

This one is not a lesson that I failed last year, but rather a soapbox for me to stand on that I believe will help everyone playing fantasy football over the long run.

You have already seen it, but the fantasy community (me included) can be very player-centric oriented every offseason.

Sometimes I uncover a data point on a player that I hang onto in greater detail than I should.

Whether via flag plants or fades, the fantasy draft season is a smorgasbord of individual player analysis that incorporates looking back on previous seasons and looking forward to the upcoming season in bulk.

And I get it.

When you are on the clock for a fantasy pick, you are selecting a player.

You want that player to be great.

This is what you the consumers have shown that you want.

The majority of you are here for answers to the test.

I don’t blame you.

You enjoy playing fantasy, but if you are here, you are playing for profit over amusement.

The crux of your time is allocated to things outside of fantasy football, so you are relying on someone such as myself – who is pouring in hundreds of hours – to provide an edge.

This is a large part of why things like sleeper and bust lists, player exposure, and player rankings do so well across the industry.

Ranks especially since they are a top-down list of linear players ordered so that is clean and easy to follow.

But that linear list of players does not account for the individual nuances of any format caveats for your fantasy league or how the ebb and flow of your draft will go based on those settings.

Almost every content creator also handles their rankings in a different capacity.

Some do them solely based on projected points scored. Others ranked in a way where they do not believe a player will outscore every player below him but see that player as a better relative positional value than those below him.

Just look at the ADP of players on Underdog compared to other sites this summer.

You cannot take a top-down, half-PPR rankings list and appropriately follow that in an Underdog draft and come away with the same team as you would in a Yahoo Draft based on where the positional ADP falls paired with a format that has zero weekly maintenance.

I had teams with Tony Pollard win fantasy championships last year.

I also had a team with Puka Nacua fail to make the playoffs.

Individual player analysis only carries so much weight through all of the variance of what a player means to a specific team across all of the iterations of rosters and the rosters of opponents in a given week.

To cut this down, far too much time is spent on individual player analysis and consumption every offseason.

In a redraft league with weekly transactions, you will be fortunate to exit the season with 50-60% of your drafted roster intact.

You could certainly just run hot and select players who are great wire-to-wire for a season, but doing that year in and out is not sustainable.

You see this more in DFS than anywhere else in the industry, but it applies to all facets of gameplay in this space.

The average consumer in this space typically wants specific micro answers to random outcomes rather than learning the correct macro approach to understanding how to structure your fantasy play to have success even when individual components fail.

You will be better served not overly dissecting why you should take Najee Harris or D’Andre Swift at the same draft cost but asking why you are taking that position in the first place based on your settings, the current state of the draft, and how selecting a player from that position and the subset tier of that position impacts the remainder of assembling that roster.

As a content creator who does inherently care about income, it is my job to sell subscriptions. Because of that, I do cater to what is being consumed by the majority of gamers.

But I also try my best to provide specific context to those top-down things such as player rankings and tiers while putting a greater emphasis on content that attempts to provide the proper context of how to build a successful team considering your league settings and what leads to fantasy points.

I use everything that I have access to make informed, objective decisions in this game, but you need to know that there is no skeleton key to fantasy football. It is the gift and curse of our game.

Sometimes the line comes back empty.

That is not a crutch I am using to excuse when I do fail for those who come along for the ride.

Yes, I would like to remain employed in this space, but I genuinely approach this job with the intent of wanting to teach you to play the game element of fantasy football across all platforms so you do not even need me outside of unique statistical nuggets that you can drop to your friends and family when watching the games.

If you focus on that, I guarantee you will have prolonged success that trumps the isolated failures.

This analysis continues in the 2024 Football Preview

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Warren Sharp’s book shares insights into the players, coaches, teams, and philosophies with one goal: to prepare you for the 2024 NFL season with the smartest information delivered in the fastest, most direct way possible for optimal reviewing and retention.

  • Team Chapters previews are in-depth, data driven & full of actionable info
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