The road to a fantasy football championship has been long and arduous. From the earliest weeks of the season, injuries piled up, and though we spent most of the year dodging COVID postponements and players missing time, the pandemic has ravaged our playoffs.
At this point, suggestions for waiver claims to use for your final two weeks have been reduced to whichever healthy body is actually able to play, so while you wait for all the latest news, it is the perfect time to take what you have learned from this year and figure out how to employ that knowledge next season.
The most important lesson learned in 2021 is something fantasy analysts have tried to instill upon the masses for years. Leagues are not won or lost in the first round. Stop worrying so much about who you are taking with your first pick, because, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. You are going to draft stud players with your first three picks, but the odds of them leading you to the promised land are low because high-volume usage, annual wear-and-tear and past injuries routinely haunt the early rounds.
Just a cursory glance through the 2021 top-12 picks will show you why your draft depth and work on the waiver wire are what lead you to the playoffs.
Consensus top pick Christian McCaffrey will miss a total of 10 games this season due to injury. Derrick Henry will miss nine, Dalvin Cook and Saquon Barkley have already missed four, and top running backs like Ezekiel Elliott, Nick Chubb and Aaron Jones have all struggled at times. Don’t forget about Cam Akers, who has missed the entire season. And don’t think the wide receivers or tight ends haven’t been damaged as well, as A.J. Brown, Calvin Ridley and Travis Kelce have also disappointed their owners.
People spend so much time sweating their first-round pick that they fail to put enough research into how they are going to build the rest of their team. When an analyst says, “just take the best available player,” we aren’t trying to avoid the question. We just know that top players get hurt every year and we have absolutely no way of predicting it.
If your first-round pick stays healthy and performs, you’re well on your way to a title. But if he gets hurt, it’s the rest of your team that needs to pick up the slack, and that is where your pre-draft focus should be next year.
Howard Bender is the VP of operations and head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 6-8 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy football advice.