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East Coast Offense: The Year of the Outliers

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Year of the Outliers

Every NFL season and hence every fantasy season is unique, but the top of 2013's player pool presented an interesting pattern - one that held up across all the key positions: there was a dominant player at the top, followed by distant second-best and then another drop-off to everyone else.

For example, Peyton Manning (5,211 passing yards, 51 pass TDs) might turn out to be the most productive fantasy quarterback ever. But after Manning, there's Drew Brees (4,781 and 35), and a fairly condensed group after that.

In fact, the difference between Manning (31.2 FPPG) and Brees (26.4) is bigger than the difference between No. 3 (Matt Stafford, 23.5 FPPG) and No. 23 (Carson Palmer, 18.8 FPPG). Put differently, if you didn't get Manning or Brees, it really didn't matter what quarterback you had, and mixing and matching was better than sticking with anyone else. Moreover, there was a huge difference between Manning and Brees.

Running back was exactly like quarterback. Jamaal Charles (20.8 FPPG) was the Peyton Manning of the positon and LeSean McCoy (17.4) was the Drew Brees. The difference between Charles and McCoy is as big as the difference between No. 3 (Matt Forte, 15.4 FPPG) and No. 14 (Zach Stacy, 12 FPPG). And that gap widens if you use PPR.

If you thought wide receiver would be appreciably different, you'd be wrong: Josh Gordon was easily No. 1 at 16.9 FPPG and Calvin Johnson No. 2 at 15.8. If we remove Julio Jones (14.1 FPPG) who played only five games, the difference between No. 3 (Demaryius Thomas, 13.6 FPPG) and No. 11 DeSean Jackson (12.3 FPPG) is roughly as big as the drop from Gordon to Johnson. As with the other positions there are two outliers, and then a tight pack.

At tight end, it's more of the same. If we leave out Rob Gronkowski who played only seven games, there's one outlier (Jimmy Graham, 13.6 FPPG) and two other top options (Julius Thomas and Vernon Davis, 11.3 and 10.9, respectively). After that the difference between No. 4 (Jordan Cameron, 9.1 FPPG) and No. 11 (Antonio Gates, 6.8) is the same as the difference between Graham and Thomas.

What does this mean? It means that a disproportionate number of top points teams likely had Manning, Charles, Graham or Gordon on them. And after that, it was truly a free for all.

Post-Mortem on My Season

Here was my initial draft-season portfolio minus a couple late-drafting leagues like the Steak League, the Fox Sports League and the NFFC Main Event.

First the good: I won the Fanium League (crazy that in finals they projected me for a 230-227 win, and it was 230-225), won the Fox League (though I got the feeling I was the only one really trying - it was a bit like Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross when he painstakingly closes a deal only to find out the people on the other end are insane - go to 3:00 of the clip) and won another best-ball league we did with Fantasy Index in May. My Vegas Staff League team lost in the semi-finals (to Peter Schoenke), but had the most points and outscored the two teams in the other semi. It also had more points than the two finalists in Week 16.

The medium: Knock on wood, but my 6-7, Steak League team is in good shape to get a free steak (not locked up yet) and would have made the playoffs and been locked into a free steak had I gotten Keenan Allen with the $23 bid I made. (Jeff Erickson got him for $10 due to my misunderstanding the software). In Yahoo Friends and Family, I drafted a terrible team (Doug Martin, Lamar Miller, Roddy White, Torrey Smith and Ahmad Bradshaw were my first five picks), but made the playoffs despite having the third-least total points on account of Josh Gordon and some late-season hustle. I got bounced in the first round, however.

The bad: My NFFC teams (both online and main event) finished lower middle of the pack in points and with sub-.500 records. The 14-team main event squad wasn't bad - I had Calvin Johnson, Knowshon Moreno and Vernon Davis, but Colin Kaepernick, Dwayne Bowe and Maurice Jones-Drew weren't good enough supporting pieces to win it.

I started off 7-2 in the QB-Flex Stopa Law Firm league, but the Aaron Rodgers injury killed my season. I lost the last four games and narrowly missed the playoffs. The team was mediocre in points scored, so it's not a huge injustice, but had I won just one more game, I would have gotten in.

My FSTA team was decent, but I missed a few deadlines for pick-ups and left a dead kicker in the lineup that cost me a win. The team wound up .500 and missed the playoffs. (It's not for any money).

Overall, I'll give myself a B-minus. When you include my four failed survivor entries and my .500 record against the spread, I'll downgrade the year to a C.

Revisiting My Preseason Non-Obvious Predictions

You can find them here.

The first five were dead wrong, though six, seven, nine, 10, 11 and 12 were mostly correct. After that, they get bad again. My last prediction salvaged it though.

Week 16 Observations

Given what we now know about the severity of Tony Romo's injury, the Cowboys' fourth-quarter comeback he led was especially heroic. No one despises the Cowboys more than I do, but Romo is a borderline Hall of Famer in my opinion, wasting his career with Jerry Jones and various sub-standard coaches as his employers.

Among running backs only Jamaal Charles has more points than DeMarco Murray over the last four weeks. Murray's gone 75 for 439 (5.9 YPC) and five TDs with 14 catches for 82 yards and another score. He's an underrated factor in some fantasy titles this year. After Charles, Murray and LeSean McCoy, the rest of the running backs are tightly bunched over the last four weeks.

It's too bad the Cardinals are unlikely to make the playoffs because they're better than any team in the NFC East, NFC North and AFC South. They're arguably better than any team in the AFC North and AFC East, too. That said, the Eagles have a puncher's chance against anyone with their unique offense and improving defense.

It's amazing how poorly most of the top QBs did in the fantasy playoffs. Over the last two weeks, the top-10 QBs were: Nick Foles, Peyton Manning, Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Drew Brees, Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Matt Flynn, Matt Cassel and Geno Smith. Tony Romo was 12th, Matt Ryan 15th, Tom Brady 16th, Andrew Luck 18th, Cam Newton 20th, Russell Wilson 21st, Philip Rivers 24th and Matt Stafford 27th.

The two most heavily-targeted receivers the last two weeks were Julian Edelman and A.J. Green with 30 apiece. Pierre Garcon was the most valuable one.

Tight ends were a negligible factor in the fantasy playoffs. The top two were Tony Gonzalez (14-125-2) and Marcedes Lewis (8-104-2). No other tight end had two scores, and only two more (Julius Thomas and Timothy Wright) had 100-plus yards and one score.

After a no-show in Peyton Manning's seven-TD game in Week 1, Eric Decker finished the fantasy season with more points than Dez Bryant.

Josh Gordon has 1,564 yards in 13 games. Prorated over a full year, that's 1,925 yards, second only to Calvin Johnson's 1,964-yard season in 2012.

The top-six preseason receivers by ADP were Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas. On a per-game basis, they finished Nos. 2, 10, 5, 7, 3 and 4, respectively.

I love Yahoo!'s playoff scenario generator. The Saints can go from the second seed if they win while the Panthers lose, to out of the playoffs if they lose and the Cardinals win. If the Dolphins and Ravens both win, the AFC's sixth seed is decided by who wins the Chargers-Chiefs game. If the Chargers (10-point favorites) win, the Dolphins get in. If the Chiefs win, the Ravens get in.

What a great play at the end of the Raiders game by Matt McGloin under pressure on 4th and goal to throw the ball up in the air where someone (Marcel Reece) could catch it. He didn't, and the Raiders failed to cover in what was a bad beat. But so many other QBs either take the sack there, or throw the ball away, not realizing there's nothing to lose. Of course, McGloin's reward is losing his job as Terrelle Pryor is taking over.

Using Occam's Razor, I think I found an explanation for Trent Richardson's inexplicably bad season. Someone implanted a magnet in him that attracts defensive players.

With Von Miller out for the year, the Broncos are like the 1984 Dolphins - a great offensive team that might run the table in the AFC. But I don't think they'll win the Super Bowl against a more balanced squad, especially given the cold-weather (and possibly windy) venue.

If Aaron Rodgers is somehow able to play, and the Packers beat the Bears Sunday, Green Bay immediately becomes an upset threat to everyone, including the Seahawks.

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