Pianow's biggest fantasy football regrets through three weeks

Most of my fantasy football seasons have the same shape, and it looks like 2022 is going to follow the same path, hopefully:

- Survive September

- Rock October

I have a bunch of teams in the middle of the standings right now. I’ve been right on some things, but I try not to be a Victory Lap guy. Today’s article is going to focus on things I got wrong and opportunities I missed, and see if there’s a learning point to it all.

Missed Opportunity: Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews

Thankfully, I do roster Jackson on one team, and it’s because my colleague, co-manager and good friend Frank Schwab was pounding the table for Jackson. You know what Jackson has done; he’s basically giving you a two-headed superstar, posting juicy passing and running stats every week.

So long as Jackson doesn’t get hurt, he’s looking like a strong bet for Fantasy and NFL MVP.

But I never leaned into drafting Andrews, and that was a mistake. My feeling a month ago was that if I took a vanity tight end early, I would wind up not having the strong wide receiver room I wanted, or I’d be one pick behind on the running-back chase (I was only going to take one back early, but we all want a collection of backs later on).

Look at the tight end leaderboard through Week 3. Andrews has 53.8 points in half-point PPR (always my standard league format), and Travis Kelce is at 45.6. Then it’s a factory of sadness and a bunch of infield singles. No one else has more than 30 points. Heck, journeyman Tyler Conklin (29 points) is currently the TE4. Will Dissly (77 yards, two touchdowns) ranks TE11.

I could have landed Andrews with several of my second-round picks, or aggressively pursued him in my salary cap leagues. Sure, I’d need answers at the RB/WR spots, but most fantasy managers are challenged there anyway. Plenty of backs and receivers have been early-season bricks. Baltimore’s absurdly-narrow passing tree and Andrews’ age (he’s 27, almost six full years younger than Kelce) should have made him a proactive pick.

One final stat to underscore what Jackson and Andrews are doing: Check out the Yahoo MVPs tab, the roster percentage of specific players tied to the 500 best Yahoo Public teams. Jackson is rostered on a ridiculous 67 percent of those superstar rosters, while Andrews checks in at 45.4 percent.

The two early right answers to 2022 fantasy football play for the same NFL team.

Misplaced Optimism: Baker Mayfield is good for DJ Moore

DJ Moore is one of my biggest receiver investments this year, and it was tied to two simple ideas. First of all, he’s a talented receiver, no one misses that, and still at an age where a career year could happen. And I assumed new QB Baker Mayfield surely couldn’t be as bad as the recent Carolina quarterbacks. Before this year, Moore’s touchdowns came from Kyle Allen, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and the last lap of Cam Newton. Assuming Mayfield was healed from last year’s left-shoulder injury, surely he would be a step forward for this offense, and for Moore.

It hasn’t played out that way. Mayfield has been terrible. And he’s taken Moore down with the ship (7-88-1, a sorry 38.9 catch rate).

DJ Moore #2 of the Carolina Panthers used to be a fantasy star
DJ Moore has had a regrettable start to the fantasy season. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Moore managers don’t have many options. Moore is too good to cut. If you were to trade him, you’d surely be moving at a collapsed value. You might have to bench him and simply hope it gets better. Perhaps you could revisit a trade, but only after Moore has a big game.

Maybe it’s foolish to cling to this hope, but perhaps Mayfield’s late arrival to Carolina this summer — the trade didn’t happen until July — partially explains the slow liftoff. It can only get better, right? Then again, Carolina head coach Matt Rhule might be over his head, and seeing OC Ben McAdoo on the sidelines doesn’t comfort me, either.

Does a limited quarterback have to submarine a talented wideout? I mean, Amari Cooper looks just fine in Cleveland. Figure this thing out, Panthers.

Comeback in Limbo: Russell Wilson struggles in Denver

I thought I had the dots connected. Sure, Russell Wilson had a spotty 2021 season, his first losing year as a pro. But he was hurt for the first time in 10 NFL seasons, and then he landed a trade at the perfect time. Denver seemed to offer better offensive infrastructure than Seattle. The Broncos might give Wilson more ownership in the offense, too. And Wilson was stepping into an age-34 season, not a kill shot for a quarterback. That’s the one skill position in this league where a graceful second decade is possible, sometimes even likely.

Well, we’re three weeks into the Wilson-Broncos experience, and it’s been a nightmare. Sure, the Broncos are 2-1 but don’t be fooled by the record. Denver has struggled to convert red-zone opportunities, Wilson isn’t in sync with his receivers, and Denver has a putrid 43 points and a mediocre 1,044 yards of offense through three games.

Wilson’s handiness as a scrambler and runner came down significantly last year, and it’s been even more vacant this season. Perhaps Wilson’s productivity always relied heavily on this element of his game, given his lack of size for the position. Maybe that skill is gone for good. If so, Wilson probably belonged in the middle of the QB rankings this summer, not in the top-10 space where I proactively slotted him.

It’s also possible I mildly overrated the Denver skill talent. I wanted to believe Wilson was getting the Tom Brady reinvention in Tampa Bay, a new set of talented teammates at precisely the right time. The Tim Patrick injury didn’t help, but maybe Jerry Jeudy isn’t quite as good as I thought. And as much as I want the Javonte Williams liftoff to happen, the Broncos make me sad when they insist on heavy Melvin Gordon usage, with a sprinkling of third-down option Mike Boone.

Wilson’s work ethic has never been a problem, and perhaps Courtland Sutton is ready to spread his wings as we work into the middle of the schedule. Denver’s first three games also had two notable traps in it — the Seahawks in retrospect were a bad Week 1 draw (change your hand signals, Russ!), and San Francisco’s defense is always a horrible matchup.

I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t concerned about Wilson, and the upside I dreamt about in the summer is likely gone now. But he still could turn into a useful player. At least, that’s the story I’m clinging to as we get ready for Week 4.

Some Other Preseason Mistakes and Regrets: Too optimistic about the Chargers (a roster desperate for more team speed), not optimistic enough on Saquon Barkley, probably had Davante Adams an eyelash too high, thought Davis Mills wouldn't be a problem for Brandin Cooks (he might be).

I could give you more regrets, of course. It’s a big league. And I could also offer a bunch of hits, but that’s not today’s jam. September is the learning month. It’s time to attack a fresh week and start moving up the standings. Incremental gains. Make a good decision, then make another good decision.

Focus on the process. Keep grinding.

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