Alex Schillinger


Almost nothing in fantasy hurts worse than being let down by a highly drafted player. In Dead or Alive, we’ll take a look at some of 2016’s most underwhelming performers and try to predict how they’ll fare in the upcoming season. (But if you get burned again, that’s totally on you.)

There may not be a weightier name in all of football than Manning. Archie, the patriarch of the family and former New Orleans Saint, is in the College Football Hall of Fame for his achievements at Ole Miss. His middle son, Peyton, is one of the greatest quarterbacks to have ever played professional football. His oldest son, Cooper, may have been even better had a rare spinal condition not ended his career before it began. And you can bet that from the moment young Eli strapped on his helmet for the first time, he was burdened with living up to the family name.

Short answer: no. Which, if you have followed his career at all, is probably not a shock to you, but it’s really a shame. The 2011 season was Mathews’ second year in the NFL and the year he made a name for himself. He finished 8th overall in RB scoring1 ending the season with 187 points and besting household names like Matt Forte, Steven Jackson and Demarco Murray.2 By the end of that season, Mathews had many convinced he was the next dominant runner in the NFL.

Dalvin Cook was one of the most electrifying running backs in college football last season. In his final year at Florida State, Cook rushed for over 1,700 yards,1 caught 33 balls and scored 20 total touchdowns. And he did all this behind a line that was, for lack of a better word, meh. After his last collegiate snap, he was looking like he’d be a hell of an NFL athlete with first round potential.

Then came the combine and suddenly all the excitement over Cook’s on-field play was quickly replaced with the anxiety and doubt. It’s not like his combine performance was awful: he ran a 4.49 forty,2 he benched 225 lbs. 22 times3 and he tied Alvin Kamara for the highest elusiveness rating among running backs. But in an annual assessment of NFL prospects designed by SPARQ to measure each player’s athleticism in comparison to other NFL players, Cook finished 5th among running backs, leaving him in the 6th percentile.4

Week in and week out, managers struggle with which RB2 to start, what their waiver wire pick up will be, and whether or not their backup TE has a better matchup than their starter. There are entire TV shows, podcasts, and radio segments dedicated to which third string WR you should start any given week at your FLEX position. But when it comes to D/ST, the thought process usually goes something like this:

Who is Cleveland playing this week?

D/ST is unlike any other position on your roster and even on your strongest weeks can lose you games. But why? Because the defensive scoring system sucks. And as a result you’re left tearing out your hair and screaming at your computer. Okay, let’s be honest, you’re probably doing that anyway, but we still need to change the way we score defenses.

Almost nothing in fantasy hurts worse than being let down by one of your top picks. In Dead or Alive, we’ll take a look at some of 2016’s most underwhelming performers and try to predict how they’ll fare in the upcoming season. (But if you get burned again, that’s totally on you.)

After a stellar 2015 season that saw the Carolina Panthers make it to the Super Bowl,1 hopes were astronomically high for 2016. Cam Newton was coming off an MVP year in which his top wide out was Ted freaking Ginn and the Panthers’ stud wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, was primed to make his return after missing an entire year with a torn ACL. Things were looking up on offense and, even with the (bewildering) offseason departure of one of the league’s top defenders, Carolina was still projected to have one of the game’s top defenses.

Then the 2016 NFL season actually started and that once-promising future turned into one disappointment after another. Cam Newton looked like a shell of his 2015 MVP self. Their defense gave up an average of 25.1 points per game.2 And Kelvin Benjamin? Despite the fact that his season totals were similar to his breakout rookie year, he was maddeningly inconsistent — only twice did he score a touchdown in a game where he also had at least 55 receiving yards.

…only six of the top 70 most targeted receivers in the league finished with a worse catch rate.

Fantasy football is inherently a game of chance. Injuries end star players’ seasons; running backs turn 30, fall off a cliff and die a horrible fantasy football death; stud rookies pop up out of nowhere and relegate once reliable veterans to the sidelines or force them to retire altogether.1 It’s because of this uncertainty that anyone claiming to be a fantasy football expert should be called into question, and even more so when you consider the Dunning-Kruger effect which suggests that those who are the most incompetent in a given field tend to mistakenly believe that they are as good as or better than everyone else.

Real talk: this happens to everyone in some form or another. Think of driving. Ever wonder why all the shitty drivers are the one’s flicking you off? It’s because they think you’re the shitty one.2 And it’s all due to an illusory superiority created by the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Damn near anything you can think of has been influenced in some way by idiots who think they’re smarter than they are.

It’s a well documented fact that people hate trading their players in fantasy football leagues. And despite the fact that in ten years of playing, I’ve managed to successfully negotiate a total of 11 trades, every year I still find myself spending hours discovering and analyzing seemingly perfect offers, only to get denied in seconds. Usually starting right after the draft. I research what the talking heads are saying, I look at the needs of the teams I’m offering a trade to, and I even use three trade analyzers to make sure it’s fair.

But the response is always the same: nope. LeGarrette Blount and Kyle Rudolph for Le’Veon Bell…nope. Kirk Cousins and Brandin Cooks for Rishard Matthews and Jordan Howard…nope. Antonio Brown, Travis Kelce, the Chiefs D, Aaron Rodgers, and my cat for Matt Prater and that week old guac that’s in your fridge…nope.

What? Really? He’s, like, a really good cat.