A 2023 Self-Appraisal: Transparency, Accountability, and the Pursuit of Betterment, Part 4 – Weeks 13-16
Image Credit: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: James Cook.

“Self-examination, the observation of one’s own experience, is the very root of the intelligence.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti.

Using self-examination to accept the person you are could be worthwhile for your mental health, but it can’t generally improve your performance at a craft. Using self-examination to become better requires action. And it begins with an honest evaluation of what you have been doing and what results those methods produce.

The first step for me in the 2023 chapter of my coming-of-age story as a fantasy football analyst is to review the things I’ve been most convicted of regarding fantasy football to see how the things I valued aided or failed me. Fortunately for me, as a person who states his convictions openly on a public website several times a week, I have a built-in journal already recorded and easy to access.

I put many things on paper, so I have broken this down into five parts. There have been four like this one, breaking the data down into chronological quarters, in which I have dissected all the calls I’ve made and categorized them. Finally, there will be one more at the end to sum up what it all means. This fifth article will be the most critical piece, as it will explore how and why the what came to be. Only then can we seek to identify lessons from a season’s worth of observation.

The point is to be honest and start with my defenses down. The data may lead me right back to a defensive posture, and that’s because, inevitably, some of the misses will be justified, just as some of the hits will be fortunate. But I want to be clear that while the first four articles will explore the results, they are not to imply that the process is less valuable than the result. The key to fantasy football is ultimately finding a reliable way to untangle what is predictive from what is random, and that begins and ends with process.

But we’ll dig into process more at the end of the series. For now, here we go. Let’s continue working through every call I’ve made in 2023, picking it up with Weeks 13-16.

INDIRECT HITS AND NEAR MISSES – ALL THIS HAPPENED, MORE OR LESS

Whether it ended up incomplete or didn’t pass or fail in any particular way, these are the ones where the tree fell in the woods with no witnesses — nobody got hurt, and nihilism won the day.

Jaylen Waddle is in trouble the rest of the way because of scheme preferences and schedule concerns. December 6, 2023 The Dolphins were expected to be favored by several points in their next two, and big leads had been pushing them to run the ball more than most teams; after that, they would face two difficult WR matchups in the fantasy playoffs. Although his opportunity didn’t change, Waddle gained slightly more PPR PPG, propped up by gaining a few more yards and TDs on the same volume. Additionally, Waddle was injured in W16 and didn’t return until the wild card round. A Tyreek Hill injury also changed the variables.
The step-down from the injured Kenny Pickett to backup QB Mitch Trubisky won’t change much in PIT. December 6, 2023 Pickett hadn’t been that great; Trusbisky’s past outputs were similar. Against NE in W14, Trubisky did something no other PIT QB did all year: post a QB1 week. This call was probably right. However, it feels strange to call it a hit since Trubisky was benched after W15 in favor of Mason Rudolph. Rudolph also had one good game (out of three, if you count his playoff start), although he did seem to elevate George Pickens.
You could do worse than using Tommy DeVito in the next three games in Superflex leagues. December 13, 2023 DeVito had been a QB2 or better in four straight games, including two at the QB1/QB2 borderline. Some of his performance seemed anomalous, but he could offset that with rushing ability to improve his floor. DeVito started to spin out over the next two weeks, and he was given the hook in favor of Tyrod Taylor, who finished out the season from W16 on, earning this one an incomplete — perhaps mercifully.

JAMES COOK HAS ENJOYED GOOD USAGE SINCE JOE BRADY TOOK OVER

When I called it: 5 Things that Matter from Week 14, and 5 Things that (Probably) Don’t, December 13, 2023

What I wrote:

James Cook had one of the best games of his career on Sunday against Kansas City. His 25.1 PPR fantasy points, 13.2 FPOE, 12.3 receiving FPOE, 27 air yards, and 83 receiving yards were all career highs. His Week 12 game was also one of his best, as his seven targets, 23 opportunities, 69 YAC, and 9.5 receiving EP were also career highs. That’s a lot of career highs in two straight games — two consecutive games with new OC Joe Brady calling plays — many of which are passing game derivatives.

In the past two games, Cook has recorded two of the three highest receiving EPA totals of his career, and his seven and five targets are the most and tied for the second-most in any game of his career. He is being used in a new and dynamic way.

These are small sample sizes, but it is encouraging, to say the least, to see Cook involved in the passing game. The Bills have a brutal RB matchup schedule in the playoff weeks. Still, a closer inspection reveals that, while the Cowboys are tough on pass-catching RBs, the Patriots are about average at stopping pass-catchers out of the backfield, and the Chargers are actually pretty bad at it. That should mean Cook has a tough matchup this week, then it’s business as usual. Hopefully, that business will remain as lucrative in this Joe Brady offense as we advance.

How it came out: No honest declaration was made; this was written as primarily observational. But, just after this was

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Mat Irby

RotoViz contributor since 2023, fantasy player since 1991, and someone who occasionally dabbles in full-time film work when no one's looking - even on a thing or two you've seen. Atlanta is for sleeping, but Dallas will always be home.

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