Hard Bargain: A Season of Accountability
“The Hard Bargain” is a year-round column by Dave Stewart offering parenting advice and fantasy football advice for deeper (16+ team) leagues. Dave brings over a year of experience writing this column that he’ll feature his favorite dynasty sleepers heading into the 2023 season.
The final whistle has blown on the NFL Conference Championship games, and we have come to that bittersweet point of the season.
The entrants to Super Bowl 57 have been determined, and only one game remains before closing the book on the NFL season. All things must come to an end, including season two of this column series, “The Hard Bargain.” As I wrap things up, it feels appropriate to review my calls for the year.
The focus of the predictions in this column is identifying usable starters for 16+ team fantasy leagues. The criteria I attempt to follow include targeting a quarterback and tight end outside the week’s top 16 in consensus rankings. For running backs and wide receivers, I aim outside the top 32 at those positions in Points Per Receptions (PPR) formats.
So, how did I do? Let’s take a look.
Evaluating the Results
Quarterback was my most successful position this season. That is the bright side. My quarterback selection finished in the top 16 nine out of 18 times. Slightly better than 50 percent is nice, but I had hoped to do better. My highlights of the season were two top-five finishes. Carson Wentz finished as QB5 in Week 2, if you can believe that. Also, my Week 18 pick, Brock Purdy finished as QB5.
Running back proved more difficult than I had expected. I recommended top-32 PPR RBs just seven times this season. The top of the mountain for my running back selections was Week 8, when D’Onta Foreman finished as PPR RB5. It was one of three times I delivered a top-16 PPR RB during the season.
Wide receiver was by the far the most fun position for me this season, but my results were less impressive than I had hoped for. I hit the top 32 seven times throughout the year. However, six of those were top-16 PPR finishes. I found the PPR WR8 twice with Christian Watson in Week 11 and DJ Chark in Week 14. Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the position this season.
Tight end was my nemesis this year. It felt like I rarely hit on the position. The truth is I did better than I thought. I got it right seven times, even delivering TE3 in back-to-back weeks with Chigoziem Okonkwo in Week 14 and Dawson Knox in Week 15. I managed one other top-10 finish, but I chose tight ends that went without a reception four times. It really was a feast or famine scenario searching for sleeper tight ends.
A Call to Readers
Hopefully, my deep-league fantasy advice is not the only reason you read “The Hard Bargain.” Parenting and experiencing life as a parent is the centerpiece of this column.
I have tried to tackle challenging aspects of parenting and explore common concerns that parents may have. In the second season of this column, I spoke with parents involved in the fantasy football world to share their stories, along with their perspectives on both fantasy football and raising children.
For season three of “The Hard Bargain,” I am asking for input from my readers. If there are parenting topics you would like to see me delve into or parents who are content creators or fantasy enthusiasts that you would like to hear from, please reach out to me on Twitter. I would love to include your ideas in my upcoming columns.
Looking Ahead to Next Season With Dynasty Sleepers
As I bid you farewell, I will do so with a bit more fantasy advice. As the NFL season prepares for its biggest annual celebration, 30 teams are left preparing for next year. The same is true for fantasy football. With nothing left to play for this year, you are preparing for next season.
Unless, of course, you play in a dynasty league. In that case, it is already next season. Making a few offseason moves can greatly impact your returning lineup. Several players made late-season gains, many in the NFL Playoffs. So, I will leave you with some interesting names that will likely generate a certain amount of buzz this offseason as dynasty sleepers and in redraft formats.
Brock Purdy (QB, San Francisco 49ers)
During the preparation of this column, news of Brock Purdy’s injury became clear. It is unfortunate that the rookie gunslinger will be sidelined for a minimum of six months. Further news will come as Purdy is seeking additional medical opinions regarding the nature of the required surgery. Still, there is no doubt that the wind is out of his sails a bit.
Following his hot streak to close the regular season undefeated as a starter, Purdy received serious buzz. Many people have already declared him as the future at the position in San Francisco. Purdy finished the season with a 66 percent completion rate and threw 13 touchdown passes against four interceptions. His long ball completion rate was a healthy 41.7 percent. He will likely be a fairly high-ceiling later-round pick in redrafts, depending on his health to start the season, and someone mentioned in most dynasty sleepers segments.
Other interesting quarterback options include Jimmy Garoppolo and Derek Carr, both of who will be looking to continue their careers in new places.
Elijah Mitchell (RB, San Francisco 49ers)
Elijah Mitchell persevered through an injury-plagued season that saw him appear in just five regular season performances. San Francisco also pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade that brought them one of the NFL’s best backs, Christian McCaffrey. Mitchell saw a minimum of five carries in each of his regular-season appearances and scored a pair of touchdowns in the regular season finale. He then had 11 total touches and a score against Seattle in the Wild Card Round and carried 14 times against Dallas in the Divisional Round before again sustaining an injury.
His role and his health will be something to keep an eye on for a running back who has shown production when he is healthy enough to play.
Additionally, keep an eye on David Montgomery and Tony Pollard as dynasty sleepers, considering both will be Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) this offseason. Both backs could potentially make big splashes in new locations, although there has been some talk that Dallas may use the franchise tag on Pollard.
Jakobi Meyers (WR, New England Patriots)
Another player who could end up as a new face in a new place is Jakobi Meyers. Heading into his fifth season, Meyers will also be a UFA. He finished the 2022 campaign with a touchdown in each of his last three games. Whether or not he is back with New England is a big question mark. If he were to land in a situation with a pass-heavy offense playing across from another capable receiver, we could easily see him post his biggest season yet. For a player who has at least 700 receiving yards in each of his past three seasons, that could be saying a lot.
JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chark are both UFAs again this year that could be on the move. In a relatively thin market for free-agent receivers, both players should receive a lot of interest. Each man could be a solid dynasty sleeper that contributes immediately if they find the right fit with their next team.
Chigoziem Okonkwo (TE, Tennessee Titans)
Coming on strong late in the season, Okonkwo provided a nice receiving option from the tight end position. He had three or more receptions in six out of his last seven games.
Okonkwo finished the season with an impressive .26 targets per route run. Only Kyle Pitts topped Okonkwo in this category among tight ends who ran 150-plus routes this season.
The situation at quarterback for Tennessee will be worth monitoring. At this point, the prevailing opinion appears that Ryan Tannehill will return as the starter. However, the Titans traded up to draft Malik Willis in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The team may decide to move on from Tannehill in the offseason.
Cade Otton and Irv Smith Jr. are two other tight ends also worth mentioning as dynasty sleepers. Otton posted better-than-expected numbers with Tom Brady in Tampa, but Brady appears unlikely to be back at quarterback for the Buccaneers. Smith Jr., a pending free agent, may wind up with a new home after the Vikings traded for T.J. Hockenson during the season.
Life is hard, but it gets a little easier when we learn to lean on each other. Find me on Twitter @DaveFantasy for more life and fantasy sports content for NFL Week 18 and beyond.