All through the off-season, we work to give DLF readers an edge in their dynasty leagues. That’s useless unless we can prove we’re OK at actually making decent predictions. This series looks back through our final pre-season projections and sees how good or bad they were.
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The Bears were a fairly good team accuracy-wise. There were misses – as there always are – but plenty of good predictions.
On the line, Eddie Goldman, Jonathan Bullard and Akiem Hicks were very close to reality. Hicks had eight more solos and two more sacks but almost all stats were out only a handful in real terms. Roy-Robertson-Harris also ended up close. Not many football sites successfully predicted anything about him!
At linebacker, rookie sensation Roquan Smith adapted to the NFL even better than expected. He was always a phenomenal prospect, but this author expected him to be in the LB3 range as a rookie – not immediately a top 12 option as he was. Although his tackling rates were excellent, his five sacks were a little misleading and will be hard to sustain. His partner-in-crime, Danny Trevathan, was very close to predictions though, being only a few stats out across all categories.
On the edge, Khalil Mack was a pleasant surprise with 13 sacks. High-sack seasons are tough to predict because they are always an outlier. Every season a handful of players managed that sort of total but there’s inconsistency in who manages the feat. Mack was only out by ten total tackles apart from that though. Leonard Floyd was the opposite. He finished with just one sack fewer than expected but played a lot more and amassed 17 more tackles. He’s not really appreciated or respected outside of Chicago, but he’s become a decent player.
At corner, Kyle Fuller was very close to predicted snaps and tackles. He shone with cover plays and managed eight more PDs (he led the league) and four more interceptions (also a league-leading total). As with sacks, it’s always hard to predict the best in the league in a category. Prince Amukamara had a bounce-back season in NFL and IDP terms. He managed 20 more solo tackles than predicted but was very close to all other stats.
At safety, Adrian Amos did what was expected of him. He was actually very close to his 2017 totals too but for some reason, many IDP owners seem disappointed by him. That’s likely just a hangover from the hype he got in the off-season. Next to him, Eddie Jackson became a darling of commentary teams everywhere with his touchdowns. He can certainly make plays in coverage and he comfortably exceeded his PD and INT predictions here. His tackle numbers were just five out though.
The Lions were absolutely devastated on the defensive line this year. Long-term injuries just magnified their difficulties in adapting to Matt Patricia’s scheme and it showed. A’Shawn Robinson has quietly become a really good player. His 49 total tackles surprised lots of people – but was actually five fewer than predicted here. If he can add more sacks to his game, he can be a real difference-maker. Sylvester Williams played sparingly with the mid-season trade of Damon Harrison (obviously not included here) and disappointed.
Rookie Da’Shawn Hand was one of the breakouts of the year playing both inside and on the edge. He managed to beat snap and solo predictions handily as a result of those injuries. Ezekiel Ansah missed a huge amount of time this year. This shocked many people but here he was always expected to play sparingly anyway. He’s never been used as a full-time player in his whole career. Kerry Hyder played only a handful of snaps all year and goes down as a miss regardless of whether it was his fault or not.
Jarrad Davis was the only LB this column was interested in before the season and so it proved. He had a breakout of sorts (after a terrible rookie year) and managed 14 more solos than predicted. That was balanced by managing ten fewer assists. Everything else was only just out. You’ll notice that although he beat tackle numbers, it took him 976 snaps to do so. There are still worries about him.
Christian Jones was very accurate here. The WILL LB in Patricia’s scheme is a part-time player. Devon Kennard got some people excited early in the year but as a specialist SAM, it was always going to be tough to keep it up. His seven sacks were excellent (three more than expected) but 30 solos way short of a starting IDP.
All three of the Lions’ top corners were fairly closely predicted here. Teez Tabor never quite got it together enough to seize a starting role which was disappointing.
At safety, Glover Quin and Quandre Diggs were a weird pair. Diggs played several positions through the year and really isn’t a starting safety as most people think of it. He disappointed on assists here but did snag three picks to make up for it. Quin came in close to predictions – and has little value as a result. Safeties who put up numbers like his are a dime-a-dozen.
Green Bay Packers
Upfront, Kenny Clark continues to be a beast of a player at just 23 years old. Amassing 36 solos from (predominantly) nose tackle is very impressive and removes any frustration at proving the prediction wrong. His six sacks were also impressive. Mike Daniels and Muhammad Wilkerson both had their seasons cut short by injury and failed to get close to most predicted numbers. Dean Lowry did step in and perform well but that doesn’t mean he “broke out”.
Blake Martinez again secured a stranglehold on the one productive linebacker spot in Green Bay. His two excellent years in a row have elevated him to become a top ten dynasty LB. He comfortably smashed the conservative solo and sack numbers predicted here with numbers uncannily similar to his 2017. Oren Burks was a massive disappointment next to him. He was expected here to be a major part of the defense but never quite made it happen. Here’s hoping we can develop ahead of 2019. Antonio Morrison had some moments but was never a full-time player. He played much less than expected and did not hit his targets.
On the edge, Clay Matthews was very accurate across the board. He was out just five tackles and one sack. Nick Perry played even less than expected with injury. He was out six tackles and a sack. Kyler Fackrell was an odd case. He played a decent amount (238 more snaps than expected) which explains his tackle numbers, but the highlight was his 11 sacks. Many people will tell you he broke out and is now a top pass rusher but it’s more a statistical quirk. Fackrell only managed 23 total pressures. Converting seven of them into sacks is just a weird outlier. The average percentage of pressures that were sacks (for players with five or more sacks) this season was 18.8%. Fackrell converted 47.8%. That is absurdly non-repeatable.
Kevin King was projected here to have a big year at corner. Unfortunately, he managed just 304 snaps for the year and therefore fell woefully short on all metrics. On the flipside, Tramon Williams and Josh Jackson played far more (partially as a result of King being hurt) and produced commensurately. Jaire Alexander played about the right amount but was much more productive from a tackling point of view finishing about 50% above projections in solos.
Safety was a bizarre spot for the Packers. Kentrell Brice started the season but was very inefficient. He finished with exactly the number of solos projected but that was a bit of a fluke and his cover plays were quite a bit short. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was traded away mid-season. No one could have seen that coming. And Josh Jones ended up playing a decent amount after starting 2018 as a special teamer.
Sheldon Richardson at tackle was startlingly accurate. He was about perfect across the board. Linval Joseph produced more as a tackler but two sacks less than expected. Jaleel Johnson was a bit part as a result of Joseph and Richardson playing so well.
Danielle Hunter showed everyone who thought he had a down year in 2017 exactly why they were wrong. He remains one of the best young pass rushers in the NFL. He finished about level for playing time but 50% up on tackles and sacks. That’s just dominant play. Everson Griffen finished quite close on all stats but played far less than predicted due to off-field issues. The accuracy is a bit lucky here. Stephen Weatherly was fairly accurate even if his playing time came in a weird way. That’s acceptable though. Predicting third-string players get playing time is a good bet – regardless of how it happens.
Eric Kendricks’ tackle numbers look poor, but he managed 108 total tackles to a prediction of 113. The split between solos and assists comes down to stat crews. His partner Anthony Barr was just even more inefficient than normal and came in short against all tackle numbers. Eric Wilson ended up as the third choice LB which was a total surprise.
At corner, Xavier Rhodes and Mike Hughes both came in short across the board. That reflected their real-life seasons when they were poor and hurt respectively. Trae Waynes did about what was expected of him. Mackensie Alexander and Holton Hill both ended up playing more than predicted and did very well in tackle and PD terms as a result.
Harrison Smith is still one of the best safeties in the league and certainly your columnist’s favorite. He was just five tackles and a sack over projection. He came in bang on for coverage plays. Andrew Sendejo missed half the season with Anthony Harris stepping up. Both were a way away from accurate. Jayron Kearse played a decent amount (a lot of it in the slot) and produced what was expected of him.
That’s it for the NFC North. There was a lot of good here with the normal handful of misses stirred in with injuries, trades and suspensions. Overall it was a very positive picture though. We hope it helped you.
Thanks for reading.