FANTASY PLAYS: Rough Luck, rookie wideouts and other lessons from 2014 fantasy season

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Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck was sensational in fantasy leagues this year — the top scorer in standard formats and the most consistent passer. Just don't point that out to fantasy players who used him in the title game last week and watched him put up zero points.

Still stings, doesn't it?

It's one of the roughest truths about fantasy football, that the regular season and playoffs are two very different formats.

And as much as you study and make good lineup decisions, you need more to win a title.

"There's an element of luck," said John Paulsen, senior editor of 4for4 Fantasy Football (www.4for4.com ). "Obviously, if you have a season-long roster and you're hit by injuries or bad performances ... you're going to have a tough time winning your league."

Rankings aggregator FantasyPros ranks Paulsen as the most accurate fantasy expert of 2014, with the best advice on weekly rankings among 125 experts. Paulsen got a 60.7 percent accuracy score — remarkable high because the calculation only includes rankings where experts give differing advice.

"Even if you are only getting a 10 percent edge from a 50-50 type of prospect you still have that edge over people in your league," Paulsen said.

Paulsen stayed away from top fantasy quarterbacks this year because he saw much more value in Russell Wilson, who delivered a knockout performance last week against Arizona, putting up 35 points to help Paulsen win two leagues.

Luck meanwhile, had little to play for with a playoff spot locked up, prompting his coach to pull him from the game in the second half.

"Skill can put you in the position to win but then you need some luck," Paulsen said.

And the ability to be OK if that luck doesn't come.

Paulsen thinks this year's finish among quarterbacks will prompt fantasy owners in 2015 to wait even longer to draft a passer.

Here are some other lessons from the 2014 fantasy season:


WIDE(OUT) EXPECTATIONS

It's difficult to overstate the value of Odell Beckham Jr. in fantasy circles, even though he was snubbed for the Pro Bowl, lacking the star power of Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green despite clearly better numbers.

According to league data from CBS Sports, Beckham was on 30 percent of teams that won championships last week — far and away the most title teams for any player. Le'Veon Bell was on 18 percent of title teams, while Antonio Brown was on 15 percent of championship rosters (Joseph Randle was a reserve on 24 percent of title teams — some maneuvering there on the DeMarco Murray injury).

But Paulsen says the success of Beckham and other rookies like Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks will change expectations of rookie receivers heading into next year's draft.

"I think some of the rookies that come in are going to be expected to do that immediately and people will criticize them when they don't," Paulsen said. "Most seasons that wouldn't work very well for you."


HEADS-UP WINS

Beckham might be on the most championship teams, but four players topped him in terms of helping teams win the most games this season, according to CBS data.

Teams with Bell, Antonio Brown and Luck each won 58.2 percent of their games, while DeMarco Murray teams won 57.8 percent of matchups, the data said.


QB CONSISTENCY

One more thing on Luck — he was the only quarterback to post a top-12 score 13 times this season, meaning he was worthy of starting in a standard league that starts one quarterback. Only four other quarterbacks cracked the top 12 in at least 10 games: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Wilson.


WEEK 17?

If you're still playing this weekend, sorry about the drop-off on advice. But might want to convince your commissioner that it'd be better to settle your fantasy championship in Week 16. Even if it's a two-week playoff, jostling for playoff position puts teams in wacky situations.

Know whether Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski will play for the Patriots, who have a top seed locked up? Or how much Luck might play given that the Colts, given the AFC South title already locked in? Or how much other guaranteed playoff teams will jockey for things like division titles and first-round byes?

Tough propositions that will directly affect some of your top fantasy starters. Good luck — hope you make the right choices.


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.organd AP NFL Twitter feed: http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia

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