While there are lessons to be learned from the NFL regular season, many forget the playoffs when it comes time to look ahead to the next season. Matt Harmon and Andy Behrens put together 10 lessons learned from the NFL playoffs in a recent episode of the Yahoo Fantasy Football Show.
Here, we're expanding upon some of their ideas.
Note: All positional fantasy-ranking finishes are through Week 17.
Postseason lesson No. 1: Jameson Williams is going to be the next Gabe Davis-level hype machine
Are we ready to fight the Gabe Davis wars from 2022 again? Andy Behrens brought this up in relation to Jameson Williams, who’s leaving fantasy managers with the taste of a two-touchdown performance that featured an electric 42-yard run to the house in the NFC title game.
There will be those who call out, like Matt Harmon brought up, that Williams has not had a normal offseason in his NFL career. As a rookie, he was recovering from a torn ACL, while last year he was suspended for a gambling violation. OC Ben Johnson is back, which is fantastic. But if the excitement does drive Williams’ ADP into the Round 5-6 range that Behrens mentioned, keep in mind that Williams saw more than five targets just three times in 15 games (including playoffs). Show some restraint.
Postseason lesson No. 2: Detroit, Baltimore and Buffalo need wide receivers
Harmon pointed out how these teams may look like solid offenses, but still need some help outside. Detroit may be the least needy team, as Sam LaPorta (120 targets) and Jahmyr Gibbs (71 targets) were second and third, respectively, behind Amon-Ra St. Brown’s team-high 164 targets. That was exactly 100 in front of Josh Reynolds, whose glaring drops in the conference championship game were keys to the Lions losing. If Williams steps forward, that need is filled, but he can’t be counted on.
The Ravens had just Zay Flowers as a trusty receiver by the end of the season and he delivered three games with 17-plus points in Weeks 14-17, finishing as the WR14 in that span. But Rashod Bateman has still battled injuries and Odell Beckham Jr. drew just 14 targets in his last five games played. This is a team that could address the position in a deep wide receiver draft.
The Bills have a Stefon Diggs question mark that will be addressed in the next lesson, and are set to lose the aforementioned Davis via free agency. The Bills got a preview of life without him, as he did not suit up in the playoffs, and in four of his last eight games did not register a catch. Khalil Shakir had his moments scoring touchdowns in both playoff games, and Dalton Kincaid emerged as a target earner at tight end, but the Bills need another receiver, if only as a succession plan for the following player ...
Postseason lesson No. 3: Stefon Diggs ... Yikes!
Through nine weeks Diggs had 70 catches for 834 yards and seven touchdowns. He was the WR3. All looked fine for him in the Buffalo offense, but then something happened in Weeks 10-18, when he caught 37 balls for 349 yards and one touchdown to finish as the WR47. Not the ROI expected on a player taken in the back half of the first round of fantasy drafts.
Can the Bills move on? Probably not, with a big salary cap hit for Diggs next season. Harmon has theorized for a while that Diggs might have been playing through an injury late in the season, so don’t be surprised to hear about him recovering from a malady. Look for them to add at least a wide receiver in the draft.
Postseason lesson No. 4: Travis Kelce proved he still has gas left in the tank
Admit it, after closing out the season scoring just once in his last nine games and combining for 88 yards in his last three contests, it would have been easy to write Kelce off and start him on the road to retirement. Then came the playoffs, where he has 23 catches for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Behrens said we’re seeing “vintage Travis Kelce,” and it’s happening at the right time.
In last week’s New Heights podcast with his brother Jason, Travis talked about hitting a new gear in the postseason and how he got a little bored during the regular season. It’s clear, however, that it’s too early for this retirement talk. Remember these playoff games if he’s falling behind new kids Sam LaPorta and Trey McBride in drafts next season.
Postseason lesson No. 5: Philadelphia Eagles' coaching changes are the least they can do
Losing five of their last six regular-season games, and then getting drummed out of the playoffs by the Buccaneers — something wasn’t working in Philly. Jalen Hurts Brotherly Shoved his way to 15 rushing touchdowns, but he was just 14th in the league with 3,858 passing yards. A.J. Brown caught one touchdown after Week 9. Devonta Smith was the WR18. Offensive coordinator Brian Johnson was replaced by Kellen Moore.
While the Los Angeles Chargers were not a juggernaut in 2023 with Moore at the helm of the offense, injuries played a part. Moore did enough good work with Dak Prescott in Dallas before leaving Big D. There should be excitement about what he’ll do with Jalen Hurts and Co. in 2024.
Postseason lesson No. 6: It's actually great the Dallas Cowboys are keeping Mike McCarthy
Everything seems more extreme with the Cowboys, even when they choose to stick with a coach who has led them to three consecutive 12-win seasons ... followed by playoff washouts. Yet, let’s not forget what happened under McCarthy’s watch:
Dak Prescott was third on the season with 4,516 passing yards and first with 36 touchdowns. He was the QB4 on the season.
CeeDee Lamb in Weeks 8-18 put up an astounding 101 catches, 1,274 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s an incredible season.
Yes, could the Cowboys improve at running back? Of course, but as Harmon said: “For 2024 fantasy football, we want Mike McCarthy as the coach of this team!”
Postseason lesson No. 7: The Green Bay Packers offense can go to the moon — but it might be a crowded ride
This subject was covered in greater depth here, though let’s look at the youthful wide receiver quartet of Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks, where Watson is the oldest at 24. Tight ends Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft are each 23. Breakout quarterback Jordan Love is the old man at 25. With this group, the Packers finished third in the NFL with 32 passing touchdowns, and seventh in the NFC with 383 points scored. The Packers will be battling with the Lions for NFC North supremacy in 2024.
Postseason lesson No. 8: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a better young core than you think
Mike Evans was amazing in 2023, notching his 10th straight 1,000-yard season, but he did it at age 30. Baker Mayfield was on his fourth team since the start of the 2021 season. The Buccaneers had a worn look to them.
Yet, let’s start with Mayfield, going into his age-29 season coming off his best yet, with 4,044 passing yards and 28 touchdowns — both career highs. Aside from Evans’ 1,255-yard, 13-touchdown onslaught, Chris Godwin quietly put up 1,024 receiving yards. Beyond Tampa Bay, only Philadelphia and Miami sported a pair of 1,000-yard receivers — the 49ers achieved the feat with Brandon Aiyuk and tight end George Kittle.
Presuming they bring back Mayfield — along with having youth on both the offensive and defensive lines, Rachaad White going into his third year coming off an RB5 season and Cade Otton and Trey Palmer still growing — the Bucs may have staying power in the NFC South.
Postseason lesson No. 9: Aaron Jones is not dust
Battling hamstring and knee injuries, Jones was limited to 11 regular-season games, but he was money when it mattered most. His final five games showed that, even when turning 29, he could still be a force in the NFL, rushing for over 100 yards and 20 touches in each game. Two of those games were on the road in the playoffs against the Cowboys and 49ers. Maybe the Packers get him some help in the backfield, but when healthy, Jones is still a force.
Postseason lesson No. 10: A Houston Texans RB could be 2024 fantasy gold
One of the fun surprise teams of 2023, the Texans saw rookie C.J. Stroud elevate the franchise from the dregs to winning a playoff game in just one season. Now they have a stable of young wide receivers in Nico Collins and Tank Dell who will not be bargains in fantasy drafts next summer. Does an upgrade at running back take them to the next level?
OC Bobby Slowik comes from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree, which emphasizes the running back. Devin Singletary took over the lead running duties, hitting 100 rushing yards three times from Week 9 forward. Could the Texans lure impending free agents who are good scheme fits like Tony Pollard, Austin Ekeler, D’Andre Swift or Saquon Barkley?
“If I’m a veteran running back who’s got one more shot in my prime at not only a contract but NFL success, get me to Houston,” Behrens said. “I want to be a part of that party for the next five years or so while they’ve got all these young receivers and I’ve got developmental years of Stroud … this situation looks great next year and beyond.”