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What Can 2017 Strength of Schedule Teach us for 2018?

By Jared Smola 9:07am EDT 7/3/18

There’s no shortage of Strength of Schedule analysis for the upcoming season out there. (We’ll have our own SOS projections for all 32 teams at every position.)

But what you see less of — and where we can gain an edge — is by looking back at last year’s SOS and how it impacted the final fantasy standings.

A player who was strapped with a tough slate last year figures to benefit as his strength of schedule normalizes this season. Guys who feasted on easy schedules in 2017 might take a step back with a tougher road this year.

Right? Right.

So let’s take a look at guys who might benefit or be hurt by a shift in strength of schedule this season.

Cake Walks: These players feasted on favorable schedules this past season. They could be candidates to regress in 2018.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks

No QB faced a more cushy slate of opponents last year than Wilson. The Seahawks were 1 of just 2 teams to draw only 1 top-8 QB defense. And they led the league with 5 games against bottom-5 units.

Wilson capitalized on those plus draws, averaging 25.3 fantasy points. He was also impressive in that 1 difficult matchup, toasting the Jaguars for 27.6 fantasy points. And most encouraging is that he averaged a strong 24.7 points in his 10 neutral draws.

So Wilson produced big fantasy numbers regardless of opponent. That’s encouraging considering he’ll likely face a tougher slate in 2018.

The losses of TE Jimmy Graham and WR Paul Richardson — plus a still-shaky offensive line — are bigger concerns for Wilson. He sits 2nd in our QB Rankings but isn’t a great value at his 6th-round ADP.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers

While Todd Gurley turned in his big 2017 season despite a tough schedule (more on that below), Bell’s came with the help of a favorable slate.

His only meeting with a top-5 RB defense came in Week 2 vs. Minnesota. Bell posted a relatively disappointing 91 scoreless yards in that one.

He also benefitted from 3 games against bottom-3 RB defenses. Bell averaged 22.5 PPR points in those outings.

Note, though, that he actually averaged more points (24.1) in his 11 neutral matchups. A mostly matchup-proof fantasy stud, the fact that Bell figures to face a tougher schedule in 2018 isn’t a major concern.

Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

Atlanta tied for the league lead with 6 games against bottom-5 WR defenses last year. Jones took advantage of those by averaging 21.8 PPR points. That included a massive 50.8-point outing vs. the Bucs.

Jones wasn’t nearly as productive in his 9 neutral matchups, posting an average of 12.4 points. For reference, that would have ranked 19th among WRs over the course of a full season.

Jones also benefitted from just 1 game against a top-8 WR defense. He tallied a serviceable 6-72 line in that one.

A tougher schedule in 2018 might result in an extra dud or 2 from Jones. But he still boasts 1 of the highest weekly ceilings at his position, making him an interesting pick at his early-2nd-round ADP.

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