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Best Holds in 2021 (Retrospective): D/STs, Kickers, and QBs -- Rankings vs. Expectations

Cheering up the off-season void with a little entertainment of analysis. As a supplement to 2021's best streamers, let’s first review 2021's best performers. Who would have been best to hold, now that we have the benefit of hindsight?


  • Top tier holds (no surprises here)

  • 2nd tier holds-- accounting for consistency

  • Who was lucky / unlucky...

    • ...compared to pre-season expectations

    • ...compared to post-season expectations

Top Tier Holds

This is the easy one, because the best holds were basically the same as season high scorers:

  • D/ST: Cowboys, Patriots, Bills

  • Kicker: Folk, Gay, Tucker

  • QB: Allen, Mahomes, Murray, Brady

2nd Tier Holds

After the top 3 players, consistency becomes more important for ranking the best season-long holds. This is because season averages can get skewed by a couple boom games. In the past, I feel I've seen some weak methods of accounting for consistency, so here are a few straightforward / non-arbitrary ways to evaluate:

  1. Take the Sharpe ratio of each player's season scores.

  2. Compare 2 players' scores, week-by-week, and calculate who won more weeks. (Their respective bye-weeks pit against each other).

  3. Treat 2 players' weekly scores as an unordered sequence, and look at all combinations between the 2 players. Calculate the average win%. Here's an example, showing Folk vs. Gay:

r/fantasyfootball - Who were the best to hold in 2021? D/STs, Kickers, and QBs -- Rankings vs. expectations

Pitted against each other weekly, Folk and Gay tie at 50%. But looking at all combinations of scores between different weeks, Folk narrowly passed Gay with 52%.

All methods have drawbacks.... so it just depends what question your asking. I believe #3 gives the best way to represent players who helped your roster win throughout the season. Here are the tier 2 holds:

  • D/ST: Colts, Buccaneers, Packers > Saints, 49ers > Dolphins.

    • Saints and Dolphins were less valuable than their season average implies (several single-digit weeks hurt their value). In contrast, Colts and 49ers increase in value, despite having lower averages (they provided a safer floor).

  • Kicker: Carlson, Boswell, and Joseph. McPherson and Butker next.

  • QB: Herbert, Prescott, Rodgers, Hurts.

    • Lamar Jackson slid from his game average, due to inconsistent output.

Note: Despite being 2nd tier, these D/STs and kickers should have been streamed instead of held.

  • Unless your league is full of DST hogs.

  • anecdotally: in all the leagues I'm in, I was able to beat all these 2nd tier D/STs and kickers by streaming.

  • Despite this fact, these teams were not necessarily the best for streaming. I will cover that in the next post.

Comparison to Pre-season Expectations

Looking back at my actual pre-season predictions in August... who lived up to draft expectations?


  • Good D/ST holds that were foreseen: Patriots and Bills

  • Biggest surprise: Cowboys

  • Disappointments: Rams, Browns, Broncos


  • Good hold who was foreseen: Folk

  • Biggest surprises: Boswell, Gay

  • Disappointments: Bass, Sanders, Gould, Succop

Comparison to Post-season Expectations

We have the full season of data now. With this knowledge, what would the models predict now, as best Hold Candidates, i.e. if all the season's games would be played again? (For example over the next 17 weeks)

  • D/ST: Buccaneers, Bills, Eagles, Patriots, Saints

  • Kicker: Gay, Carlson, Zuerlein, Bass, Tucker

When we look at it this way, we can determine who were "lucky"/unlucky performers:

  • D/ST: Cowboys still look like they had a lucky 2021, as do Colts. Buccaneers should have done better-- in retrospect it seems they were just unlucky.

  • Kicker: With updated data (as opposed to pre-season data), Folk actually looks lucky now. Meanwhile, Bass looks quite unlucky relative to what should have been expected. He had a surprisingly mediocre 2nd half of the season.

My follow-up post covers players who best helped the streaming strategy.