Which Duds From 2017 Will Be Studs in 2018? (Fantasy Football)
If you missed it earlier this week, I posted an article on the exact opposite end of this spectrum about which studs from 2017 will be duds in 2018. If you missed it, you can find it right here. These articles were brought to light because of those who continually use last year’s statistics to say, “this is why Player X will finish top-five at his position this year.” If it meant as much as they claim, your draft board would look the exact same as last year’s leaderboard.
Do you know which players you would’ve had on your roster last year if you went with that approach in 2017? Matt Ryan, DeMarco Murray, LeGarrette Blount, Frank Gore, T.Y. Hilton, Tyrell Williams, Terrelle Pryor, and Martellus Bennett are the frontrunners who went from stud to dud in 2017.
Some of the players who went the other way – from dud to stud in 2017 – include Alex Smith, Todd Gurley, Dion Lewis, Keenan Allen, Marvin Jones, Davante Adams, and Zach Ertz. So today, we’re going to attempt to predict which players were not so great in 2017, but could turn into studs in 2018.
Jameis Winston (QB – TB)
There are many people who continually dog Winston when it comes to fantasy football, but what they don’t realize is that there’s massive buying potential here. If you were to extrapolate the 11 full games he played over a 16-game season, he would’ve totaled 4,911 yards with 28 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 185 rushing yards, and two rushing touchdowns. And that was what people consider a “bad season.” What if I told you that would amount to 322.9 fantasy points, and enough to finish as the No. 2 quarterback in 2017? No, I’m not kidding. Buy Jameis Winston.
Mitch Trubisky (QB – CHI)
You’ve likely read an article comparing Trubisky to Jared Goff‘s 2017 season, but I’m not going to draw that parallel. While there’s reason analysts are making that comparison, Trubisky was being undervalued even without the Matt Nagy signing. When playing with Josh Bellamy as your top wide receiver, Dion Sims as your top tight end, and Jordan Howard as your primary running back, how many quarterbacks would post respectable numbers? Trubisky’s legs are continually forgotten about, as he rushed for at least 22 yards in 5-of-12 starts, including three games with at least 44 yards, which is essentially another touchdown. Take his legs with the addition of Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Anthony Miller, and Taylor Gabriel, and you have yourself a recipe for a high-floor, high-ceiling quarterback. Now, go and replace John Fox with a young, up-and-coming play-caller like Matt Nagy, and you might just have a breakout season.
Joe Mixon (RB – CIN)
So many have called Mixon a bust for his 3.5 yards per carry average in 2017, but I’d urge you to throw that stat in the garbage. Did you know that Le’Veon Bell averaged the same exact total in his rookie season with a bigger sample size? I draw that comparison because Mixon dropped 15 pounds this offseason in order to prepare for a bigger role in the offense. He’s a three-down back who the Bengals drafted in the second-round last year. Once Jeremy Hill went down last year, we saw Mixon in a featured role where he totaled on 391 yards on 104 carries with three touchdowns, including another 16 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns through the air. While the yards per carry wasn’t impressive, neither was the offensive line, though they tried to address that this offseason trading for left tackle Cordy Glenn and drafting center/guard Billy Price in the first-round. He’s primed for a breakout.
Marlon Mack (RB – IND)
There’s some risk around this one, but it’s not too often when a running back goes from outside the top-40 to finishing inside the top-15. Mack might just have that opportunity with Frank Gore gone, though the Colts are going to make him earn it, as they drafted two running backs. The fact that both Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins were taken on Day 3 of the NFL Draft shows that they didn’t feel the need to invest a ton at the position, so it’s likely that Mack takes over the lead role in an Andrew Luck-led offense, which is typically a top-10 offense when he’s on the field.
D’Onta Foreman (RB – HOU)
It seemed that the Texans were just starting to give Foreman an extended role when he unfortunately ruptured his Achilles tendon. In that game, he totaled 65 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries against the Cardinals stout run-defense. The Texans were reportedly considering cutting Lamar Miller this offseason, until they learned that Foreman may have to start the season on the PUP list. That would cloud his outlook early in the season, but something tells me he’d get the featured back role shortly after he returned.
T.Y. Hilton (WR – IND)
If Andrew Luck returns to the lineup like all the coaches/players are saying, this is the easiest dud-to-stud call of the offseason. Why? Because Hilton has been a top-24 wide receiver in every single season he’s played with Luck, dating back to 2012. In fact, his highest finish was in 2016 when Luck played through a shoulder injury, but Hilton was still able to finish as the No. 5 wide receiver in fantasy. And you can argue that the talent around him is worse than it was when he finished there, which should equal plenty (if not more) opportunities.
Amari Cooper (WR – OAK)
After posting over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, Cooper was a massive disappointment in 2017, finishing with just 680 yards in year-three. It’s odd because that’s usually the year where everything comes together for wide receivers, so you have to wonder if there was some sort of nagging injury he was dealing with. New head coach Jon Gruden has already said that Cooper will be “the focal point of the offense.” Knowing his skill-set and ability to get open, you should bet on Cooper bouncing back from his dud-like season he had in 2017. He’s the only wide receiver who’ll be starting that has rapport with quarterback Derek Carr.
Corey Davis (WR – TEN)
After injuring his hamstring in offseason workouts, Davis never got time to work on his chemistry with Marcus Mariota, and when he did return, he saw 10 targets in Week 1, only to get injured again in Week 2. There was literally no time for him and Mariota to build their foundation, but as the year went on, you saw them starting to connect more often. In his final four games of the season (playoffs included), Davis saw 26 targets that netted 15 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Given the whole offseason to build their chemistry, you should expect Davis to continue where he left off and breakout in 2018.
DeVante Parker (WR – MIA)
Knowing what the expectations were, sure, Parker was a bust in 2017. But here’s the thing – he wasn’t nearly as bad as some are making him out to be. Despite missing essentially four full games and scoring just one touchdown, Parker finished as the WR57 in 2017. Here’s his last 17 games with Ryan Tannehill before he got hurt and missed the entire 2017 season: 110 targets, 66 receptions, 1,028 yards, and six touchdowns. That’s essentially one season’s worth of numbers WITH Jarvis Landry on the roster averaging almost 150 targets. There were just eight wide receivers who hit 1,000 yards and scored six touchdowns in 2017. Parker has a 100-target floor with a 140-target ceiling, something that screams breakout.
Jordan Reed (TE – WAS)
If you didn’t listen last year, you’re not likely to listen this year. We warned you to stay away from a pass-catcher the year he suffers a foot injury, but we’re here to say take the discount in 2018. Reed is a difference-maker on the field, as he’s posted TE1 numbers in 52 percent of his career games, a number that only seven tight ends hit in 2017 alone. The fact that he’s done that over 52 games is simply ridiculous. By comparison, Rob Gronkowski is at 70.6 percent, Travis Kelce is at 57.1 percent, and Greg Olsen is at 47.5 percent for their respective careers. And the move to Alex Smith will only benefit Reed, as Smith has produced a top-12 tight end in each of the last eight full seasons he’s played.
Trey Burton (TE – CHI)
It’s hard to say that Burton was a bust in 2017, but he definitely wasn’t a stud or even fantasy relevant. We had a conversation about his ceiling on the podcast recently (find it here on the tight end episode), where I mentioned his ceiling is right up there in the top-five at the position. He walks into the Bears offense and knew the offense before Mitch Trubisky or anyone else did, because he comes from Doug Pederson’s system, which he’s said is roughly 90 percent the same. That’s huge because it’s the same system that Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz play in right now. The Andy Reid, Matt Nagy, Pederson core’s group of tight ends over the last three years have averaged 157 targets per year. No matter what other talent is on the roster, Burton is one of the focal points, which is why the Bears signed him right at the start of free agency.