Starters With Shaky Job Security (2018 Fantasy Football)
When we evaluate players, we look at a whole host of stats, film, and advanced metrics. In doing so, sometimes we overlook the single most important thing a player has to do: he must play football. I typically use the “but he doesn’t play football” line in reference to guys like Jordan Reed and Sam Bradford. It really doesn’t matter how great they can be because they never play football.
Similarly, we can apply the same logic to players with tenuous grasps on their starting roles. While I now always make it a point to remind fantasy owners that situation + opportunity > talent, if the opportunity isn’t there, none of the other things matter.
We know for a fact that current starters are going to lose their jobs — many of them. What we don’t know for sure is which players and when. The best way to approach the issue is to just be aware of the players with the potential to lose their jobs. Obviously, there will be more players than appear on this list. The focus here will be on potentially fantasy relevant players.
Joe Flacco (BAL)
I wouldn’t say it is likely that Joe Flacco loses his job, but whenever your team drafts another player at your position, you should be concerned. When your team trades up to draft that player in the first round, you should be very concerned. Lamar Jackson is 100x the athlete that Flacco is. While Jackson is certainly not the same caliber of passer, there are things Jackson can do that Flacco simply cannot.
Flacco is entering his 11th season in the league and has yet to record a single year with 30 touchdown passes or single digit interceptions and has just one season over 4,000 passing yards, and it was in 2016 when he attempted 672 passes. For perspective, his next two highest seasons were 614 and 554. Flacco is one of the worst QBs to ever win a Super Bowl and one of the most overrated QBs of the last decade. While no one is drafting Flacco outside of two QB leagues (superflex leagues are essentially two QB leagues, too), Jackson will carry immediate fantasy value should he become the starter.
Tyrod Taylor (CLE)
See opening statement about Flacco and then add in the part where Cleveland spent the first overall pick on who I consider the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck. I don’t see any realistic scenario where Baker Mayfield isn’t starting for this team in 2019. I am virtually certain Tyrod Taylor starts in Week 1, but if and when the Browns start losing games, it just won’t make sense to not give Mayfield an early audition. Taylor’s legs always keep him in the streamer conversation, but the looming cloud of Mayfield takes Taylor off the board as a late round QB target.
Eli Manning (NYG)
The Giants’ starting QB is 37 years old and clearly in decline. With some of the best offensive weapons in football in Odell Beckham, Saquon Barkley, and Evan Engram, the Giants’ starting QB has a chance to return usable fantasy value. If it ends up being Davis Webb, he legitimately might be worth a look. I will limit the explanation here and direct you to R.C. Fischer’s very deep sleeper report on Davis Webb for a more detailed explanation of how and why this may happen.
Kenyan Drake (MIA)
I believe it is unfair that I have to put Kenyan Drake on this list. Unfortunately, the organization he plays for is incompetent as evidenced by every single one of their offseason moves. Most relevant to Drake is the asinine signing of 87-year-old Frank Gore. There is no benefit to having Gore on the field ever. He is old, slow, and inefficient. Nevertheless, the Dolphins signed him and then drafted Kalen Ballage.
Drake absolutely deserves to be the starting RB based upon his performance last season and the lack of talent around him — he’s clearly the best RB on the team. However, he’s never been a feature RB at any level of his career. We don’t know if he can handle a full workload and we don’t know if the Dolphins will do something stupid like elevate Ballage or Gore over him after a bad game or two. Drake shouldn’t lose his job, but just be aware of the possibility that he might.
Alex Collins (BAL)
Based upon his athletic profile, Alex Collins has no business being on a 53 man roster in the NFL. Based upon his on-field performance last year, Alex Collins has no business being on this list. Collins is a sub-athlete that completely defied his athletic measurables by finishing in the top 10 in multiple efficiency metrics including yards created per carry, juke rate, breakaway run rate, and success rate. But the sample size is small and the Ravens have Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon still hanging around. Collins will get the first crack at the job, but the Ravens have no allegiance to him and are not tethered to him in any way. If Collins falters and either Allen or Dixon steps in and performs, there is nothing stopping the Ravens from handing over the keys to the backfield to someone else.
Carlos Hyde (CLE)
The good news is that Duke Johnson does not matter. His role will remain largely unaffected by the battle between Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb. The bad news is that both Hyde and Chubb exist. Here is what I can say with certainty: Carlos Hyde will start Week 1 and dominate early-down work. Chubb is not going to play much in Week 1. That is as far as I will go with that claim. The main reason Hyde definitely belongs on this list is how easy it will be for him to be relegated to a sub 20% snap share. If Hyde gets hurt, even if it is just for half a game, and Chubb comes in and lights the world on fire, that’s it for Hyde. That is all it will take for Chubb to usurp Hyde. If Hyde stays healthy the entire season, I do not believe Chubb will eat into Hyde’s workload too much because Hyde is one of the better running backs in the league. The reason Hyde is such a high-risk player is because all he’ll have to do is open the door slightly for Chubb and the Browns, who have no commitment to Hyde beyond 2018, have no reason to not push Chubb once he gets on the field and proves how talented he is.
Lamar Miller (HOU)
This one will be short and simple. D’Onta Foreman is a better player than Lamar Miller. Fortunately for Miller’s status as the starter, Foreman is coming off a torn achilles, which is a notoriously difficult injury for an RB to return from and regain his previous form. If Foreman can fully recover, he will take that job from Miller. That fact alone is enough to warrant at least mentioning Miller even though it is unlikely that Foreman ever reaches his pre-injury level.
Devontae Booker (DEN)
I’m not even sure if he’s the starter because last year’s starter, C.J. Anderson, is now in Carolina. Either way, this is going to be Royce Freeman‘s backfield sooner rather than later. If Freeman ends up winning the starting job in the preseason, then Booker’s inclusion here is moot. If Booker is the de facto Week 1 starter, then just be aware he is on borrowed time.
Marshawn Lynch (OAK)
The man I prefer to call Mr. Mode is 32 years old and despite leading the league in juke rate last year (because he’s still a large human), he does not look like the same Marshawn Lynch from Seattle. I believe Lynch is just about done. Doug Martin might be done, too, but he wasn’t signed to just ride the bench. If Lynch doesn’t have it anymore, Jon Gruden will turn the backfield over to Martin. I don’t believe this risk is accurately reflected in the price difference between the two, making Martin a worthy late round investment.
Terrance Williams (DAL)
I have no idea what kind of dirt Terrance Williams has on Jerry Jones, but it must be really good. That is the only justifiable reason I can come up with for how Williams is still on this team. Williams is a real life WR4 talent masquerading as a WR2 and I don’t understand it. I have zero interest in Williams in fantasy even if I had a guarantee he would start all 16 games because he is bad at football. I do have an interest in Michael Gallup if and when he takes over that other flanker role from Williams. The Cowboys’ starting WRs should be Allen Hurns and Gallup before long. When that happens, Gallup should at least be a WR3.
Geronimo Allison (GB)
I am not sure why people think Geronimo Allison is either a good football player or fantasy relevant. Yes, Aaron Rodgers can certainly support three fantasy-viable WRs. There are two problems with Allison being that guy. First, usually, Rodgers has supported three WRs and an RB. This year, Rodgers is going to support a TE as well in Jimmy Graham (I think we can all agree Graham will be highly fantasy relevant). I don’t think Rodgers can support four fantasy viable WRs. Second, the Packers drafted not one, not two, but three WRs this year: J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown. It’s pretty obvious they’re looking for a new WR. One of them is likely to step up. Don’t draft Geronimo Allison.
DeSean Jackson (TB)
I am annoyed that I have to put DeSean Jackson on this list. It’s not because DJax losing his job will hurt me in anyway, but I am frustrated that he is even a starter to begin with. At this point in his career, I truly believe that Jackson is the fourth best WR on the Bucs, possibly even the fifth. If I am conducting a real-life draft of only Bucs WRs, I would take Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Justin Watson, and Adam Humphries, in that order, before DeSean Jackson. I am hoping that the immensely talented Godwin can just take the starting job from Jackson with superior on-field performance. If not, while I never root for a player to get hurt, I wouldn’t mind if the often injured Jackson pulled a hamstring and then returned behind Godwin on the depth chart. If Godwin starts, he is far more fantasy relevant than Jackson.