Unsustainable NFL Performances (Fantasy Football)

by Etan Mozia | @ff_wonderkid | Featured Writer
Jan 17, 2019

Jared Cook’s breakout this season appears to be more of an outlier than his new normal

The 2018 NFL regular season saw teams average the second-most points scored per game over the course of the year. With early-season shootouts like Kansas City at Pittsburgh quickly becoming the norm, fantasy managers in all formats reaped the rewards. Patient dynasty players specifically saw huge leaps from post-hype players like Tyler Boyd, Eric Ebron, and Tyler Lockett as well as young players like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Williams who took a much-appreciated leap.

As we attempt to be proactive dynasty GMs we are now tasked with taking in all of the performances in this past season and separating the substance from the shadow. Understanding the circumstances surrounding a few surprising performances this year can help us predict which ones mark the start of a new trend and which are outliers. In this article, we’ll dive into a couple unsustainable 2018 performances.

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James White (RB – NE)
Contract: Three years/$12M, FA in 2021, Out in 2019
Competition: Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead

White was a clear RB1 in 2018 and finished eighth amongst running backs in total points over the course of the season. Is he in line for an extended run at low-end RB1/high-end RB2 value?

His season was an impressive one considering the draft capital spent on first-round rookie RB Sony Michel. Both Brady and Belichick trusted the former Wisconsin badger, however, and White was inserted into the third-down role in New England from day one. Though he filled in the vacated Dion Lewis role from 2017 admirably, much of his high-end production came in games in which White was thrust into an unintentional full-time role. Injuries to both Michel and Burkhead forced the undermanned Patriots only to have White and Patterson at times this season.

Though White capitalized on these extra touches on the ground he was inefficient with them as evidenced by his 15.5% (53rd ranked) juke rate and his 1.8p/g (48th ranked) evaded tackle rate. Because of this, the seven goal line carries and 37 red zone touches White received this year aren’t what we should expect from him moving forward. Though the 123 targets White received in addition to his carries are impressive, even they can be chalked up to a lack of other relevant targets in New England. As injuries cannot be accurately predicted, I’d expect many of the opportunities White received this season will be more evenly split moving forward. Additions to the Patriots offense in 2019 will result in a decrease in opportunity that will prevent White from repeating as an RB1 in 2019.

Jared Cook (TE – OAK)
Contract: Two years/$11M, FA in 2019
Competition: N/A

Cook finished as the TE5 in 2018. Is this the new norm for him? His 2018 performance was highly impressive, but a number of factors lead me to believe it is not something we should come to expect. For one, Derek Carr’s lack of alternative receivers after trading Amari Cooper contributed to Cook receiving a career-high 101 targets that he won’t be guaranteed next season. As Cook will be a free agent next year, his long term role is not secure. Even if the Raiders were to bring him back, expected additions to the skill position players on Oakland’s offense could eat into his target share.

By the numbers, his 2018 season was quite the departure from what we’ve seen throughout his career. His 67.3% catch rate was much higher than the approximate 60% mark he averaged in his previous five seasons. His #1 overall dominator rating is also something that won’t be easily repeated.

Even if you were able to find value in his performances this year, his unpredictable scores week to week probably didn’t inspire much confidence. Cook has all of the signs of a classic one year performer. History reaffirms that sentiment.

Agree? Think I’m nuts? Have other guys you’d like me to spotlight? Let me know on Twitter @FF_Wonderkid.


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Etan Mozia is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Etan, follow him @FF_Wonderkid.

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