Players on the Decline (2019 Fantasy Football)
As you deduced from the title, this article will discuss players on the decline. The most important thing to understand about declining players is that declining doesn’t necessarily mean “done.” If a player’s ADP declines faster than his performance, that player may still have value and be worth drafting.
The other side of the coin is that players on the decline are going to continue to decline. Even if it is gradual, they’re not getting any better. That means you really can’t be taking more than one because having players break out is how you win fantasy leagues. Let’s take a look at 2019’s declining players and how you should approach them in redraft leagues.
Devonta Freeman (RB – ATL)
It is difficult to think of Freeman as declining because most of us remember those two elite RB1 years. Time is a fickle monster and those two years were 2015 and 2016. In 2017, Freeman saw a significant decline in his targets and receiving yards. He also missed two games, which was only the start of his injury woes. In 2018, Freeman was injured in the opening game of the season and even though it was blatantly obvious it was a season-ending injury, he inexplicably tried to return a month later. To the surprise of no one, he did not complete the game and did not play again.
Freeman enters 2019 as the clear RB1 in Atlanta. With Tevin Coleman out of the picture, the stage appears set for a huge Freeman rebound. I am on board with Freeman at the right price, which is anything in the fourth round or later.
Just don’t expect RB1 Devonta Freeman to come walking through that door. That guy is gone. Freeman is not going to be a true three-down workhorse and will cede snaps and touches to Ito Smith. I would not take Freeman over any reliable WR, but there is definitely a place for him as your team’s RB2 if all the trustworthy WRs are gone.
Lamar Miller (RB – HOU)
Sometimes the evidence of a player’s decline requires very little work to uncover. Let’s take a look at Miller’s yards from scrimmage since 2014.
- 2014: 1,374
- 2015: 1,269
- 2016: 1,261
- 2017: 1,215
- 2018: 1,136
Miller hasn’t been efficient since he left Miami and became a three-down back. However, similar to Devonta Freeman, Lamar Miller’s cost has depreciated to the point where he may have value. Just know that Miller is never going to be an RB1. He’s a floor selection. He may outperform his draft position, but he’s not going to swing matchups and is certainly not a league-winning player.
The good news is the Texans did not address their RB situation at all. It’s Miller and D’Onta Foreman, that’s it. Foreman is another year removed from his torn Achilles, but it next to impossible for an RB to return from a torn Achilles and be anywhere near as explosive. Foreman may push Miller for work, but I have a hard time seeing him usurp Miller entirely.
LeSean McCoy (RB – BUF)
Finding McCoy’s name on this list should not come as a surprise to anyone. McCoy played in 14 games last season and amassed just 752 total yards on the season. He averaged over a full yard less per carry than his career average. His 2.4 receptions per game were the second fewest of his career.
Now entering his age 31 season, McCoy has already been on the wrong side of 30 for a season and it did not go well. He is currently trending as a mid-RB3, but even that feels overpriced. The Bills did three things on purpose at the running back position. They signed Frank Gore, signed T.J. Yeldon, and drafted Devin Singletary.
It seems incomprehensible that the team would make any of these moves if it intended on not keeping any of these players. It is entirely possible that McCoy is a free agent by mid-summer. Even if the Bills hang onto him, it’s over for Shady.
He’s not just 31 years old. He’s 31 years old with 2,821 career touches. He is also on the Bills. LeSean McCoy is done. He should not be on your draft board.
Larry Fitzgerald (WR – ARI)
If I had been a fantasy football writer for the last 10 years, this would not be the first (or probably not even the second) time Fitzgerald found his way onto this type of list. Every time I’ve doubted Fitz in the past, he has proven me wrong. Unfortunately for old man Larry, I don’t think he will prove me wrong again.
While the Cardinals boasted the league’s most anemic offense in 2018, there’s no positive way to spin Fitzgerald’s career-worst average of seven targets a game, which resulted in a career-worst 734 receiving yards. Fitz averaged over 10 fewer yards per game than his previous career low. It is exceedingly rare for a wide receiver to be productive into his mid-30s. Mike Tagliere did a great analysis of the age of decline for wide receivers. The short answer is that WRs almost never even play beyond age 35, let alone produce useful fantasy seasons.
While the volume of overall targets in the Cardinals’ offense has a 100% chance of increasing in 2019 from 495 in 2018, it would be foolish to think that Fitz will remain the focal point of the offense. Christian Kirk already surpassed him in 2018 and the team added Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson in the 2019 NFL Draft to compete with Chad Williams for depth chart positioning. It is difficult to believe the Cardinals’ front office would make these moves if it still believed Fitz had a ton left to give.
2019 will almost certainly be Fitz’s final season. Given his track record and what he means to the organization, he will not be phased out of the offense entirely. With that being said, if he falls to third or even fourth in the target totem pole (behind Kirk, David Johnson, and possibly one of Isabella or Butler), it would not be the least bit surprising. A high-end WR3 season feels like Fitz’s ceiling.
DeSean Jackson (WR – PHI)
Making his triumphant return to the city of Philadelphia, Jackson is looking for one last hurrah on a career that is often perceived as greater than it was. Jackson has missed multiple games in three of the last four seasons. He hasn’t scored more than four times over that span and has just one 1,000-yard season (1,005 yards in 2016). His only season with more than 62 receptions (he caught 62 balls each of his first two seasons) was his career year in 2013, where he went 82-1,332-9. All three of those numbers were career highs.
With Nelson Agholor likely to stay (and also not being particularly good at football), there is actually room for Jackson to thrive in this Eagles’ offense. He will likely be the third or fourth man in line for targets, but there may be something here for fantasy owners. At age 32, D-Jax may be in the twilight of his career, but he did lead the league in yards per reception last season. Point being, he can still burn, and that’s all we really need him for. You know that at least a couple times, Jackson is going to roast someone deep and Carson Wentz is not afraid to uncork one (or three).
Jackson is more of a target in deeper leagues and definitely a better fifth or sixth receiver than he gets credit for. If you ever need to start Jackson, you know he has the ability to score a long touchdown and swing a matchup. You also know he may catch one pass for 15 yards. In desperate times, that’s better than the safe, floor option that is going to get you 4-50, but nothing more. Jackson is not going to finish any higher than a WR4, at best, this season, but his splash play ability remains, making him someone to keep an eye on for the back of your bench in deeper leagues.