Which Duds From 2018 Will Be Studs in 2019? (Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Jun 12, 2019

After an inconsistent 2018 campaign, Mike Williams has the opportunity to become a breakout star in 2019

You know how we saw guys like James Conner, Joe Mixon, Tyler Lockett, Tyler Boyd, and Mitch Trubisky take the leap into fantasy territory last year after being disappointments in 2017? Well, that happens every year.

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Some of those guys will go away the following year, while others just took advantage of their opportunity and are here to stay. There were warning signs with all of those aforementioned players, with exception to Boyd, who took advantage of an injury to A.J. Green. We’ll attempt to identify which players will find their way to fantasy relevance in 2019 after staying in the shadows during the 2018 season.

Quarterbacks

Jameis Winston (TB)
Have you ever wondered which player was going to go off in a particular offense? Think about teams like the Patriots or Bears, who seemingly always had someone different posting big fantasy days. Moving to a food reference: instead of figuring what pancake it will be, take the syrup that’ll go over all of them. Many have labeled Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard as breakout candidates, and while I agree with them, Mike Evans is still there, too. Instead of trying to figure out which player is going to go off every week, take the guy who’s distributing the ball to them. The addition of Bruce Arians is fantastic, as is the horrible defense that’ll be out there, because you’ll watch the pass attempts (and fantasy points) rack up.

Jimmy Garoppolo (SF)
Did you guys watch Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard produce half-decent fantasy numbers last year? Between them two, they posted 198.5 fantasy points over the 13 games that Garoppolo didn’t play. Over the course of a full season, that would have amounted to the No. 16 quarterback. That was with Marquise Goodwin missing in action much of the time, with Pierre Garcon out for the year, and with Dante Pettis not getting on the field in a full-time role until the end of the season. Not only will Pettis be a full-time receiver, but the 49ers also drafted Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd inside the top three rounds. The running backs on the roster are all better pass-catchers than they are ball-carriers, which again favors Garoppolo.

Running Backs

David Johnson (ARI)
In a recent interview, Johnson stated that he’s been training to run 90-95 plays per game under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury. While that’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s clear the Cardinals will be one of the fast-paced offenses in the league, which is a far cry from last year where they ran just 56.4 plays per game, the second-fewest in the NFL. With Kyler Murray under center, it’ll also help keep defenses honest, even if the offensive line isn’t very good. Volume is everything to running backs and it doesn’t help that Johnson now has an offensive-minded coach to help unlock the efficiency he had under Bruce Arians.

Leonard Fournette (JAX)
Here’s a fun fact that not many people will acknowledge. Fournette is a really good fantasy running back. Don’t believe me? Here’s his Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between numbers over his career compared to first-round pick Melvin Gordon:

Player RB1 % RB2 % RB3 % Boom % Bust %
Leonard Fournette 52.4% 71.4% 81.0% 14.3% 14.3%
Melvin Gordon 47.3% 67.3% 81.8% 18.2% 18.2%

 

If you want to say Fournette has had difficulty staying healthy, that’s fine, but when on the field, he’s an every-week RB1. Towards the end of last year – when everyone developed their bad feelings towards him – did you know the Jaguars were down 4-of-5 starting offensive linemen? The Jaguars have been slowly building one of the better offensive lines in football and they added Jawaan Taylor in the draft, raising the talent-level even more. He should bounce-back into everyone’s good graces in 2019.

Aaron Jones (GB)
I don’t want to call Jones a ‘dud’ when he led the NFL in yards per carry in 2018, but he was a dud when you consider the leap many expected him to make. After being suspended for the first two games, Jones returned to what was a timeshare with Jamaal Williams, despite Jones clearly being the superior talent. Fortunately, there’s a new head coach in town and Jones has apparently been getting into the best shape of his life, preparing to handle a bigger workload. Remember the days Eddie Lacy was a top-six fantasy running back? That was due to him playing alongside Aaron Rodgers. If Jones does indeed get the workhorse role, he’s finishing top-10 and maybe top-five.

Ronald Jones (TB)
I’ve been doing my best to shout-out Jones this offseason, warning readers not to get too carried away with a 30-touch sample size under Dirk Koetter. If we judged David Johnson alone on what he did under Steve Wilks last year, we wouldn’t have him ranked as a top-10 running back this season. The same could be said about Jones, who is now under Johnson’s old coach, Bruce Arians. Remember the success Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, and Andre Ellington had in Arizona? Well, it was all under Arians, and he’s been talking up Jones this offseason.

Wide Receivers

A.J. Green (CIN)
Why in the world was Green considered a bust in 2018? The way everyone talks about him is like he’s washed-up. News flash: Green was the No. 6 receiver in fantasy prior to going down with his foot injury. However, recency bias when he missed time with his toe injury has distorted the public perception of his talent-level. He’s been stuck with Marvin Lewis in mediocrity for a long time, so you should know there’s upside for more with the new hire of Zac Taylor, as he’s said to be installing the Rams offense, which is extremely receiver-friendly.

Chris Godwin (TB)
The Bucs offense had a lot of production last year, but it was sporadic. Many casual fantasy players will see Godwin’s current ADP as the WR20 and scoff at it, but there’s good reason for analysts to be enthusiastic about Godwin’s potential. He was fighting for snaps with DeSean Jackson on the perimeter and then fighting for snaps with Adam Humphries in the slot. Both of those players are gone, and new head coach Bruce Arians has already talked about Godwin’s role and how they’ll use him all over the formation. He may have finished as the WR25 last year, but it was a bumpy ride. This year, with more snaps and targets, he’s going to smooth out that ride.

Mike Williams (LAC)
Just like the player above him on this list, Williams was fantastic in a very limited role in 2018, though many called him a bust due to his inconsistency. Well, it’s hard to be consistent when you’re not a full-time player. Fun fact about Williams’ 2018 season: There have been just 16 wide receivers who’ve been able to finish as a top-20 fantasy receiver with less than 100 targets over the last 10 years. Mike Williams just did it with 66 targets while Tyler Lockett did it with 71 targets in 2018. No other wide receivers can say they did it with less than 79 targets. Now, with Tyrell Williams gone, he’s set up for a full-time role with more targets. He has top-15 upside right now.

Dante Pettis (SF)
He didn’t start for the 49ers right away, which was somewhat puzzling, but when Pettis got onto the field, he flashed a bit. It was Week 10 when Pettis turned into a full-time player, and from then until Week 16, he was the No. 20 wide receiver in fantasy, with Nick Mullens as his quarterback. The 49ers did add Deebo Samuel in the draft, but as we saw with Pettis, there’s no guarantee he’ll be a starter right away. Even if so, Jimmy Garoppolo returning to the lineup should only help his consistency in fantasy lineups.

Anthony Miller (CHI)
It was a somewhat rough year for Miller in 2018, as most don’t realize he had a Jones fracture in his foot prior to the NFL Draft, which was why he didn’t participate in the Combine. He then went on to play through a separated shoulder his rookie season, yet proceeded to score seven touchdowns on just 54 targets. Miller seemingly has a knack for the end zone, as he scored 33 touchdowns in his final 26 games at Memphis. He did have shoulder surgery this offseason, but he is expected to be ready for the start of training camp. Knowing how well he played through injuries, you must wonder what he can do when healthy while playing the slot in Matt Nagy’s offense.

Tight Ends

Evan Engram (NYG)
He was someone I was telling everyone to fade in 2018, as the star wide receivers were going to be healthy and back in the lineup. With Odell Beckham gone, there’s over 150 targets up for grabs, and though Golden Tate was added, he plays a different role than Beckham. With Tate starting in a new offense at 31 years old, Sterling Shepard moving to the perimeter where he hasn’t succeeded, and the Giants potentially moving on to check-down rookie Daniel Jones, the 2019 season seems full of targets for Engram, who might return as a top-five fantasy tight end.

Vance McDonald (PIT)
With Antonio Brown and Jesse James out of town, there’s over 200 targets up for grabs in the Steelers offense, though they’re not likely to throw the ball as much in 2019. Still, McDonald was given a vote of confidence when the Steelers didn’t draft a tight end in the first four rounds of what was considered a deep tight end class. Not much slides past me, but did you know McDonald saw 73 targets in 2018? That ranked 12th among tight ends and he finished as the No. 10 fantasy tight end. If McDonald stays on the field, he’s absolutely locked-in for 90-plus targets and a top-eight finish in 2019.


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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