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Fantasy Football: Top 10 Boom or Bust Players in 2019

Jan 9, 2020

As we put a bow on the 2019 season and reflect on the year that was, fantasy owners can often get too hung up on the end of the year totals when looking back at the most recent season. What can get lost in the shuffle are the players that might have put up solid numbers when it’s all added up. Even if you’re looking at points per game, you also need to consider how players actually performed on a week-to-week basis. A handful of big Boom games are great, but if they’re accompanied by Bust performances, how rewarding are they? And how often are Boom weeks left on the pine due to the fear of seeing another below-par performance?

In this article, I’ll highlight 10 players who gave fantasy owners fits this season as they attempted to predict when Boom games were coming while also trying to avoid Bust performances. For each player, we’ll breakdown their Boom Percentage and Bust Percentage based on thresholds set for each position. Boom thresholds are set based on a performance that would put them make them an above-average starter each week. Bust thresholds are, of course, below-average performances. So, let’s jump right into it!

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Quarterback

Boom Threshold: 22+ fantasy points (4-points per passing TD)
Bust Threshold: <15 fantasy points

Kyler Murray (QB – ARI)

2019 Final Ranking: QB8 (QB 12 in PPG)
Boom Percentage: 25% (4/16)
Bust Percentage:  31% (5/16)

As with many rookies, consistency isn’t always expected right out of the gate. But, with the hype surrounding what the Arizona Cardinals offense might be under rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and the offseason story of Kyler Murray’s decision between football or baseball and his status as a first-overall pick, fantasy owners had hoped to catch lightning with a dual-threat quarterback in a potentially fast-paced offense.

All in all, Murray’s numbers at the end of the year were solid, and they gave fantasy owners hope for 2020. I expect Murray to be the popular answer to the offseason question, “Who’s this year’s Patrick Mahomes/Lamar Jackson?” In 2019, however, it was often difficult for fantasy owners to predict when they could start Murray with confidence. Murray had four games over the Boom threshold, but he also had five Bust games. These Bust performances included three games of 10 points or fewer, which is a bit concerning. What makes those performances especially hard to swallow is that usually rushing quarterbacks usually provide a safe floor on a week-to-week basis. But in Murray’s case, despite finishing second among quarterbacks in rushing yards, fantasy owners were left with more Bust performances than expected.

Kirk Cousins (QB – MIN)

2019 Final Ranking: QB15 (QB18 in PPG)
Boom Percentage: 20% (3/15)
Bust Percentage:  53% (8/15)

This season was an interesting one for Kirk Cousins from a fantasy perspective. Coming off his first year in Minnesota and a 4,200-yard and 30-touchdown performance, fantasy owners were still a bit unsure of what year two might have in store with the change in offensive coordinators. Well, those worries were realized right out of the gate as Cousins attempted just 10 passes in the Vikings’ first game of the season against the Atlanta Falcons. The lack of volume continued, and the limited production followed over the first month of the season in which we saw Cousins fail to post a game over with more than one passing touchdown or more than 235 yards. While we did see 162 fewer pass attempts than 2018 over the course of the season, the fantasy production did eventually come.

So, what made Cousins a Boom/Bust player? Following his rough September, Cousins had a seven-game stretch that saw him post 19 or more fantasy points in six of seven games. However, fantasy owners most likely missed out on his first big performance of the season in Week 5 after growing weary of his lack of production to start the year. Then after three straight games of 300-plus yards, Cousins laid an egg against Washington in Week 8 in what was expected to be another big game against his former team. The inconsistency and high Bust percentage made Cousins a tough guy to trust this season.

Daniel Jones (QB – NYG)

2019 Final Ranking: QB24 (QB12 in PPG in 12 starts)
Boom Percentage: 33% (4/12)
Bust Percentage:  67% (8/12)

As with Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones also showed inconsistency during his first NFL season. After getting the starting nod for the Giants in Week 3 against Tampa Bay, Jones impressed with a 34-point performance that included 336 yards and four total scores. This kicked off an interesting season for Jones, who would have finished as the QB12 in points per game when using his numbers from his 12 starts. But these numbers were inflated a bit based on Jones’ feast or famine fantasy performances.

Jones’ NFL starting debut was the first of four starts over the course of the season in which he posted at least 300 yards and four or more touchdowns. The problem was knowing when to trust Jones in order to catch one of those monster games. Often times fantasy owners can see the potential for big games, but in Jones’ case, he was all-or-nothing all season long. Outside of the four games of 28+ fantasy points, Jones finished with one touchdown or fewer in seven of his other eight starts, leading to eight Bust performances. It’s hard to plug a player in your lineup when he’s failing to even reach 15 fantasy points on a semi-consistent basis.

Running Back

Boom Threshold: 15+ fantasy points (0.5 PPR Scoring)
Bust Threshold: <10 fantasy points 

Phillip Lindsay (RB-DEN)

2019 Final Ranking: RB19 (RB21 in PPG)
Boom Percentage: 25% (4/16)
Bust Percentage:  63% (10/16)

Coming off a spectacular rookie season for the Broncos, the former undrafted free agent was looking to replicate a productive and efficient 2018 season in which he posted 10 touchdowns and over 1,200 total yards. While many might have seen his efficiency numbers coming back down to earth, a potential increase in workload could have offset potential efficiency regression, allowing him to still finish as a consistent fantasy performer. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

While Lindsay received slightly more work in 2019, as his carries per game increase from 12.8 to 14 per game, his total receptions on the season stayed the same at 35. So, with a similar workload, not only was consistency an issue, but Lindsay began to become a headache for fantasy owners, posting nine games of under 70 total yards. Factor in that Lindsay started the year with 17 catches in his first five games, but that he followed up with just 18 receptions the rest of the way, and it’s no wonder that Lindsay was prone to Bust performances.

Marlon Mack (RB-IND)

2019 Final Ranking: RB20 (RB20 in PPG)
Boom Percentage: 50% (7/14)
Bust Percentage:  50% (7/14)

Even more so than Lindsay, Marlon Mack shows what can happen on a weekly basis when you have a running back that doesn’t catch even an average number of passes. And in Mack’s case, little to no receptions at all. In this era of fantasy football, where PPR is more prevalent than ever, RBs like Mack can tend to have more Bust performances, and as they can be more easily scripted out of a game. In Mack’s case, his carry numbers were sufficient enough to consider playing him on a week-to-week basis, but it was difficult to feel confident in the results you were going to get.

With eight rushing scores on the season and only one multi-touchdown game, Mack was more touchdown-dependent than most fantasy owners would care for. Of Mack’s seven Boom games in 2019, only one came without him scoring a touchdown. The rushing yards were fine, as Mack was eighth in the league in yards per game with 77.9, but the lack of involvement in the passing game limited his ability to avoid Bust performances. With just 14 receptions for 82 yards, he had a fairly low floor if the production on the ground wasn’t there.

Wide Receiver

Boom Threshold: 15+ fantasy points (0.5 PPR Scoring)
Bust Threshold: <10 fantasy points

Stefon Diggs (WR – MIN)

2019 Final Ranking: WR21 (RB24 in PPG)
Boom Percentage: 27% (4/15)
Bust Percentage:  46% (7/15)

Over the course of Diggs’ five-year career, we’ve seen him be inconsistent from week to week, which has held him back from the ranks of the fantasy elite. Although Diggs set a career-high in receiving yards with his second-consecutive 1,000-plus yard season and an impressive 17.9 yards per reception, the Boom/Bust production needs to be accounted for if you were debating between Diggs and other options each week.

As we discussed with Kirk Cousins, the Vikings’ passing offense took a while to get going, which led to poor production early on but a nice stretch in the middle of the season. Diggs managed to post three-straight Boom performances from Weeks 6-8, but he followed them up by posting fewer than 7.5 points in three of his next four games. With the Vikings’ success in 2019, and head coach Mike Zimmer’s desire to lean on the running game, Diggs could continue to be a Boom/Bust player.

Amari Cooper (WR – DAL)

2019 Final Ranking: WR9 (RB12 in PPG)
Boom Percentage: 31% (5/16)
Bust Percentage:  38% (6/16)

Another big name that has a knack for putting up Boom/Bust performances, Amari Cooper took it to the extreme in some cases during the 2019 season. On the year, Cooper’s numbers were great, as he finished seventh in the league in receiving yards while hauling in eight touchdowns, just three off the league lead. However, we also saw Cooper’s tendency to have some monster games while completely disappearing in big spots.

Despite finishing as the overall WR9, Cooper only had five Boom performances, including three games of 23-plus points. And as I mentioned, he also had a pretty high Bust percentage as well. Cooper put up six Bust games on the season, and while a 38% Bust Percentage doesn’t jump out at you right away, when you break it down, Cooper had five games of <5.5 fantasy points, two of which came in the fantasy playoffs. So, while his overall numbers are still terrific, the complete disaster games were a concern this season for Cooper.

Courtland Sutton (WR – DEN)

2019 Final Ranking: WR19 (RB26 in PPG)
Boom Percentage: 31% (5/16)
Bust Percentage:  50% (8/16)

The second-year Broncos wide receiver had a breakout season by all accounts, posting his first 1,000-yard performance and finishing inside the top 20 at the position. It was a nice second-year jump for the young receiver, but that came with a bit of inconsistency. That Sutton was able to total nice numbers on the season and suit up for all 16 games is an accomplishment in today’s NFL, but it can hide a few warts when it comes to Boom/Bust results.

Now, I’ll be the first to say it: Sutton’s quarterback situation most likely played a role in his Boom/Bust percentages. Regardless, it was a situation that forced fantasy owners to make tough calls each week and potentially miss out on big games. With six of his receiving touchdowns coming in just four games, there were cases in which the yardage just wasn’t there to help avoid Bust performances. Sutton ended up busting in half of his games this season, including five games with fewer than eight fantasy points. Hopefully, we’ll see some more consistency entering his third season in 2020 — and potentially some more stability at the quarterback position as well.

Marvin Jones (WR – DET)

2019 Final Ranking: WR27 (RB19 in PPG)
Boom Percentage: 31% (4/13)
Bust Percentage:  54% (7/13)

He might be the poster child for Boom/Bust players everywhere. Marvin Jones is often one of the hardest players to nail down on a week-to-week basis, and as is often the case with him, his lower reception numbers and modest yardage totals caused plenty of Bust performances this season. This often left Jones’ Boom games sitting on benches across fantasy football leagues.

Jones had four games of 100 yards or multiple scores in 2019, including a four-touchdown performance bookended by two games under 25 yards. Players like Jones often show up higher in the end-of-year rankings than fantasy owners would have expected based on their useable production throughout a season. The chances are that most, if not all, of Jones’ big games came while he was on fantasy benches. And even worse, once fantasy owners finally bought in, he probably turned back into a pumpkin. He’s just another example as to why an end-of-year finish doesn’t tell the entire story.

Tight End

Boom Threshold: 13+ fantasy points (0.5 PPR Scoring)
Bust Threshold: <9 fantasy points

Darren Waller (TE – OAK)

2019 Final Ranking: TE3 (TE6 in PPG)
Boom Percentage: 31% (5/16)
Bust Percentage:  50% (8/16)

It’s hard to find a true Boom/Bust player when talking about tight ends, as it’s often how must of the position performs on a weekly basis. To have a player that is true Boom/Bust, you actually have to have a little Boom, which most tight ends don’t have consistently enough to consider them for a piece like this. However, with Waller, we saw a great breakout season in which he finished top-five at the position — while giving fantasy owners problems from time to time with his lack of consistency.

Waller got off to a great start to the season, breaking onto the scene with nine-plus points in four of his first six games. However, starting in Week 8, Waller’s catches began to diminish, and he posted three or fewer receptions in four of his next five contests. He bounced back a bit down the stretch beginning, with the loss of Hunter Renfrow in Week 13, to put up four games of at least six catches and 70-plus yards from Weeks 13-17. Again, you hate to ding a tight end for Bust games, but this is something to keep in mind for fantasy owners that are considering Waller as an early-mid round pick next season.

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Kyle August is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive and follow him @kyleFFfellas.

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