Fantasy Football 2019: What to Expect from 2018 Early-Round Busts
Fantasy owners go into their drafts with the information they have available. At that point, it's simply a guess as to who will exceed expectations and who will fail to meet them. Fantasy owners can listen to experts, look at history, crunch the numbers and then try to make predictions about the future. And while no one can predict an injury, sometimes players end up being busts for reasons that no one had foreseen.
This is a list of players who were drafted and failed to reach their ADP in 2018, making them essentially a bust. Absent from this list are players who were injured early in the season (or for the majority of the season), because it's hard to call someone a bust if he wasn't able to play (although fantasy owners certainly weren't happy with taking them, in retrospect).
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
2018 stats: 16 games, 4,442 passing yards, 25 TDs, 2 INTs; 269 rushing yards, 2 TDs, three lost fumbles
What went wrong in 2018: Rodgers was the first quarterback off the board in most drafts. And even though he threw for 4,400-plus yards, tossed only two interceptions and finished as a top-10 fantasy QB, that's not what those who took him early (ADP of 36 overall) had in mind. To be fair, Rodgers dealt with a nagging knee injury all season, but fantasy owners have little sympathy when their early picks don't pan out.
What to expect in 2019: The good news is that Rodgers should be completely healthy for the start of the season. But there is a little bit of uncertainty considering the coaching staff change. Rodgers is still a top-flight QB1, but he's not alone in that category, so be sure this is reflected on your cheat sheet.
Le'Veon Bell, RB, Jets
2018 stats: Did not play due to season-long contract holdout
What went wrong in 2018: Bell was one of the first three picks in most fantasy drafts. And even if his ADP did fall in drafts that took place closer to Week 1 because of his uncertain status, it's not like it caused him to tumble down draft boards. Instead, those who believed Bell would eventually report to the Steelers were stuck playing the waiting game, hanging on to every rumor saying when he might show up — and got stuck with a big fat zero for the season from their first-round pick. It doesn't get much worse than that.
What to expect in 2019: He's now with a new team and got a new contract, but is everything back to normal? First, he has to show up to training camp, which everyone assumes he will, but even then it will be hard to gauge what kind of shape he's in after missing an entire year. The Jets paid him for a reason, and the RB1 potential is still there, but be careful and don't reach too soon for a guy who may have lost a step (or two) after sitting out a year.
(Photo courtesy of www.newyorkjets.com)
Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
2018 stats: 11 games, 615 rushing yards, two TDs; 40 receptions for 305 yards, two TDs; two lost fumbles
What went wrong in 2018: Coming back from a torn ACL, Cook was drafted as a low RB1 last season. He barely finished inside the top 30 at his position, as once again he couldn't stay healthy, missing five games because of a hamstring injury. And when he did play, he disappointed, producing just one 100-yard rushing performance and four total TDs.
What to expect in 2019: Cook could be a low RB1/high RB2 if healthy. But that's a big if, and while Latavius Murray is no longer around, the Vikings drafted Alexander Mattison, who could vulture some touchdowns in the red zone.
(Photo courtesy of www.vikings.com)
Jordan Howard, RB, Eagles
2018 stats: 16 games, 935 rushing yards, nine TDs; 20 receptions for 145 yards; one lost fumble
What went wrong in 2018: Howard finished as a top-20 fantasy RB but definitely was impacted by the emergence of Tarik Cohen. Howard still gained nearly 1,000 yards on the ground with nine TDs for the Bears, but those expecting him to take another step forward were disappointed with the results.
What to expect in 2019: Howard has a new home, but he joins a crowded backfield in Philadelphia. His lack of involvement in the passing game caps his ceiling as an RB2, but be wary of a decrease in carries, especially if rookie Miles Sanders impresses early.
(Photo by Kiel Leggerre/Philadelphia Eagles, courtesy of www.philadelphiaeagles.com)
David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
2018 stats: 16 games, 940 rushing yards, seven TDs; 50 receptions for 446 yards, three TDs; two lost fumbles
What went wrong in 2018: Johnson wasn't horrible, finishing as a top-10 fantasy RB. But like Aaron Rodgers, it just wasn't what those who invested a first-round pick were hoping for. After Johnson missed all but one game in 2017 because of a wrist injury, many expected him to rebound to his '16 form. Instead, he didn't even reach 1,000 yards on the ground, and his receiving numbers plummeted.
What to expect in 2019: Johnson should benefit from the head coaching change in Arizona, as Kliff Kingsbury is going to implement a pass-heavy offense that should involve the running back as a primary target. Johnson can still be trusted as a low RB1.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills
2018 stats: 14 games, 514 rushing yards, three TDs; 34 receptions for 238 yards
What went wrong in 2018: McCoy played in 14 games, but nagging injuries really took their toll as his rushing production was cut in half compared to 2017, and he wasn't nearly as effective as a receiver, either.
What to expect in 2019: McCoy may still be the No. 1 back in Buffalo, but he'll be 31 years old at the start of the season and will likely lose touches with Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary joining him in the backfield. McCoy's fantasy needle continues to point down, and he's a risky RB3 for 2019.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Browns
2018 stats: 12 games, 77 receptions for 1,052 yards, six TDs; 106 passing yards, two TDs; one lost fumble
What went wrong in 2018: Beckham finished in the top 15 at his position in PPR formats, but keep in mind that he was a first-round pick for many (and his fantasy production was aided by two TD passes). He missed the final four games because of a quad injury and was traded to Cleveland in March.
What to expect in 2019: OBJ becomes Baker Mayfield's new No. 1 target and should benefit both from the QB change and joining a Browns offense that has other weapons that defenses will have to account for. If you want Beckham, you will probably have to take him in the first round again.
(Photo by Matt Starkey, courtesy of www.clevelandbrowns.com)
Allen Robinson, WR, Bears
2018 stats: 13 games, 55 receptions for 754 yards, four TDs; one lost fumble
What went wrong in 2018: Those expecting Robinson to make a big splash in his first season in Chicago were sorely disappointed. Drafted as a solid WR2, he barely finished in the top 50. He missed three games due to injuries and produced just one 100-yard effort and four TDs.
What to expect in 2019: Robinson is still a very good wide receiver, but he should be treated more as a low-end WR2/safe WR3 in fantasy. Mitchell Trubisky is still developing as a quarterback and doesn't lack for options to throw to. Lower your expectations slightly when considering taking Robinson, and then you can be pleasantly surprised if he exceeds them.
(Photo by Stephen Carrera, courtesy of www.chicagobears.com)
Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers
2018 stats: 16 games, 55 receptions for 636 yards, two TDs
What went wrong in 2018: He was the fourth tight end off the board in most drafts, but the fantasy magic that many were projecting from an Aaron Rodgers-Graham pairing just never materialized. Graham never really emerged as a red zone threat as his touchdowns dropped from 10 in 2017 (in Seattle) to just two.
What to expect in 2019: Graham is still a part of the Packers' game plan, but there's a new coaching staff in place, and Green Bay drafted Texas A&M All-American Jace Sternberger in the third round. Graham is looking more like a TE2 this year.
(Photo by Evan Siegle, courtesy of packers.com)