The fantasy football season is over. Now, it will be at least eight long months before the 2018 season draft. News will be tough to come by. Luckily, Last Word on Pro Football doesn’t take time off. We’re sifting back through our watch list from this season to give outlook on player’s production for next season.
NFL Fantasy Football Watch List in Review – Week One
Will the Rookie Continue to Progress?
Our first ever watch list player was Cooper Kupp, rookie wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams. Through 15 games, Cupp actually leads the Rams in receiving with 869 yards. His 64 catches are second only to fantasy MVP Todd Gurley, and he also scored five touchdowns. In a down year for wide receivers, these numbers are good enough to give him the WR24 spot in PPR scoring, and the WR23 spot in standard leagues.
This slots him as a solid WR3 for next year’s draft, with potential to get to WR2 status. Kupp isn’t going to burn anyone, but runs great routes for a rookie, and has solid hands. In his second season, he should expand his route tree. Hopefully he also bulks up a little to be able to make more contested catches in traffic.
Still, Kupp is also a prime candidate for regression next season. Although he led the team in yards, he is not their true number one receiver. Robert Woods came out of nowhere this season to become Jared Goff’s favorite target. However, he missed three games due to injury. Had he not missed any time, he would probably be top dog in both receptions and yards.
In addition to that, Kupp benefited from the presence of Sammy Watkins. Even though Watkins had a pretty quiet year, defenses still had to respect his big play ability, allowing Kupp to get open in the middle of the field. Watkins is a free agent after this year, and he may want to go to a team who will force feed him a bit more. This has potential to hurt Kupp’s production.
Next Year’s Outlook
Overall, Kupp is in a good spot to basically duplicate the numbers he put up this year. The Rams lead a high octane offense with a bunch of playmakers. Kupp should get more comfortable in his second year, but this could be offset by opposing teams getting more tape on Sean McVay’s offense. The biggest X-factor to monitor is what Watkins decides to do in the offseason. If he leaves, Kupp will garner a lot more attention from defenses. Regardless of what happens, Kupp should be taken in the latter half of drafts.
Good Rookie, Bad Team
Our next watch list player is another rookie, tight end David Njoku of the Cleveland Browns. Njoku has flashed some serious potential this year, but is stuck playing on a Cleveland Browns team that is historically bad even by Browns standards. Running back Duke Johnson leads the team in receiving yards with 618, and then a pedestrian named Seth Devalve is second with 395 yards. Njoku comes in third with 348 yards, but leads the team with four receiving touchdowns.
This should be considered a win for Njoku, who plays on a putrid offense. Quarterback DeShone Kizer only has nine passes touchdowns to go along with an eye popping 21 interceptions. This really crippled Njoku’s production, leaving him 24th in PPR scoring, and 21st in standard scoring for tight ends. Unless there was a league that started three tight ends, this left Njoku as nothing more than a dart throw streaming option.
Njoku’s production for next season is tough to forecast, but the offense should be in a much better place overall. Second year wideout Corey Coleman looked to have a lot of potential coming in to the season, but broke his hand in week two. He came back in week 11, but those missed reps put him in catch up mode. Josh Gordon finally returned to the team after almost three years, but although he’s been peppered with targets, has struggled to find chemistry with Kizer.
Next Year’s Outlook
As of now, there are too many unknowns to make Njoku a draftable tight end. However, he should be monitored closely during the preseason, and early on in the regular season. The Browns will have the number one overall pick. They could already be looking to replace Kizer with one of the two highly touted draft prospects Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold. If Gordon stays out of trouble, and Coleman continues to progress in his third year, this offense could make huge steps in the 2018 season. If the stars align correctly, Njoku could explode in his production.
Don’t Expect Much from this Guy
Our final player for this week’s list is Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack. Mack is the one guy on this list this week who doesn’t have a very good outlook. Running behind the old man Frank Gore, Mack has only managed 86 carries for 330 yards. His 3.8 YPC leaves a lot to be desired, even though it is .2 YPC more than Gore’s. He was expected to have decent role in the pass game, but has only caught 19 passes for 215 yards, which is also less than Gore.
Some kept him as a stash, thinking that Gore’s age would catch up to him at some point this season. However, even though Gore hasn’t been the most efficient runner, he has still been reliable, never gave the coaching staff much reason to make a change. While many have argued that Mack deserves more playing time, the coaching staff has kept him in the shadows.
Week five is a good example of this, as Mack had nine carries for 91 yards and touchdown. The following week though, Mack only got two carries for 18 yards. In reality, Mack has been wildly inconsistent with his touches even when he gets them. Sometimes he’s put up horrible numbers like seven carries for seven yards in week 10. His long was eight yards that game, meaning he lost yards most of the time he got the ball.
Next Year’s Outlook
Mack looks to have basically the same role in 2018. The Colts will probably look to the draft to find a true number one back to replace Gore. Mack likely has a few nice games, but is not someone worth drafting, or even really watching for fantasy football teams, unless he has some kind of athletic awakening in the off-season. Instead, keep an eye on who the Colts add at running back this off-season, as he might be the guy to roster instead.