Sometimes people can get stuck in the past in fantasy football. Especially when there is no live football yet, and people are starting to get their draft board together, all there really is to go by are last year’s numbers. While many times a player’s performance can carry over from one year to the next, there are other instances where their previous numbers are deceiving. Here is one player from each offensive position group who finished in the top ten at their position last year, but will not repeat the feat in 2018.
Fantasy Football 2018: Which Standouts From Last Year Are Headed Back to Earth?
New Team, Same Old Quarterback
The surprise fantasy star, at least for half of the season was Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. Labeled with the “game manager” tag, he was never a fantasy relevant quarterback prior to last season. That changed last year.
Maybe it was the Chiefs drafting his heir apparent Patrick Mahomes, or maybe it was the plethora of weapons he had at his disposal, but Smith ended up having his best statistical year ever. He threw for 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. He also added 60 rushes for 355 yards and a touchdown. All in all, he finished as QB4 with 295.2 points.
When broken down though, his numbers are a bit less impressive. Smith started the year on fire but fizzled as the season wore on. At week eight of the season, he was the QB1 with 170.6 points. After that though, “Old Alex Smith” came back, and his numbers dipped. From weeks nine through 17, he only managed 124.5 points, good for the QB13.
Now, Smith is a Washington Redskin. He will have to learn a whole new system, and he doesn’t have close to the weapons he had with the Chiefs. Their best skill player is probably Jordan Reed, but he just can’t stay healthy. In his five-year career, he’s never appeared in more than 14 games. From there, they have a bunch of unproven young wide receivers in Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder.
Their best group overall might be their running backs with Rob Kelly and rookie Derrius Guice. Depending on how quickly Guice adjusts to the pro level, the offense could go through him. Kelly likely acts as Smith’s safety valve, catching passes out of the backfield. These will not generate big numbers, and will only perpetuate Smith’s game manager level.
Overall, Smith should be avoided altogether from fantasy drafts until he proves that his first eight games of the last season were not a fluke.
A Running Back Whose Best Years are Behind Him
LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills has been a top running back for almost a decade, so he should continue his dominance right? Think about that for a second though. This will be McCoy’s 10th season, and he will be 30 years old before the season starts. He’s been a model of consistency throughout his career, but it is a known fact that a running back’s decline is usually extremely sudden.
Last season, he was the center of the Bills offense, rushing for over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. He also added 448 receiving yards and two more touchdowns. Numbers like that would lead most to believe he isn’t even close to slowing down. These numbers gave him an RB7 finish with 204 total points. Breaking it down though, he actually had the lowest yards per carry (4.0) of his career. His 346 total touches were also the second most of his career. That wear and tear could come back to haunt him this season.
There are also questions on their offensive line. Buffalo traded starting left tackle Cordy Glenn and released Richie Incognito after all of his drama. Second-year player Dion Dawkins is projected to replace Glenn, with John Miller likely to replace Incognito at guard. This will be a unit that does not have a lot of experience together.
Combine all of this and there is a good chance McCoy does not have the top-ten season most of us have become accustomed to from him.
Adjusting to a New Scheme
Another player who got by on pure volume last season was new Cleveland Browns wide receiver, Jarvis Landry. With the Miami Dolphins, Landry’s 112 receptions were the most in the league. Still, Landry somehow did not even crack 1,000 receiving yards. His 8.8 yards per reception were second to last amongst all qualified wide receivers.
These numbers put Landry in very different spots between standard and PPR formats. For those that had Landry in PPR, he was the WR5 due to his ridiculous volume. In standard, where pure yards matter more, he was only the WR14.
In Cleveland however, he will struggle to even repeat his standard scoring finish. There are already a good number of weapons around him in receivers Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, and tight end David Njoku. From there, the Browns also added running back Carlos Hyde in free agency, drafted Nick Chubb, and already had Duke Johnson. Landry could find himself fighting for targets.
If he doesn’t adjust to his new team quickly and start gaining some more yards after the catch, Landry could quickly go dark in terms of fantasy value. He’s best avoided in drafts for now.
Another Solid Veteran on the Downslope
Aside from players like Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, the tight end landscape is always very tough to predict. For the Tennessee Titans, Delanie Walker has somehow stayed right under the radar for the most part but has been one of the most consistent tight ends in fantasy for years.
Since 2014, Walker has finished no worse than the TE8. There is probably some guy in most leagues who has a pattern of drafting him every year. He doesn’t wow with big numbers, but consistently churns out solid stat lines. Last season he led the Titans both in receptions (74) and receiving yards (807). Going back to those numbers, he is showing no signs of slowing down.
However, Walker turns 34 in August and is entering a contract year. The Titans could start to phase him out of the offense if they decide they want to move on from him. Last year’s first-round pick, Corey Davis should gain a larger role in their offense. They also added Dion Lewis at running back, who can contribute in the passing game.
Walker’s large role in the offense the past few years could be more a result of a lack of a supporting cast around him. With other players emerging around him, this could be the year that his production begins to drop off.