As everyone knows, it is hard to get back-to-back productive seasons from Fantasy players. In 2018, there were multiple players who played their absolute best and reached their Fantasy ceiling. Due to those players reaching their ceiling, they will come back down and regress. The reasons for a regression could be due to new or returning teammates, injury concerns, or unrepeatable production. Out of the eight players that will be discussed there will be two QBs, two RBs two WRs, and two TEs.
Let me make this clear, a regression candidate is not like a bust candidate. When a player is being considered to possibly regress that means a dip in their production from the previous season. A player who is being labeled a bust candidate will not live up to the hype at their current ADP (average draft position).
An Example of a player who “regressed” was Russell Wilson. In 2017, he finished as QB 1 but then fell to QB 9 in 2018. An example of a player who was a “bust” last season was Jaguars RB, Leonard Fournette. He was being drafted in the first three rounds as a fringe RB1 starter or as a great RB2 option. At the end of the season, Fournette finished as the 39th best back in Half-PPR leagues. Being drafted as a top 12 RB and then finishing as the 39th RB, just ahead of Duke Johnson, Wendell Smallwood, and Alex Collins is the definition of being a bust.
The first player on this list isn’t a surprise because almost everyone in the industry has him on their lists. This QB lit the NFL and the Fantasy Football world on fire in 2018. He also joined elite company with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as the only QB’s to throw 50 TD’s in a season.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Most people in the Fantasy community have Mahomes as their number one ranked QB because of his historic season. Don’t get it wrong, he will once again put up superior numbers, but not like what he did in 2018. The loss of Kareem Hunt, Sammy Watkins inability to stay healthy, and now a year of film on Mahomes are all cause for concern. The former Texas Tech Red Raider had a once in a lifetime statistical year, but those numbers are basically unrepeatable.
The return of Tyreek Hill is great for Mahomes’ Fantasy value, but with his past behavior, he still is questionable to play the whole season. As I mentioned earlier, Sammy Watkins has a tough time staying healthy and has only played a full season once and that was in 2014. Mahomes could be in a tough spot if his top two receivers fail to stay on the field.
Over the last decade, there has been only two QB’s, Drew Brees (2012) and Aaron Rodgers (2011 and 2009), that finished top two. In that time frame the other QB’s that finished first overall, the following year went QB 9, QB 29, QB 17, QB 7, QB 4, and QB 11. Is he really worth the risk at his current ADP?
At his current ADP of 21 according to Fantasy Pros, that is just entirely too soon. Players such as Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, and teammate Damien Williams are going around Mahomes, which is insane. People should wait on the 2018 MVP, build their team with pieces like Allen and Evans, and draft QBs like Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, and Andrew Luck in the next few rounds. Don’t expect 5,000 yards and 50 TD’s again, but a more realistic 4,000 to 4,300 passing yards and 31 to 35 TD’s.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Another QB who might have reached his ceiling in 2018 was Big Ben. He had one of his best seasons ever with career highs in attempts, passing yards, completions, TD’s, but tied his most interceptions ever. One of the reasons why he had so many passing attempts and yards is because of the defense having a tough time slowing down opposing offenses. At the end of the season, 3,697 passing yards and 27 passing TD’s were allowed by Pittsburgh. On top of that, the defense also gave up 360 total points.
Last season, there were questions about just how efficient the Steelers would be without Le’Veon, but James Conner stepped up with 1,470 total yards and 12 rushing TD’s. Now heading into 2019, Roethlisberger and the Steelers won’t have one of the best WR’s, Antonio Brown to throw to anymore. Due to his end of season and offseason actions, Brown was eventually traded to the Oakland Raiders. Without AB there anymore, that leaves 104 catches, 168 targets, 1,297 receiving yards, and 15 TD’s open to the rest of the roster.
Pittsburgh wideouts, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Ryan Switzer, and Eli Rodgers cumulative could make up for that lost production, but that is a difficult task. Finishing as the third-best QB, behind Matt Ryan and Mahomes, and leading the league in passing yards are two accomplishments that are almost impossible to do again in 2019. Without Antonio Brown on the roster, surpassing or repeating his previous season statistics could prove too much for Roethlisberger forcing him into a guaranteed regression.
James White, New England Patriots
In a crowded New England backfield, it was only a matter before someone ascended the depth chart and led the pack. That leader was surprising, James White. The multiple games that Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, and Josh Gordon missed were the main reasons for why White was successful last season. His true value in Fantasy came in both Half-PPR and PPR scoring formats. Half-PPR he finished as RB 8 and in PPR he was RB 7,
Last season was a historic campaign for White after setting career highs in multiple categories. He set personal best in rushing attempts, rushing yards, rushing TD’s, yards per attempt, receptions, targets, receiving yards, and receiving TD’s.
At the end of the year, he finished as the target leader for New England and also led the team in receiving touchdowns as well as total touchdowns. This truly was a career season for the former Wisconsin Badger, but new faces in New England will lead to his regression.
The following new Patriots will all hinder White’s fantasy value, Demaryius Thomas, Maurice Harris, Ben Watson, N’Keal Harry, Dontrelle Inman, and rookie Damien Harris. All six of those players will see targets from Tom Brady and not to mention that Julian Edelman will most likely lead the team in targets, catches, and yards. The only reason that Edelman didn’t lead the team in either catches or targets was because of his four-game suspension to begin the season.
White is still a great Flex or RB3 option, but his new teammates will take away looks and he will not be close to another top eight RB this season.
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
After finishing as the best RB in Fantasy the previous season is difficult to repeat, but having chronic knee problems and your team drafting a rookie RB that will eat into touches will make the task impossible to do again. Former Georgia Bulldog, Todd Gurley, has been the talk of the NFL and Fantasy since late in the 2018-2019 season due to his lack of play. Seeing limited snaps in all of the postseason and Super Bowl raised many eyebrows and it was confirmed that he has arthritis in his knee. Due to his injury, Gurley is slipping into the second, third, and sometimes fourth round of Fantasy drafts.
It’s a large gamble to draft a player who just one season ago was the highest scoring RB in both Standard and Half-PPR leagues and now isn’t guaranteed to see more than 18 touches a game. Looking at his production from last season, his 21 total TD’s, 17 of which are rushing, were both career highs. He did play 14 regular-season games and saw 315 touches, but in the postseason, he only got 34 touches. Those touches average out to just 11 per game, compared to backup, C.J. Anderson‘s, 16 touches. It’s evident that Gurley’s knee is something to keep an eye on throughout the season.
To reiterate a previous point, Gurley’s arthritic knee is not something Fantasy owners want to hear about. Other backs such as Zeke, Saquon, Kamara, McCaffrey, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, and another possible breakout RBs will make Gurley’s campaign to repeat as RB 1 less and less likely. At the end of the day, Gurley has the upside of being a top-five RB, but can he be trusted with the limited knowledge we have about his health?
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
This might come as a shock to many, but Thielen isn’t going to have the same success as he did in 2018. This Minnesota Viking WR exploded like a maniac to start the season. He had eight straight games with over 100 receiving yards and double-digit targets. During those eight games, he caught 74 balls for a total of 825 yards and six TDs on 89 targets. After that stretch, he only surpassed 80 receiving yards twice as well as having two games with 10-plus targets.
While RB, Dalvin Cook, was inactive Thielen was at his utmost productive. In those five games without Cook, Thielen had 557 receiving yards on 48 catches and reached endzone four times while seeing just 59 targets. On the contrary, when Cook was active, he didn’t see as much success. During the 11-game sample size, the former Minnesota State WR, saw 94 targets catching 65 passes for 816 and just five TD’s.
Ending the season as the seventh-best WR in all Fantasy scoring formats and reaching his ceiling are two ways to lead into a regression year. The return of Odell Beckham, A.J. Green, and breakout capabilities of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Amari Cooper, and others will push Thielen into a possible outside top 12 finish.
Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders
If Antonio Brown stayed with the Pittsburgh Steelers then he would’ve been in consideration for the best overall WR in Fantasy, but that’s not the case. AB threw a temper tantrum and acted a fool to eventually be shipped out to the Oakland Raiders. Going from a possible Hall of Famer, Ben Roethlisberger, to an average QB, at best, in Derek Carr will obviously make Brown into a someone that will regress in 2019.
For the Oakland Raiders last season, there were just two players who caught more than 65 passes. It was Jalen Richard and Jared Cook, but retiree, Jordy Nelson did contribute with 63 catches, too. The departures of Nelson and Cook vacates 189 targets for Brown. Due to the number of available targets and lack of receiving options, AB will still be valuable just because of pure volume.
Out of all his 2018 statistics, the one that will be the hardest to repeat are his 15 TD’s. If you take away just 6 TD’s from AB and drop his points by 36 he would finish as WR8 in FantasyPros Half-PPR scoring. That is a more realistic finish for him, but just like Thielen, an outside top 10 finish isn’t unthinkable.
Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts
After escaping the stagnant Detroit Lions, Ebron got to show his potential in just one season with the Colts. He exploded in 2018 for 13 TDs which was two more than his entire career in Detroit. On top of that impressive TD count, he also saw career highs in receptions, targets, and receiving yards. He was second on the team in both targets, catches, and receiving yards as well, just behind T.Y. Hilton.
One of the main reasons for his successful season was the absence of fellow TE, Jack Doyle. While Doyle was battling injuries and inactive, in 10 games Ebron saw 88 targets, catching 48 passes, for 522 yards, and reaching the endzone six times. It’s evident that he was relied on heavily but look at when Doyle was active.
In the 6 games when Jack was on the field, Ebron’s production was a completely different story. The former Lion had 18 catches, on 22 targets, for 228 yards, but scored seven times. Seeing less than four targets per game when Doyle was active compared to almost nine targets when Doyle was inactive is a surprising stat. It’s a tough road ahead for Ebron to repeat as a top-four TE in 2019.
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
Entering the season as a top-three player at his position makes Kittle a surprising name to have on the list, but it’s for a good reason. The new-look 49ers won’t be relying on him as much this season and for that reason, he should see a regression from how well he played in 2018. Not only did San Francisco draft two outstanding rookie receivers, but they have other players who stepped up late last season and returning playmakers.
Kittle was the go-to receiving option for the injury-plagued 49ers. He led the team in every receiving category except yards per reception. He racked up 88 receptions on 136 targets and the next leading receiver caught 42 passes on just 66 targets. George Kittle more than double both that player’s targets and catches. It’s going to be tough for him to have that type of production in the upcoming season.
All these players should see between 50 to 110 targets this season: Deebo Samuel, Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, and George Kittle. There were only two players on the whole roster who saw more than 50 targets last year, George Kittle and Kendrick Bourne. With all those mouths to feed, Kittle is sure to see less than 115 targets.
He is still a great option at TE, but don’t expect the 88 reception and 1,377 receiving yard production from a year ago.