It’s said that an eye on the past can help guide the future. In this article, I’ll look back at players who had high ADPs last season who’ve fallen out of favor in 2019 to see if there’s still reason for hope for these players. Every year, there are dozens of players who fail to deliver on high expectations and 2018 was no different. For each of these players, there were reasons why they were held in such high regard before last season and there were reasons why they failed to live up to the hype. I’m ultimately looking to see if there’s still reason to believe in these players even after the masses have turned their attention elsewhere.
NOTE: PPR ADP courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.
Tom Brady (2018 QB3, 2019 QB16)
Reasons for the hype in 2018: Brady showed no signs of slowing down as he won the NFL MVP and led the Patriots to the Super Bowl in 2017. He threw for 4577 yards with 32 TDs and 8 INTs, and he set a Super Bowl record with 505 passing yards against the Eagles.
Why he failed to live up to expectations: The NFL’s greatest QB of all-time won a Super Bowl at 41 years old and he somehow failed to up to his fantasy expectations. He averaged just 35.6 attempts per game (fewest since 2010) and 272.2 yards passing yards per game (fewest since 2014). Brady finished outside the top 12 at the position even with the team adding Josh Gordon early in the season and the team finishing second in offensive plays run per game (69.1).
Should we still be excited in 2019: Brady is still clearly playing at a high level coming off his sixth Super Bowl victory, but he gave us way too many floor performances last season — he failed to hit multiple TD passes in eight games. It also looks like he’ll be without Rob Gronkowski (retirement) and Josh Gordon (suspension) this season, although I’m not ruling either player out entirely for the 2019 season. Brady has struggled during his career without Gronk in the lineup and he has a lot more fantasy downside than upside with his current cast of receivers.
Russell Wilson (2018 QB4, 2019 QB10)
Reasons for the hype in 2018: Wilson played a hand in 97.4% of Seattle’s offensive touchdowns in 2017 — J.D. McKissic was the only Seahawk to account for an offensive TD on his own. Wilson led the league with 34 passing TDs and his 586 rushing yards and 3 rushing TDs helped him to finish as the QB2.
Why he failed to live up to expectations: Wilson threw for a career-high 35 TDs last season, but he attempted just 427 passes and averaged a measly 215.5 passing yards per game. He also failed to rush for a TD and he finished under 400 rushing yards for just the second time in his career — the other time came during an injury-plagued 2016 campaign.
Should we still be excited in 2019: Only Patrick Mahomes (8.6%) and Wilson (8.2%) finished with TD rates above 7% last season. Wilson has a career TD rate of 6.0% and he’ll be without his top target from recent seasons in Doug Baldwin, so Wilson is clearly due for some regression as a passer this season. I’m also not banking on more passing volume since OC Brian Schottenheimer clearly wants to pound the rock every week. Wilson does have room for more rushing production, but that’s tough to bank on in his first season his 30s since he’s had two of his worst rushing seasons in the last three years. Wilson well outperformed his usage last season and he’s correctly been dropped down a tier or two as compensation.
Cam Newton (2018 QB6, 2019 QB11)
Reasons for the hype in 2018: Cam finished the 2017 season blistering hot in the final 13 games and every indication last off-season pointed toward the Panthers throwing the ball even more. They got rid of awful WR Kelvin Benjamin and added dynamic playmakers Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel in consecutive drafts.
Why he failed to live up to expectations: Cam was a top-3 fantasy QB for most of the season until his throwing shoulder injury became too much and his play dropped off a cliff in Week 12. His rushing production also tailed off late in the year and his downfield passing was simply atrocious because of his injury.
Should we still be excited in 2019: Cam had successful shoulder surgery this off-season and he avoided the PUP list to start camp. Newton showed top-3 fantasy potential last season and he’s arguably in a better situation this season in his second season with OC Norv Turner. The Panthers have wisely given the keys to this WR room to after-the-catch demons D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, and Cam still has one of the league’s best receiving backs in Christian McCaffrey. Cam is surrounded by dynamic weapons and he has a great chance at recapturing his pre-shoulder injury form.
Kirk Cousins (2018 QB7, 2019 QB20)
Reasons for the hype in 2018: The Vikings spent big money on Cousins during the 2018 off-season, and the Vikings also brought in John DeFilippo to be an aggressive passing playcaller. Cousins also had one of the league’s best WR tandems in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs at his disposal, and he had finished as a top-10 fantasy QB in three straight seasons to end his Redskins’ tenure (2015-17).
Why he failed to live up to expectations: Cousins posted new career-highs in passing TDs (30) and in completion percentage (70.1%), but he still managed to be a slight disappointment because he averaged just 222.1 yards and 1.8 TDs per game in his final eight contests. Cousins may have had dynamic receivers at his disposal, but he didn’t have nearly enough time to get them the ball playing behind one of the league’s worst O-lines.
Should we still be excited in 2019: The change from DeFilippo to the more conservative Kevin Stefanski is bothersome for Cousins’ fantasy outlook, and I’m expecting his passing volume to dip this season. However, the Vikings did make some moves to help Cousins this off-season. They upgraded their offensive line by drafting center Garrett Bradbury in the first round, and they brought in QB whisperer Gary Kubiak as an “offensive advisor.” With an improved O-line and Kubiak’s offensive touch, Cousins has a chance to get his YPA back up from 7.1 in 2019 to his 7.9 average from 2014-18 in Washington, which would give him a chance to crack the top-12 once again.
Jimmy Garoppolo (2018 QB10, 2019 QB18)
Reasons for the hype in 2018: Jimmy G raised everyone’s expectations with his 5-0 record as a first-time 49ers’ starter to end the 2017 season. The marriage between Garoppolo and offensive whiz Kyle Shanahan looked destined for big things entering 2018 with a full off-season to work with each other.
Why he failed to live up to expectations: Jimmy G was one of the hottest players heading into the 2018 season, but his momentum quickly came to a halt after he tore his ACL in Week 3.
Should we still be excited in 2019: The masses have quickly moved on from Jimmy G this off-season, but he’s still just 27 years old and owns a career 8.2 YPA on 361 attempts. He’s also arguably in a much better situation than he was last season. George Kittle has quickly established himself as an elite TE and 2017-18 second-round WRs Dante Pettis and Deebo Samuel are poised to make some noise. We’re obviously dealing with a small career sample size when it comes to Jimmy G, and he’s also coming off a major knee injury. Still, I’m willing to bet on a talented QB with a playcaller I have complete trust in. Under Shanahan, the 49ers have still finished in the top half of league in total yards the last two seasons despite their messes at QB. The fantasy community may have been too eager to see Jimmy G succeed last season, but that same community has quickly forgotten about him this summer.
Matthew Stafford (2018 QB11, 2019 QB24)
Reasons for the hype in 2018: Stafford was the model of consistency heading into 2018 having finished as a top-12 QB in six of his last seven seasons. The Lions did bring in a new HC in Matt Patricia, but they elected to keep OC Jim Bob Cooter to keep continuity on offense for Stafford.
Why he failed to live up to expectations: Stafford may have been a consistent QB1 option before last season, but he hasn’t been an elite option since 2011. The bottom finally fell out on Stafford last season. He attempted an eight-year low 555 passes while averaging just 6.8 YPA with just 21 TD passes. WOOF. It didn’t help that the Lions traded away Golden Tate and Marvin Jones got hurt in the middle of the season, but HC Matt Patricia clearly has this team going in a run-heavy direction.
Should we still be excited in 2019: The Lions continued down their run-heavy path this off-season by bringing in Darrell Bevell to call plays. Bevell previously called plays for Marshawn Lynch in Seattle and Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, and I’m expecting to Kerryon Johnson to be the starting point of this offense. The Lions also ran the fourth-slowest offense — 32.64 seconds between plays — neutral situations (according to Football Outsiders). It’s tough to see where the passing volume is going to come from for Stafford unless this Lions’ defense craters, which I’m not banking on after some key defense pickups this off-season.
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