News & Analysis

Who let you down? The fantasy disappointments of 2017

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 27: DeMarco Murray #29 of the Tennessee Titans runs with the ball during the first quarter of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium on October 27, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Fantasy championships have predominantly been decided and the book is now closed on the 2017 fantasy football season for the majority of leagues. In many cases, the best teams may not have won their league title, but whatever team that did end up on top likely had some unexpected names make big contributions.

For the teams that fell short there were players who didn’t meet expectations. Some owners had more of these players than others.

Injuries definitely dealt some blows this year, including to the likes of some big names – Aaron Rodgers, David Johnson, and Odell Beckham Jr. However, the more disappointing thing was the players that simply underperformed.

Here’s a look at seven highly drafted players that when selected this season ended up ruining fantasy teams. While some on this list may have had injuries be a factor in their underwhelming performance, most simply failed to deliver.

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

ADP: QB3/5.10
Actual finish: QB11

Brees not only fell out of Tier 1, but the veteran didn’t even finish as a top-10 QB. In New Orleans’ power running attack, he saw both his fantasy floor and ceiling go down.

The 38-year-old only tallied three 300-yard games and only passed for three or more touchdowns once. In comparison Brees reached the 300-yard mark in nine of his 16 starts a year ago and threw for three or more scores eight times.

His 35.33 dropbacks per game this year compared to the 44 dropbacks he averaged an outing in 2016 is a huge dropoff. Brees may have also missed his big-play target Brandin Cooks a bit this year, as his average depth of target fell from 7.7 yards to 6.8.

2018 outlook: He turns 39 in January and Brees is set for free agency, but clearly wants to stay in New Orleans. He may need to take a pay cut to do so, though. Assuming he’s with the Saints in 2018, expect Brees to still push for QB1 status. However, the days of pushing or eclipsing 5,000 passing yards appear to be behind him.

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

ADP: QB6/7.10
Actual finish: QB15

Some regression was expected for Ryan after 2016’s monster campaign and the departure of play-caller Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco. However, the dip down was further than most were expecting. Coming off a year in which he threw 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, Ryan will enter the final week of the regular season with only 19 TD passes and 12 picks. With a game to play, he’s also thrown for 1,166 fewer yards than he did a year ago.

Ryan only had two weeks all season where he was inside the top 10 at quarterback in fantasy points in 15 outings. He only finished as QB1 four times all season and finished outside the top 16 at the position nine times during that span.

2018 outlook: A year removed from the hangover of Shanahan’s departure should lead to some regression to the mean for the veteran. It appears that 2016 was a career year for Ryan, but next season could see him landing somewhere between the 15.2 fantasy points per game he produced this season and 22.1 points per contest he enjoyed a year ago.

Jay Ajayi, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

ADP: RB7/2.4
Actual finish: RB29

Ajayi was traded on Halloween from the Dolphins to the Eagles and many owners hoped that after a slow start that would breathe life into his value. However, his move to Philly proved to me more of a trick than a treat from a fantasy perspective.

He simply hasn’t seen the opportunities with his new team that he enjoyed in Miami. Before the deal Ajayi averaged 21.7 touches per game since than number has dipped down to 11.9 touches per contest.

What is a remarkable is that Ajayi has a combined 235 touches in 14 contests and has only managed to find the end zone twice all season. Through his three seasons a pro Ajayi has failed to score in 28 of his 38 games.

2018 outlook: Ajayi will go from being a second-round bust this season to perhaps a nice mid-round value next summer. He’s still just 24 years old and he’s signed cheap through next season. He should be a key piece in Philly’s running game in 2018. However, there are lingering concerns about his chronic knee condition that cannot be ignored.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans

ADP: RB8/2.6
Actual finish: RB17

After logging a ton of mileage over the years, Murray finally started to show signs of wear and tear during 2017. His 184 rushing attempts were his lowest total since 2012 as a Cowboy when he was limited to 10 games due to injury.

The veteran also saw his YPC fall from 4.4 to 3.6 and his YAC drop from 2.4 to 2.0 this season. The biggest dent to his fantasy value though came from the fact he only scored seven times after making 12 trips to the end zone last year.

Murray dealt with nagging hamstring and shoulder injuries throughout the year and that had an impact. Derrick Henry’s presence also played a factor as the workload was more evenly split this year compared to last season.

2018 outlook: With a birthday in February, Murray will be on the wrong side of the 30 in 2018. It remains unclear on whether he’ll return to Tennessee or not. Clearly the Titans are not all in on Derrick Henry, but the team may decide to add a younger runner in the draft or free agency. Murray’s days of being a workhorse RB1 fantasy contributor appear to be over.

Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

ADP: WR4/1.7
Actual finish: WR17

Evans was easily the most disappointing first-round pick of 2017. He scored just five times and it took him to Week 16 to do it, but he finally delivered his first 100-yard game of the season.

The Bucs’ wideout has finished inside the top-10 at the position in fantasy points only five times in 14 games in 2017, but none inside the top-five. Conversely, he’s not been among the 25 wide receivers six times during that span.

Jameis Winston missed some time and played through a shoulder injury and that had a ripple effect across the entire Tampa Bay offense. Evans enters Week 17 with 119 targets (11th in league), which is a big drop off after he led the NFL with 168 targets a year ago.

2018 outlook: Evans will be a nice bounceback candidate in 2018 and remains a top 10 receiver on my board. He did post two 12-TD catch campaigns in three seasons before this one and has the frame and talent to continue to be a contributor for years to come. A coaching change in Tampa Bay would be something to consider when determining his value for the upcoming season.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers

ADP: WR6/2.1
Actual finish: WR43

With Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) playing just seven games for the Packers, Nelson saw his 2017 numbers plummet. However, it wasn’t all on Rodgers’ injury as the veteran was seeing a dip in production well before his quarterback was forced to the sidelines.

During the first five weeks when Nelson had full games with Rodgers under center he scored six touchdowns and that kept him among the top fantasy producers. From Week 6 and on the veteran wide receiver failed to find the end zone.

Even when Rodgers was under center Nelson didn’t post monster yardage numbers as he failed to break 80 yards in a single contest this season. The veteran also saw his PPR fantasy points-per-opportunity average go from 0.45 in 2016 to 0.27 in 2017.

2018 outlook: A return of a healthy Rodgers will definitely keep Nelson on the fantasy radar as a fantasy starter. However, owners should definitely tread with caution. The veteran will be 33 next season and will likely be overrated by many. Nelson is best viewed as a high-risk, TD-dependent WR2 moving forward.

Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders

ADP: WR9/2.5
Actual finish: WR42

Cooper definitely dealt with some injury issues down the stretch this year with a concussion and a high-ankle sprain. However, this campaign was a major disappointment long before the injury bug bit.

He missed only two games, but failed to finish a couple others. The first six weeks Cooper was healthy though, yet his production was brutal. During that stretch he was only WR72 in PPR scoring with just 18 catches on 35 targets for 146 yards and one score.

Touchdowns have been hard to come by for Cooper as he only has scored 17 times in 45 NFL career games. The bigger concern from this season is the fact his catch rate dropped from 65 percent a year ago to just 54 percent in 2017.

2018 outlook: Cooper was overrated this season. He still has to prove he can be more consistent before being locked in as a WR1 in fantasy. There are also some big questions around Derek Carr moving forward and the Raiders’ offense as a whole. Cooper still offers tremendous upside and will just 24 when next seasons being though don’t sleep on him too long.

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