News & Analysis

5 fantasy options who won't bounce back in 2018

Jan 14, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Willie Snead (83) reacts to missing a pass in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Every offseason, we see the types of articles — Five Candidates to Bounce Back in Fantasy Football. The truth is that not every one of the previous year’s disappointing players are going to hit and return to greatness. Sometimes last year’s regression in statistics isn’t just an outlier, but the beginning of a downward trend. There are myriad reasons as to why this is happening, but it can usually be attributed to age, injury, lack of playing time, and/or change in scheme (sometimes all four). Whatever the reason, the harsh reality is that not all players are primed for a bounceback season. Here are five candidates likely not to bounce back from their disappointing 2017 seasons.

Willie Snead, WR, New Orleans Saints

Snead was one of the more surprising whiffs of 2017 with the Saints implementing a heavy running attack. He was highly touted on the back of consecutive hundred-target seasons, where he had totaled 1,879 yards in 2015 and 2016. But he not only began the 2017 season serving a three-game suspension, but aggravated a hamstring injury during the week of his projected return, delaying his season debut until Week 6. By then, the Saints never really found a need to get him going. The efficient combination at running back between Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara led to the Saints shifting their offensive identity and relying on those two as their main focal point.

Their rushing success led to the Saints finishing the year running the sixth-fewest plays out of three-receiver sets, subsequently leading to Snead playing on just 36.8 percent of the team’s offensive snaps (in games he was active). Brandon Coleman regularly out-snapped Snead, as he found some early-season success operating as a bigger receiver in the slot for Drew Brees to target. Snead enters the 2018 season fourth on the depth chart in an offense that ran the ball 43.6 percent of the time (13th-most). He never saw more than three targets in a game last year and looks destined to maintain that low-volume role as the team prioritizes touches for Ingram and Kamara.

DeMarco Murray, RB

Leaving Philadelphia for Tennessee was a remarkable move by Murray in 2016, as he finished the year as the fantasy RB5 and led the AFC in rushing. However, 2017 showed a major setback for him in terms of effectiveness, where he finished the year with 3.6 yards per carry (career average 4.5) and routinely failed to pick up available yards on the ground. His yards after contact per attempt dropped from 2.39 in 2016 down to 2.03 in 2017. His number of runs that went for 15 or more yards dropped from nine to four. His efficiency and overall play saw him go from 18.4 PPR points per game in 2016 down to 11.4 in 2017.

The Titans front office could no longer keep budding star Derrick Henry stabled and off the field, announcing last week that Murray had played his final down in Tennessee. He now finds himself contending with a deep, talented pool of incoming rookies for snaps on a new team. Until we find out what team he lands with, Murray is tough to project for another 200-plus touches and any type of bounce back entering the 2018 season.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Buffalo Bills

In Benjamin’s three active seasons in the league, he’s finished as the WR16 (2014), WR27 (2016), and WR47 (2017). This backward movement for Benjamin may be here to stay as he enters his first offseason with the Bills after being traded to them mid-season last year. Following the exodus of Tyrod Taylor to the Browns, Buffalo will surely make a move to acquire a quarterback after the disastrous results they had from Nathan Peterman under center. Buffalo currently owns the Nos. 21 and 22 draft picks in the first round – likely too far away to draft one of the top options, but we could always see some time of package deal to move up if they see a quarterback prospect falling. There will also be several free agent journeymen prime for the picking. Unfortunately for Benjamin, it may not particularly matter who they have starting at quarterback.

The Bills’ offensive identity has revolved around the run (second-highest rush play percentage last year), leaving targets and opportunities at a premium for Benjamin and the rest of the receivers. In the six games Benjamin played for the Bills last year, he saw just a 15.3 percent market share of the team’s available targets. Any ounce of optimism for a bounce back by Benjamin should be tempered until we find out who lines up for Buffalo under center this upcoming year.

Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans

If you were hoodwinked into believing the change in scenery from Miami to Houston would let Miller break out of his shell into a premier, feature back, you weren’t alone. After two back-to-back RB1 seasons in Miami on limited touches (RB9 and RB6), Miller turned in two disappointing seasons as a Texan (RB20 and RB16), failing to live up to the billing. Miller finished the 2017 season with a disastrous 3.7 yards per carry and 0.34 PPR fantasy points per opportunity (67th-worst out of 79 qualifying). He’s now a potential cut candidate (Houston could save $5.75M) with last year’s third-round pick, D’Onta Foreman waiting in the wings.

Foreman’s rookie campaign was cut short due to injury, but he looked promising in the snaps he was given. He forced a missed tackle on 12.82 percent of his rushing attempts, the same exact rate as Christian McCaffrey and a higher rate than Ezekiel Elliott (12.4 percent) and LeSean McCoy (11.5). Miller could very likely see his role in Houston relegated to just third-down work, or potentially find himself on a new team if Houston needs the cap space. His advanced statistics from last year indicate it could be the beginning of the end for Miller.

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons 

A popular regression candidate of many entering 2017, Ryan’s production saw a massive step backward following his historic 2016 campaign. Ryan threw for nearly 1,000 fewer yards (849), 18 fewer touchdowns (38 to 20), and saw his yards per attempt drop from 9.3 down to 7.7, even as his underlying numbers remained more than solid. The change in coordinator from Kyle Shanahan to Steve Sarkisian hindered the entire Atlanta offense, with the results being most evident in Ryan’s end-of-season numbers. Taylor Gabriel is expected to test free agency, but the majority of this offensive unit will likely stay intact. It’s a longshot for Ryan to ever repeat his 2016 success, where he posted a career-high 7.1 percent touchdown rate, and we can reasonably expect Ryan to continue to perform as a matchup-dependent fantasy QB2.

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