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Wide Receiver Busts for 2018 Fantasy Football

We are getting there folks. July 1 is just around the corner and this is the time to get ahead of your peers in Fantasy football. One crucial mistake every single season in Fantasy is drafting a player based on last season’s output. Often there are new factors that could mean negative regression in Fantasy football. A new team, coach, quarterback, offensive line issues, new offensive coordinator, new girlfriend, baby momma drama, etc. can drop a player’s production substantially from year to year. Today we’ll look at a couple players I expect to be wide receiver busts this coming season.

While some of those examples are jokes, this is not: Negative regression in Fantasy football happens every season. What I have noticed in the last few seasons is that there is a wide range of outcomes for wide receivers that does not get factored in when projecting players for Fantasy.

Deandre Hopkins 329.1 Fantasy points in 2015 were followed up by 197.4 in 2016 and he was almost universally drafted in the first round. This could have been avoided with informed decision making as the starting quarterback for the Texans going into 2016 was Brock Osweiler.

Let’s take a look at a couple of wide receiver busts that are due for negative regression so you can be prepared for Draft Day 2018.

2018 Wide Receiver Busts

Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

Last season the Vikings outperformed expectation as an offense. Case Keenum took over as the starting quarterback in Week 2 after replacing Sam Bradford (who replaced Teddy Bridgewater) with an injury. Keenum was brilliant and the Vikings defense was able to set a tone that would dictate their offensive scheme.

Keenum was able to exploit defenses by dumping the ball off to Jerick McKinnon and finding Adam Thielen, who lined up in the slot and the outside, early and often in ball games. Theilen had a whopping 142 targets last year and this was a product of, not only the offensive game plan, but the quarterback’s decision making on the field. While Keenum plays gritty and fearless, he also settles for the easy play often, which played a key part in the Vikings success last season.

Now Kirk Cousins steps into the starting quarterback role and he brings his own decision making skills with him. Cousins, by all means, can fill the shoes of Keenum, but regardless of game plan when Cousins drops back he sees the field differently.

In 2016 Cousins threw the ball 606 times for the Redskins (compared to 481 passing attempts for Keenum in 2017). This was the year Cousins was able to provide two wide receivers with 1,000 yards in the pass-first Redskins approach. However, Pierre Garcon was the target leader in this offense with 114. DeSean Jackson had 100 targets as he extended the field further than Garcon and demanded attention from his quarterback.

This is where the Stefon Diggs factor comes into play. Diggs enters his age-24 season with a brand new quarterback and a new level of stardom in the NFL following the Minneapolis Miracle. Cousins will be more inclined to throw the ball deeper down the field to Diggs and the three-year pro is going to demand more than 2017’s 94 targets.

In a run-first offense, with the highly anticipated return of Dalvin Cook and the progression of Diggs, it is hard to imagine a 2018 where Theilen gets 142 targets. His 91 catches for 1,276 yards and four touchdowns were good enough for WR8 in PPR and WR10 in standard.

Thielen’s great season should be viewed as his ceiling and drafting him at his  3.05 ADP (WR11 overall) presents risk in 2018. He is being drafted ahead of T.Y. Hilton, Larry Fitzgerald, Jarvis Landry, and Demaryius Thomas who have had proven Fantasy success for multiple seasons. Pump the brakes on Theilen as negative regression in Fantasy football is looming for the wide receiver this season. He could be one of Fantasy Footballs biggest wide receiver busts in 2018.

For more great Fantasy Football analysis, check out Full 60 Fantasy Football with Joe Pisapia, Scott Bogman, and The Welsh

Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions

Marvin Jones led the NFL last season with 18.0 yards per reception. Fantasy football is a brutal industry to be a part of. Rather than praise Jones for his dominant season, it is my job to analyze the likelihood of him repeating such a season.  It is a shame because I happen to like Jones and was very bullish on him going into 2017. However, anytime a player leads the league in any category, it must be taken into account as a factor that can determine projected negative regression in Fantasy football. Jones is unlikely to top his 2017 in terms of yards per reception, and it is unlikely he will lead the league in that statistic in 2018.

When looking at Jones’ career stats there is nothing that necessarily stands out as an outlier other than his finish in Fantasy for the year. It all came together in 2018 as he was the WR11 in PPR with 61 catches for 1,101 yards and nine touchdowns, a line not far off from prior totals for the Lions receiver.

Last season was his third straight year with 100 targets and he did have a career-high with 107. The reason we must be cautious when drafting Marvin Jones at his 5.09 ADP is not so much his talent or projected efficiency. It is the Lions desire to change their offensive philosophy that will likely cause negative regression for Jones.

The Lions were dead last in rushing attempts last year with 363 carries. They brought in Head Coach Matt Patricia and free agent LeGarrette Blount. Patricia won three Super Bowls as a member of the Patriots coaching staff, most recently in 2016 as Defensive Coordinator with Blount as the starting running back. Blount had over 1,000 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns in that season.

Patricia further made a statement by drafting Center Frank Ragnow in the first round. Ragnow will be inserted into the starting lineup right away. The Lions came back in the second round and drafted RB Kerryon Johnson out of Auburn with the 43rd overall pick – considered a reach by most analysts.

With an improved offensive line and the addition of Blount and Johnson it is obvious the Lions will have a new offensive approach in 2018 which limits Jones’ upside. Everything will have to break right for him to return value at his ADP. Jones has always been an up and down player when it comes to touchdowns. While the nine touchdowns he achieved in 2017 are not out of the realm of possibilities for this season, that large touchdown total will be a must to put him in the WR2 conversation.

The NFL Season is approaching. That means it’s time to head on over to Fantrax and start or join a league for the 2018 Fantasy Football season.

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