Sophomore Campaigns: Who slumps and who jumps?
Honored to present my first contribution to the We Know Fantasy community! I decided to give my thoughts and projections on how last year's rookie class will fare with a full NFL season under their belt.
Typically NFL players improve greatly in their second seasons, this is especially true of wide receivers and quarterbacks. Generally, running backs transition much easier from college and make an impact in their first season, i.e. Saquon Barkley. Quarterbacks of recent have broken the trend of needing 3-to-4 years to develop, but I'd still hesitate to trust a rookie QB to lead my fantasy team.
Wide receivers are usually the most improved skill position players in their second season. They become refined route runners, get used to dealing with press coverage, learn where to sit in the zone, etc. So I'm pretty high on a few WRs from last year's rookie crop that a lot of people may have already crossed off as a bust, at least for fantasy purposes.
Lastly, the tight end position. These guys notoriously take 3-to-4 years to really find their stride. However there's not many elite, consistent fantasy TEs to rely on. So it's not impossible to find a late round younger player that may sneak into the top 8-10 tight ends this year.
The following list excludes players who missed their rookie campaigns (Derrius Guice) along with players that have already proven elite (Baker Mayfield; Saquon Barkley.) Also take into account my projected stats are assuming the player plays 16 games, something a lot of these guys didn't do last year. With all that being said, here's my insight on the 2018 draft class.
1.) Courtland Sutton Sutton was widely regarded as the best WR coming out of his class. His rookie numbers were disappointing, due to inconsistent quarterback play, a questionable offensive line, and aforementioned usual struggles of rookie wide-outs. I expected a much more polished player in 2019 who also benefits from improved quarterback play.
2018 stats: 42 receptions, 704 yards, 4 TDs 2019 projection: 65 receptions, 950 yards, 7 TDs
2.) Sam Darnold Darnold's rookie season went pretty much as expected for a young signal caller thrown into the fire surrounded by a sub-par cast of play-makers. However, a solid offensive line, a healthy and promising Quincy Enunwa, along with three legitimate receiving threats out of the backfield (Bell, Montgomery, McQuire) should provide the safety outlet passes Darnold desperately missed last year.
2018 stats: 2,865 yards, 17 TDs, 15 INTs 2019 projection: 3,600 yards, 26 TDs, 13 INTs
3.) D.J. Chark A quickly forgotten about player due to a statistically disappointing year, Chark is absolutely in line for an expanded role this season. Jacksonville's offensive roster was so injury riddled, nobody on that side of the ball was worth having on your fantasy team last year. A decimated offensive line, a ragtag group of receivers, and sub-par quarterback play all spells disappointment for a rookie wide receiver. Chark has exceptional speed and size, the line is healthy and deeper, but the big difference here is the new QB under center.
2018 stats: 14 receptions, 174 yards, 0 TDs 2019 projection: 48 receptions, 650 yards, 6 TDs
4.) James Washington Everybody has this guy on their radar this year, and if you don't, you need to. Antonio Brown ate up a huge amount of targets, now that Washington is primed to step into the number two role in Steel City, his volume should increase dramatically. This could very possibly be the biggest steal of this years fantasy drafts.
2018 stats: 16 receptions, 217 yards, 1 TD 2019 projection: 55 receptions, 725 yards, 6 TDs
5.) Josh Allen Josh Allen really started to hit his stride late last season, and proved himself as a legitimate run threat from anywhere on the field. But an underwhelming supporting cast led to low scoring, and a lot of mistakes trying to do too much with nobody open. Having a year of experience, and new check-down options in T.J. Yeldon and Cole Beasley should boost his completion percentage and help convert more 3rd downs to keep drives alive. The offensive line, one of the worst in 2018, also appears to more stout heading into 2019.
2018 stats: 2,074 yards, 10 TDs, 12 INTs 631 rushing yards, 8 TDs 2019 projection: 3,400 yards, 22 TDs, 11 INTs 550 rushing yards, 6 TDs
1.) Lamar Jackson Jackson wasn't a huge fantasy factor last season due to only having started seven games. However he lit the league on fire, winning a string of games to push Baltimore into the playoffs. His athletic ability and field vision from the QB spot is almost unprecedented. However, Jackson is of a slight frame, which leads me to find a hard time trusting him to make it through 16 games with his playing style. Also, defensive coaches get paid too. Teams will adapt to stack the box and play a 1-2 man spy concept and force Jackson to win with his arm 1-on-1 from the pocket. I don't believe Jackson has the accuracy at this stage of his career to be successful as a passer.
2018 stats: 1,201 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs 695 rushing yards, 5 TDs 2019 projection: 2,950 yards, 19 TDs, 16 INTs 780 rushing yards, 7 TDs
2.) Nick Chubb Chubb actually had a pretty successful rookie season, and seemed to get better as the year went on. Putting Chubb on the "slump list" is more about the addition of Kareem Hunt. Even with him missing half the season, I see a significant usage drop for Chubb when Hunt comes back. I just cant rationalize spending too much draft capital on a player you will only start for 7 early season games or so.
2018 stats: 996 rushing yards, 8 TDs 20 receptions, 149 yards, 2 TDs 2019 projection: 830 rushing yards, 6 TDs 24 receptions, 175 yards, 2 TDs
3.) Phillip Lindsay Man did this guy come out of nowhere. Undrafted with a heavy chip on his shoulder, Lindsay made the Pro Bowl as a rookie while touting a 5.4 YPC. This is an unheard of number for the amount of carries he took, one hes highly unlikely to repeat. That along with what I'm predicting is a more 50/50 split with Royce Freeman this year lands Lindsay on the "slump list." Barely.
2018 stats: 1,037 rushing yards, 9 TDs 35 receptions, 241 yards, 1 TD
2019 projection: 925 rushing yards, 7 TDs 35 receptions, 265 yards, 1 TD
4.) Kerryon Johnson Johnson had a great rookie campaign, finally giving Detroit a real threat on the ground, their first in decades really. Johnson doesn't make the list due to his talent, but I see some vultured touchdowns at the hands of newly acquired C.J. Anderson, and as long as Theo Riddick is in town, no other Detroit back is going to give your fantasy team help through the air.
2018 stats: 641 rushing yards, 3 TDs 32 receptions, 213 yards, 1 TD 2019 projection: 825 rushing yards, 6 TDs 35 receptions, 245 yards, 1 TD
5.) Antonio Callaway Callaway showed the speed necessary to be a viable deep threat in this league, however there are a lot of questions about him off the field that could impact his fantasy value if he ends up not playing 16 games. That's not the real reason he's on this list though. With the addition of Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns have too many mouths to feed in what could be one of the most explosive offenses in football this year. Wow, that felt weird to write.
2018 stats: 43 receptions, 583 yards, 5 TDs 2019 projection: 35 receptions, 520 yards, 3 TDs