Fantasy Football

2018 Fantasy Football Difficult Projections


As we approach the kickoff to the 2018 season, let’s reflect on some of the topical issues and players that brought us to where we are. Every year is a new winding road in Fantasy Football and it branches off in all directions. There were the usual hype trains, injuries and all that, but we just love that fresh atmosphere surrounding this stuff in a new season.

One aspect of a new season we always know will happen is that our initial expectations are about to fall apart for several players and team situations.

That’s the drama we are about to experience.

Fantasy Football writers base a lot of content on analyzing projections that cover an area called the floor and ceiling. This general measure works well for finding that window for players with an established performance record, but what if they changed teams? How about the talented snap-starved rookies from the previous year? Or a new coaching staff?

We tend to undervalue or overvalue these and other situations. Regardless, it remains important to try to gauge the value of our fantasy players into a range between their low and high.

Which players were the cause of debate and difficult ranking this year? What situations fogged our fantasy lenses this off-season? How are matters settling as Week 1 nears?

2018 Fantasy Football Difficult Projections

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Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints

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Suspended or not, Mark Ingram was always going to be tough to rank in 2018.

Last season, Alvin Kamara nearly doubled Ingram’s receiving yardage out of the backfield 826 to 416. Although Kamara lifted his value through game-breaking ability, Ingram supplied most of the grind. He out-carried Kamara by nearly two to one with 35% more yardage.

Ingram powered the Saints ground attack and Kamara augmented it. Not the other way around. Kamara simply did more with his targets and touches than Ingram and most other players in the league.

At least we all know Kamara will not take over the Saints backfield in 2018. His ground touches probably increase, particularly during the suspension, but can we simply expect more of the same when Ingram returns? There are no guarantees that his role as before is a lock to continue.

This question is part of what made Ingram difficult to rank this off-season. Kamara and Ingram are the only running back tandem to each surpass 1500 scrimmage yards in one season. It’s certainly not repeatable, suspension or not.

Indulge me in some speculation. If Jonathan Williams performs well Ingram’s absence, then what? Fellow writer, Dennis Sosic of F6P, suggested a plausible Williams surge on The Fantasy Edge podcast. The Saints could start shopping Ingram and pull a fast one on us. They’ve done this sort of thing before.

The Seattle Backfield

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This one was a nuisance from the start. The Seahawks have an obsession to fly at ground level just like the good old BeastMode days. Pete Carroll likes ground and pound with great defense. It wins championships, so why not?

Ever since sending Center Max Unger to the Saints for Jimmy Graham, their running game has struggled. There are some patches of optimism here and there for the offensive line, but generally the progress has been painfully slow. The Seahawks remain with a real problem at right tackle.

The Hawks took Germain Ifedi in the 2016 draft.  George Fant, mostly basketball trained, made the Seattle roster in 2016 with just a single tryout. Both players signed on with the Seahawks on the same day, May 6, 2016.

Ifedi and Fant can barely play at the pro level. Ifedi is especially disappointing. They are among the lowest of the low at their position and right tackle is the weakest position in the NFL to begin with. The best ones convert to left tackle in order to cover the quarterback blind side. There are no lefty quarterbacks anymore, anywhere in the league.

What about the running backs?

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Just before I get into that, I want to mention at least one more aspect of Seattle’s offensive line woes first. If the Seahawks run to the outside in regular single back formations, then defenses can force contain to the left side. It makes the opposition’s job easier if the Seahawks cannot open both sides effectively.


Okay, on to the backs.

Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny caused us a lot of grief in evaluation this off-season. Right now Carson is a must-own choice because he earned the starter job. Rashaad Penny clings to higher value because Seattle will use their first round pick at some point.

This is a situation we’ll have to see resolved during the season. The best guess we have is Carson holds the early season upside and Penny beyond that. This makes Penny sound like a stash, but as long as he’s healthy you may find chances to plug him in the flex. This backfield has seen so many victims in recent years, Mike Davis could even emerge.

Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns

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The FantasyPros experts rank him anywhere from as high as WR6 to as low as WR44. This tells you the difficulty of finding exactly where Gordon stands. He currently holds a consensus rank of WR23 with an ADP of WR21.

Gordon is hard to value because he resumed his career after such a long absence from the game. We started to see some of his explosive talent in Week 13, but his catch percentage was poor. I’ll put that on Deshone Kizer.

So with Kizer, the small sample carries with it a poor quarterbacking context. Yet, Gordon resumed some fantasy vitality and even managed a 100+ yard game with Kizer. This leaves you to wonder how Gordon would be with a better passer.

If that was the only problem with evaluating Gordon, he’d just be like half the other players in the league. Unfortunately, other baggage frustrated our preseason evaluations.

In late July, Gordon announced he would miss the early part of training camp for his “treatment plan.” Many suspected this was a possible illegal substance setback, but the team responded well by applying the NFI (non-football injury) designation. By mid-August, Gordon was not yet in training camp and rumors turned to some kind of violation of the NFL rehab program.

Approaching the Season

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Since then, and up to the present, the league has given Gordon the green light to participate in football activities, he’s off the NFI list, and available for Week 1 against Pittsburgh. That’s not a given because now Gordon has a hamstring issue that may or may not be a factor to start the season.

There remains another issue. The usage of Jarvis Landry in preseason expanded our expectations slightly on his possible target share. This means Gordon owners might have to settle for 4-5 targets most weekends rather than 8-9 with a couple of 10+ games thrown in. I suspect Landry will have the more steady graph on targets and receptions. Moderate, but steady.

In summary about Gordon and his broad spectrum between floor and ceiling, I would conclude that the outlook is cautiously optimistic. In drafting Gordon, how many potentially big weeks can we expect? You don’t want Gordon in the “Sit” section of your favorite Start/Sit columnist almost every week. The Browns offense overall has to demonstrate improvement. Another season in the bottom five of offensive fantasy producing teams won’t help anyone.

Some Other Difficult Projections in Brief…

Dez Bryant, WR, Free Agent

Big name unsigned players are always a hassle to project. The longer Bryant remains without a team, the further he drops. The problem? He priced himself out of the market.

Coaches prepare their team blueprints during camp and prefer to have their players grow into their season playbooks. Bryant has fantasy value at best of tier WR4 and has no chance of camp competition to settle into any top role. Remove him from your cheatsheets because (small sigh of relief) the Dez ranking farce is finally over.

O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Howard would be easy to project as a potential TE1 if Cameron Brate didn’t gag the upside. Winston’s suspension doesn’t help matters either. Although these evaluation barriers exist, the good thing is we know Howard is a talented football player. This makes Howard a great bargain draft target based on his own capability and not his team situation.

Tennessee Titans Backfield

Of all the debates that raged during the off-season, none were perhaps louder than the Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis timeshare. Matters have settled somewhat and as fantasy drafting is now underway, most in fantasy have adjusted well to the Titans arrangement. I still believe Henry has more to lose than gain this season and Lewis the opposite.

Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears

Players coming off a season-long injury is tough enough, but when they come back to a new system altogether, that just adds to our projection complications. We can at least bank on a wholesome target share for A-Rob. All we need then is chemistry with Trubisky and boom – we have a WR1 again.

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If only it were that simple. Trubisky remains a work in progress and there are other pass-catchers ready to step up as go-to playmakers. I’m glass half-full on Robinson despite the uncertainty and would happily draft him from WR15-20.

Visit the F6P Fantasy Football Draft Kit Page for more advice to prepare for the 2018 season.

2018 Fantasy Football Draft Kit Categories
RankingsPosition PreviewsTeam PreviewsSleepersBusts

About Richard Savill

Richard is an NFL Fantasy Football Writer and Editor of Fantasy Six Pack. Host of The Fantasy Edge Podcast. FantasyPros Contributor. Member of the FSWA. Richard is known for his "outside the box" insight into NFL fantasy football. Winner of the 16-Team 2015 FSWA challenge.

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