Fantasy Football

2018 Fantasy Football Mid-Season Draft Review: Where Did We Go Wrong?

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Through the first seven weeks of the season, fantasy owners have started to discover where they missed in the pre-draft process.

Many players have significantly outperformed their average draft positions (ADP), while some, to put it nicely, have not. Players such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Devonta Freeman, Dalvin Cook, and Leonard Fournette, have not performed up to their ADP because of a significant injury. The opposite is true for players who have had increased opportunities because of injuries.

This article will not be considering either group of players. Below are the mid-season busts at each position, provided with explanations on why they failed to live up to their average draft position and what fantasy owners may have overlooked when drafting them.


Disclaimer: I liked a lot of these players coming into the draft, but had I focused more on certain statistics and news I could have avoided them.

2018 Fantasy Football Mid-Season Draft Review

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Quarterback Bust

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

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This is not an attack on Wilson’s talent, he still is one of the best at the position. His situation, however, has been unfortunate.

It was known coming in that Schottenheimer was trying to establish the run, which should’ve set off alarms when Seattle was already league average in pass attempts. Seattle has thrown the ball the least amount in the league this year, even having more rushing than pass attempts.

It was also known that he had one of the worst offensive lines in the league (30th per Pro Football Focus), especially when it came to pass-blocking. His receiving corps looked to be the worst he’s ever had, especially with Baldwin injured late in the offseason. His receiving corps rank No. 21 in target separation, much lower than their No. 2 rank last year. The supporting cast and offensive system around him have limited Wilson’s fantasy value.

Running Back Busts

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

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Even though he was playing with an aging and inefficient Demarco Murray, Derrick Henry received 29 total red-zone touches last season. Against a stacked front, the 247-pound Alabama product averaged only 4.0 yards per carry.

While with the Patriots last season, Dion Lewis received 47 red-zone touches (7th highest among running backs). Against a stacked front, Lewis averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

Henry had only 17 targets last year, 72nd among running backs. While Lewis only had 35 targets last year, he did have a significant passing-game role with New England in 2015 (36 catches, 388 receiving yards) and in college (10.3% target share).

It seemed unlikely Henry’s targets and red-zone touches would increase much, if any, with Lewis replacing Demarco Murray. For as much as experts talked about how great Henry was last year in limited work, he only averaged 4.2 yards per carry and 0.70 fantasy points per opportunity (84th among running backs). Both of those numbers are even lower this year.

It was hard not to love Henry’s athletic profile, but it didn’t appear that his role nor efficiency would change much to justify a top-20 pick at the position.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

Like Russell Wilson, there is no denying Johnson’s talent. Johnson returned to an Arizona offense that had lost play-caller Bruce Arians, transitioning instead to the incompetent Mike McCoy. In 2017, McCoy’s offense in Denver averaged only 18.1 points per game (27th in the league). When David Johnson had his breakout season, the Cardinals were scoring 26.1 points per game (6th in 2016).

Touchdown regression was due regardless, but his projected touchdowns should have been even lower because of the poor offensive scheme he was playing in. For a player that was already going to see a lot of stacked boxes, Arizona had the 27th ranked offensive line according to Pro Football Focus coming into the season.

A combination of a low-scoring offense, poor offensive line, and touchdown regression should have made Johnson more of a top-10 running back instead of one drafted in the top-5.

Royce Freeman/Rashaad Penny, Denver Broncos/Seattle Seahawks

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Both rookie running backs were selected inside the top-30 at the position, coming in with uncertain roles despite the draft capital spent on them. Royce Freeman looked to be in a timeshare with Devontae Booker, while Rashaad Penny was projected to be sharing work with Chris Carson.

Freeman has been splitting some work with Booker, but Phillip Lindsay has emerged as the leader in the Denver backfield. Rashaad Penny has spent most of the year behind both Chris Carson and Mike Davis.

While the Lindsay and Davis roles are surprising, could it really have been expected that either rookie was going to get most of the work? Pete Carroll had been notorious for going with players he believes are better, regardless of what the team had invested in (Matt Flynn/Russell Wilson). Carroll also mentioned multiple times Chris Carson was the leader of the backfield.

Under Vance Joseph last year, three Denver running backs had a snap share above 18 percent. This pattern has followed into 2018 with Booker, Lindsay, and Freeman all averaging over 29% of the team’s offensive snaps.

Though they are receiving limited touches, both Penny and Freeman haven’t helped their case with uninspiring play. Penny is averaging.55 fantasy points per opportunity (93rd among running backs), while Freeman is averaging 0.79 (60th). A limited role and inefficiency in below average offenses have left fantasy owners disappointed in drafting these two rookies. Fellow rookies Sony Michel and Kerryon Johnson have not received a full workload either, but their efficiency and role in above-average offenses have kept them fantasy relevant.



Wide Receiver Busts

Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders/Dallas Cowboys

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Fantasy owners have been on a rollercoaster ride with Cooper this year highlighted by inconsistency.

Fantasy owners should have seen this coming, however, as 4-of-14 games last season resulted in performances outside the top-80 at wide receiver. Last season Cooper had two top-10 performances, while this year he has only one.

It’s hard to justify a top-20 pick at the position when you’re receiving more potential week-losing performances than week-winning ones. The worst part of his inconsistency this year is that many fantasy owners have started him coming off a strong performance, which has significantly decreased their chances of winning (2.85 fantasy points per game coming off a 20 plus point game).

Moving forward as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, hopefully Cooper can redeem himself for fantasy owners. Only time will tell though.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

Arizona’s three worst seasons in passing yards per game since Fitzgerald was drafted were in 2004, 2010, and 2012, with an average finish of 27.7. In those three seasons, Fitzgerald averaged 12.9 fantasy points per game.

In all other seasons as a Cardinal, Fitzgerald averaged 16.7 fantasy points per game. The Cardinals’ average finish in passing yards per game in these seasons was 9.1.

Under Bruce Arians and with Carson Palmer, Arizona never ranked less than 15th in passing yards per game. Last offseason Arians and Palmer retired. They were replaced by a combination of Mike McCoy, Sam Bradford, and a rookie quarterback. Through seven weeks of the 2018 season, Arizona is ranked 31st in passing yards per game and Fitzgerald is having the worst fantasy season of his career.

Arizona’s lack of a prolific passing game has clearly affected Fitzgerald’s fantasy value even worse than it has in the past. Fitzgerald’s poor performance has also been in part due to lingering injuries. He has yet to sit out a game, but looking back, it was fair to question how he would respond to minor injuries at his old age. Marshawn Lynch and Ted Ginn have already been sent to injured reserve after dealing with multi-week injuries.

Long-time fantasy players hate to see Fitzgerald fade into his twilight years, but owners know next year to avoid aging wide receivers in bottom-tier passing offenses.

Chris Hogan, New England Patriots

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Hogan was a popular breakout pick for many, as he had a big opportunity with Brandin Cooks gone and Julian Edelman suspended for the first four weeks of the season.

The wide receiver can be a very volatile position week-to-week, however, so drafting Hogan high based on a four-week boost with Edelman out was a poor decision. Just because Edelman was out didn’t mean Hogan was bound for a significant uptick in targets.

Though he was averaging 12.2 fantasy points per game in 2017, a third of Hogan’s games resulted in one reception. He also only had one game over 75 yards, relying heavily on touchdowns. He was getting the red-zone targets likely because of Cooks’ weakness in the red-zone (career-high is 12 red-zone targets) and the absence of Edelman.

From 2013-2016, Edelman averaged 18.5 red-zone targets per year. When he played with Edelman in 2016, Hogan received 10 red-zone targets.

Many of us overlooked the role Edelman has inside the 20. Without a significant red-zone role and limited opportunities when Edelman returned, Hogan didn’t seem likely to a huge reception or yardage year based off his career. Hogan’s career highs through 2017: 41 receptions; 680 receiving yards. The 30-year old “breakout candidate” was being drafted as a top-25 wide receiver this season.

Tight End Bust

Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

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While injured players are not included in this list, it was not exactly justified taking a 33-year old tight end coming off foot surgery. The injury this season should not be held against him, but it definitely paid off taking shots at younger and more athletic players like Njoku or Kittle later in the draft.

The problem with Olsen, however, is that his games last year when he was “healthy” weren’t all that great. In the five games last season when Olsen played at least 70% of the team’s snaps, he averaged 6.4 targets and three receptions per game. Those numbers would both be the career-lows in Carolina if projected for a 16-game season.

This likely has something to do with the emergence of Devin Funchess and a big pass-catching role for Christian McCaffrey. Funchess and McCaffrey have stayed busy even with Olsen back, as they have taken away 30 total targets from Olsen the last two weeks. Olsen is averaging six targets and three receptions per game since returning from his foot injury this season.

While Olsen should bounce back for a decent year if he can stay healthy, it’s clear his floor and ceiling are lower than its ever been with his age and other capable pass-catchers around him.

Defense/Special Teams

Any Defense Selected Before the Final Two Rounds

It should be common sense by now, but fantasy owners should not draft a defense until the last round or two. Out of the top-5 defenses by ADP, only the Los Angeles Rams are inside the top-5 in scoring at the position through seven weeks. Per FantasyPros, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, and Minnesota all had an average draft position below 112.

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Just a few players selected after them: David Njoku (114.5); Patrick Mahomes (118); Jared Goff (118.5); Calvin Ridley (122); Adrian Peterson (122.5); James White (125); George Kittle (130.5); Kenny Golladay (134).


Check out the rest of our 2018 Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers.

About Kyle Gahagan

A Statistics major in college, Kyle is looking to apply his knowledge of statistics and data to his love of fantasy football. Kyle has been playing fantasy football for over 10 years, with his interests mostly in redraft leagues and daily cash games. He believes in the hashtag #DropYourDefenseUntilSundayMorning and thinks you should, too.

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