We’ve seen it before, right? A player has a phenomenal season statistically, seemingly coming out of nowhere, and he is rewarded with a huge contract for the next season. Or perhaps another player doesn’t make his mark until the playoffs, crucially stepping up at the right time. He too is rewarded with a gigantic contract for the upcoming new season.
Often though, the player fails to meet expectations the following season. Or worse, they disappear.
Each year there is a new crop of players who finished the previous season very well. Or at least well enough for others to take notice.
It’s natural to gravitate to these players. They finished strong. Or perhaps they were able to do what other players on the same team were unable to do. They’ve already seemingly done the impossible. They’ve made their mark. How can it not continue into the next full season?
Sadly, sometimes the extent of the crash is in direct relation to the level of expectation. Let’s examine a few notables from previous seasons.
Odell Beckham. One of the few success stories. In 12 games in 2014, Beckham exploded averaging 108.8 yards per game and 12 TD. He was being drafted as a top-5 WR in 2015, and he the season ranked fifth (standard leagues) with 1450 yards and 13 TD.
Brandin Cooks. In 10 games in 2014, the speedster put up 550 receiving yards and 3 TD. He also added 73 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD. The numbers were not eye-popping, but for 2015 he was hyped as a low end WR1 in consensus rankings. ADP agreed as he was generally the 12th wide receiver drafted. That’s exactly how he finished in standard scoring leagues – 12th with 1138 yards and 9 TD.
Teddy Bridgewater. Finished out the 2014 campaign as the starter and was showing steady improvement under the guidance of QB guru Norv Turner. Teddy was hyped as a low-risk, high-ceiling QB2 for 2015. Twenty-three QB finished with more fantasy points, and if you feel that is decent to finish 24th, keep in mind that Brian Hoyer played 5 less games and was nipping at Teddy’s heels as the 25th ranked QB, a mere 18 points behind.
Jeremy Hill. As a rookie in 2014, Hill rushed for an impressive 1124 yards. He seemed poised to at least repeat his numbers in a familiar and decent Bengals offense. Hill was being ranked as a RB7. In a down year for the running back position as a whole, Hill finished ranked 13th behind Frank Gore. Worth noting that Hill had 8 weeks (half the season) where he scored 6 fantasy points or less.
Melvin Gordon. Zero NFL experience. Drafted as a rookie and essentially handed the starting job for the Chargers, Gordon was being drafted as a mid-range RB2. He finished a distant 53 among running backs (833 total yards with zero TD).
Just a side note with respect to Gordon/rookies in general: A standout in college doesn’t always translate well in the pros. Arguments are made that they are “the complete package,” “can’t miss” or “NFL ready.” Yet when things start to go south, then we see the excuses pour in – has trouble with NFL game preparation; has difficulty adjusting to the speed at the NFL level; durability or fatigue because of the length of the NFL schedule; maybe even blaming the college he came from. None of which accounted for ranking the player so high to begin with.
Montee Ball. In 2013 Ball rushed for 559 yards and 4 TD at a clip of 4.7 YPC in a relief role. The Broncos let team rushing leader Knowshon Moreno head to Miami and only had seldom used C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman on the depth chart. In 2014 he started only 3 regular season games and pulled his groin in week 5 – eventually ending up on IR with 172 yards and 1 TD. He was picked up by the Patriots in 2015 and later released. Ball has yet to play another regular season game for any NFL team.
Nick Foles. Michael Vick was the starter for the Eagles in 2013, but he was getting injured so often that Foles was getting plenty of action and started 10 games. He impressively finished with 27 TD passes vs 2 interceptions. For 2014 Foles was being drafted as top QB1, but after 8 games Foles broke his collarbone to end his season. His TD-to-INT ration had shrunk to 13-10.
Toby Gerhart. Went to Jacksonville to be the lead RB after backing up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. Gerhart was being drafted as a RB2 – he did have 6 career starts prior and did have over 4 YPC. After 4 years in Minny he only had one 100-yard rushing game, and after 1 year in Jacksonville as the starter, he still only had one 100-yard rushing game.
Zac Stacy. As a rookie in 2013, he was forced into action in week 3 and rumbled his way to 973 yards and 7 TD, leading the Rams in rushing. Also being drafted as a RB2 in 2015, he only rushed for 293 yards and 1 TD.
Bishop Sankey. Zero NFL experience. Sankey was the first RB drafted in 2014 and was drafted to fill an immediate need on the Titans. This translated similarly over to fantasy drafts as Sankey was being drafted as a low RB1/high RB2. He finished with a forgettable 569 rushing yards and 2 TD.
Colin Kaepernick. He finished 2012 with a bang. With Alex Smith recovering from a concussion, Kaepernick threw for 1814 yards with 10 TD vs only 3 interceptions, but also rushed for 415 yards and 5 more TD in just seven starts. By the end of 2014 (after 16 games) his numbers were not slightly disappointing: 3197 pass yards, 21 TD, 8 INT, 524 rush yards and 4 rushing TD. He finished ranked 13th among QB in 2013.
With these examples in mind, keep in mind that the success rate is not very promising. It seems that the WR position will do better than others, so you may want to temper your expectations for the 2016 crop of hyped players that also have a limited sample size of NFL experience.
Todd Gurley. Credited with 13 games in his rookie season, Gurley rolled up 1,106 yards and 10 TD. Could he be the next Adrian Peterson or LaDanian Tomlinson? He is being drafted with that kind of “elite” value as a top-5 RB. Incidentally, his all-purpose yards per game ranked him 6th in 2015 among all RB.
David Johnson. In his last 8 games of 2015, Johnson was the third best fantasy RB behind DeAngelo Williams and Adrian Peterson. Despite having Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington still on Tennessee as a potential RBBC nightmare (all 3 backs averaged over 5 yards per-carry), he’s being drafted as a top 5 RB.
Thomas Rawls. Played 13 games in place of Marshawn Lynch. He averaged 5.65 yards per-carry. Expectations are high as he takes over for the retired Lynch on a run-first team.
Brock Osweiler. Was merely average in Peyton Manning’s absence, averaging 253 yards per game and 1.25 TD. The Broncos averaged 134.8 rushing yards per game when Osweiler was under center, compared to 89 rush yards per game when Manning was the field general. The optimist will say that Osweiler helps the run game (which still doesn’t help Osweiler’s value), while the pessimist will argue that the Broncos ran more with Osweiler to limit his mistakes in the passing game.
Just because football is over doesn’t mean there isn’t any fantasy news. Fantasy Rundown has you covered throughout the off-season.