Some of the biggest components to having success in fantasy football are not drafting busts, finding later round guys and finding stars before they break out.
We’ve seen countless players in all three categories win and lose fantasy seasons in the past.
So which players should you be on the lookout for this season?
Bust: A player that will perform at least a level lower than their drafted position this season.
Sleeper: A player who is drafted in later rounds that could be a solid starting-caliber option.
Breakout: A mid-late round option that will make the leap into a top 10 option for the position this season.
Bust: Baker Mayfield
Baker Mayfield finished the 2018 season with the most fantasy points among rookies quarterbacks and 16th overall at the position. In the offseason, the Browns also added a couple of Pro Bowlers on offense in running back Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. On the flip side, they lost their best lineman in guard Kevin Zeitler in the trade that got them Beckham and defensive end Olivier Vernon. The interior was the strong point of the offensive line and now second-year guard Austin Corbett, who has played just 14 snaps in his career, will fill a big void, as Zeitler had the highest grade among guards in pass-blocking, according to PFF.
This offense is way too talented for Baker not to put up numbers, but he’s currently getting drafted as QB5, which is ahead of guys like Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz. Unlike those other options, Baker’s going through a major change as he has a new head coach and new options in the offense. Both of those points, along with the changes up front, makes me think this offense will take a good amount of time to get synced up. With the abundance of other solid options at the point he’s been drafted who don’t have to go through this adjustment I think Baker will be around QB10-12 this season, as opposed to QB5 where he’s being drafted.
Also: Lamar Jackson
Sleeper: Sam Darnold
The first fantasy football season for Sam Darnold should be one that’s quickly forgotten. The rookie finished QB27 overall, and the third-highest among the others drafted at the position. But there’s a lot of room for optimism around the former No. 3 overall pick in his second year. The change of head coach from defensive-minded Todd Bowles to a highly respected offensive mind for quarterbacks in Adam Gase puts Darnold in a significantly better situation out the gate.
There’s also the matter of the serious upgrades in the offense as the Jets made some serious changes on that side of the ball. They replaced Isaiah Crowell with three-time top 5 fantasy running back Le’Veon Bell, added Jamison Crowder as a reliable slot receiver option and Kelechi Osemele along an offensive line that was one of the worst in the league. Darnold’s season will come down to whether or not the offensive line can hold up, but he could be a game-changer in 2-QB leagues given his draft position (23rd quarterback taken on average on Yahoo).
Also: Kyler Murray
Breakout: Derek Carr
For a second straight season, Derek Carr put up below average fantasy numbers for the quarterback position as he finished QB18 in 2018 after finishing QB19 in 2017. Derek Carr’s stock is low right now as he hasn’t looked the same since his 2016 season where he finished QB No. 9 with 28 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Now, he gets a serious influx of upgraded skill position players with the only noticeable downgrade is the tight end position where they lost Jared Cook. The presence of Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and running back Josh Jacobs should more than make up for the loss of Cook. Carr has the chance to put together a very productive season with what is most likely the best supporting cast of his career in year two of Jon Gruden’s system. As Carr’s fighting not to get shipped off in a trade after this season, I think he’s got the potential to be a top-10 option with a top-five ceiling.
Also: Jimmy Garoppolo
Bust: Phillip Lindsay
After going undrafted out of Colorado, Phillip Lindsay went on to have a memorable rookie season where he made the Pro Bowl and finished no. 12 among running backs in fantasy. Despite the strong rookie year performance, I don’t see him coming that close to that sort of production this season.
A new coaching staff and scheme, as well as the presence of Royce Freeman, who the Broncos drafted in the third round last year, causes for a lot of unknown variables with Lindsay. Freeman has been highly praised this summer, while Lindsay’s been nursing a wrist injury and could force a committee situation.
There’s also the loss of center Matt Paradis, who’s been one of the elite run-blocking centers as he’s earned an 85 grade according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), which is fourth among the position. I just see way too many variables to expect anything close to what Lindsay brought to fantasy matchups last season and anticipate his value to be more of a flex option this season.
Also: Nick Chubb
Sleeper: Ronald Jones II
On the opposite end of the spectrum to Lindsay, Ronald Jones was drafted 38th overall and severely underachieved in his rookie season. Jones recorded just 23 rushes while appearing in only nine games. He was consistently at odds with the coaching staff and fell down the depth chart for the majority of the season because of it.
As he heads into his second year, Jones will be working with a new coaching staff with Bruce Arians, who replaces Dirk Koetter as the head coach. He’ll also be going in a lot bigger as he’s reportedly put on 13 pounds of muscle in the offseason to go from 208 pounds his rookie year up to 221. There have also been reports that the Bucs’ coaching staff has been impressed with him so far this summer. Jones has a chance to be someone that wins leagues for teams in a high powered offense—one that’s just waiting for him to take the reigns in a running game where his home run ability matches what Bruce Arians wants to do on offense.
Also: Kalen Ballage
Breakout: Miles Sanders
We’ve seen in recent years that solid running backs in great situations lead to productive fantasy seasons. James Conner came into a high-octane offense with a top-five offensive line and put up RB1 numbers in his first year as a starter. The same also wentfor Phillip Lindsay and Damian Williams last season.
Now, Miles Sanders goes into a situation where he will run behind Pro Football Focus’ fifth best offensive line from last season, with everyone returning and a potential MVP in quarterback Carson Wentz under center. He will have to fight over the starting duties with Jordan Howard, but Miles Sanders (24 receptions at Penn State last year) has the receiving capabilities that Jordan Howard (never has recorded more than 29 receptions in a season) lacks. Especially in an offense where running backs recorded 77 catches, which would rank fifth among individual running backs last season.
Through 10 games as the starting running back at Penn State – Miles Sanders has gotten his work done a bit different than Saquon Barkley didhttps://t.co/MJjp7DEh7m pic.twitter.com/StwqubXwy5
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 15, 2018
Sanders will find his way onto the field early because of his versatility and size that isn’t otherwise there on the Eagles roster, and will perform well in those spots given his excellent supporting cast. I’d view him as an RB2 early to see how it works with Jordan Howard, but he’s got the potential to be an RB1 as a rookie.
Also: Derrick Henry
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