2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Regression candidates at TE, K, and DST

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One of the easiest starting points for projecting the upcoming season is looking at season's past. So naturally, one of the easiest way to find an edge is filtering out those things from the past that are unlikely to repeat themselves. Sometimes it's a volume issue because of changes in a player's circumstance, but sometimes it has nothing to do with circumstance at all. Often, what happened in the past is largely unrepeatable, and natural regression — either positive or negative — is bound to happen. 

In this piece we'll look at tight ends, DSTs and kickers whose production from 2017 is bound to regress in 2018 for one reason or another: 

  • O.J. Howard is a terrifying breakout candidate. It's easy to see why people like him, with his pedigree and efficiency in 2017, but that efficiency was pretty ridiculous. Howard averaged 16.6 yards per reception last year. The last six non-Rob Gronkowski tight ends to average 16-plus yards per catch with at least 30 targets saw their number fall to an average of 11 the next year. The highest number any of them posted was 12.4. Also, Howard scored a touchdown every 6.5 targets in 2017. That's even less sustainable. All of this could be a moot point if Tampa Bay had let Cameron Brate walk, but they didn't. Without a clear path to steady targets, Howard has no sustainable way to better last year's production.
  • If you're looking for a tight end who should score more touchdowns in 2018, you'll find plenty. Delanie Walker, Charles Clay, Jared Cook and George Kittle all look like great candidates right off the top. But these guys shouldn't be expected to regress back to league average so much as their career norm. Cook, for example, only caught two touchdowns on 86 targets last year. But for his career he's only averaged one every 32 ... Clay probably scored half as many as he should have, and he's a fine late-round option if you aren't too scared by his quarterback situation ... Kittle is the one who most interests me because he's the one in this group who doesn't have a history of low touchdowns yet. If he sees just a small increase in targets he could vault to top-10 status with a normal touchdown rate. Playing a full season with Jimmy Garoppolo should help.
  • I'm going to start getting hate mail from Jacksonville, because yes the Jaguars defense has some regression coming. Defensive touchdowns are not a reliable way to produce Fantasy points, but they had seven of them last year. That's the most any team has scored since the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs. The next year that Chiefs defense scored one. Now this Jaguars defense is better than those Chiefs were, but as I wrote in my busts column, the Jaguars are being drafted as if they're going to lap the field again, and that's not likely true.
  • On the flip side, the Saints and Vikings defenses should probably expect a little better luck in 2018. They forced a combined 36 fumbles in 2017 and recovered five a piece. We really have no indicator that recovering an oblong object bouncing in an unpredictable manner is a skill for a team, so I'd expect both have more fumble recoveries this year if they force the same number of fumbles.
  • You shouldn't expect Greg Zuerlein and Robbie Gould to repeat last year's success. Zuerlein was the No. 1 kicker in Fantasy and Gould finished top three, because both made 95 percent of their field goals and had at least 40 attempts in 2017. No kicker has ever maintained that accuracy over a career. Gould, at least, has a career 86 percent mark to fall back on, while Zuerlein had a great offense giving him opportunities. But I wouldn't take either of these guys before Stephen Gostkowski, Justin Tucker or Matt Bryant.
Senior Fantasy Writer

Heath Cummings is a Senior Fantasy Writer that covers Daily Fantasy Sports of all types. Before coming to CBS Sports he was a staff writer for Footballguys and the host of The Fantasy Football Show on... Full Bio

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