Fantasy Football Offseason: Patrick Mahomes, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown could be busts in 2019
Jamey Eisenberg gives you his Busts 1.0 for 2019, which includes mainstays Patrick Mahomes, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown among others.
For any list of bust candidates, you really need a reference point. There has to be something that suggests the player is being valued too high.
Since Average Draft Position data isn't really relevant in April, we'll use rankings to determine where a player is valued at this point in the offseason for Busts 1.0. And we'll go to Fantasy Pros for their consensus rankings.
Eventually, when we update these lists leading up to the end of training camp, ADP will be our guide. But for now, I'm basing these opinions on players I believe are ranked too high.
OK, so we're going off script for this one. I don't believe Mahomes is ranked too high -- he's my No. 1 quarterback. I'm going by the assumption of where he's going to be drafted this season, which could be Round 1. Please don't do that. He was awesome in 2018 when he was the NFL MVP, and I expect him to be awesome again. But there's regression coming, and you don't want to chase points when evaluating someone from one year to the next. He is one of 11 quarterbacks in NFL history with at least 5,000 passing yards and one of three quarterbacks with at least 50 passing touchdowns. Of those 11 quarterbacks with 5,000 yards, two played last season with Mahomes and Ben Roethlisberger (5,129 yards). But of the previous nine times a quarterback passed for 5,000 yards, the average decline in yards for the following season was 474 -- and every one of them got worse. Drew Brees, who passed for more than 5,000 yards five times, is the only quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 5,000 yards in consecutive seasons when he reached the mark for three years in a row (2011-13). And of the two other quarterbacks with at least 50 touchdowns, Peyton Manning went from 55 touchdowns in 2013 to 39 in 2014. And Tom Brady went from 50 touchdowns in 2007 to 28 touchdowns in 2009 (he tore his ACL in Week 1 in 2008). Mahomes is a star with a ton of potential, but his stats will decline, and you don't want to reach for him. Take him at the back end of Round 2 or early Round 3 at the earliest.
You already know the stats of the quarterbacks who have passed for at least 5,000 yards and what happens the following season. But Roethlisberger has another significant thing working against him, which is the loss of Antonio Brown. That's 104 catches for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns on 168 targets traded to Oakland. While I'm hopeful for guys like James Washington and Vance McDonald to step up with Brown gone, and Donte Moncrief will also provide some relief, that production is tough to replace. Sure, JuJu Smith-Schuster is a rising star, and James Conner is a solid pass catcher out of the backfield. But Brown has been the man for the Steelers, and his absence makes Roethlisberger a risky Fantasy option. I'm only drafting him as a No. 2 quarterback in 2019, and it's risky to consider him a No. 1 passer in most leagues.
Bell was a star with the Steelers, but there were a lot of things working in his favor in Pittsburgh. He had a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback in Roethlisberger, a standout offensive line and elite weapons around him. He excelled as a rusher and receiver, and it was perfect for his Fantasy production -- until it all fell apart. You know the story by now with how he sat out the 2018 season over a contract dispute and then signed with the Jets this offseason on a four-year deal worth $52.5 million, including $35 million guaranteed. The Jets will feature him on offense, but coach Adam Gase said he doesn't want to wear down Bell, adding "that's why, historically, I've always used a lot of running backs." We don't expect Bell to come off the field much, but he also has to deal with a second-year quarterback in Sam Darnold, a worse offensive line with the Jets and a weaker group of playmakers around him. I'm not drafting Bell in Round 1, and he's only worth drafting in Round 2, even in PPR.
Carson was great in 2018, and he made Seattle look silly for selecting Rashaad Penny in the first round of the NFL Draft. But that's the problem for Carson this year is that Penny should take on a bigger workload in his sophomore campaign. Carson should still be considered the better running back of this duo, but what happens if the Seahawks give the starting job to Penny? Coach Pete Carroll will make it an open competition, saying "I don't know who's the one and who's the two. It doesn't matter to me." And Penny should have a better grasp of what to do with a year in the NFL under his belt. I don't mind targeting Carson as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy running back, but he's being ranked as a top-20 option among the consensus rankings, which is a mistake. He should not be drafted before the end of Round 4 at the earliest in any format, and you might be better off waiting for Penny in the later rounds.
Linsday was one of the best stories of 2018 since he was an undrafted rookie free agent, who wasn't even invited to the NFL Combine. Not only did he make the Broncos roster, but he was named to the Pro Bowl, which was a dream for the Colorado native. But he ended last season on injured reserve with a significant wrist injury, and he will hopefully be ready for training camp. We'll see if he can still be the featured option in the backfield for Denver, but fellow rookie Royce Freeman could also make an impact. And we'll see how the Broncos offense does with Joe Flacco as the new quarterback. Like Carson, I don't mind drafting Lindsay as a No. 2 running back in all leagues. But he should be drafted in Round 4 at the earliest in any format, and keep an eye on his health to make sure his wrist is OK for the start of the season.
I've gone back and forth on Williams and what the outlook should be for him this season. The positives start with Andy Reid and the running backs he has coached in his career, including Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and Kareem Hunt, and Williams could be next in line. If you look at what Williams did last season as Hunt's replacement in Kansas City, starting in Week 14 and through the playoffs, a span of six games, he was a dominant Fantasy option with either 100 total yards or a touchdown in each outing. His stats over that span were 77 carries for 376 yards and six touchdowns, as well as 28 catches for 226 yards and four touchdowns. If you project that over 16 games, Williams would have had 205 carries for 1,003 yards and 16 touchdowns, along with 75 catches for 603 yards and 11 touchdowns. That's a star. But the negatives for Williams start with that he has never had more than 50 carries in a season in five years in the NFL. He had the chance to be a featured option before when the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia in 2017, and he got hurt and was outplayed by Kenyan Drake. As of now, he will share touches with Carlos Hyde, who could end up as the better running back for the Chiefs. I still like Williams more than Hyde, but Williams is expected to be drafted as early as Round 3, which is too soon. If you get him in Round 4 or later then that's OK, but I'm nervous about his production this season given what could be unrealistic expectations.
I don't expect Brown to be a disaster with the Raiders. But I also don't expect him to be the same dominant Fantasy receiver we've seen over the past six seasons with the Steelers. It would be hard for anyone to replicate those numbers, and Brown, who will be 31 in July, has six consecutive seasons of at least 101 catches. He has at least 1,284 yards in every season over that span, and only once in those six years has he scored fewer than 10 touchdowns (nine in 2017). But you have to wonder if he can thrive with Derek Carr, and Brown has never caught a touchdown from anyone other than Roethlisberger in his career. In seven games without Roethlisberger since 2011, Brown has only 32 catches for 433 yards, and he's gone over 60 receiving yards just twice over that span. Now, playing a handful of games with different backups isn't the same as a full season with Carr, but that's a rapport Brown will have to establish right away. And keep in mind that Oakland's No. 1 receiver last year was Jordy Nelson, who only had 63 catches for 739 yards and three touchdowns on 88 targets. Brown will do better than that -- hopefully by a lot. But don't go into this season planning to draft the same receiver like he was in Pittsburgh. You'll be disappointed. The earliest you should draft Brown is middle to late Round 2.
It's a small sample size, but Thielen did not play at a high level once the Vikings went to Kevin Stefanski as the offensive coordinator in the final three games of the season. Over that span, Thielen had 10 catches for 137 yards and no touchdowns on 12 targets, and he scored six PPR points or less in two outings. By comparison, Stefon Diggs had 14 catches for 107 yards and three touchdowns on 23 targets during those three games, and Kyle Rudolph had 16 catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns on 17 targets. The Vikings want to focus more on the run with Stefanski and assistant head coach Gary Kubiak calling the plays, and Thielen might not produce at the same level as we saw to start last season when he had eight games in a row with at least 100 receiving yards and scored nine touchdowns in his first 12 outings. I still like Thielen as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver, but he's not a top 15 option coming into the season, which is his consensus ranking. He should not be drafted before Round 4 in most leagues.
I was surprised to see Robinson ranked as the No. 21 receiver in the consensus rankings, and I view him more as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in most leagues. In his first year with Chicago in 2018, he only had one game in the regular season with over 100 yards, and he scored in just three games (he had two touchdowns against Detroit in Week 10). He also missed three games due to injury and was never a consistent Fantasy threat. In fact, Robinson has only had one great season in the NFL, which was 2015 with Jacksonville when he had 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns on 152 targets. It feels like we've been chasing that season for the past three years, and it will be hard for him to replicate that production if he's under 120 targets for the season. The Bears will spread the ball around, and Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen will get plenty of attention from Mitchell Trubisky, as well as Robinson. I'm only drafting Robinson with a mid-round pick in most leagues.
I'm still hopeful for Baldwin to bounce back in 2019, but it will be hard to trust him since it appears that his body is breaking down. This offseason, he's had surgeries on his shoulder, knee and a hernia, and the hernia recovery time could bleed into training camp. We hope he's ready for Week 1, but his knee problems last year seemed to linger all season. Baldwin struggled with his fewest catches (50) and yards (618) since 2013, and his five touchdowns were his fewest since 2014. And now he's being considered a No. 2 receiver in the consensus rankings at No. 24, which is too high for me. I would only draft Baldwin as a low-end No. 3 Fantasy receiver with a mid-round pick, but first he has to prove he's healthy in time for the start of training camp. And at this point, that seems unlikely.
Walker suffered a terrible ankle injury in Week 1 against Miami last season, and he's still dealing with the recovery process. Yet he's being ranked as the No. 9 tight end in the consensus rankings. I'm fine taking a flier on Walker with a late-round pick if he's 100 percent by the start of training camp. But it's way to risky to trust him as a top 10 option until we see him back on the field. In 2017, Walker had a decent season with 74 catches for 807 yards and three touchdowns on 111 targets, but it might be hard for him to replicate those stats since he'll be 35 in August and coming off the ankle injury. The Titans also don't have a dynamic passing attack with Marcus Mariota, who last year struggled with elbow and nerve injuries. Walker could finish the season with quality production, but don't pay a premium price for it going into the year. Take him with a late-round pick and let him prove himself in 2019.
I was all in on Burton last season as a breakout Fantasy tight end with his move from Philadelphia to Chicago, and I was highly disappointed with the results. He scored double digits in PPR in seven games, but only five times did he reach at least 12 PPR points. He could improve in 2019, but Adam Shaheen could be more of a factor now that he's healthy to open the season. And the Bears have plenty of targets with Robinson, Miller, Gabriel and Cohen. I'm still hopeful Burton can be a quality Fantasy option, but he's being ranked at No. 11 in the consensus rankings, which is too high. I'll only draft Burton with a late-round pick in the majority of leagues.
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