Fantasy Football: 2018 Rookie Bust Candidates

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Similar to that of a child with a new toy, fantasy football owners tend to become distracted by the potential of rookies in the NFL while simultaneously dismissing their flaws. It is therefore critical to assess the landing spot and opportunity for all incoming players from college in order to determine if each is being properly valued. For this particular article, I will build a case for three bust candidates based on their current cost and situation in fantasy.

Sony Michel

On paper, Sony Michel landed in an ideal spot with the New England Patriots. His first-round selection (31st overall)  in the NFL Draft figures to translate into a prominent role on offense, but consistent volume is an undeniable concern. Michel will have to compete for snaps with Rex Burkhead, James White and perhaps even one of Jeremy Hill or Mike Gillislee. For fantasy football purposes, New England’s backfield projects to be an unpredictable committee in 2018.

Provided Bill Belichick’s importance that is placed on ball security, the Patriots selection of Michel is rather curious. The former Georgia Bulldog recorded 12 career fumbles in college, which could spell disaster for his value in New England if that trend continues at the next level. That, coupled with loose ACL concerns from medical checks at the NFL Scouting Combine make Michel a risky investment at his current cost of a top-five pick in dynasty rookie drafts. The 23-year-old is a worth a look in the middle rounds of redraft leagues based on his versatile skill set as a rusher and receiver, but selecting him ahead of other prized rookie tailbacks like Derrius Guice or Rashaad Penny could backfire based on each of their expected workloads.

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Yes, Michel owns clear upside coming off of his final collegiate season in which he accrued 1,227 yards rushing with 16 touchdowns on the ground. Sony even accumulated a minimum of 22 receptions in two of his seasons at Georgia, which demonstrates his versatility. At the same time, he will enter the NFL without a clear role in a crowded backfield situation. This then makes his current sixth-round ADP a gamble, as a large portion of the fantasy community assumed that Mike Gillislee would also excel in a similar role last season with the Patriots. Michel is a better overall talent, but there is the legitimate risk that he could be a bust in relation to his asking price.

D.J. Moore

Considered by many to be the most talented wide receiver in the 2018 class, D.J. Moore ended up being selected first at his position and 24thoverall in the NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. While his skill set speaks for itself as a 97thpercentile SPARQ score athlete, there are numerous factors that could lead to him being overvalued in fantasy football as a rookie.

First, consider that he will begin his professional career at the bottom of Carolina’s pecking order for volume, as Christian McCaffrey, Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess all own established roles on offense. Second, understand that Moore’s 2017 receiving line at Maryland with 80 receptions for 1,033 yards and 8 touchdowns represents his lone dominant season at the collegiate level. Sure, he is merely 21 years old and his production a season ago is elite from both an output and market share level. However, also note that Moore failed to eclipse 41 receptions or 637 yards in either of his prior two campaigns in 2015 and 2016. Expecting Moore to replicate his impressive totals from 2017 as a rookie in the NFL is unrealistic, even though that receiving line could very well represent his eventual ceiling down the road in his career.

At cost, fantasy owners should prepare to allocate a first round rookie draft pick to secure Moore’s services in dynasty formats. In season-long leagues, D.J. is far more appropriately priced as a late-round flier with an ADP near the top of the twelfth round. At that valuation, he is well worth an investment given his athletic background. If his cost continues to rise as this offseason progresses, then it is possible that Moore will enter bust territory in fantasy circles based on his price tag. If Moore’s top fifty startup draft dynasty ADP is any indication, then it appears that the fantasy community is bullish on his outlook despite an uncertain target share in Carolina.

Nick Chubb

The Cleveland Browns selection of Chubb in the second round (35thoverall) this past April is a prime example of draft capital being irrelevant for fantasy football purposes. Despite the expensive price that was paid to secure his services, Chubb will begin his career in a less than ideal situation with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson also in Cleveland’s backfield rotation. In theory, Hyde could limit Chubb’s rushing ceiling while Johnson simultaneously dampens his receiving floor. Overall, this makes Chubb’s near consensus top-five ADP in dynasty rookie drafts a difficult pill to swallow in the short-term.

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As I indicated in the rookie profile I wrote about Chubb before the NFL Draft, it is quite possible that he is the best pure runner in the 2018 class. After all, delivering no fewer than 1,130 yards rushing in three of his four college seasons is not a simple feat to accomplish. Combine that with the fact that Chubb has already managed to overcome an arguably career-ending knee injury in 2015, and it is clear that he is a unique talent. The issue is, the Cleveland Browns signed the aforementioned Carlos Hyde to a three-year, $15 million contract this offseason. That makes the former San Francisco 49er a top-eight paid running back in the NFL. There is also a narrative around Duke Johnson and his eligibility for free agency in 2019 being made in favor of Chubb, but it is far from a guarantee that he hits the open market after Cleveland engaged in extension talks after the conclusion of last season.

All in all, Chubb is undeniably the future starter on paper for Cleveland’s franchise moving forward. However, it is hard to envision him returning early round value as a rookie with a plethora of weapons around him on the depth chart at the tailback position. The Browns also own a deep receiving corps that is led by Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, and Corey Coleman. Unless an injury is sustained in Cleveland’s backfield mix, expect Chubb to fill more of a complementary role in his first professional season in the NFL. His current ninth-round redraft ADP is respectable under that assumption, but if he creeps into the middle rounds based on a perceived workload then there is a strong possibility that Chubb will disappoint fantasy owners in 2018 from a lack of consistent volume.

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