Fantasy Football: 3 Players Who Could Regress in 2018
While regression can come in both a positive and negative form, this article will identify players who could meet the latter end of the term’s definition this upcoming season. Numerous factors can contribute to a dip in production for a fantasy asset, most notably a decline in efficiency or increased competition on a roster. All three of the names mentioned below fall into that exact category, as each could fall victim to a scaled-back workload in 2018.
Find out where Andy, Mike, and Jason project these 3 regression candidates in the Ultimate Draft Kit.
After setting the fantasy scene on fire as a rookie by leading the NFL in rushing with 1,327 yards in 2017, Kareem Hunt is a virtual lock to be overvalued this upcoming season. Yes, he finished as the PPR RB4 last year and owns one of the safer perceived workloads in all of football. The issue is, Hunt was incredibly efficient on the volume that he received during his first professional campaign. Consider that he averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 272 rushing attempts and it becomes clear that he is due for some statistical regression to the mean as a sophomore.
If offseason rumors are true, Hunt could offset a decline in rushing efficiency with an increased passing-game role in 2018. Remember, he registered an impressive 53 receptions for 455 yards and three touchdowns in Kansas City’s aerial attack a season ago. Even if that narrative does come to fruition and Hunt elevates his fantasy stock with a higher catch ceiling, is his current first-round ADP warranted? For me, the answer is no. Let me be clear. Hunt is a locked and loaded RB1 in all scoring formats. The potential flaw in his current valuation is the idea of him returning top-four value among all running backs once again this calendar year. Is it possible? Absolutely. Probable? Less likely, especially with an impressive field of elite peers around him in the form of Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara and possibly even Saquon Barkley.
Without a full guarantee that Hunt will deliver in the exact same capacity under Andy Reid in his second NFL season, it is difficult to trust him at cost in redraft leagues. Add a potential healthy Spencer Ware into the mix, and Kareem’s fantasy outlook becomes even murkier as a top-tier RB1. Recall that in his rookie campaign, Hunt saw 18 or fewer carries in a regular season game on 10 different occasions. In other words, his rushing floor did not reach the 20-attempt plateau in over half of the contests that he participated in. I expect Hunt to rank among the best at his position for fantasy purposes this season, but anticipating an improvement on what was a historic rookie stat line could be a crucial mistake made by fantasy owners.
Despite a change of scenery from New England to Tennessee, the fantasy football community remains rather bullish on the value of Dion Lewis in 2018. In all likelihood, the probability of a complementary tailback delivering a PPR RB15 finish on 212 total offensive touches is slim.
Dion accomplished that feat in 2017 after participating in a full regular season for the first time in his seven-year career to this point. Christian McCaffrey (RB10, 197 touches) and Duke Johnson (RB11, 156 touches) also silenced those that believe volume is the lone path to success in fantasy. The problem is, McCaffrey is the only tailback out of that trio with the ability to return annual RB1 value based on his secure workload in Carolina. Lewis and Johnson are both legitimate regression candidates, particularly due to their crowded respective backfields.
Even the most optimistic Lewis proponents have to admit that his borderline top-fifty ADP in season-long leagues at the present time is a bit lucrative. Dion could once again earn north of 200 offensive touches alongside Derrick Henry in 2018, but the odds are working against him to rank as a high-end RB2. It will be nearly impossible for Lewis to maintain the 5.0 yard per carry average clip that he posted with the Patriots in 2017, which makes him an obvious regression candidate from a consistency perspective. Sure, more yardage or touchdowns can offset a dip in overall efficiency. Even so, is a player that has been active for 9 or fewer games in an NFL season five different times worth that level of risk? Answer that question before assuming Lewis will replicate his success from a season ago in 2018.
As a former fifth-round pick in 2016 out of Arkansas, it is safe to assert that Alex Collins has exceeded the expectations previously set by NFL scouts and fantasy football general managers. Seemingly out of nowhere, the 23-year-old running back managed to flourish with the Baltimore Ravens in 2017 to the tune of 973 yards rushing and six touchdowns. He even added 23 receptions for 187 yards out of the backfield as a receiver for good measure en route to a PPR RB20 finish.
On paper, Collins is fully expected to maintain the starting tailback job for Baltimore in 2018. However, he will undoubtedly face competition in the form of Kenneth Dixon who missed all of 2017 due to a suspension and torn meniscus that required a full repair. As a rookie in 2016, Dixon ranked as the RB16 overall from Weeks 10-17 with five double-digit PPR performances. He even managed to accrue 544 all-purpose yards on offense across merely twelve regular-season appearances in his first NFL season. If Dixon returns to old form in 2018, he is expected to at least push Collins for lead back duties as John Harbaugh refuses to name an official starter this offseason.
While Collins was incredibly effective a season ago as indicated by his 4.6 yards per carry average on 212 carries, it is difficult to imagine him maintaining a similar pace moving forward. Only seven running backs averaged more yards per rush than that of Collins in 2017, but four of them earned fewer than 200 attempts on the ground. That list includes Alvin Kamara (120), Dion Lewis (180), Kenyan Drake (133) and Alfred Morris (115). The other three are all household names who recorded well over 200 carries, including Mark Ingram (230), Kareem Hunt (272) and Todd Gurley (279). In other words, Collins was one of the most efficient runners in all of football last season on a limited sample size. Believing in Collins to be as or more efficient in 2018 would also mean that a running back like Morris theoretically could deliver the same fantasy value as well. Hence, efficiency is often an overused metric in fantasy football. Yes, Collins made the most of his opportunities in Baltimore last year. It is also true that he could improve on his success in 2018. However, his current ADP of the fourth-round assumes that Collins carries no risk entering his third professional campaign. If he regresses in any statistical category, then it will be nearly impossible for him to deliver a full return on investment at his current asking price.