Every year the fantasy football landscape is littered with players who dramatically underachieved. Some players underachieved due to injury, some due to situation, or even some, to declining ability. This article will outline 5 disappointing players from 2016, what went wrong for them, and what to expect in 2017.
Todd Gurley, RB, Rams
Todd Gurley’s 2016 season can be summed up in one word: disaster. Gurley was most likely drafted in the first round in your drafts last season, maybe even as high as 1st overall.
What went wrong? The list is much longer of things that went wrong for Todd Gurley than things that went right. Jeff Fisher’s anemic, out of date offense, a putrid offensive line, and zero stability at quarterback were all major factors that contributed in Gurley’s disastrous year.
What to expect: The Rams hired Redskins OC Sean McVay as their new head coach. We all saw what McVay was able to do with Kirk Cousins and the Washington offense (ranked 3rd in the NFL in total yards in 2016), it will surely be a step up from Fisher. Jared Goff needs to take a step forward. The former number one overall pick looked lost for most of his starts, throwing 7 interceptions compared to 5 TDs. Opposing teams were able to stack the box against Todd Gurley giving him little room to run. It is imperative the rams address their concerns on the offensive line either through the draft or free agency.
Todd Gurley’s ability has never been doubted. He’s a dynamic running back, whether it was for the Georgia Bulldogs (90th-percentile College YPC), or in his first season with the Rams (1294 scrimmage yards, 4.8 yards per carry and 10 total TDs in 13 games) . Gurley will still get a ton of touches after ranking No. 5 in snap share and No. 2 in Opportunity Share last season. Unless the myriad other issues, such as a 24th ranked run blocking offensive line, Gurley’s production will still lag.
Jared Goff’s development will be key in what to expect from Todd Gurley. Gurley finished outside the top 25 for RBs in 2016, despite his top-5 projection. Expect a better season in 2017 (could it be any worse?), but do not expect top-5 running back production. Gurley is an RB2 with upside until further notice.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
2015 saw Adrian Peterson have a resurgence from his injured 2014 season. 1485 rushing yards and 11 TDs. This caused Peterson to carry a first round price tag in 2016. Fantasy owners’ hopes were crushed by drafting Peterson in 2016.
What went wrong? A common topic of discussion in the fantasy world is if Adrian Peterson’s 2016 season is an outlier from his career. Injured for most of the season, one could definitely argue it was an outlier. However, before the injury, Peterson averaged just 1.9 yards per carry. He can no longer handle the carries he did early in his career, as was evident by his attempted come back at the end of the year, and it is clear after multiple knee injuries, his burst has been compromised. Compounding these problems was the poor play of the Vikings offensive line demonstrated by a 62.9 run blocking efficiency rating on PlayerProfiler, which ranked last in the NFL.
What to Expect: The Vikings seem like they are going to stick with Sam Bradford at QB. Although serviceable, Bradford is not a frequent downfield thrower, evidenced by 54 (No. 23 among NFL quarterbacks) Deep Ball Attempts. With Adrian Peterson’s declining ability, he is a shell of his former self. Some may point out that one of his best seasons (2015) was after an injury. Although this is true, he was also 2 years younger at the time, and had one less knee injury.
Another reason for concern is Adrian Peterson also is rarely used in the passing game with just 3 receptions in the 3 games in 2016, and only had 30 receptions in 16 games in 2015. Peterson will be 32, and coming off major surgery heading into the 2017 season. Expect him to split carries and be a matchup-dependent flex starter while finishing outside top-30 running backs in 2017. Peterson will be worth a late round pick in shallow leagues, but temper expectations.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
DeAndre Hopkins had an outstanding year in 2015 catching passes from 4 different QBs, none being household names. Hopkins totaled 111 receptions, 1521 yards, and 11 TDs. Most fantasy writers thought he was in for another big year.
What went wrong? A $70 million mistake in Brock Osweiler. DeAndre Hopkins and Osweiler never developed any chemistry. Actually, Osweiler never developed a chemistry with anyone, he had a miniscule Passer Rating of 72.2 paired with a 58.9-percent completion percentage. Even with the wideout’s ball skills (Hopkins finished No. 26 in Contested Catch Conversion Rate) and explosive play making ability he really underachieved with Osweiler under center.
What to Expect: The Texans have already moved on from OC George Godsey. Reports say Bill O’Brien will not hire a new OC and will assume play calling for his offense. O’Brien will be stretched too thin, and the offense will suffer. Houston you still have a problem. Brock Osweiler is still QB, do you sit him in favor of Tom Savage? The silver lining here is that Hopkins still got a healthy amount of looks. He ranked No. 7 overall in Targets and No. 9 among NFL wide receivers in Target Share. However, there are a lot of unknowns in Houston right now, and this does not bode well for former Clemson standout DeAndre Hopkins. He will finish better than last year, but nowhere near his 1st-2nd round projected numbers from a year ago.
Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars
Most of the fantasy community had high aspirations for Allen Robinson in 2016. He was coming off an incredible year, 80 rec 1400 yards 14 TDs. Former First round pick Blake Bortles and Robinson were poised to increase their output with another year to gel, 2016 was looking juicy.
What went wrong? Blake Bortles actually regressed, with 12 fewer TDs and 2 more interceptions in 2016 than in 2015. It seemed as though his mechanics took a step back and Allen Robinson suffered because of it (only 883 yards and 6 TDs). Jacksonville still played from behind in many games in 2016, which is usually when Bortles and Robinson racked up most of their fantasy points in 2015, but Bortles played so poorly that Robinson did not benefit from this.
What to Expect: Allen Robinson’s skills are still there. He’s in the 86th-percentile in Burst Score, and 90th-percentile in Catch Radius. He’s 6-2 220 pounds, physical, good hands, and good speed. As is the case every year, the Jacksonville Jaguars project to be playing from behind often in 2017. Jacksonville ranked No. 4 in team pass plays in 2016.
Leading the NFL in Snap Share over the past two seasons, the volume will certainly be there for him in 2017. In addition, Allen Robinson also ranked No. 9 among NFL wide receivers with 19 red zone targets. With his big body and physical play, Robinson’s touchdowns will increase back toward the mean in 2017. Allen Hurns will still be opposite Robinson, taking some of the attention away. Bortles will have a fire lit under him from his poor play in 2016 and will regain 2015 form. Robinson is a top bounce back player in 2017, and will be a steal in the 3rd round of drafts.
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
Cam Newton was selected in many fantasy drafts as the first QB. His numbers in 2015 were not short of ridiculous. 3,837 passing yards 35 passing TDs 636 rushing yards and 10 rushing TDs. Although those numbers are nearly impossible to repeat, there was no reason to think that he would not have another big year.
What went wrong? Cam Newton’s numbers declined in every aspect 3509 passing yards, 19 passing TDs, 359 rushing yards to go along with 6 rushing TDs. It’s as simple as defenses bringing more pressure and getting to Newton more. Carolina’s offensive line also had some key injuries in Michael Oher and Ryan Kalil. Newton’s completion percentage dropped 7-percent, and he was never able to get into a rhythm. Newton and OC Mike Shula were not able to adjust to defenses and Newton and the Panthers struggled mightily. Carolina’s defense also struggled, giving up 402 total points compared to 308 in 2015. With Carolina playing from behind a lot, Newton was forced into many obvious passing situations allowing the defense to put more pressure on him.
What to Expect: Cam Newton is still an athletic specimen. 6-5 248 pounds with a 40 yard dash time of 4.59 allowing him to amass rushing yards. Newton still is the focal point of this offense, and he is Carolina’s biggest weapon in the red zone after ranking No. 1 among NFL quarterbacks in red zone carries. His lack of reliable targets, outside of TE Greg Olsen, remain a concern, as well as Newton’s anemic Red Zone passing efficiency after his 39.0-percent red zone completion percentage ranked No. 35 among NFL quarterbacks. Newton also need to improve his deep ball accuracy after posting a mere 26.3-percent (No. 27) Deep Ball Completion Percentage. A return to his dominance in 2015 is unlikely, but a moderate bounce back seems assured in 2017.