As we draw ever closer to the 2018 NFL season, the question that we keep asking ourselves as fantasy players is who will be the players that break out this year and who are the players that will disappoint this year. In dynasty, value is everything, and it is all about timing and being ahead of the breakout and ahead of the decline. Ideally, you want to buy a player before he breaks out statistically, so you don’t have to pay significantly more for him after he breaks out. Conversely, you want to sell a player who holds a decent amount of dynasty value before he starts to decline statistically and lose value.
We all know this is much easier said than done since we are all just making educated guesses. Whether it is due to age, situation, or talent, these are the things most of us dynasty players try and use to predict these breakout and declining moments in a player’s career. Specific traits along with athletic measurables and statistical history are exactly what I have based my opinions on for this year’s breakout players as well as players that will disappoint.
Dalvin Cook – Before his untimely injury in week four last season, Cook was on pace for 1,776 all-purpose yards (1,416 rushing and 360 receiving). He was well on his way to becoming an every week fantasy RB1. This year he will continue right where he left off. Dalvin Cook is in an offense in Minnesota that figures to be one of the best in the league. He will be a work-horse back that possesses a rare combination speed and strength. Cook surpassed at least 1,000 rushing yards all three years at his time at Florida State from 2014-2016 totaling 4,464 rushing yards.
Don’t expect Dalvin Cook to come off the field on third downs this year as he has shown the ability to be a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield catching 79 passes for 935 yards in college combined with catching 11 passes in only four games last season as a rookie. Most have Dalvin Cook rated high among dynasty running backs, but I am taking it a step higher and projecting him to be a top 5 dynasty asset at seasons end after he finishes as one of the best fantasy running backs this season.
Corey Davis – Davis has been a very popular breakout candidate all summer long and for good reason. The 23-year-old has the draft pedigree as he was taken 5th overall by Tennessee in the 2017 NFL draft. Davis is also the most productive collegiate receiver in FBS history with more receiving yards than any player in NCAA history with 5,278 yards. He is one of only two receivers in the history of college football to top 5,000 receiving yards. Corey Davis also had 331 receptions and 52 receiving touchdowns in 50 career games at Western Michigan.
There is some skepticism on Davis after his statistically disappointing rookie season in 2017, but Davis was hampered by injuries throughout the year that prevented him from being on the field consistently. His quarterback Marcus Mariota was also plagued by injuries last season that derailed the Tennessee offense and prevented them from reaching their potential. Coming into 2018 the Titans have a healthy Davis and Mariota along with a new coaching staff that should revamp an offense that is poised to explode in 2018 with Davis leading the way at receiver.
Marquise Goodwin – Goodwin’s first year in San Fransisco went very well as he had career bests in receptions (56) and receiving yards (962). Starting in week 12 last season when Jimmy Garoppolo became the 49ers starter, Goodwin immediately became Garoppolo’s favorite target totaling 29 catches and 384 receiving yards in only five games. Over the course of an entire 16 game season, these totals would have been 92 catches for 1,228 receiving yards.
Marquise Goodwin is one of the fastest players in the NFL and has big-play ability in his second year in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Goodwin was 3rd in the league last season with 17.2 yards per reception showcasing this big play ability. Look for him to continue to make big plays as well as become a better all-around receiver in San Fransisco in 2018 as Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target.
Adam Thielen – Few players surprised more than Thielen did last season. In his 4th NFL season he had career highs in receptions (91) and receiving yards (1,276). Thielen benefited from circumstances such as an unhealthy Stefon Diggs who missed two games due to injury as well as playing with a strained groin for multiple games. Thielen also benefited from having great chemistry with then starting Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum who is now playing in Denver. There is no doubt that Thielen is a good NFL wide receiver, but I don’t think he is the best wide receiver on his team. With the return of a healthy Dalvin Cook catching passes out of the backfield along with Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph, Thielen will be sure to regress with more competition for targets while also learning with a new quarterback in Kirk Cousins.
Jerick McKinnon – Few players saw their dynasty value rise more than McKinnon’s this offseason. His signing to be the perceived lead back in San Fransisco vaulted his dynasty value into the back end RB1 and front end RB2 ranks. McKinnon is in a position to disappoint a lot of fantasy owners this season with the expectations that are being set for him. In his last two seasons in Minnesota. McKinnon averaged a disappointing 3.58 yards per carry totaling 1,109 rushing yards on 309 carries.
At 5’9” 205 Jerrick McKinnon has never been asked to be a lead back on an offense. Many question his ability to shoulder a big workload over 16 games and stay healthy at his size. Where McKinnon has excelled in his 4-year NFL career is coming in on 3rd downs and passing down situations. He has totaled an impressive 94 receptions out of the backfield over the past two seasons while in Minnesota.
McKinnon will be a good pass catching back while struggling to be productive on the ground and ultimately finding himself in a committee in San Fransisco’s backfield. I don’t believe McKinnon will be ineffective in San Francisco; I just believe he is an ultimate sell at his price for the production he will provide.
Derrick Henry – Henry is one of the more physically gifted players in the NFL standing at 6’3” and weighing in at almost 250 pounds. It’s easy to get caught up in the “what ifs” and in the “awe” of someone who is that big that can run as fast as Henry. Although when you look past the impressive physical appearance of Henry, you’ll notice a very average runner who lacks the consistent vision as well as the pass-catching ability to become an every-down back in the NFL.
In his first two NFL seasons, Henry has only 24 career receptions and the addition of Dion Lewis this offseason all but seals the fate of Derrick Henry ever staying in on 3rd downs and passing situations. He is a big back who will be utilized on early downs as well as short yardage situations to get the tough yards for Tennessee this season. Don’t expect Henry to be a week in week out reliable fantasy option for the foreseeable future. If there is anyone in your league that sees Henry as a future every-down back, you should sell while you still can.
Who do you think will break out and who will bust in 2018? Let me know in the comments below. You can also find me on Twitter @DFF_Maverick .