NFL: Fantasy Studs and Duds

As our beloved NFL season crosses the halfway mark in 2018, another exciting week in Fantasy Football is set to begin. In most fantasy leagues, this is the time of year in which the playoff picture is beginning to form – football prowess attained through meticulous research and high week to week flexibility pushes diligent owners to the top, while league tacos spoon-feed their opposition W’s by leaving players in through their bye weeks and disabled list trips.

A great fantasy season can be both kick-started or broken down through the draft. For a better look at which side of the draft you’ve been on this season, here’s a list of the biggest breakout, and bust stars thus far this year.

*For a better grasp of what players have truly broken out and busted this year, players who have played fewer than four games will NOT be included in this list, e.g. Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, Jimmy Garoppolo, etc.

Quarterback

Biggest Breakout: Patrick Mahomes

Average Draft Position: #110 according to FantasyPros.com

If you came into this article expecting anyone other than Mahomes as the quarterback position’s biggest breakout, you’re probably starting Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles every week as Kansas City’s one-two punch as well.

Mahomes has set the league ablaze this year, currently leading the NFL in both passing yards and touchdowns, but here’s the kicker (no pun intended): He’s got 56 less passing attempts than the next closest passer, Kirk Cousins. Surrounded by Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, and football mastermind Andy Reid, the sky is the limit for Patty Ice. If you scooped him up, keep him locked in as a matchup-proof starter every week.

Biggest Bust: Aaron Rodgers

Average Draft Position: #24 according to FantasyPros.com

It’s difficult to call Rodgers, arguably the greatest quarterback to play the game of football, the biggest QB bust in fantasy thus far this year. However, Rodgers was the overall QB1 in most drafts this season, and though his numbers have been fine, he hasn’t been worth the 2nd/3rd round pick that was spent to pick him up.

Rodgers has led the Packers to a 3-3-1 record and is tied for fifteenth in the league with thirteen passing TDs, and seventh in the league in passing yards with 2,283. These numbers are obviously not inherently bad, but his performance has led him to be the overall QB10, whereas he was drafted as QB1.

Wide Receiver

Biggest Breakout: Emmanuel Sanders

Average Draft Position: #75 Standard, #65 PPR according to FantasyPros.com

Adam Thielen has been absolutely sensational to this point in the season, but after a top-10 finish in 2017, he came into this year ranked WR13. Drafting him has certainly paid dividends, but this year’s biggest breakout WR has got to be Emmanuel Sanders. Though drafted as the overall WR30, his numbers check him in as the WR6 in scoring this year, and he has shown fabulous chemistry with the new Broncos signal caller Case Keenum.

In case you still weren’t convinced, Demaryius Thomas was dealt to the Texans during a thrilling trade deadline, opening the door for Sanders to become a week-to-week WR1 and be the true lead receiver for Denver’s air attack. Expect Sanders to keep on churning out receptions, yards, and TDs, and rumble to the end of the season among the top-five in scoring for fantasy receivers.

Biggest Bust: Amari Cooper

Average Draft Position: #34 Standard / PPR according to FantasyPros.com

After a pair of top-eighteen WR finishes in the first two seasons of his NFL career, Amari Cooper has literally fallen off the face of the earth. As in, if he were a rapper, he would be Busta Rhymes, because he hasn’t done anything good since 2016, and his first name might as well be “Bust.”

Cooper was drafted as the WR15 and WR16 in standard and PPR leagues respectively and currently ranks in scoring as the WR68 in fantasy, catching more than two passes in a game just twice this year. This comes after a year in which Cooper finished as the WR36 – hopefully, he is due for a bit of positive regression, especially now that he has found a new home in Dallas. Regardless, you’d be better suited exploring waiver and trade options, because Cooper’s extreme volatility makes him an incredibly risky start at this point in the season.

Running Back

Biggest Breakout: James Conner

Average Draft Position: #153 Standard / PPR according to FantasyPros.com

James Conner, A.K.A. the man who haunts Le’Veon Bell’s dreams every night, was thrust into the RB1 role for the Steelers after Bell began holding out from the team, and he has been a star. With over eighteen rushing attempts and more than four receptions per game, J.C. has turned in a cool 4.7 yards per carry and 10.4 yards per reception. He’s an end-zone fiend as well, with nine rushing touchdowns on the year, second in the league. If you used a late-round selection or first waiver pick on this guy, give yourself a pat on the back – he has been fantastic.

Biggest Bust: Jordan Howard

Average Draft Position: #20 Standard, #23 PPR according to FantasyPros.com

After a disappointing 2017 season, it was difficult to decide whether Jordan Howard was going to continue to regress this year or get back to the bell-cow form that he displayed as a rookie in 2016. He was finally chalked up in August as a late second round pick, and to this point has been remarkably flat. Through seven games this season, Howard has managed to put together the 19th most rushing yards in the NFL, to go with just three rushing touchdowns and less than two receptions per game. While he wasn’t a first-round pick, Howard’s week to week totals are an eyesore, and those who drafted the washed-up Bear certainly wish they used their pick elsewhere.

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