For the 2018 season, we will explore a 2018 fantasy football sleeper, breakout (or bounce back), and bust from every NFL team. First, a sleeper can leap into top-tier production at a bargain basement draft day price. A breakout is available in the middle rounds and will return positive value of at least a couple rounds. Bounce backs are normally helpful players coming off a down year or years whom you can acquire for a song. Busts are the worst case scenario: a player who drastically underperforms his draft position. While they may not be a wasted pick, you definitely don’t want them on your team.
The Los Angeles Chargers are a cursed franchise, but will picking one of their players curse your 2018 fantasy football squad? Or can you find a big 2018 fantasy football sleeper on this roster that will become the piece of cake you shove down your opponents’ throats to make them Thinner?
2018 Fantasy Football Sleeper – Austin Ekeler (ADP 179, RB60)
Austin Ekeler took a backseat to Melvin Gordon for much of his rookie year but had flashes of fantasy football relevance towards the end of the 2018 season. The sophomore now hopes to build on his rookie campaign and has his fingers crossed that the Chargers coaches look to throttle back on Melvin Gordon in the name of preserving him. After all, only three other backs have more carries than Gordon over the last two years and the Chargers have playoff aspirations.
Ekeler did more on a per-touch basis last season than Gordon, posting five touchdowns, and just under 540 yards on only 74 touches last year. They have the lightning to Gordon’s thunder in Ekeler, and I believe his workload will increase. This will create standalone value for Ekeler in deeper leagues. If Gordon goes down, he could be a league winner. This, paired with his stand-alone value, makes him an excellent 2018 fantasy football sleeper.
2018 Fantasy Football Breakout – Mike Williams (ADP 131, WR49)
This one makes me itchy because the history of first-round wide receivers that do relatively little their first season is not great. Between 2000 and 2016, the list of first-round rookie wide receivers with fewer than 200 yards is a boneyard of wasted opportunity and talent. Between 2000 and 2016, ten such players matched these criteria. Of these ten, only Santana Moss went on to have a career that even kissed fantasy relevance. The others (A.J. Jenkins, Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson, Michael Jenkins, Darrius Heyward-Bey, R. Jay Soward, Rashaun Woods, Kevin White and Craig Davis) paint a pretty bleak future.
That having been said, only Kevin White (jury status: pending) and Michael Jenkins even came close to matching Mike Williams’ big profile (6’3”, 205 pounds) that has him turning heads at training camp. The loss of Hunter Henry has the Chargers scrambling for a red zone receiving weapon, and they’ll get a chance at it with Williams. The track record for guys who started off their career isn’t great, but neither are wide receivers named Mike Williams. Still, I believe in the guy, and in the double-digit rounds, it’s hard to go wrong.
2018 Fantasy Football Bust – Melvin Gordon (ADP 11, RB9)
I’m not going to blow smoke up your rear end and tell you that Gordon is going to finish outside the top-thirty at RB, and anyone who tells you that is doing it for attention. My contention is that his efficiency numbers have not been great (Ekeler averaged over 1.5 more yards per carry last season) and only an increased workload is going to offset this. His large volume load (284 carries, 83 targets) kept the rusher’s fantasy stats buoyed (his twelve touchdowns didn’t hurt). I’m wary of players who have low efficiency and high touchdown rates, as you can guess which one has more dependability from year-to-year?
I’m fully convinced that Ekeler plays a bigger role and diminishes Gordon’s role. This is why he is the “bust” of this team (even though there aren’t any real busts available). Gordon has the biggest chance of busting, so he gets the nod here; just be warned, this is a “soft” bust.
For more AFC West fantasy football sleeper, breakout, and bust predictions click these links: