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.
We start our tour around the AFC North in Baldimer, but first a nice big glass of warder. Will Joe Flacco & company get you to fantasy football glory? Let’s take a look and find out.
2018 Fantasy Football Sleeper – Hayden Hurst (ADP 169, TE16)
There is a lot to like about the 82-year-old rookie Hurst as he enters the NFL. His advanced age makes it so that he has already developed his skills, and that should give him a head start on overcoming the rookie tight end speedbump. He was one of Jake Bentley’s favorite targets last season at South Carolina, and he enters a tight end-friendly situation in Baltimore.
About one of every seven passes Joe Flacco has thrown in his career finds his tight end one. This season, that should be Hurst. That creates a great target floor for Hurst to produce this season. The targets Flacco’s funneled to his TE1 increased the last two seasons, with his TE1 seeing just nine fewer targets than his WR1. That’s a bonkers split. It will provide Hurst with plenty of opportunities to produce his rookie year. He’s going among the kickers and DSTs and could be a late round 2018 fantasy football sleeper.
2018 Fantasy Football Bounce Back – Michael Crabtree (ADP 69, WR27)
Joe Flacco has always had, as Matt Williamson calls it, his “wooby.” His security blanket player that he goes to when he’s in trouble and he knows that player will snatch the ball. It was Dennis Pitta, and before that, Anquan Boldin. Before Boldin, it was Derrick Mason. This year, it will be Michael Crabtree.
Crabtree had a down 2017 campaign, posting the second-lowest yards per game of his career. That’s it. Everything else was vintage Crabtree. His 57.4% catch rate was only slightly lower than his career 60% rate, and his yards per catch was just one foot lower than his time with Oakland. Excepting the season where he missed eleven games recovering from an Achilles injury, and his rookie year where he missed five games due to the fallout from his holdout, Crabtree had the fewest targets of his career.
The whole Oakland offense took a huge step back last season, and Michael Crabtree did Michael Crabtree things in the middle of it. He’s going outside the WR2 ranks, but a boost in targets will find him firmly back among their ranks.
2018 Fantasy Football Bust – Hayden Hurst (ADP 169, TE16)
No, that’s not an error. It’s not an oversight or a punt on this. Hayden Hurst has plenty of fantasy football sleeper value, but tight ends do not have a track record of producing their rookie seasons. This is merely a warning of that fact. I liked Hurst better back when he was TE20 or so off the board, but now he’s going ahead of guys like Cameron Brate. Brate finished each of the last two seasons as a top-ten tight end, and already has a proven track record with Jameis Winston. Winston will miss three games, but the production will be there.
Hurst has gained a lot of hype among fantasy football prognosticators this season, but his ADP followed suit. He has a high likelihood of busting out, so don’t overthink it and take him as your starting TE. He should be a second TE for you if he is drafted onto your squad. His draft pedigree won’t save him either; Evan Engram’s 2017 (109.6 fantasy points) was the most fantasy points scored by a rookie first-round TE in the last decade. O.J. Howard’s 2017 ranked second, with just 75.2 fantasy points. It’s hard out there for rookie TEs, even ones with high draft pedigrees.
For more sleeper, breakout, and bust predictions, check out these links: