For this 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 move on to the Factory of Sadness, the Mistake by the Lake, the 2018 Hard Knocks participants: the Cleveland Browns. Should you stay away from the players on a team that went 1-31 the last two seasons? The answer might surprise you.
2018 Fantasy Football Breakout – Tyrod Taylor, Quarterback (ADP 214, QB28)
Yes, Baker Mayfield was the #1 overall pick and is nipping at Taylor’s heels. However, the Browns will give Tyrod the shot to hang onto the starting role. There are those who believe the job is Mayfield’s to win, but once Tyrod gets the nod, there is a two-person dance with Mayfield leading. Tyrod has to lose the job, and Mayfield has to win it. That means Tyrod has to be ineffective… the same Tyrod who is among the NFL’s best at preventing interceptions. He will start more games than many people want to believe this year.
Keeping the job isn’t enough for Tyrod to make his way onto your fantasy football rosters. He also has to perform. He’s done that, partially thanks to his running. In his three seasons in Buffalo as the starter, he’s ended as quarterback 16, quarterback 8, and quarterback 15 at season’s end. He did this with worse weaponry in Buffalo than he has in Cleveland. He will hang onto the role.
2018 Fantasy Football Bust – Josh Gordon, Wide Receiver (ADP 53, WR19)
The Josh Gordon 2018 Offseason Rollercoaster is over… except it isn’t. He’s back from his mystery time away from the Browns, and Hue Jackson says there’s “a chance” that he is ready for the season opener. Unfortunately, he’s still in stage three of the NFL Substance Abuse Program, and he is not cleared to practice yet. He’s severely behind the 8 ball as the season approaches, but fantasy football drafters don’t want to let him slip. They’ve hung onto the dream for years, and want it to be ready.
Gordon is great and all, but he is coming up on half a decade since his magical 2013 campaign. His off-field issues have limited him to just ten games since he set the league on fire. Since then, he’s caught fewer than 50% of his passes and had the ridiculous opportunity thanks to a completely useless receiving corps around him. He’s too far behind the rest of the players and there are too many exceptionally talented pass catchers in Cleveland for me to give him the benefit of the doubt.
2018 Fantasy Football Sleeper – Nick Chubb, Running Back (ADP 105, RB40)
Nick Chubb didn’t have the best first preseason game, but he bounced back in his second. The rookie running back’s average draft position sits so low because Carlos Hyde has solidified the starting role in Cleveland. Hyde, however, cannot play a full season to save his life. He played only 20-of-32 games in 2015 and 2016, mustering a full season only in a contract year. Even in that contract year last year with the 49ers, he ceded a ton of ground to Matt Breida.
One of these two things will happen with Hyde: either he hurts himself or he cedes ground to Chubb. Chubb is a draft-and-stash, and an impatient owner will lose him before he becomes a weekly fantasy football starter. Don’t worry about Duke Johnson stealing touches away from Chubb, he shared time with Sony Michel in college. Chubb could be a league winner in the second half, and he’s going outside the top 100 picks.