By: Sean Morris @_SeanPMorris
Sophomore Slumps and Jumps
There is a saying that tends to go around in the fantasy football community, the dreaded “sophomore slump”. You can go back over the last few seasons and see why this statement holds some credibility. Guys like Todd Gurley, Dak Prescott, Thomas Rawls, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson and Alfred Morris all saw a significant drop off in production as sophomores. There have been players on the flip side, guys that had a jump in production their sophomore years. You can look at guys like David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy, Carson Wentz, Arian Foster and Ryan Mathews. That’s a lot of big time guys I just named that have gone on to become superstars, only one of them had a “sophomore slump”. I say that because it pays off to be patient with first year guys that didn’t quite explode like you thought they would. It’s the NFL, it takes awhile to adjust. Blowing up your rookie year in the NFL is hard enough, but repeating that performance? That is a different story. I left guys like Alvin Kamara, Leonard Fournette, Cooper Kupp, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Deshaun Watson out because I feel like we won’t see a huge drop in production from those guys. Every year people get excited about the next rookie class and tend to oversee the future sophomore jumps. Don’t be that person. I have three players that I think will be seeing a slump in their sophomore season and three players that will be seeing a jump in their sophomore season.
Kareem Hunt– Kareem Hunt. The league leader in rushing. I know you’re probably thinking, “Well of course he is gonna have a “slump”, he led the league in rushing as a rookie”. I get that and I know he got off to a hotter start than anyone in the NFL, but he also slowed down A LOT. Sure, he picked it back up at the end of the year, but he didn’t show me the consistency I want to see out of a top RB1. I am not saying Kareem will have a terrible year, but I don’t see him being in the top 15 at the RB position for fantasy purposes. The Kansas City Chiefs are in trouble right now and owning a RB on a team in trouble is never a good idea. Sell high on Hunt to an owner that is in love with him. You could even wait a few years for his value to drop if the Chiefs struggle, then make a move for him when they have it figured out at as a whole.
Evan Engram– Evan Engram had one of the best rookie seasons as a tight end in NFL history. With an injured receiving core, Engram quickly became one of Eli Manning‘s main targets. He showed the ability to run crisp routes, create separation, and explode after the catch. With the return of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard, Engram will have to take the back seat as a pass catcher. Engram is going to be great for the long haul, but don’t expect the same production out of the tight end during his sophomore season.
Dalvin Cook– I don’t really know if you can call it a “slump” because he only played 4 games in 2017, but I believe this sophomore running back has expectations a little too high for him to meet. Coming off an ACL tear and expected to be their long term answer at running back, I would think the coaching staff would like to take it slow with Dalvin Cook. It is hard enough to come back from an ACL tear at any position, let alone the guy constantly making cuts on that same knee. Cook has a chance to become something special and has tons of potential, but I am taking a backseat with him at his current price.
Corey Davis– This highly praised rookie didn’t quite live up to expectations this past season, due to injury and many other things. Corey Davis is the all time leader in receiving yards in NCAA history. A few things I notice about Davis is that he is a tall, explosive WR who just needs his fair share of targets and he will make plays happen. He can go up and win contested balls as well as run after the catch. With the newly hired offensive coordinator in Tennessee, I like Davis. I see him getting better designed routes to suite him, more targets from Marcus Mariota and overall I see a lot more production out of the second year WR.
Trent Taylor– Trent Taylor? Yes, you read that correctly. I see a huge boost in production with this second year receiver out of LA Tech. This man had 136 receptions his senior year at LA Tech and went for 1,803 yards with 12 TDs! With Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, I expect to see that Tom Brady to Julian Edelman type of connection with these two. According to Pro Football Focus, Jimmy G is the number one short yardage passing quarterback in the league, which goes hand in hand with Taylor’s ability to get open 5-15 yards from the line of scrimmage. My advice would be to buy Trent Taylor now, before the rest of year league catches on and his price gets too high.
Christian McCaffrey– Nine more receptions. That is all he needed to break the rookie reception record by a running back. I am sure you’re asking yourself, “How he is going to have a jump in production when he was already so productive?” You are right that he was productive, but the majority of his production came in the receiving category, and he is obviously not a receiver. I see McCaffrey getting a lot more snaps and a lot more rushing attempts in 2018. He is one of the most prolific runners in recent memory. He has the ability to make you miss, stop on a dime, and just out run you. Everybody is already familiar with the way McCaffrey can create separation as a route runner and in his sophomore season people will get familiar with the way he can run the ball. Expect similar receiving numbers from 2017 on top of a nice jump in the running game.