It’s always a bit of a let-down to realize just how quickly the NFL season passes. Months and months of buildup are followed by a short-lived whirlwind of actual football. The calendar has turned to a New Year, your favorite team’s playoff dreams are being dashed left and right, and the fantasy playoffs are a fading memory. This year we thought we’d go ahead and take a hard look at our annual predictions series. We’ll see who was very right, who was very wrong, and try to pick a true winner for each category. Here are the categories we tackled:
- Fantasy MVP
- Fantasy Rookie of the Year
- Sleeper Rookie of the Year (outside our top 24)
- Bust of the Year
- Fantasy Sleeper
- Best Dynasty Buy
- Best Dynasty Sell
- Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year
We’ll continue our retrospective by taking a look at our picks for the Sleeper Rookie of the Year.
Josh Allen, QB BUF
Sure, he has some issues. Josh Allen is nobody’s idea of a safe prospect and the offensive weapons and line blocking for him in Buffalo aren’t inspiring, either. However, we’ve seen Blake Bortles put up top 12 quarterback numbers in a similar situation in recent years, too. People decry his numbers as reliant on garbage time but it’s all the same on the stat sheet. The Bills are likely going to be trailing a lot in 2018 and they’re going to need their strong-armed rookie to attempt plenty of unfeasible comebacks. In the absence of many compelling options, Allen seems to be a safe bet for immediate production in the range he’s been taken. – Tom Kislingbury
If there were an award for most maligned rookie in the off-season, Allen would win it in a runaway. Negative narratives about Allen flowed like a mountain stream, and very few had the guts to say a whole lot of positive about the rookie signal caller. Tom was one of those few. He recognized that there were real question marks around Allen, but showed the moxie to see a silver lining. Allen outperformed the negativity surrounding him by a fair amount, and did quite a bit of that with his legs. It was a strong rookie season in Buffalo, and it will be interesting to see how Allen develops.
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D.J. Chark, WR JAC
Chark probably has the highest near-term ceiling of anyone outside the top 20. He has the physical makings of a stud receiver and showed flashes of putting it together in college. However, he’s going to have to do so consistently in order to take advantage of that in the NFL and that’s far from a given. But if so, he has an incredible opportunity. The Jags receiving corps is one of the league’s worst without Marqise Lee, particularly in the #1 receiver department. There’s no guarantee that he figures it out (and there are competent receivers to take his targets if he doesn’t) but the best-case scenario is great. – Stephen Gill
With Marqise Lee out for the year, a clear opportunity presents itself for rookie Chark. With high draft capital and opportunity, he could command the lead role at receiver ahead of less talented teammates. – Kevin O’Brien
I think the lesson here may be don’t trust guys on offenses you don’t totally trust overall. I think we all knew the Jags offense was precarious, but we still invested in players like Leonard Fournette. Here Stephen and Kevin both took a shot on Chark, who features a combination of size, great speed and found himself drafted in the second round. But things just never came together for Chark in 2018. He had more than his share of drops, and the sputtering Jaguar offense didn’t help. Add in injury, and 174 yards and 0 TDs later, it was a tough pick for Stephen and Kevin.
Jordan Akins, TE HOU
Watson and Hopkins, Watson and Hopkins, it seems it’s all anyone cares about in Houston. Well, that offense has had a gaping hole at the tight end position and barely anyone is talking about Akins, whom the Texans drafted in the third round this year out of the University of Central Florida. Again, in case you didn’t notice, they drafted Akins in the third round. Draft capital, people. They will use Akins and he flashed his receiving skills right away in the preseason with two touchdown catches right out of the gate. You can get him for a song and he could really pay off. – Ryan Finley
Well, here we go again. I have to throw myself under the bus on this one. I was sucked in by a combination of draft capital (Akins was drafted in the third round) and opportunity. There was also a history between Bill O’Brien and Akins that contributed to my targeting him this off-season. He looked good in the preseason initially, but that was about all he managed to contribute in his rookie season. His high game was a voluminous 6.2 fantasy points. Ouch. I’m taking the L here.
It’s a close call between Comeback Player of the Year with Andrew Luck and the real winner in this category, Phillip Lindsay. Talk about a sleeper, Lindsay could be had for next to nothing in all but the deepest leagues this off-season. Fantasy owners focused on his rookie running back teammate in Royce Freeman, but we were all backing the wrong Bronco. The signs were there in the preseason, but it’s hard to bank on 5’7” running backs, especially when the Broncos had drafted Freeman, who fits the “mold” in the third round. But from the very first game, Lindsay showed that he belongs in the NFL, small stature or not. He put up over 18 PPR points in that first game, and scored 222 points through 16 games. Those are big-time numbers for a back of the roster pickup.
If there’s one thing I think we tend to miss, I think it’s the pure ability to play football. We often get so hung up on metrics, physical tools and draft capital that we miss guys that show they can get the job done regardless of their supposed “limitations.” Lindsay is a real deal football player.
Can you make an argument for another sleeper ROY?