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15 fantasy football studs who could crash and burn in 2018

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

It has been an extremely active NFL offseason, which has fantasy football enthusiasts already practicing their mock drafting. The hope at this time would be that players who performed exceptionally well last year continue the trend in 2018.

But in the world of fantasy, we should expect the unexpected. Guys on new teams, for one, may now face tough competition from their new teammates.

At the quarterback position, it is common for some of the previous year’s gems to lose their sparkle the following season. Remember when it was all the craze to jump in and steal Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in the first round? Top-tier quarterbacks, as well as running backs, wide receivers and tight ends eventually all expire and turn into pumpkins.

With that said, here are 15 fantasy studs who stand to slip down the ranks, or crash and burn completely, in 2018.

Cam Newton, quarterback, Carolina Panthers

Something has to give for second-highest scoring fantasy quarterback from last season. Much of Newton’s value was based on his 754 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns in 2017. But at the same time, Newton’s passing game was disastrous at points. He threw for nearly a career-low 3,302 yards and completed just 59.1 percent of his passes. If the Panthers somehow put the kibosh on all of Newtons’ antics on foot, the 28-year-old quarterback’s value would tank a lot. Plus, the Panthers want to “keep finding ways” to get running back Christian McCaffrey the ball. Minus Jonathan Stewart, this is sure to happen.

Jimmy Graham, tight end, Green Bay Packers

We would love to promote Graham with his new team this fall, but we do not feel entirely confident in doing so. This is because change does not do Graham well. The 31-year-old tight end was slow to transition when traded to the Seattle Seahawks in 2015, when he recorded only 605 yards and two touchdowns. Even playing with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Graham might take awhile to mesh. Also take into consideration all of the hype that surrounded former Packers’ tight end Martellus Bennett last year. Most thought he would be a fantasy stud in Green Bay. Instead, we all know how very south that situation went.

LeSean McCoy, running back, Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy

Playing strong, McCoy, at 29-years-old, ranked seventh in running back fantasy points last year. But, can McCoy continue to keep up this level of play? Despite his 346 touches and 1,586 total yards, McCoy scored only eight times on the season. Now, he is part of a Bills offense that traded quarterback Tyrod Taylor away. The one positive about Taylor is he hardly ever turned over the ball over into enemy hands. Will we be able to say the same thing about quarterback A.J. McCarron or an unknown rookie quarterback come September? Because of the Bills’ changes on offense, it is difficult to endorse McCoy as an automatic stud for 2018.

Alex Smith, quarterback, Washington Redskins

About as underrated as quarterbacks go, Smith completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 26 touchdowns one only five interceptions in 2017. Smith also passed for a league-best eight yards per attempt. With a new offense and working with receivers who had some ridiculous ball drops last year, Smith’s elite production from last season could decline. Also gone are Smith’s top offensive weapons from last year, wideout Tyreek Hill and running back stud Kareem Hunt. Instead, Smith inherits Jamison Crowder and Rob Kelley, who are currently top at their positions in Washington. Meh.

Mark Ingram, running back, New Orleans Saints

Those who passed on drafting Ingram last year surely kicked themselves for doing so. Capable of it all, Ingram ranked sixth in running back fantasy points after combining for 1,540 yards and a dozen touchdowns. But, what are the chances Ingram and fellow running back Alvin Kamara (ranked No. 4) repeat last year’s record-setting success? Somebody here is bound to take some steps back and it could be Ingram. The odds that the Saints produce two top-10 running backs again in 2018 are pretty slim. Plus, last year’s AP Offensive Rookie of the Year is bound to earn more carries moving forward. How can Kamara not after averaging 6.1 yards per carry? Ingram might be riding in the backseat more often than not this fall.

Marvin Jones, wide receiver, Detroit Lions

In order for the Lions to move their offense downfield, quarterback Matthew Stafford has had to pass tons over the past two seasons. As a result, Jones ranked No. 5 at his position this past year. He reeled in 61 receptions for 1,101 yards and nine touchdowns. But, to improve their last-place run game, the Lions signed veteran running back LeGarrette Blount, who is a red zone bulldozer. We should see Blount performing as a workhorse and stealing some scores. Also, keep in mind Jones’ catch-rate of 57 percent pales in comparison to that of teammate Golden Tate’s 76.7 percent from last season.

Andrew Luck, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts would have us believe that their 28-year-old quarterback is on course to take part in training camp and play in 2018. If he does, that is awesome. But, that does not mean he returns to being the fantasy stud he was in 2014. He threw for 4,761 yards and a league-high 40 touchdowns that season. Now, he is coming off campaigns that saw him complete an average of 59.4 percent of his passes while throwing 46 touchdowns compared to 25 interceptions from 2015-16. There is no guarantee a quarterback who has not thrown an official pass since 2016 suddenly returns to his prime form.

Travis Kelce, tight end, Kansas City Chiefs

We would like to think that Kelce will keep making his owners very happy after putting up two 1000-plus yard campaigns and 12 touchdowns between 2016-17. But, how will he respond to a second-year quarterback? Patrick Mahomes is set to take center stage when we may see more handing off to the Chiefs running backs this year. Kelce developed an amazing chemistry with the only guy he has known as his quarterback — Alex Smith — since starting at his position in 2014. Maybe Kelce won’t completely crash and burn, but expectations should be tempered.

Brandin Cooks, wide receiver, New England Patriots

Cooks was a frustrating player to own at times in 2017 when at times he seemed nearly invisible to quarterback Tom Brady. Nevertheless, he still ranked seventh in wide receiver fantasy points after recording 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns. But this year Brady will get a presumably healthy Julian Edelman back. This is a receiver that garnered 159 looks in 2016. He’s a target hog. While defenses are focused on Cooks, Edelman should be back to catching an abundance of passes. He averaged no less than six catches per game in his last playing season. Sadly, Edelman’s return might spell doom for Cooks.

Melvin Gordon, running back, Los Angeles Chargers

Gordon is decently getting the job done for the Chargers. He just tallied a combined 1,581 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. It was enough that he ranked fifth among the running backs in scoring in 2017. But worth noting is that Gordon has averaged only 3.8 yards per carry over his three years playing with the Chargers. That is a fun little fact that, if it continues, the team might want to give more carries to second-year running back Austin Ekeler. Ekeler was lightening fast in his rookie debut, averaging 5.5 yards per tote. He also scored five times on his limited 74 touches. We could see Ekeler taking a bigger bite out of Gordon’s work load this fall.

Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle Seahawks

Running around like a chicken with its head cut off and scrambling for his life, Wilson became the highest-scoring fantasy quarterback last year. Clearly, the Seahawks’ approach on offense needs some revamping. The Seahawks need a capable running back to relieve Wilson and the task of finding one should be high on the team’s list. And when it comes to the Seahawks overall, we are not fans of the direction the team is currently headed with all the personnel changes occurring. That direction looks to be south, which would greatly impact Wilson’s overall productivity this fall.

Dion Lewis, running back, Tennessee Titans

Lewis emerged as the standout among New England’s crowded running back backfield last year. There he tallied 1,110 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 5.0 yards per carry. He was golden as a Patriot. But what lies ahead for Lewis as the newest Titans running back? Tennessee’s offense doesn’t exactly run as well-oiled as the Patriots’ does. Plus, the young Derrick Henry is waiting in the wings to take on a featured role now that DeMarco Murray has been released. There is enough here to suggest that Lewis possibly regresses in 2018.

Jarvis Landry, wide receiver, Cleveland Browns

Last year, Landry was targeted 161 times resulting in a league-high 112 receptions for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He was pure PPR gold in leagues that awarded points just for making a catch. But, we do not know if this will continue for Landry as a member of the Browns. Landry will now be playing with Tyrod Taylor, also known as “T Mobile.” He is a quarterback who doesn’t exactly air it out on the field. In 15 games last year, Taylor tallied just 2,799 passing yards and 14 touchdowns. On an offense featuring running backs Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson, Landry’s production may tumble. Keep in mind Landry will also be sharing space with wideouts Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman.

Kirk Cousins, quarterback, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings went all in to sign Captain Kirk, who finished sixth in fantasy points last year. But does that mean we should go all in as well on Cousins in drafting this season? The Vikings oftentimes employ a run-first offense. Cousins will now have the luxury of handing the ball off to second-year running back Dalvin Cook and veteran Latavius Murray. He did not have quite the same caliber of running backs when he worked with the Redskins. A prime example of a good run game that impacted a quarterback’s fantasy value would be that of the Saints. Last year due to the aforementioned Ingram’s and Kamara’s successes, Drew Brees slipped to ninth in quarterback fantasy points. The season before, he ranked No. 3.

Odell Beckham Jr., wide receiver, New York Giants

At this time OBJ makes for a risky guy to draft because he is easily one bad decision away from receiving a suspension. He has a volatile personality that got him suspended in 2015¬†for fighting on the field. Off the field, Beckham’s judgement in his extra-curricular shenanigans remains questionable. There is currently a video out there that could come back to bite him this season (more on that here.) Aside from his personal conduct, there is the injury risk. Beckham has missed 16 games due to various injuries in four seasons. For these reasons, Beckham could fail his fantasy owners big time in 2018.