The 2018 fantasy football season is in the books. There were highs, there were lows. There were championship trophies hoisted, and rooms made in the trash bins (like me in most of my leagues).
It’s definitely good to look ahead and get excited for what’s to come in the 2019 season of Yahoo Fantasy. It’s equally as good, however, to look back at 2018 — to reminisce on what transpired during a wild season, regardless of what placing you ended up in.
We already looked at the best moments of the 2018 season. It’s now time to look back at the moments that gave us anxiety, headaches — that made us want to tear our hair out. Who knows? You just might learn something from them.
Without further ado, let’s get into the worst moments of the 2018 fantasy football season!
The Le’Veon Bell saga
The holdout. The rumors. The upside-down tweets.
Le’Veon Bell had a clear-cut first round ADP in 2018. The real debate was whether you would draft him first overall over Todd Gurley. It was all so simple in most of our heads. Bell would return for Week 1 after his holdout and all would be good and well in fantasyland.
Then he didn’t, and the rumor mill swirled. Bell would come back soon, because he wouldn’t say no to his hard-earned money, right? Or maybe he would be traded to another team where he would pick up right where he left off in 2017, right?
There’s just too much to wrack our brains over in regards to Bell. We’ve suffered enough. Every fantasy manager who drafted him, everyone who traded for him expecting him to report — they’ll probably all agree that the Bell situation was the worst of the 2018 fantasy football season.
The Buccaneers’ QB carousel
It might have been fun to see in reality, but things were a tad different in fantasy. Ryan Fitzpatrick was a top-five fantasy quarterback through the first four weeks of the season. But after starting the first two games and living up to his “Fitzmagic” moniker, the veteran threw three interceptions in Week 3 (he did throw for 411 yards and three TDs, however).
Then he crapped out in Week 4 against the vaunted Bears defense, giving way to Jameis Winston.
Winston took hold of the job and threw four TDs against the Falcons. Then he gave the job right back to Fitzmagic after a two-interception outing against the Browns and another four picks against the Bengals.
Aaaaand then Fitzmagic, thanks to another three interceptions, gave the job back to Winston in the middle of what would end up as a Week 11 loss to the Giants.
Imagine having either Winston or Fitzpatrick as your starting QB in fantasy and dealing with this. Imagine having both Winston and Fitzpatrick on your roster and dealing with this!
It was a nerve-wracking situation, to say the least.
A Lion’s decline
Matthew Stafford had never finished outside of the top 15 fantasy quarterbacks since 2012. His lowest finish was 15th in 2014, and his highest was 7th, which he accomplished three times (2013, 2016, 2017). He was a model of consistency that proved you could get viable production out of a fantasy QB without expending a high draft pick. Stafford commanded a 7th round ADP in 2018, reflecting his consistent production at his position.
That all came crashing down in 2018.
Stafford finished 2018 as the 19th-best fantasy QB. He threw for his lowest yardage total (3,777) since 2010, when he only played three games. His 21 passing TDs were his lowest since 2012; his 11 picks his highest since 2015.
He did suffer from injuries around him and questionable play-calling in a largely underwhelming Lions team, but Stafford nonetheless disappointed his fantasy owners for the first time in many seasons. In fact, Stafford finished out the season on many a waiver wire.
He will turn 30 in 2019, so there’s still time to turn it around. That said, it’s not a stretch to wonder if his ADP will suffer greatly going forward, and whether he will still be a fantasy QB that an owner can use for an entire season as he was in years past.
A plethora of running back busts
It’s hard to argue that the running back is the most important position in fantasy football. Only a select few wide receivers command first round picks, and that’s because the majority of the round is dominated by starting runners. In fact, many fantasy managers spend the first three rounds of a draft solidifying the RB position.
So you can imagine how much it hurts when that runner you invested that high pick on, that runner who would be the foundation of your team, that runner who you probably named your squad after, busts. 2018 had a whole mess of them.
Let’s run down a few, shall we?
David Johnson (2018 ADP: Rd. 1, Pick 3; finished as RB 10 in Yahoo’s half-point PPR)
Jordan Howard (2018 ADP: Rd. 3; finished as RB 20 in Yahoo’s half-point PPR)
Dalvin Cook (finished as RB 29; never received more than 20 carries)
Royce Freeman (2018 ADP: Rd. 7; finished as RB 45 in Yahoo’s half-point PPR — by comparison, Phillip Lindsay went largely undrafted in Yahoo leagues)
Yet, even with those names up there, few runners disappointed more than Leonard Fournette. The bruising Jaguars back finished the 2017 fantasy season as the eighth-best RB.
He finished as the 39th-best in 2018 after commanding a high-second round ADP and only playing in eight games. That hurts.
The entire Tight End position
I won’t blab on too long here, because you all know the story. Let’s keep it simple.
Travis Kelce, Zack Ertz, and perhaps most surprisingly, a hero by the name of George Kittle finished as fantasy’s top three tight ends in 2018, respectively. There was only a difference of 20.8 total points between Ertz and Kelce.
Things take a dark turn after Kittle, however. Eric Ebron’s touchdown-prowess buoyed him within 25.5 points of Kittle, and then it’s a disaster.
No other tight end sniffed close to 200 total fantasy points. The fifth-ranked TE, Jared Cook, ended up with a full 83.5 point difference in total from Kelce.
Only Kelce and Ertz surpassed their ADPs, and only Kittle truly obliterated his ADP at his position. Eight of the top 10 tight ends drafted in 2018 underperformed. Here’s to hoping for a better TE landscape in 2019.
All those hamstrings
Many times, the bust label can be stamped on a player who unfortunately ended up on the wrong side of injury. Even more unfortunate is the fact that injuries and the NFL seemingly go hand-in-hand.
The aforementioned Fournette and Cook each suffered hamstring injuries early this season. The injury sidelined them for some time, and in Fournette’s case, may have even opened him up to additional ailments.
Melvin Gordon, Spencer Ware, T.Y. Hilton, Sammy Watkins, and Keke Coutee are just a few of the names who fell victim to the hamstring monster this season, and fantasy owners had to deal with the struggle that comes with it.
Cam Newton’s shoulder
It’s hard to talk about injuries in the NFL without talking about what happened to Cam Newton this season. The 29 year old (2018 ADP: 5th round, fourth QB taken) ended as fantasy’s 12th-best quarterback in 2018. He was second-best in 2017, behind only Russell Wilson, and THE best in 2015.
Why the drop-off? Well, you wouldn’t know it from the first 13 weeks of the season, when Newton was a top-five fantasy option at QB. In fact, he achieved the highest completion percentage (67.9) of his career, and the Panthers looked like a playoff team by midseason.
Then Newton’s shoulder flared up, and the throws began to miss. It got to the point where Newton was pulled for Hail Mary attempts. Intermediate throws would rarely connect, oftentimes plummeting to the turf.
He then experienced a severe decline when fantasy owners needed him most: the fantasy playoffs.
Against the Browns in Week 14, Newton threw a pick to go along with 265 scoreless yards. Then, in a plus-matchup against the rival New Orleans Saints in Week 15, he threw for just 131 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. He rushed a total of 10 times for 38 yards in those two games combined.
The Panthers would go on to shut Newton down the final two games of the season.
Injury plague right before first round of fantasy playoffs
Newton’s shoulder injury at the worst time for fantasy managers was part of a larger injury bonanza in the NFL right at the start of the fantasy playoffs. The one that stands out the most was A.J. Green’s toe ailment, which cost him the rest of the season in Week 14.
Emmanuel Sanders was lost for the season during practice before the first round of the fantasy playoffs. Matt Breida missed the Week 14 matchup against the Broncos. Melvin Gordon’s injuries finally caught up to him and he was ruled out of Weeks 14 and 15, as well. James Conner missed the first two rounds too.
Suffice it to say, it was a rough start to the fantasy playoffs.
Saints do an offensive 180 at the worst time
Through the first 12 weeks (they had a bye in Week 6) of the season, the New Orleans Saints offense averaged 37.18 points per game. Drew Brees was the second-best quarterback in fantasy during that span, behind only Patrick Mahomes. Alvin Kamara was the third-best RB, behind only Todd Gurley and Saquon Barkley (Kamara trailed Barkley by only 5.5 points). Michael Thomas was the fourth-best WR.
Then, when the Cowboys embarrassed the Saints in Week 13, something happened. The Saints PPG dropped all the way to 19 for the rest of the season. Brees dropped to 26th-best fantasy QB from Week 13-17. Kamara to 10th, Thomas to 18th.
To put things in perspective, Brees threw a whopping 16 touchdowns from Week 8 to Week 12. He threw just four from Weeks 13 through Week 16.
The Saints transformed from an offensive juggernaut to a hard-nosed defensive unit, seemingly overnight. While that adaptability would serve them well in reality, the transformation came at the worst time for fantasy managers in the playoffs who employed the Saints assets when they mattered most.
During the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16 in most standard Yahoo leagues), Brees was the 22nd-best QB, Kamara the 6th-best RB, and Thomas the 11th-best WR.
The apparent fall of the Patriots duo
Let’s take a trip back through time — through the last few years of fantasy football, not including 2018.
From 2012 through 2017, Tom Brady had top-10 fantasy QB finishes four times. His greatness in reality often didn’t reflect in fantasy, but we all know he was drafted with regularity regardless. He had a fourth round ADP in 2018; the second quarterback taken in the majority of Yahoo leagues after his third-place finish in 2017.
Rob Gronkowski has been an utterly dominant fantasy force since 2012. He was either the best or second-best fantasy tight end in every year from 2012 until 2017, except in 2013 and 2016, where his seasons were cut short by injury. He had a second round ADP in 2018; the first tight end off the board.
Brady finished as the 14th-best fantasy QB in 2018, behind the likes of Kirk Cousins and Dak Prescott. Gronk finished 11th amongst TEs in half-PPR formats, outscored by Vance McDonald, Kyle Rudolph, and Trey Burton in a wholly disappointing fantasy tight end group.
Underwhelming — at the very least in regards to ADP — is an understatement to describe the Patriots duo in 2018. Can we trust them in 2019 like we’ve done all these years, or was 2018 the beginning of the end?
Honorable Mentions: The entire Titans offense, a vulture-fest in the first playoff round, the Bengals injury-riddled assets, Kirk Cousins’ disappointing season, stars underperforming in Week 16.
Did we miss any? Let us know your worst moments in the comments below!