The 2017 NFL season was one of the best in recent memory. Despite all the controversy that is surrounding the league, it ended with the Philadelphia Eagles winning their first Super Bowl in franchise history. After a great and very intriguing draft, we are ready for the 2018 season to kick off, but some of the players aren’t going to enjoy this as much as we, the fans will. There are rookies who are going to step up and become stars, and there are veterans that are going to fall from their perch atop the NFL. It’s quite hard to predict, but here today, we are going to take a chance at it.
So sit back and read along as we look to the future to see if we can predict seven Quarterbacks, seven Running Backs and seven Wide Receivers that are going to struggle in the upcoming season. Whether it be a guy who will lose their job to a younger player, or whether they just aren’t in the right situation to achieve personal success, we diagnose both aspects.
21 QB – Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco has been consistently above average for the majority of his NFL career (he did have that one decent season where he lead the team to a Super Bowl victory), but he’s falling over the past few years, and with all of the AFC North improving, we just can’t see him getting back to the top level Flacco he was in years past.
Cleveland has improved so much that they actually look like a playoff team, and Pittsburgh as always look like Super Bowl contenders.
With the Ravens offense not looking like it once did, Flacco just isn’t going to be able to carry the team and it’s going to result in one of the worst seasons of his entire 10-year career.
We still see the Baltimore Ravens making a run close to the playoffs on the back of their fantastic defense, but they just don’t have the weapons on the offensive side of the ball to make an impact. It could quite possibly be the beginning of the end for Flacco.
20 WR – Danny Amendola
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have been making stars out of mediocre receivers for years now and one person that benefited from that quite a lot is Danny Amendola. Now that he’s out on his own playing for the Miami Dolphins, it’s going to be a steep fall. The Dolphins are going to rely on their ‘franchise’ QB Ryan Tannehill to swiftly recover from a severe knee injury, and without many targets, it’s going to be a struggle.
That means Amendola is going to experience a severe drop off in his play and his numbers.
In the AFC East, there is no real chance for any of the other three teams to make a run at the division title while Tom Brady is in town, and Amendola knows that better than anyone. The decision to sign with the Dolphins is certainly an odd one, but he’s going to have to have a career best year for them to do anything in the East. Unfortunately, he’s way past his prime, and now that he’s away from Brady and the brilliant mind of Bill Belichick, he’s going to become just another name on the field. He will struggle to produce anything memorable in the 2018 season.
19 RB – Carlos Hyde
The Cleveland Browns had a fantastic offseason, and it only adds to what was a great draft last year, and now, they finally look like a potential playoff team in the AFC North. With all that expectation comes pressure, and some will handle that better than others, and unfortunately, Carlos Hyde is going to end up on the wrong side of that pressure.
The Browns want to succeed right away, but they still have time to build, and with Nick Chubb as their backup RB, they will want to get him major reps straight away so they can build their offense around him and Baker Mayfield. Like Josh McCown, it may cost him his confidence and his production.
Unfortunately, we believe the Browns will still be another year and a good draft away from a potential playoff push, and that will happen when Chubb becomes their top back.
Unfortunately for Cleveland and Hyde, it looks like he will be the odd man out in the backfield.
It’s odd that the team didn’t draft Saquon Barkley with the first overall selection as they could have used the money they used on Hyde for another important piece. It may just be another in a long line of poor moves from the Browns.
18 QB – Marcus Mariota
Marcus Mariota came into the NFL with plenty of hype behind him after leading the explosive Oregon offense on the way to a Heisman Trophy. Unlike the top overall selection from that draft, FSU’s Jameis Winston, Mariota has failed to adapt his game to the NFL level, and with such a tough division to face, he is going to fall short of expectations yet again.
Mariota has all the tools to be one of the best QBs in the NFL, but he just hasn’t managed to put it together yet, and with the weapons down in Tennessee that he has to battle an incredibly tough division, we just can’t see it turning around anytime soon.
He may struggle for as long as he is the franchise QB of the Titans.
We don’t think that Mariota is a bust, but after the Heisman and being taken second overall, you expect a little bit more from him, and unfortunately, he just hasn’t been able to adapt like Winston or a lot of the other top level young QB’s in the game. There is still time for him to turn it around, and we believe he will, but it just won’t be in the near future.
17 WR – Torrey Smith
Despite his obvious talents, Torrey Smith has never managed to stay at one NFL team for any amount of time, bouncing from Baltimore to San Francisco to Philly (at least he won himself another ring) to now Carolina, With so much pressure on him to be the number one and carry this young corps with one of the NFL’s best young QB’s throwing him the ball, he’s just not going to succeed.
He’s proven time and time again that he’s just not an elite WR. Sure, he’s contributed to all those teams that he’s been on, and he’s shown flashes of being one of the games best but he’s just way too inconsistent. With few reputable options on the outside, Cam is just going to struggle to get him the ball consistently.
16 RB – Marshawn Lynch
Beast Mode has been one of the biggest names in the NFL since his days in Seattle. After coming out of retirement to play for the Oakland Raiders, he just hasn’t been the same. With Doug Martin looking to prove himself after an average last few years in Tampa Bay, it’s going to be hard for Lynch to keep his starting spot.
This team is looking very promising with the addition of both Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant, and in combination with Amari Cooper and Derek Carr, this high-flying offense is going to be hard to stop. That means the team won’t be focused on the run game as much, and as Lynch ages, he is going to slow down. That can only mean bad things for Beast Mode.
15 QB – Blake Bortles
The Jacksonville Jaguars had an excellent 2017 season, and if the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game played out just a little differently, we could have seen them battling the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bow. It was not to be and after losing their two top receivers, it’s going to be difficult for them to replicate the success of that season.
Losing both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns will be tough to swallow, as Bortles had an average season with them out there, and now that they have lost them, he will struggle even further. With every team in the AFC South looking like a playoff contender, he’s just not going to be able to live up to the huge contract that the Jaguars handed him.
14 WR – DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson, although not always one of the biggest names in the NFL has been one of this generations elite Wide Receivers, and still to this day, he’s one of the best deep threats that the game has. However, age is catching up with him and going against some of the best teams in the league down in the NFC South isn’t going to be good for him, and we may finally see the steep downfall of the former Eagles great.
His last few years in Washington weren’t great with Kirk Cousins under center, and that’s to be expected considering how tough the competition has been, but down in the NFC South, he’s going to have to become a good second option in the toughest division in the NFL, and that’s not going to be easy.
By Jackson’s standards, we are definitely going to see a down year.
Sure, there are still a lot of teams out there who could benefit from a threat like Jackson, as he can still stretch the field like few others in the game, but Father Time is undefeated. At the age of 31, we’ve probably seen the best of Jackson, and it’s all downhill from this point forward.
13 RB – Rashaad Penny
Just a few years ago, the Seattle Seahawks were the NFL’s most dominant team on the back of a fantastic backfield and The Legion of Boom, but most of those players have departed. Although Russell Wilson will do his best to carry this team to the playoffs, they just don’t have the talent to achieve that goal, and unfortunately, that’s going to reflect badly on the teams rookie back, Rashaad Penny.
Coming out of San Diego State, Penny certainly has the talent to make it as a starter in the NFL, but he’s being rushed into the job after Seattle lost many of its backs from the past few years.
With the pressure to make the playoffs yet again at the back end of their dominant stretch, he just won’t be able to help the team in the way that they’d like.
Hopefully Seattle are patient with Penny because they don’t have many other options in the backfield. He may grow into a star player one day, but this is a team that is hanging on to its last hopes of being an elite team, and having rookies that aren’t ready to start doesn’t help. Let’s just hope the year for Penny isn’t that bad.
12 QB – Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill was drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, and he was expected to be the man that could turn this entire franchise around. Although he’s shown glimpses throughout his NFL career, he just hasn’t managed to put it together yet, and after a devastating knee injury saw him miss the entirety of the 2017/18 season, we just can’t see him bouncing back with a great 2018/19 season.
The team looks much different these days too, as they’ve let go of both Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry, and although they’ve still got some talent on the outside, Tannehill just isn’t a good enough QB to capitalize on them. It’s going to leave the team searching for a new franchise QB in the very near future. With the Jets improving and both Buffalo and New England making the playoffs a year ago, the Dolphins have slipped down to the bottom of the AFC East. After so much time waiting for Tannehill to become a star, they need to give up on him when he fails to make much of an impression on the 2018/19 season.
11 WR – Michael Crabtree
Michael Crabtree was once one of the most exciting and explosive receivers in the entire NFL, but over the past year, the most notable thing he has done is his scrappy, ugly rivalry with Aquib Talib. Now that he’s with the Ravens who have no real shot at the AFC North, his career is going to continue to trend downhill.
The team has very few weapons on the offensive side of the ball, and expecting Crabtree to carry the load as the top option definitely isn’t a good idea, as he is one of the more overrated players in the NFL at this point - it’s going to be hard to watch for Baltimore fans this season.
Sure, Crabtree still has the ability to have a few big games here and there, but for the most part, he’s at the backend of his career, and he just isn’t suited to being a number one anymore.
There weren’t very many options in Free Agency for Baltimore this year at the WR spot (sure, there’s Dez Bryant, but he’s in the same boat as Crabtree – too old and not good enough to be a #1 anymore), so Crabtree is an understandable signing, but they’ll need to bring in new, younger talent next year if they want to succeed.
10 RB – Jerick McKinnon
In a few short years, the San Francisco 49ers have gone from dominant force to cellar dwellers. It appears that on the back of several fantastic defensive drafts and the acquiring of Jimmy Garrapollo, fans are predicting that they could do big things in 2018, but it’s time we put the brakes on the hype train for the iconic franchise.
Sure, they’ve got a lot to build on, and the fans down in the Bay Area have more than just the Warriors to hang their hat on, but they aren’t there yet. Too much pressure is going to be put on Jerick McKinnon, and we just don’t think he’ll handle the hype.
Jimmy G is the future of this franchise, and will be a great NFL QB for years to come, but McKinnon isn’t as good.
After a good year in Minnesota, he’s been given a big contract to carry the load for this team, but as more teams get film on him, the harder it will be for him to succeed. With Seattle and Arizona falling, this team has a chance to grasp on to second place in the NFC West, and they’ll be competitive for a long time to come. The hype train is no doubt going to hinder McKinnon’s ability to succeed in the upcoming season.
9 QB – Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott came into the NFL quite under the radar despite his fantastic college career and stint at Mississippi State, but he found himself starting for the Dallas Cowboys from day one, and he succeeded alongside fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliot. However, now that the NFL has film on him and they’ve adapted to his game, he hasn’t been as effective, and that’s going to continue into 2018.
The Cowboys were once one of the most popular and dominant teams in all of sports, but they’ve been lackluster over the last few years. With Philly winning their first Super Bowl and New York gaining a major weapon in Saquon Barkley, they’ll be tough to dethrone, and the Cowboys, with Prescott under center don’t have the ability to change that in the upcoming NFL season.
With Elliot back, this team is going to be good for years to come, but unfortunately, the Eagles and Giants are prepared to succeed now. That means bad things for the young QB, and unfortunately, it’s going to be a tough year ahead for the entire Dallas team. It may mean the end for Jason Garrett at the head of the once great team.
8 WR – Josh Doctson
The Washington Redskins are one of the NFL’s greatest franchises, but over the past decade or two, they’ve struggled to remain relevant. After acquiring RG3 in the draft, it looked like they might have turned it around but he turned out to be a huge bust, and therefore the franchise isn’t looking good. When Josh Doctson is your top option at Wide Receiver, you know you are in trouble.
Sure, it looks like the team has a decent future, as they still have Jordan Reed, and they drafted one of the most talented backs in the entire draft in Derrius Guice, but for right now, with Alex Smith under center, they just aren’t going to compete this year.
It’s going to result in a down year for everyone, especially Josh Doctson, who is a traditional WR (and they haven’t fared too well with Smith at QB).
Tyreek Hill succeeded in KC due to how overwhelmingly explosive he is. He is a truly unique WR, but Doctson just isn’t the performer that Hill is, and unfortunately, he’s going to struggle this year. If the team can get a top receiver next year, they have potential in the future.
7 RB – Alex Collins
This has become a theme throughout this list but Alex Collins landed the starting job in Baltimore by default. They really didn’t have any other options to turn to but with such an elite defense, there is now even more pressure on the offense to keep up with not only the D but the Pittsburgh Steelers. Everyone needs to be at their best, but Collins just isn’t seasoned enough and isn’t ready to take on such a role.
If the Ravens had several talented backs, we’d be confident in their abilities to make plays on the offensive side of the ball. Like it has been since Ray Rice left, the team just doesn’t have that one guy to stand up and put the team on his back for a game but that’s what they need and that spells bad news for the 2018 season.
6 QB – AJ McCarron
AJ McCarron is one of the most successful QB’s in college football history, he brought home two National Championships during his stint at Alabama, becoming the first QB to do so in back-to-back seasons in the BCS era. However, hasn’t experienced much team success since joining the NFL, as he’s been a backup to Andy Dalton in Cincinnati.
He’s in Buffalo and ready to break out as a star, but it’s not quite going to be that easy.
Sure, the team made the playoffs a year ago despite the constant changes at QB, but the rest of the AFC is getting better and better, and with this being AJ’s first shot at an extended period as starting QB in the NFL, there is going to be bumps along the way. He’s going to struggle to replicate the success that the team had a season ago.
Rookie Josh Allen isn’t ready to start straight away but with the weapons that this team has combining with their D, they expect immediate success. We know that McCarron is a great QB, but he’s just going to struggle to adapt to the Bills team and that may cost him his job due to their current situation.
5 WR – Tavon Austin
The Los Angeles Rams got a major package back for trading away the second pick to the Washington Redskins back in 2012, and one of the biggest names they got was Tavon Austin, but he struggled to perform consistently in his time with the Rams. He’s moved on to the Dallas Cowboys, but with so many better receivers on the team, plus Ezekiel Elliot in the backfield, he just isn’t going to get the chance to succeed in the Big D.
As a big play threat, it’s always good to have someone like Austin in the slot, but he should have developed a lot more in his time in the NFL. Unfortunately he just hasn’t, and he won’t find any success moving down to Dallas. The team is looking good despite the loss of both Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, and with the dynamic duo of Prescott and Elliot back for the full season, they could make a potential playoff run. However, Austin isn’t going to be a feature part of any success the team may somehow achieve, even if he does manage to pull in a couple of TD catches.
4 RB – Jacquizz Rodgers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t been relevant for quite some time, but they built up a nice core of young players around Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. Unfortunately against the might of the NFC South, they’re going to come up short as a team. While those two guys are going to put up huge numbers en route to a likely fourth place finish in the division, Jacquizz Rodgers unfortunately isn’t even going to get that.
Any success that this team did have early on with this core of players was built around their run game and Doug Martin, but with Winston, they’ve evolved the entire offensive philosophy.
With Rodgers back there who isn’t equipped for being a starter, they’ll struggle, and Rodgers will likely slide back into a backup role for the future.
He has enough talent to carve out a decent NFL career for himself, but it’s likely going to come as part of a 1-2 combination (like he had in Atlanta with DeVonta Freeman). This team looks the best it has ever looked, so they are no doubt seeking for this to be the year they break out and make their mark on the NFC South. Unfortunately for Rodgers, he just won’t be able to help the team do that.
3 QB – Josh McCown
Josh McCown has been in the NFL for over a decade now and he’s never been anything more than a career backup, but in 2017, he had a really good year for the New York Jets. With the pressure of Sam Darnold breathing down his neck, we think that by the end of the year, McCown will have lost his starting job, and will likely be relegated to being a mentor for the former USC star (not a bad spot when you are earning that type of money though).
The Jets have talent, and although they are probably a year or two away from making the playoffs (assuming Tom Brady and/or Bill Belichick have retired by then), there is pressure to put Darnold in and start creating chemistry that will lead them into the future. McCown is going to falter because of it.
At this point in his career, no one expects McCown to be a starter who throws for 4,000 yards and 30+ TDs.
Even with these tempered the expectations, he is unfortunately going to fail with his last chance to be a starting QB in the NFL. It may be the last time that a team takes a chance on signing him at all.
2 WR – Donte Moncrief
We’ve talked about Blake Bortles and how he is going to struggle this season for a variety of different reasons. That struggle is unfortunately going to extend to his receivers and Donte Moncrief, who, after several mediocre years in Indianapolis finds himself as the top threat for the Jags after the loss of both Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson.
In fiur seasons with the Colts, Moncrief was very up and down (that’s somewhat to be expected when Andrew Luck is in and out of the team due to injury), but he showed plenty of potential, and as a slot receiver. He’d be a great threat in the NFL, but it looks like he’s going to be the number for Jacksonville and that’s bad news.
1 RB – Rob Kelley
We’ve just talked about the Washington Redskins and how their Wide Receiver corps is one of the worst in the NFL led by Josh Doctson, but their backfield isn’t any more impressive, as they have Rob Kelley leading the way. Unfortunately, there’s just no way he is going to succeed in the upcoming NFL season. Kelley has only been in the NFL for two years, and it seems that he won the starting job for the upcoming season by default. That doesn’t bode well for the team and with outstanding rookie prospect Derrius Guice sitting behind him, it’s likely that Kelley will have too much pressure on him in the upcoming season, so much so that he may not even make it through the season as the team's starter.
Kelley certainly has talent and one day after he continues to develop, he may make an excellent backup for a team. He even has the potential to be a starter, but there’s just no way that he succeeds this year in Washington, especially with such a tough division.