The 2018 NFL season is still two months away, but already analysts are buzzing with predictions and fans are excitedly sharing their theories about which teams will win and which players will excel. Superstar players have tremendous pressure on their shoulders to perform as well as they are advertised. A key benchmark to measure offensive productivity for Wide Receivers and for Running Backs is the 1,000-yard mark.
The 1,000-yard mark is a remarkable feat. While most of the credit is given to the individual player who recorded the yards, the accomplishment is, in most cases, a team effort. To reach 1,000 yards, there needs to be a collective effort from all offensive positions, including the QB and lineman. For example, if the RBs don’t move the ball well, the offense won’t play as many downs, and the WRs won’t see as many targets and won’t record as many yards. Staying healthy is a given; with only 16 games to play, a player typically needs to be at their best each and every game to achieve the elusive 1,000 yards.
In the NFL, the 1,000-yard mark in the NFL is typically more challenging for RBs than it is for WRs. Over the last three seasons, an average of 23 WRs and 9 RBs have reached 1,000 yards each year, and NFL fans and analysts have already predicted which players will hit that yardage in 2018. We don’t quite agree with all of their predictions, however, and we would like to highlight which players will not hit 1,000 yards this season. Read on to discover why.
20 RB – Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
Jordan Howard is about to enter his third NFL season, after producing 1,000-yards during each of his first two. Although he has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, Howard stats decreased significantly last year; this downward trend will hinder Howard’s attempt at another 1,000-yard season. In 2017, Howard’s yards dropped by 191 yards with respect to his 2016 numbers, his average yards- per-carry fell from 5.2 to 4.1, and his yards-per-game plunged to 70.1 from 87.5. Last season, Howard averaged over 17 carries per game, but with second-year RB Tarik Cohen poised to see more playing time, Howard’s production will drop below 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.
19 WR – Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Last season, Adam Thielen set career highs with 91 receptions and 1,276 receiving yards, but it is highly unlikely that he will be able to replicate those stats this year. In Minnesota, Thielen is the second target option behind Stefon Diggs, and he will need to develop chemistry with new QB Kirk Cousins. Add Delvin Cook, Latavius Murray, and Kyle Rudolph to the mix; with all of the Vikings’ offensive weapons this year, Thielen will not see the same number of targets as he did last season. With the new QB, the less targets, and more attention garnered from opposing defensive backs, Thielen will fall short of 1,000 yards in 2018.
18 RB – Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
During the 2018 NFL Entry Draft, the New York Giants selected Saquon Barkley with their first-round draft pick. In each of the last two seasons, rookie RBs have taken the NFL by surprise and have led the league in rushing. Without even playing a game in the NFL, Barkley is already projected to be a top-10 RB, and is projected to reach 1,000 yards by the end of the season. The Giants have not had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2012, when Ahmad Bradshaw recorded 1,015 yd; Barkley is stuck on a team that has forgotten how to build an offense with a good RB. While the future is bright for this kid, 2018 will not be the season he hits 1,000 yards.
17 WR – Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
An undrafted, 7-year NFL veteran, Doug Baldwin is currently projected to record the third 1,000-yard season of his career, and to finish the season with an overall top-10 number of receiving yards. This is a pretty bold prediction, considering that Baldwin has recorded 1,000-yards only twice in his career (2015 and 2016), and fell short last year by 9 yards. This past off-season, the Seattle Seahawks lost key receivers Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson, meaning that Baldwin will now be QB Russell Wilson’s go-to receiver. Defenses will take notice and adjust to better defend Baldwin, limiting both his receptions and his yardage. Without decent supporting WRs, Baldwin will not hit the 1,000-yard mark this year.
16 RB – Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Last year, the Saints began the season using a two-RB system, with RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram splitting playing time. By the end of the season, however, Kamara emerged as the Saint’s RB1. Going into the 2018 season, it is speculated that Ingram will be taking a back-seat to the second-year Kamara. Ingram’s touches, yards and TDs will all decrease in comparison to last season’s numbers, and 2018 will be the first time in three seasons that Ingram will not reach 1,000 yards. Ingram will still be productive, but the Saints’ pass-first offense will not yield sufficient rushing opportunities for the RB2 to record above-average yardage.
15 WR – Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
In each of the last four seasons, Demaryius Thomas’s production has dropped in every offensive category, including receptions, targets and yards. Furthermore, 2017 was the first time in 6 years during which Thomas did not record 1,000-yards. This season, Thomas will have to develop chemistry with a new QB; while Case Keenum is seen as an upgrade from Trevor Siemian, he isn’t a strong enough QB to induce anything close to career numbers from Thomas. Thomas will share targets with elite WR Emmanuel Sanders, but, other than these two options, the Broncos’ receiving core is thin. Opposing teams will key in on Thomas and double team him in key situations, reducing his offensive output even further from last year.
14 RB – Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
Last season, Kareem Hunt led the NFL with 1,327 rushing yards, and finished fifth in the league in all-purpose yardage. The football world won’t soon forget his professional debut during Week 1 of the 2017 season: after fumbling his first-ever NFL carry, Hunt almost single-handedly beat the New England Patriots, recording 148 rushing and 98 receiving yards.
Although his season numbers are great, there was a 7-week stretch during which Hunt averaged only 35 rushing yards a game, and didn’t record a single TD.
Opposing teams have quickly adapted to Hunt, and they now know what to do to contain him. He will not break the 1,000-yd mark this season.
13 WR – Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
In 2013, during his second NFL season, Josh Gordon broke out with 87 receptions and a league-leading 1,646 receiving yards. Gordon’s stats are even more impressive considering that the Browns had 3 different starting QBs that season. During the 2014 off-season, Gordon was arrested for impaired driving in North Carolina, and the NFL suspended the Pro-Bowler for the entire 2014 season. The suspension was later reduced, and Gordon started for five games before being suspended by the Browns for violating team policies. He is currently eligible to start the 2018 season, but given Gordon’s time away from the game, you cannot expect him to replicate his 2013 season.
12 RB – Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles
The 2016 season saw RB Jay Ajayi complete his second NFL season with the Miami Dolphins. Ajayi finished that year with 1,272 rushing yards, and widely regarded as the future of the Dolphins’ franchise. Surprisingly, at the 2017 trade deadline, Ajayi was shipped off to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he helped his new team win a Super Bowl Championship. Between Miama and Philadelphia, Ajayi’s collective stats reached only 873 yards, but his yardage with the Eagles was less than with the Dolphins over the same number of games. While Ajayi should earn the main rushing touches for the Eagles this season, it’s hard to believe that he will again put up his 2016 numbers.
11 WR – Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs
Sammy Watkins was drafted 4th overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2014, and has not quite lived up to the hype. Watkins’ first two seasons with Buffalo were both above average- 60+ receptions and near 1,000-yards. His third season was wrought with injury, and in the 8 games he played, Watkins was held to a disappointing 430 yards. Watkins was traded to the Rams during the 2017 off-season, and despite playing 80% of snaps with the league's best offense, was held to only 593 yards. Now with the Kansas City Chiefs, it will be very difficult for Watkins to earn the number of targets it would take to record 1,000 yds, seeing as Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill earned 126 and 116 targets last year, respectively.
10 RB – Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders
Marshawn Lynch has posted six 1,000-yard seasons over his decorated 10-year NFL career. None of those seasons, however, occurred over his last two campaigns. In 2017, Lynch returned to the NFL after retiring and missing the entire 2016 season. With the Oakland Raiders, Lynch carried most of the running workload, posting 207 carries, but there weren’t any other Raider RBs to threaten Lynch’s starting position. Things will be different in the 2018; the Raiders have signed RB Doug Martin, who is expected to share carries with Lynch. Lynch will be lucky to get to 200 carries on the season, and will not get to 1,000 yards again this year.
9 WR – Michael Crabtree, Baltimore Ravens
In his 9 NFL seasons, Michael Crabtree has only been able to produce two 1,000-yard seasons. Crabtree’s career stats are anything but consistent, and Crabtree will have to play 2018 with a new team, the Baltimore Ravens, and a new QB, Joe Flacco, making it incredibly unlikely that he will be able to come through with another 1,000-yard season. Over his career, Crabtree has averaged 11.9 yards-per-catch, but in the last 4 years, that statistic has dropped to 10.8 yards-per-catch. The math suggests that Crabtree would need 93 receptions this year reach 1,000-yards, which is 4 more receptions that his career high.
8 RB – Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers
Jerick McKinnon spent his entire 4-year career with the Minnesota Vikings before signing with San Francisco during the 2018 off-season. As a member of the Vikings, McKinnon was never more than a back-up RB, even when the starting RB went down with injury. McKinnon has never carried the ball more than 159 times a season, and, over the past two years, has recorded a below-average yards-per-carry (3.4 and 3.8 yds). With the Vikings, he was primarily used as a passing back; while the 49ers intend to use McKinnon as their starting RB, he will quickly disappoint in that role and will likely find himself playing only during passing downs. Situational RBs rarely record 1,000-yd on the season, so don’t expect McKinnon to do so.
7 WR – Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers
Devin Funchess may be the Carolina Panthers’ top passing option going into the 2018 season, but that doesn’t mean that he is capable of putting up a 1,000-yard season in the NFL. The Panthers are not a strong passing team; last year, they finished 28th in the league in passing yards, and 29th in both number of completions and offensive pass completion percentage. After starting in all 16 games, Funchess finished last season with a disappointing 840 yards. With the Panthers’ offense relatively unchanged from last season, expect Funchess finish with similar numbers- which means again falling short of the 1,000-yard mark.
6 RB – Carlos Hyde, Cleveland Browns
Carlos Hyde is one mediocre season away from official bust status. Hyde spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, and reached 900 rushing yards in each of the last two seasons. Although Hyde has twice been near 1,000-yard mark, his career-average of yards-per-carry is an abysmal 4.2 yards. With that average, Hyde would require 240 carries to record his first 1,000-yard season. In 2018, he will be sharing time in the back field with Duke Johnson and with rookie Nick Chubb, and so it is highly unlikely that Hyde will secure that many 240 carries. 2018 will be another underachieving season for Hyde.
5 WR – Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
At the beginning of the 2017 season, rookie Cooper Kupp was fighting for a spot on the Los Angeles Rams’ wide receiver rotation. Kupp found himself fourth on the team’s depth chart behind veterans Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Tavon Austin. As the season progressed, Kupp creeped up the depth chart; he soon became one of QB Jared Goff’s favorite targets, and finished the season with 869 yards. Unfortunately for Kupp, the Rams traded for Brandin Cooks during the 2018 offseason; this means that Kupp is now the clear number 3 WR on the team, and won’t get enough playing time to record 1,000 yards this season.
4 RB – Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
Lamar Miller already has two 1,000-yard seasons on his NFL resumé (2014 and 2016), but he will not add to that total in 2018. It is looking more and more likely that Miller will be relegated to the Texan’s second-string RB position behind second-year D’Onta Foreman. Last season, Foreman had a higher yards-per-attempt than Miller did, while Miller was the better passing option, finishing with 36 receptions to Foreman’s 6. Miller will still be given some rushing attempts this year, but most of his time in the backfield will come during passing downs. With such a limited number of snaps, Miller will not reach 1,000-yds this season.
3 WR – Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
In 2018, Allen Robinson recorded only one reception before tearing his ACL and missing the reminder of the season. During his time in the NFL, Robinson has recorded just one 1,000-yard season, and that was back in 2015. Robinson’s 2015 season may have been a lucky fluke, as he crashed back down to reality in 2016, and recorded only 883 yards on the season. During the 2018 off-season, Robinson signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Bears, who finished the 2017 season with the lowest number of passing yards per game in the entire NFL. Robinson and the Chicago Bears’ offense will both finish 2018 with disappointing numbers, and Robinson won’t hit anything close to 1,000 yards.
2 RB – Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens
Alex Collins won the Baltimore Ravens’ starting RB job 4 weeks into the 2017 season after Terrance West went down with a calf injury. Collins was chosen over teammate Javorius “Buck” Allen, and rushed for 973 yards by the end of the season. This season, Collins will have the starting job from week 1, suggesting the potential for a 1,000-yd season, but that likely won’t be the case. In recent years, the Ravens haven’t been able to field consistent offense overall, let alone field a consistent running game; playing with Baltimore, by default, means that Collins will have a mediocre season at best. Furthermore, a string of bad games from Collins could potentially lose him the starting job.
1 WR – Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers
The 2016 season saw Pierre Garcon reach 1,000 receiving yards with the Washington Redskins. Garcon didn’t remain in Washington long after, and signed with the San Francisco 49ers during the 2017 off-season. At the time, Brian Hoyer was the 49er’s QB, and Garcon recorded 500 yards in the first 8 games of the season before suffering a season-ending neck injury. The 49ers now have an upgrade at the QB position in Jimmy Garoppolo, but it is difficult to say if Garcon will be able to return to pre-injury form. The veteran Garcon will likely be cautious about again injuring his neck, and will avoid making the kinds of plays he needs to make to reach 1,000 yards.