Right before every season, almost all of us like to make predictions. We comb through every NFL roster to find fantasy players that might be sleepers, and pick the ones that we want to draft early and ride to a playoff appearance. People also go through the entire NFL schedule and pick what they think the outcomes of the games will be. When January rolls around every year, though, we find that many of us were completely wrong.
A lot of players were expected to either be elite, take a step forward or even just keep their jobs in 2018, but it didn’t pan out as many expected. Don’t feel bad if you missed out on a prediction prior to the 2018 season, as even smart analysts like Tony Romo thought that the Packers and Jaguars would be facing off for the Super Bowl. Neither team came close to even sniffing the playoffs. As a result, both will see massive changes made this offseason.
Of the players that disappointed the most, many found themselves on losing teams like that, while some underperformed on Super Bowl contenders, surprisingly. There’s a nice mix of NFL players that were expected to have strong years in 2018, but now aren’t even assured their starting jobs or even a position with their team at all as we turn ahead to the 2019 season. Here are seven of those players at each of the vital skill positions of quarterback, running back and wide receiver.
21 Quarterback - Blake Bortles
In 2017, the Jacksonville Jaguars were able to make it to the AFC Championship Game, and almost to the Super Bowl. The thought was they could get back there this year as long as Blake Bortles doesn’t take a big step back, but unfortunately that’s what happened. The Jaguars as a whole were a letdown, and Bortles was a part of that.
At one point in the season, Bortles was benched for ineffective play. In his 12 starts, Bortles won just three games, throwing for 2,718 yards, 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. While the interception total was actually down by two, he played in three fewer games than in 2017 and threw for far fewer touchdowns and yards, taking a drop in efficiency as the Jaguars struggled.
20 Running Back - Leonard Fournette
It seems that Leonard Fournette has a lot of talent, but can never get back to 100 percent health. Add in a brief suspension in 2018, and it was simply a frustrating sophomore campaign for Fournette in Jacksonville. When he did play, there were a lot of touches, but they weren’t as efficient as they were in his rookie year.
Fournette finished with 439 rushing yards and five touchdowns, but his longest run was only 25 yards. He was among the least productive running backs in the league in yards per carry, finishing with just 3.3. Now, there are talks that the Jaguars are going to send Fournette packing, as another franchise will hope that he can bounce back.
19 Wide Receiver - Jarvis Landry
In his final three seasons with Miami, Jarvis Landry was named to the Pro Bowl in each season. The Browns then wanted to add him prior to the NFL Draft, trading away a fourth round and seventh round pick for the receiver. Then, Landry was inked to a whopping $75.5 million contract over five seasons.
The contract made Landry the seventh highest paid receiver in the NFL, but he didn’t play like the seventh best receiver. Instead, Landry finished with a career-low in catches (81) and had his fewest yards since his rookie season. On top of that, he also tied for a career-low in touchdowns with four, missing the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2014.
18 Quarterback - Andy Dalton
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has always been seen as the benchmark of what the average starting NFL signal caller should be. However, in 2018, Dalton played below average. For just the second time in his career, Dalton didn’t play all 16 games in a season, missing out on five of them. Unfortunately, he wasn’t exactly lighting it up when he was on the field.
Dalton went 4-6 in his 10 starts, throwing for 2,566 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The quarterback rating was actually an improvement over his 2017 season, but the Bengals were a dark horse pick to the make the playoffs after a strong finish to 2017 and a good start to 2018. Perhaps a new head coach could help Dalton get over the hump.
17 Running Back - David Johnson
David Johnson didn’t have a terrible year by most metrics, but not what many were hoping for. A popular pick to be the top fantasy running back in 2018, Johnson couldn’t get back to his 2016 form after missing almost all of the 2017 season. He finished with 940 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns, both of which were dramatic drops from his 2016 campaign.
What was more concerning was his drop in yards per carry that went down to 3.6, and his receiving yardage was nearly cut in half from its peak. Steve Wilks is now gone as the Cardinals coach after just one season, as the franchise hopes to put someone in place that can effectively use Johnson’s talents.
16 Wide Receiver - Josh Gordon
Another receiver that started the year on the Browns, it was expected that Cleveland was finally going to get a full season out of Josh Gordon for the first time since he put up 1,646 yards in 2013. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be as he played in just one game with the team. Gordon was then traded to the Patriots, where it seemed that he had big-time potential with Tom Brady.
The new system didn’t turn Gordon into a star again, but he did enjoy a solid season with 720 yards in 11 games with New England. The real disappointment came when Gordon had personal problems once again, causing him to be suspended indefinitely. Sadly, it appears that Gordon has used up his final chance in the NFL.
15 Quarterback - Jameis Winston
Former top overall draft pick Jameis Winston missed out on the first three games of the 2018 season due to a suspension, and wasn’t guaranteed his job when he got back thanks to the hot start by Ryan Fitzpatrick. When the Buccaneers started losing, Winston got his job back but couldn’t help Tampa get back into contention.
It seemed that Winston was struggling with consistency throughout 2018, losing six of his nine starts while posting 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions with 2,992 passing yards. While those aren’t bad numbers for 11 overall games (save for the record), this should’ve been the year that Winston took a big step forward. Like Dalton, he’ll be playing for a new head coach in 2019.
14 Running Back - LeSean McCoy
Despite some off-field issues that many thought would lead to a suspension for Bills running back LeSean McCoy, he missed just two games of the 2018 season. Prior to the year, McCoy hadn’t had a season where he played in more than 12 games and rushed for under 1,000 yards since his rookie year in 2009.
That changed in 2018, though, as he had just 514 rushing yards and three touchdowns, putting him toward the bottom of the league with a 3.2 yards per carry clip. McCoy wasn’t as effective as a receiver, either, and it seems that age might be catching up with him. He’ll be 31 years old in the 2019 season, which usually doesn’t bode well for running backs.
13 Wide Receiver - Demaryius Thomas
When Peyton Manning joined the Denver Broncos, Demaryius Thomas benefitted more than just about anybody. He was suddenly putting upu massive seasons, including four consecutive of over 1,300 receiving yards. Thomas finished just shy of 1,000 yards in 2017, and it only dropped even further in 2018.
Thomas had 402 yards in eight games with Denver before being traded to the Houston Texans. His production took another dip as he was lined up with DeAndre Hopkins, and then finished his season with an Achilles injury. While he’s always been a solid receiver, it’s clear that Thomas’ best days are behind him.
12 Quarterback - Ryan Tannehill
It seems like whenever Ryan Tannehill is on the verge of having a breakout season, he comes back down to Earth. 2018 was no exception, as Tannehill struggled in his 11 starts as the Dolphins fell out of playoff contention toward the season. Tannehill finished 5-6 on the season with under 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns against nine interceptions.
Yet again, Tannehill is a quarterback that will be playing for a new coach after the Dolphins fired Adam Gase. Some have pointed to Tannehill’s struggles as the real problem with Miami right now, and some reports have said that he might also be shown the door.
11 Running Back - Jordan Howard
After his first two NFL seasons, it seemed that Jordan Howard was well on his way to being an elite running back. In his rookie season in 2016, Howard had 1,313 rushing yards, but that dropped to 1,122 the next year and was down to 935 in 2018. The worst part about that is he didn’t miss any time, playing in every game this season.
The efficiency is worrisome for the Bears, as Howard rushed for just 3.7 yards per carry. In terms of receiving, Tarik Cohen basically stole the show in that department as Howard added just 145 yards through the air. Howard had the sixth most rushing attempts in the league in 2018 with 250, but finished 14th in rushing yards behind the likes of Nick Chubb and James Conner who started far fewer games.
10 Wide Receiver - Larry Fitzgerald
The thing about a receiver past his prime can also be said for Larry Fitzgerald, unfortunately. Combined with a rookie quarterback, Fitzgerald had arguably his worst season as a professional, setting a career-low in yardage despite not missing any games, putting up 734 yards and six touchdowns.
Fitzgerald had had at least 100 catches in each of his previous three seasons, but that total dropped to 69 in 2018. Fitzgerald’s window won’t be open for much longer as Josh Rosen hopes to improve, but at least we got to see the receiver teamed up with Kurt Warner in his glory years.
9 Quarterback - Case Keenum
Desperate for quarterback help, John Elway and the Broncos signed Case Keenum for two years and $36 million after missing out on Kirk Cousins. It seemed like an OK bet after he had a strong 2017 season with the Vikings, but his efficiency dropped dramatically in 2018. He had an 11-3 record in Minnesota, but that dropped to 6-10 in a full season with Denver.
Keenum finished with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, as well as 3,890 passing yards. While that seems like a lot of yards on paper, his quarterback rating plummeted in 2018, and he was 14th in the league in yardage despite being sixth in most passes thrown. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about Keenum’s season.
8 Running Back - Kenyan Drake
After averaging 4.8 yards per carry in 2017 and getting 644 yards thanks to some strong performances, there were some that thought Kenyan Drake would be a breakout star for the Dolphins, causing him to go off the board early in a lot of fantasy drafts. Unfortunately, Drake never locked down the starting position.
Though healthy for the entire season, Drake had just 535 rushing yards and four touchdowns, though did improve on his receiving totals. Splitting time with veteran Frank Gore took away a lot of opportunities from Drake, and while he didn’t have a bad season, there were many that thought 2018 would be a huge step forward for the youngster.
7 Wide Receiver - Allen Robinson
In 2015, it looked like Allen Robinson was set to be an elite receiver with the Jaguars when he finished with 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. The next year, though, his production dropped and he missed almost the entire 2017 season due to injury. Still, he was a big name in free agency, and the Bears gave him a $42 million contract.
Robinson hasn’t gotten back to being close to his 2015 form, as he finished with just 754 yards and four touchdowns with Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears. In the 2018 season, he had just one game where he finished with over 85 yards. Luckily for the Bears, they were able to win the NFC North handily despite having two players on this list.
6 Quarterback - Matthew Stafford
The Lions had been mediocre to good ever since 2013 with Matthew Stafford in at quarterback, and the team fired head coach Jim Caldwell to get over the hump despite ending his Detroit tenure as the franchise’s first coach with a winning record since Joe Schmidt from 1967 to 1972. Matt Patricia came in and retained offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter to help Stafford improve on his solid 2017 season.
Instead, he took a big step back. His quarterback rating dropped by nearly 10 full points, and his yardage dropped by nearly 700. The 21 touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions was below Stafford’s typical season, as the team didn’t improve. In fact, they had their worst season since 2012, finishing a paltry 6-10.
5 Running Back - Royce Freeman
You never want to leave the door open for your backup to take over and make you look bad. Royce Freeman out of Oregon was supposed to be the full-time starter for the Broncos after he was selected in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. However, an injury caused him to miss a little time, and undrafted running back Phillip Lindsay stole the show.
Freeman lost the starting position about halfway through the season, and finished with 521 yards and five touchdowns with a 4.0 yards per attempt average. Meanwhile, Lindsay had nearly double the amount of yards and ran for 5.4 yards per carry. It just goes to show that plans can change in a hurry in the NFL.
4 Wide Receiver - Laquon Treadwell
People tend to be a little patient when it comes to wide receivers after drafting one in the first round. After all, the third year as a pro tends to be the time when a wideout usually breaks through, but that didn’t happen for Vikings receiver Laquon Treadwell. After just 215 combined yards in his first two years, there were some that were still hopeful that Treadwell would improve with Kirk Cousins at quarterback.
Treadwell instead finished with just 35 catches, 302 yards and a single touchdowns. Playing behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs doesn’t help matters much, but it’s clear that Treadwell’s time as a Viking is drawing close to an end.
3 Quarterback - Joe Flacco
The Baltimore Ravens pay Joe Flacco a lot of money. In 2018, his cap hit was nearly $25 million, and that only increases over the next two years before coming back down a little bit in his final season in 2021. The former Super Bowl champion was already feeling pressure from the franchise as they drafted Lamar Jackson in the first round in 2018’s draft, and now he’s already serving as backup.
Flacco had an injury that caused him to miss some time, but even now that he’s healthy, the rookie got the nod in the playoffs. Flacco finished 4-5 in his nine starts in 2018, throwing for 2,465 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. It appears that the future is now for Baltimore, and they have a very expensive backup on their hands.
2 Running Back - Tevin Coleman
Since Devonta Freeman played in just two games for the Falcons in 2018, it was supposed to be Tevin Coleman’s time to shine in Atlanta. The backup running back had been very efficient up to that point, and was given the starting role this year while not missing a game. Overall, it was a disappointing season for the Falcons, and Coleman’s numbers weren’t as high as many had hoped for.
That wasn’t all Coleman’s fault, however. He did improve in yards per attempt, setting a career high with 4.8. The bad part comes when you see he finished with just 800 yards and four touchdowns as a full-time starter, though. It’s likely he goes back to his back-up role in 2019 as Freeman is still under contract for a while.
1 Wide Receiver - Randall Cobb
Randall Cobb had a couple of down years after finishing with over 2,100 combined yards in 2014 and 2015. However, many were hoping that Cobb could return to form as the Packers were returning Aaron Rodgers, who played in all 16 games for the Packers in 2018. It got off to a good start as Cobb had 142 yards and a touchdown in the opening week against the Bears, but that was the lone highlight.
In the other eight games in which Cobb played, he finished with just 241 receiving yards and one touchdown. It’s sad to see that he’s not the playmaker that he once was, and finished fourth in receiving yards for Green Bay. Davante Adams is the clear-cut top receiver on the team, after having his best year in 2018.