Fantasy Football Bust of the Year: 2019 Stud Will Be 2020 Dud

After an expectation-exceeding 2019 performance, fantasy football expert Shawn Childs projects this player as his 2020 bust of the year.
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Correctly identifying a bust player in fantasy sports is a game-changer. Last year, the first round in fantasy football was a minefield of disappointment. Here’s a list of the top 24 draft picks in 2019 in PPR leagues with their final fantasy points and how many points they scored in 2018 & 2019:

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My first observation is that 11 running backs get drafted over the first 14 picks. Contests in the Fantasy Football World Championship (FFWC) favor wide receivers by having two flex positions in their starting lineup. 

Based on the final 2019 stats, only four players improved on their 2018 scoring. Le'Veon Bell sat out 2018, but he failed to live up to expectations last year. The only four impact players (275 or more points) over the first 24 picks were Christian McCaffrey, Michael Thomas, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dalvin Cook.

When on the draft clock for the first pick, no one ever thought Barkley would be outscored by 227.1 points in PPR leagues by McCaffrey. At the same time, Thomas scored 105.9 fantasy points more than Davante Adams and 106.9 fantasy points over DeAndre Hopkins.

Overall, 2019 had the most busts I’ve seen in my fantasy football career. Almost all of the weakness came via injuries. 

The most significant bust in 2019 was Adam Thielen, who scored 194 fewer fantasy points.

My take from 2019 came from two players. Both James Conner and Kerryon Johnson have a jump in fantasy draft value while lacking a lengthy resume and a high draft pick pedigree. Injuries led to disappointing years. 

For this year’s bust, I’m looking for a player who outperformed expectations in 2019 and will play in an offense that will experience a decline in quarterback play. Also, I’m looking for someone selected in the first three rounds in PPR leagues.

My 2020 bust of the year is Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler.

Over the last three seasons, Philip Rivers has been one of the top quarterbacks throwing the ball to the running back position. 

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In 2019, the growth in the catches at running back by LA came at the expense of the wide receiver position. The bump in targets to their running backs was tied to a short passing window.

With Rivers now playing in Indy, Tyrod Taylor stands atop of the Chargers' depth chart. Over his three seasons as a starter for the Bills (22-20), Taylor helped his success with his ability to run (283/1575/14). Over this span, he passed for 8,857 yards (201 per game) with 51 TDs and 16 Ints. His M.O. is a ball-controlled game manager style, which may help Los Angeles win this year since the team looks to be improved on defense.

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As you can see by the above chart, Taylor looks willing to take the dump-off pass to the running back position or the TE. Granted, Buffalo had a much weaker offense than the current structure of the Chargers’ passing game.

The bottom line with Taylor is that he may keep LA in games, but the upside of the skill players will take a hit if he somehow survives to start for Los Angeles in September.

Last year Justin Herbert completed 47 of his 286 completions (16.4 percent) to the running back position while not having a prolific option at TE.

Overall, no matter who starts, the running back position for the Chargers looks to be at the most risk compared to last year (2,774 combined yards with 148 catches and 20 TDs). Regression should be expected in both catches and targets. 

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After Week 4 in 2019, Ekeler gained 337 yards on 76 carries with no rushing TDs. Over these 12 contests, he had ten games (3/7, 5/14, 5/7, 3/3, 6/19, 5/24, 9/16, 7/19, 4/11, and 9/46) on the ground. When adding an offensive line that should rank in the bottom third of the league, Ekeler will not be an impact player on early downs.

This season there is no doubt that the Chargers will feature another running back on early downs, which paints Ekeler as a change-of-pace type option with his best value coming on passing downs. 

Rivers was the master of slowly moving the ball up the field when asked to run a ball-control offense. I expect the Chargers’ defense to be improved in 2020, which suggests more runs. 

In 2019, Ekeler scored 311.00 fantasy points in PPR leagues while getting off to a fast start by facing three teams over the first four weeks that ranked 26th (Miami), 27th (Houston), and 28th (Detroit) defending running backs.

This year Los Angeles has seven games (1st – NE, 2nd – TB, 6th – NO, 8th – NYJ, and 9th – DEN X 2) vs. defenses that ranked in the top nine defending running backs. 

Ekeler is an excellent pass-catching back, but his skill set isn’t built to be a foundation RB1. He has no chance of matching last year’s success, and I expect his scoring to drop by a minimum of 80.0 fantasy points in PPR leagues. 

The more games that Taylor starts, the more it will eat into his chance to run the ball. I don’t view Justin Herbert as an upgrade for his success.

With a more challenging running back schedule, a decline at quarterback, and competition for playing time on early downs, Ekeler will fall short of draft expectations in 2020. 

MORE FROM SI FANTASY

Correctly identifying a bust player in fantasy sports is a game-changer. Last year, the first round in fantasy football was a minefield of disappointment. Here’s a list of the top 24 draft picks in 2019 in PPR leagues with their final fantasy points and how many points they scored in 2018 & 2019:

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