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Sophomores on the Rise

Every year there are rookies who disappoint. Like many dynasty owners, I can be a victim of rookie fever and conducting the hype train for “my guys”.  Unfortunately, even with all of the hits last year there was were some duds. The dynasty community is very reactionary. There are plenty of hot takes. Every blurb of news can potentially impact the ADP of these unproven players and I am here to update you on the 2017 class and who to target if you’re looking for some offseason value.  For the upcoming 2018 season, I have selected a few players to dive into who could be poised for greater roles and are buy targets before they potentially break out this year. This article will focus more on the guys who are near or outside the top 100 in ADP as there are a few players who have no lost much value as far as ADP and are still expensive to obtain despite having a lackluster 2017.

All ADP data is courtesy of


Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The consensus 2.10 in rookie drafts Patrick Mahomes is in some ways the Josh Allen of the 2017 class. He’s the big arm QB from Texas Tech who has been rising slowly throughout the 2017 fantasy season. It wasn’t until the final game of the year he was able to showcase that arm talent and playmaking ability that had Andy Reid trading up in the first round to select him. In the dynasty community, people expected him to be the QB of the future. That future is now and Mahomes is about to take the NFL by storm in 2018. This, of course, has been reflected in his ADP where in my personal experiences I have seen him go as the 8th quarterback off the board in two separate start-ups and our very own Matthew Betz (@FantasyPT) grabbed him as the 14th QB off the board in our writer Nerd Herd start-up. No matter what side of the fence your on about Mahomes he’s still a value when you compare him to the likes of Deshaun Watson who is a top 3 QB in most leagues. Mahomes has big upside and will play in Andy Reid’s quarterback-friendly offence that had Alex Smith finish as a top 3 QB last year. I still consider Mahomes a buy because like Watson it may only take 3-4 games before he is near impossible to trade for.


Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Mitchell was the 2nd overall selection in the 2018 NFL draft and most Bears fans were irate with the selection. Trubisky was the 2.11 in rookie ADP in 2017 being selected right after Mahomes. Many believed he didn’t have the experience, success or arm talent in college to be selected so high in the NFL draft. Looking back on it now, it’s not looking great that the Bears passed up on Watson. Nevertheless, Mitch had a fine season with limited weapons and this year will have little to no excuse to not perform after all the additions in the offseason.

He was able to complete nearly 60% of his passes and while the touchdown to interception ratio is bad, the very lackluster John Fox is to blame. He didn’t really have the play style to scheme guys open to help his rookie quarterback find success. The Bears essentially ran the ball and played hard defense. Whenever Trubisky threw the ball it was because they were behind making it was very predictable and easy to defend. With new head coach Matt Nagy bringing his offense from Kansas City to Chicago, adding the likes of Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel and drafting Anthony Miller. The bears have completely revamped this offense both in player personnel and coaching. This is set to be a completely new team in 2018 and depending on how quickly he can adjust to the NFL, Trubisky could be set to have a great year in 2018. While I don’t see him having the highest ceiling, buying him now offers very little risk and if not this year, he would be a third-year breakout candidate. He will mature to be a solid pro and could definitely offer some value down the road on what many seem t view as an up and coming offense.


Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts

(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Mack was a 4th round selection in 2017 and the consensus 2.07 according to rookie ADP. Many believed that with Mack’s skill set he could steal carries away from Frank Gore and due to the lack of backfield talent also receive some targets out of the backfield. The Colts gave Frank Gore 261 carries while giving Mack only 93. They had a bottom five offensive line which would explain their lack of success running the ball in 2017. When evaluating running backs there are two factors, talent, and opportunity. It takes a combination of both to have success in the NFL over a sustained period of time. In 2018 Mack will have both going for him and the added bonus of an improved offensive line. While a 4th round selection isn’t high draft capital for any position, the guys he is competing with for carries are also day 3 selections. Nyheim Hines is a very talented scat back, who will eat into the receiving game as the likely third-down back for the Colts for week 1. Mack is the veteran of the group and while his 3.8 yards a carry last year are not encouraging, they were still the best on the roster. People can argue that Jordan Wilkins could take his job, and while it’s not impossible it seems very unlikely for a 5th round NFL draft pick to take his spot. Wilkins is a player who didn’t break out until his senior season barely rushing for 1000 yards and he is going to beat out a guy who had 4107 yards from scrimmage in college to Wilkins’ 2073. Mack is at an affordable price right now. The community seems very worried about his job security and I don’t necessarily see it as much of a competition unless they were to feature Hines as the lead back. While he is very talented, with his frame it seems unlikely he could carry the load as a feature and is destined as a complimentary back. If there is an owner who is ready to give up on Mack, take a shot, you have little to lose and some solid potential value heading into 2018.

Honorable Mention: Joe Mixon, RB, CIN – TONS of talent. Many hope he will break out but his price is still sky high despite limited production. Not my idea of a value and he won’t see a significant boost in value considering his 2nd/3rd round start-up ADP. It’s much more likely his value continues to fall or stay pat if he disappoints.


Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

(Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

A lot of what can be said about Mike Williams can be transferred on to Corey Davis as well but considering Davis still has a very high price, he will be on the rise but is an expensive buy when compared to Williams. Selected 7th overall in the 2017 NFL draft by the LA Chargers. Williams was a late faller in rookie ADP (1.08) due to the talented rookie class of running backs we saw take the league by storm in 2017. Williams had a rough year and a slew of injuries that really hurt his chances of getting involved in the offense. In 2018, he is likely going to play a much larger role. They still have Keenan Allen, who will surely eat up 150 targets but outside of that, it’s hard to say who will emerge as the next man in line for targets. Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin are his only real competition and with his draft capital its more than likely he will be the WR2 headed into the season. With the absence of Hunter Henry for the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL, there is going to be additional looks to Williams specifically in the red zone as a large target with great jump ball ability. He could take a very large step to cement himself as a favorite of Phillip Rivers and return some value after being drafted in the top 8 of most rookie drafts last season. He has slipped quite a bit as far as ADP (9th-10th round of start-ups) and his opportunity is as good as anyone with a great QB on a great offense, buy while you still can.


John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals


(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

There may not have been a more polarizing player throughout the draft process than John Ross with his ADP going all over the place after breaking the record in the 40-yard dash in March 2017 prior to the draft. Ross has seen a drastic drop in his ADP despite being a first-round pick going 9th overall in the NFL draft and the 1.10 in rookie ADP. While many would assume that Ross was a reach in the NFL draft he is an uber-talented player that could likely be obtained easily with some pretty good upside. It is really just his potential for an injury like we saw in 2017, that has many concerned. Opposite to AJ Green, there is not as much pressure to be the guy on an offense with a lot to prove in 2018 from its skilled positions. A lot of that could be helped by having Ross stretch the field if he is able to stay healthy. Certain owners may be willing to sell for a 2nd round pick and I feel that could be worth the risk if your team is a piece away. He’s got game-breaking speed, the likes of Tyreek hill or DeSean Jackson. He’s a solid route runner who was very productive in college. With Ross, it’s not a matter of if, but rather when will he break out. At some point, all that speed is going to show itself and he is going to rocket up in ADP. He will never be the most consistent asset but has lots of potential to explode on given weeks early in his career and become consistent down the line. I like him both short and long-term, given his price he is definitely a buy.


Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Godwin had a lot of love coming into the 2017 NFL draft and it was really just the overall depth of the class that pushed him down into the middle of the second round. Godwin is landed to Tampa Bay in the 3rd round and rightfully so there was doubt about him getting playing time behind so many talented pass catchers. Coming into 2018, Godwin has already gotten praises from head coach Dirk Koetter saying that he needs to get more touches this season. This is a really encouraging sign that Godwin could be a big-time gainer in his 2nd full season in the NFL. His ability to separate and route running, make him more than worthy as the WR2 for the Bucs heading into 2018. The Desean Jackson experiment didn’t really work out last year and it seems that some changes will be made heading into 2018 to make the offense more productive. I feel Godwin will be a major part of that and he could break out and be a solid contributor with a significant increase in targets. Godwin has been a slow riser in ADP this offseason but there is a lot of room to improve. He could produce as a WR3, and I would definitely consider buying him before he breaks out this season.


David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns


(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns are the new hotness in the NFL, and what comes with it is a hype train so big people from every state are all aboard. David Njoku is an uber-athletic tight end who was the 1.12 last year in rookie ADP. Like many of the Cleveland receivers, Njoku had to deal with the Deshone Kizer experience and his accuracy issues. With a revamped offense and the hiring of Todd Haley as their offensive coordinator the Browns seem ready to put up numbers in 2018. Njoku will be the benefit of an improved running game, and quarterback play and will likely see an uptick in targets as the most talented tight end on the roster. While Haley can be difficult, and Njoku will need to adjust to the playbook. It seems inevitable that things couldn’t possibly be worse than last year. Whether it is Tyrod Taylor, who made Charles Clay relevant in Buffalo for a few years, or Baker Mayfield who thrived in the intermediate passing game at Oklahoma. Njoku is sure to see plenty of work so long as he can produce. If he can elevate his game, he’s got the potential to be a middling TE1 even in 2018. Njoku was very raw coming in and if you don’t buy him now, look to after week 2 if he disappoints. The Browns open with the Steelers at home and the Saints on the road, both of which are pretty tough matchups and may scare some owners early in the season enough to open a buying window.


Honorable Mention: OJ Howard, TE, TBB – If we are to assume that he can pass Cameron Brate on the depth chart and grab the majority of the receiving work then he would be a definite buy. It is too difficult to know if this is the case and so I wouldn’t recommend paying up for him.


While surely not all of these guys can possibly break out in 2018, there is certainly a case to be made where it could happen. Whether you agree with the idea or not fantasy football is a crazy game and you never know who might emerge as the next big star. It is more than likely that there are guys not on this list who could emerge this season. Who are your favorite sophomores to break out in 2018?


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