Here’s a look at eight NFL and fantasy football players who are hugely talented but are stuck in bad situations heading into the 2018 season.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills
McCoy will be the lone contributor to a lackluster offense. In some ways, his situation is appealing to fantasy football owners because he might get a huge amount of volume, even if he isn’t very efficient. But the Bills lost a pair of interior offensive linemen in guard Richie Incognito and center Eric Wood. Those departures won’t help McCoy. Neither will the befuddling quarterback battle, which seems likely to end with rookie Josh Allen as the winner.
And then there’s the off-field situation. McCoy is embroiled in a home invasion lawsuit with his former girlfriend. It’s unclear if he’ll face discipline for his involvement in the case.
A suspension, a rookie quarterback and a new-look offensive line — McCoy’s situations is far from enviable.
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
The Bengals rushing offense was tied for third-worst among yards per carry last season. Some of that is due to Mixon’s inexperience. Some of that was due to to an entirely unimpressive supporting cast.
The Bengals have attempted to revamp their offensive line by adding veteran tackles Cordy Glenn and Bobby Hart and rookie center Bill Price. But there’s no guaranteeing they’ll get the major upgrade for which they’re hoping. (Though, they should be.)
Mixon’s backfield-mate is Andy Dalton, who doesn’t help create space for runners. Dalton didn’t do his running backs many favors in 2017 to limit opponents’ commitment to stopping the run.
Mixon’s efficiency should improve this season. But how much?
Ronald Jones, RB, Buccaneers
The 38th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft has not hit his stride. He has struggled in preseason action, though, as Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter has said, that doesn’t erase the talent he showed at USC, where he was prolific with 1,550 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns in his final college season.
Still, Jones is struggling to surpass veteran back Peyton Barber on the depth chart, who has been a pesky competitor. If and when Jones wins the starting job, he may not have all that much running room. The Bucs will be without starting quarterback Jameis Winston for the first three games of the season.
To make things worse, the Buccaneers were tied as the fifth-lowest yards per carry in 2017 at 3.7. Just like Mixon and the Bengals, the Bucs have brought in new blood on the offensive line. But there’s no guaranteeing a major improvement.
Sony Michel, RB, Patriots
James White. Rex Burkhead. Jeremy Hill.
New England has no shortage of talented running backs on their roster. They’re all getting work on the field — unlike the rookie Michel. He has spent much of training camp dealing with a knee injury, and has missed 11 practices and counting. He was a first-round pick, so there’s no denying his talent. However, he’s looking at mountainous climb to the top of the depth chart. And even when and if he gets there, he may enter one of New England’s timeshares.
For Michel, the situation is actually pretty good. But for his fantasy owners, it’s a scary one.
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
Everything that Mixon had to deal with, Green has those issues, too. The brutal rushing attack impacts Green’s production.
But let’s focus a little closer on Dalton, the man throwing the balls to Green and who got sacked 40 times last season. Dalton’s 2013 season is a funny case study of the signal-caller. That was the season he threw for 4,293 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. A prolific season, no doubt. But he finished with 23 turnovers (20 interceptions, three fumbles). With scoring comes mistakes. He’s a good quarterback, who can manage games. Ask him to win games and, at times, you have a problem.
So, yes, Green’s situation is not exactly advantageous. He has proven he’s one of the best receivers in the game. Still, he’s on a struggling Cincinnati team with a less-than-stellar quarterback.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
Fitzgerald proved in his prime that he could excel no matter the quarterback. (DeAndre Hopkins has done the same, which is only relevant because we’ll get to Deshaun Watson.) But Fitzgerald is not longer in his prime. He has moved to the slot spot, where he has continued to be prolific — with Carson Palmer.
Palmer, however, has retired. The Cardinals have Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen at quarterback. Rosen, the No. 10 overall pick, is likely to see the field in 2018. Whether Bradford or Rosen, Fitzgerald’s signal-caller may struggle and underwhelm, as there are no established options at the other receiving spots, where a rookie (Christian Kirk) and unproven tight end (Ricky Seals-Jones) lurk. That could impact Fitzgerald’s production.
It’s honestly insane how well Fitzgerald has handled adverse conditions throughout his career. He’s no stranger to the adverse situation he’s in this year.
Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
Yes, the shoulder issue. Luck missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, and got his first game action in the second week on preseason on Monday night. He looked rusty throwing 6 of 13 for 50 yards and an interception.
The shoulder may be a thing of the past. Looking forward, however, there are plenty of reasons for concern. His offensive line allowed the mosts sacks in 2017 with 56. That’s not great for a quarterback returning from a shoulder injury.
The Colts also don’t have talent at the skill positions surrounding him. Marlon Mack is the lead back with rookie Nyheim Hines as the likely third-down option. Behind T.Y. Hilton, the receiver group isn’t impressive with Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers and James Wright.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans
In 2017, Houston allowed 54 sacks, second-most in the NFL. Just like Luck, Watson is returning from injury to play behind a porous offensive line. Watson did a good job avoiding the pass rush when he was the starter, but the Texans may want to keep Watson in the pocket more often in 2018 after Watson’s ACL injury.
The good news for Watson is that he has skill players like DeAndre Hopkins, Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman. The bad news is that none of those players will have space to work if the offensive line played like they did last season. (They also ran for just 3.7 yards per carry in 2017.) The offense didn’t look great last year. Watson will be in charge of turning that around.