The 2019 fantasy football season has been over for a while now but I know some of you are probably still hung up on one of your players who cost you the championship. I know I am! Or, maybe you’re still relishing in the sleeper pick that won you your league (thanks Lamar). So, while many of us are on COVID-19 lockdown, let’s take a look at the biggest surprise and the biggest disappointment of 2019 from every position, minus kickers and defense. We’re going to exclude players who missed a significant amount of time due to injury, because that’s just unfortunate and out of their control.
Surprise: Lamar Jackson
Sure, you might have thought Lamar was going to be good. You might have even thought he was going to be great. But I highly doubt that you thought he was going to be the best quarterback in fantasy football by a wide margin. Lamar put up a little shy of 100 more points than the next highest quarterback, Dak Prescott, and averaged over six more per game. With an average ADP of No. 14 among quarterbacks, he was regularly being taken behind guys such as Kyler Murray, Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger. Taking Lamar very well could have won you your league, and is just one more case to support the strategy of holding off on quarterbacks.
Disappointment: Baker Mayfield
Unlike the last pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft, Mayfield had an incredible amount of hype around him going into the 2019 season. After all, reigning offensive rookie of the year added Odell Beckham Jr. to his offense, how could he not explode! But that’s far from what happened, as it could much more accurately be described as an implosion. Mayfield was being drafts as the No. 4 quarterback on average, ahead of people like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and of course Lamar. He finished the season as quarterback No. 20, directly behind – are you ready for this – the trio of Gardner Minshew, Phillip Rivers and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Maybe he should have spent more time on the practice field and not making Hulu commercials.
Surprise: Austin Ekeler
Ekeler’s monster 2019 was completely the result of a different running back on the team: Melvin Gordon. Gordon held out until week five, and by that point, Ekeler played so well that he kept the lead back spot that Gordon left vacant. Even though the two backs may have more or less split carries in the stretch run of the season, Ekeler played a significantly larger role in the passing game, finishing second among running backs with 92, only behind Christian McCaffery. That included eight receiving touchdowns, the most among running backs by three. Add in about 1,500 scrimmage yards and three rushing touchdowns, and Ekeler at No. 4 among all running backs with an ADP of running back No. 27, three behind Gordon.
Disappointment: Le’Veon Bell
The Jets did Bell a disservice in 2019. Scratch that, Adam Gase and the offensive line did Bell a disservice. In 2019, Bell averaged a whopping 1.2 yards before contact, tied for dead last with the Steelers’ Benny Snell – who had over 125 fewer rushing attempts than Bell. With an offensive line like that combined with Gase’s seemingly refusal to properly use him, it’s no surprise that he had the year he did. Being drafted as the No. 6 running back on average, he ended the season at No. 16. Nobody knows if he’ll be back in the green and white in 2020, seeing as Gase has made it clear from the beginning he doesn’t want Bell, and his 2019 numbers didn’t exactly help his case.
Surprise: Chris Godwin
People had high hopes for Godwin in 2019, but no one thought that Godwin would have quite the season he did. Despite missing the final two games of the season, Godwin still finished as wide receiver No. 2, only behind Michael Thomas of the Saints. Jameis Winston is the definition of boom or bust, and while that’s not a recipe for team success, fantasy success is a different story. With an ADP of WR No. 20, Godwin was the better of the two top-end pass catchers in Tampa Bay, and he was taken on average about three rounds later than Mike Evans. He was top three in yards and touchdowns, and his game average of 19.7 points was about a point and a half better than the next best.
Disappointment: Odell Beckham Jr.
Just like his teammate, Odell fell victim to the massive disappointment that was the Browns 2019 season. Sure, he still had a 1,000-yard season on 74 receptions, but he only reached the endzone four times. While finishing the season as WR No. 25 isn’t inherently bad, he was drafted as WR No. 6, riding the Browns preseason hype train. For the most part, the AFC Central was a hotbed for wide receiver disappointment in 2019. JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Steelers never came close to living up to his wide receiver No. 7 ADP, however did miss multiple games due to injury, and A.J. Green never stepped on the field despite there always being the hope that he would, leading to his ADP of wide receiver No. 24. For Beckham, who knows if he’ll be in Cleveland next season, and considering he reportedly told rival teams to “come get me,” things aren’t looking good.
Surprise: Darren Waller
Waller started to shoot up the draft boards late, but still had an ADP of just tight end No. 21. Even though he started to be thought of as a starting-caliber tight end, it would have been incredibly bold to predict the season that he would go on to have. Finishing as tight end No. 3, he was only beaten out by Travis Kelce and George Kittle. He even had more receptions and yards than the latter, but Kittle’s two more touchdowns gave him the edge – by a whopping 1.5 points. Waller’s story, from overcoming substance abuse working his way onto the Raiders 53-man roster, helped turn a tight end who had just 18 receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns in his first three years, into a truly elite tight end.
Disappointment: O.J. Howard
Howard was one of the only pass catchers in the Tampa Bay offense who didn’t benefit from Winston just slinging the ball all over the field. Being drafted as tight end No. 4, Howard finished as tight end No. 29, taking one of the biggest drops of anyone. He did miss two games due to injury, but that doesn’t change the fact that he never had more than five receptions or 73 receiving yards in a single game, while also only catching one touchdown all season. Fantasy wise, he finished right behind Blake Jarwin of the Cowboys, who aside from one game never has more than three receptions and 49 yards. Howard’s ADP will likely plummet next season and for good reason, as he might not even be worth drafting.