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Sophomore Slump: Second-Year Players That Will Decline


The NFL had a number of breakout rookies last season. At each of the major positions on offense, you had guys that were performing as some of the better players in the league. While some, such as New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, will be able to continue that production, there are others which are likely going to take a step back.

Those are the guys that we're here to talk about today. We want to look at who to avoid when you're drafting, and who you need to look at instead in that same range. Sophomores can have such a huge range of outcomes due to their way of play. Some burst ont0 the scene as rookies because the NFL isn't fully prepared to counter them, but then they stumble when the defenses are fully prepared.

These sophomores could still have good years, but it's likely that they're going to take a step back after their performances from last year set the bar sky-high.

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Josh Allen - QB, Buffalo Bills

Last season, Josh Allen's fantasy value was tied entirely to his ability to run the ball. Don't get me wrong, he was bordering on QB1 territory at times as a result. However, NFL defenses are going to key in on that, and the Bills have yet to really add any pass catchers that strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses. In addition to that, running back LeSean McCoy, if he remains on the team, has gotten another year older with even more miles on those tires.

Last season, Allen threw just 10 touchdowns but 12 interceptions. He also had eight fumbles on the year while adding eight rushing touchdowns on 89 carries. That's an average of roughly one touchdown per 11 rushing attempts. While he likely continues to be an active runner this year, the odds of him continuing to put up that level of efficiency is just simply unlikely. Allen is a solid backup option, but I would prefer Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford who has been more consistent in his career, and I can get him a round and a half later with an ADP of 195.6 vs the 179 of Allen.

 

Nick Chubb - RB, Cleveland Browns

Nick Chubb probably should have been starting all year for the Browns last season. Unfortunately, he wasn't, so he fell just short of the 1,000-yard mark. In his sophomore campaign, he has the opportunity to hit that mark, but there are going to be a few obstacles in the way that slow him down and limit his value. First is the fact that his quarterback Baker Mayfield is one of the brightest rising stars in this game and will be throwing a lot. Second is the pass catchers that Mayfield will be throwing to. Wide receivers Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., Rashard Higgins, and Antonio Callaway are a very talented bunch, and tight end David Njoku is no slouch either.

In addition to that group, the Browns brought in running back Kareem Hunt, who is suspended for 10 games, but will likely be a solid part of the game plan when he returns. In 16 games last year, Chubb caught just 20 passes, and Hunt has proven to be the superior back in that area thus far in his career. Chubb will likely put up solid numbers, but he'll be playing in an offense that sees him more as a complementary piece than as the engine for the entire thing. With an ADP at the end of the second round, you can get guys that will be major pieces for their offense, such as Leonard Fournette of the Jacksonville Jaguars or Kerryon Johnson of the Detroit Lions slightly later.

 

Calvin Ridley - WR, Atlanta Falcons

Calvin Ridley should be another sophomore in line for a solid year. He'll likely be the number two wide receiver in an offense that has the potential to be in the top-five, and at worst it will likely be in the top-10. However, there are a lot of mouths to feed in this group. All-Pro wideout Julio Jones headlines the group, and the ever-consistent Mohamed Sanu follows him up. At running back, you have the talented Devonta Freeman along with a couple of solid backs behind him. You also have Austin Hooper that can command a good share of targets.

Last season a lot of Ridley's output was tied to two performances. In two games against the New Orleans Saints, he had 15 catches for 239 yards and four touchdowns. A quarter of his production came from those two games. His production was often volatile and tied finding the endzone. If he scored, it was a good game. If he didn't, he likely was a bust for you. Right now, he is ranked as the 27th wide receiver heading into the year. That puts him above more consistent performers like the aforementioned Landry and Philadelphia Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery. Ridley becomes a value at some point, but right now he is being overdrafted compared to what should be realistically expected of him this year.

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