Prescott and Elliott led a dynamic Dallas Cowboys offense which
scored 421 points on 6,027 totals yards, ranking fifth in the
league in both categories. Howard didn’t get double-digit rushing
attempts until game No. 4, yet still finished second in rushing
yards and ninth among running backs with 203.1 fantasy points
(using FFToday default scoring) while Thomas finished eighth in
FPts/G at his position (11.2) and ninth in total wideout points.
After a slow start (81 total yards through Week 6), Hill posted
119.9 FPts over the final 11 games (10.9 FPTs/G).
However, 2017 is a new season. Rosters change and coaches adjust.
Should we expect the five second-year budding stars to continue
to produce at the same level, improve, or take a step backward?
I evaluated rookies from 2010 through 2015 to see if I could spot
a trend. I used only players who cracked the top-20 at their position
or running backs and receivers who put up a 1,000-yard season.
The results below come from the 13 running backs, eight quarterbacks
and seven running backs who “qualified.”
What these numbers seem to indicate is that it’s a better
bet for a quarterback or wide receiver to produce similar numbers
to his rookie season than a running back.
Four of the 13 running backs (30.7%) saw a monumental drop in production.
The Giants’ Williams, Rams’ Stacy, Bucs’ Martin
and Leshoure of the Lions likely inflicted major damage to their
fantasy owners with an average 80% decrease. In three of the four
cases, the problems were injury-related so if we eliminate the three
injured backs the decline is a more manageable 3.42%. But injuries
are a factor at the running back position which must be taken into
So while the numbers indicate a small reduction in production for
sophomores, it’s doesn’t appear to be a big problem.
The more likely reason for the theory of the “Sophomore Jinx”
is that, as fans, we expect our players to improve each season and
that’s just not always a realistic approach. Injuries, roster
changes and defensive coordinators’ adjustments force changes
to an offense.
For our five 2016 rookies, here is what they did last season and
what FFToday is projecting for 2017:
Prescott– The Cowboys offensive line
ranked No. 2 in 2016 by PFF, but lost RT Doug Free to retirement
and LG Ron Leary to free agency (Denver). La’el Collins will fill
in one of the spots, but the unit will obviously take a hit and
the schedule is slightly tougher versus opposing quarterbacks.
Elliott– Elliott has to deal with
the same issues as Prescott and a schedule that is also harder against
Howard– When you are your team’s
best weapon (read only weapon), touches should rise significantly.
The Bears used to the team of Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon
Jeffery … now its Howard and a bunch of question marks.
Thomas– There’s good news and bad
news. The good news is No. 1 wideout and deep threat Brandin Cooks
is gone making Thomas the new No. 1 guy for Drew Brees. The bad
news is that Cooks is gone making Thomas the focus of more double
teams, safeties over the top and zones rolling to his side of the
field. However, Brees always finds a way to get his receivers the
Hill– Like Thomas, Hill officially
became the man when Kansas City let Jeremy Maclin go. Hill was already
the de facto No. 1 receiver with Maclin too frequently hurt. Hill
will likely do less punt and kickoff returns for league which include
return yardage, but Andy Reid is very good at balancing when to
bring out the “big gun” on special teams (remember his expert use
of Brian Westbrook and DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia).
Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.