Every year a player who had an average, or below average, fantasy season the year before turns it around and breaks out the next year. For this upcoming season I’m predicting that the breakout player of the 2018 NFL season will be Jarrad Davis, LB for the Detroit Lions.
2017 Season Recap:
Davis has the natural athletic ability and talent to defend the run at a high level and to cover tight ends and running backs in coverage. However, Davis’s performance in 2017 was a disappointment in both fantasy production and game production. He would often go charging in blindly at full speed in pursuit of a runner causing him to miss the ball carrier if he made a move. He was even worse in coverage his rookie season which led to him being used mostly on running downs the last 6 weeks of the year. He was able to get an interception, but overall his impact on passing downs were far more negative than positive. Davis accrued 96 total tackles, 65 of them solo, 2 sacks, 1 INT, and 1 FF his rookie season. This production was good enough for 105 fantasy points, but many expected more out of the ex-Florida LB. Davis had too many missed tackles last year, and was a liability in coverage, leading to a paltry grade of 46.1 from PFF for the year. Pro Football Focus (PFF) is a company that grades players based on their performances in game. They compile stats and watch film to give a player a game grade depending on how well they did their job for that game. His season grade of 46.1 was one of the worst in the league for the LB position. Davis did improve over the course of the season though. For the last 6 weeks of the season, when the Lions started using him in limited packages (almost exclusively against the run), he was the 4th highest ranked LB by PFF. If he can get his pass defense to match that kind of production from his run defense, and perform well at both for a full season, the Lions could have an All-Pro on their hands. His counterpart, Tahir Whitehead, who is a free agent that I’m expecting to resign with the Lions, has led the Lions in tackles and IDP fantasy points the past two seasons but I expect that to change in this coming year. Davis was good for 105 fantasy points during the 2017 season but expect that number to greatly improve next year.
2018 Season Outlook:
Davis has a year of experience under his belt coming into this season and will have a better idea of what to expect come game time. He also has a new coach, Matt Patricia, who will know how to get the best out of Davis and that means a potential All-Pro linebacker. Patricia has a knack for turning below average players into above average contributors on his defenses. Patricia will know how to turn Davis’s talent into top tier production and transform him into the All-Pro linebacker fans were hoping for when he was drafted in the 1st round last year. I am expecting Davis to be used on a more full-time basis all season, with him having made big strides in both his run and pass defense over the offseason. I’m expecting Davis to produce around 80-85 solo tackles, 35 assists, 7-9 TFLs, 4-5 sacks, 3 INTs, and 3 FF, and around 140-150 fantasy points. Davis has the talent and ability to put these types of numbers up, and with a coach like Patricia helping him to better craft his game I’m expecting Davis to show a great deal of improvement for the 2018 season in both fantasy and game production.
Brenden Armour - @b_armour70