We are officially at the halfway point of the regular season. Here are some players we expect to experience a decline in production during the back half of the season. Some will face stiffer competition, while others have seen an unsustainable level of success based on their current performance with the metrics we use. To discuss less apparent candidates, we will not include players expected to miss time due to injury.
Holton Ahlers, QB – East Carolina
Mr. November may have peaked in early October. Matchups have bolstered Ahlers early solid season performance leading to his current CFF QB17 status with South Florida and Campbell, where he averaged 39 ppg. He is averaging 21.7 in the four other matchups. While some spot starts remain on the schedule, they will be outmatched against BYU, Cincy, and UCF. Even Temple is top 12 in yards/play allowed and Defensive EPA. Ahlers has seen a decline in Adjusted Yards/Attempt and ADOT this season. Expect him to perform closer to 20 ppg than his current 27.6 average.
Donovan Smith, QB – Texas Tech
Smith was going to land on this list before Week 6, but his unexpected scratch due to a “sore shoulder” makes him an even more obvious candidate for regression due to competition at the position. Smith has been a solid fantasy producer in his four starts averaging over 29 ppg with Tyler Shough out. Inconsistency and poor decision-making have sometimes prevented the Red Raiders from seeing the full potential of the Zach Kittley system. The staff continues to say that Shough will see action when he’s healthy later in October. Behren Morton has also helped to loosen Smith’s grasp on the starting gig as he looked like the optimal fit of the three Tech QBs.
Zach Evans, RB – Ole Miss
A few of us at Campus2Canton warned owners in the preseason that Evans was unlikely to monopolize this backfield and see the needed volume to warrant his draft capital. Part of that concern was due to Bentley IV transferring in, but it turns out that true freshman RB Quinshon Judkins is far more of a thorn in the side of Evans owners than we could have imagined. Judkins has turned this into a pure 50/50 split. You could even argue that he has taken the lead in the backfield, as he has seen more snaps than Evans over the last two weeks in competitive games. There is enough opportunity for both Evans and Judkins to be fantasy relevant since Ole Miss ranks 13th in neutral game script rush rate and third in Rush EPA. The emergence of Judkins means the ceiling for Evans is now capped.
Blake Corum, RB – Michigan
What’s not to love about the current RB3? It certainly isn’t Corum’s skill, but other factors could lead to a regression down the stretch for this dynamo RB. Michigan still has three matchups remaining against the top 10 in Defensive Rush EPA. Now, that could be mitigated with the volume he has seen in conference play (28 carries/game). But Donovan Edwards is working his way back from injury and will likely see his role expand as the season progresses. It won’t be the 1A/B scenario many had envisioned in August, but Edwards saw a similar snap count to Corum before the injury. No doubt that Corum will continue to produce, but it’s hard to expect CFF RB3 production with the step up in competition and an unsustainable workload likely to be eased.
Jared Brown, WR – Coastal Carolina
The versatile WR is currently WR31 on the season, averaging 23 ppg over his last three outings. He is maximizing his touches, averaging an impressive 20.7 yards/rec while maintaining a modest 7.6-yard ADOT. His recent bump in production has been buoyed by FOUR(!) touchdowns of 50+ yards over his last three games. He has been out-targeted by Sam Pinckney over that same stretch. Yes, Coastal’s offense is built on explosive plays, but this isn’t sustainable. The fact that the Chanticleers have a sneaky difficult second-half schedule with two teams in the top ten in Defensive EPA and three in the top 25 makes Brown a prime regression candidate.
Charlie Jones, WR – Purdue
As much as it pains me to throw shade at a Jeff Brohm WR1, Chuck Sizzle is a regression candidate. The CFF WR3 may have seen a dip in production the last two weeks due to him and O’Connell not being at 100% health. But it is also possible it’s due to a step up in competition with conference play. Purdue still has Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois remaining and the weather in this region won’t get any better moving forward. Additionally, Jones has seen a steady decline in targets over the last four weeks. Like Corum, Jones will remain a weekly start but is unlikely to maintain his lofty status. Expect more “Chuck Smoke” and less “Chuck Sizzle” the rest of the way.
Honorable mentions: Davis Brin, MarShawn Lloyd, Roman Hemby, Emeka Egbuka