Earlier this week we broke down underwhelming players from last year and why there is a path to a bounceback season in fantasy football in 2024. However, not every struggling player has that comeback season the following year. 

 

Let’s take a look at the nonbounceback candidates for next season.

Quarterback

Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks

Geno Smith had an outstanding renaissance 2022 campaign in Seattle but came back down to earth last season. He finished the year 24th among signal callers in fantasy points per dropback (0.43) and posted just four top-12 finishes. The Seahawks will have a new offensive scheme this season, and it sounds like they will want to run the football and play slower, which hasn’t been the case over the past two seasons where Seattle has ranked ninth in the league in average seconds per snap (26.8). Smith could return to being a solid QB2 in fantasy, but he’s unlikely to come close to his magical 2022 campaign.

Running Back

Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans

Dameon Pierce Houston Texans 2024 Fantasy Football Non-Bounceback Candidates

To those who traded Dameon Pierce off their dynasty teams following his impressive rookie season, well done. Pierce, who I had as a breakout candidate entering his sophomore campaign, was one of the most disappointing players in fantasy last year. He finished as the RB50 in fantasy, missing a few games due to injury and ultimately losing his starting job to Devin Singletary. In Weeks 6-18, Pierce logged 24% of the Texans’ offensive snaps, while handling 32% of the team’s rush attempts and playing one total snap on long down and distances. We also saw him play special teams during the playoffs, logging just six total offensive snaps in two postseason contests. Singletary is hitting free agency, but the Texans could be a landing spot for a free agent running back this offseason. 

Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings

Alexander Mattison was a rather polarizing player last offseason. Would he thrive without Dalvin Cook or would he struggle to remain efficient with a larger workload? Ultimately, Mattison didn’t have the greatest audition for the lead role, averaging just 3.9 yards per carry and an ugly 0.63 fantasy points per touch, which ranked outside the top-50. His seven runs of 15-plus yards placed him 27th among qualified running backs, while he ranked 15th in avoided tackles per attempt (0.21). We then saw rookie Ty Chandler take on a larger role while Mattison recovered from injury and even when he returned, Chandler remained the lead back. If Kirk Cousins is gone, this Minnesota offense takes a hit, and Mattison appears to be in line for a committee approach in 2024. 

Miles Sanders, Carolina Panthers

Like Pierce, Miles Sanders was a huge disappointment. After the Panthers gave him a hefty contract, a hefty workload was expected to follow. And to start the year, that was the case, as Sanders had 39 touches through the first two games. However, also like Pierce, Sanders got hurt in the middle of the year and didn’t get his job back. From Week 8 on, Chuba Hubbard was the lead back, logging 66% of the snaps and handling 67% of the team’s rush attempts, while Sanders was at 29% and 24%, respectively. It is hard enough to have much fantasy upside as the lead back in a bottom-five offense, let alone as the backup.

Wide Receiver

Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Lockett’s age-31 season wasn’t the best, as the veteran wideout posted his lowest fantasy points per route run (0.36) since 2017. Thanks to a career-worst 7.3 yards per target, Lockett failed to reach 900 receiving yards in 17 games and entering his age-32 season, it isn’t wise to expect him to return to being one of the most efficient wideouts in the league, which is especially concerning with the volume falling. Seattle has sophomore Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who should play a larger role this year. I fully expect Seattle to utilize more 11 personnel under new offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, who led Washington’s collegiate offense that had a strong wide receiver trio of Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan. More JSN isn’t a recipe for a bounceback season from Lockett.

Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers

Christian Watson Green Bay Packers 2024 Fantasy Football Non-Bounceback Candidates

This could easily come back to haunt me, but as talented as Christian Watson is, I don’t think we’ll see him post top-24 fantasy production. And while health has been an issue, it isn’t even 100% about that. Yes, Jordan Love broke out last season, which is great for the offense as a whole. However, it is legitimately fair to question if Watson is the best wideout on the Packers right now. Watson’s skill-set will lead to a ton of splash plays down the field, but he isn’t someone you feed 8-10 targets each and every week. Jayden Reed saw the schemed targets in this offense, drawing a target on 23% of his routes, the highest rate on the team. He also was in pre-snap motion nearly 19% of the time, one of the highest rates in football. And that is notable because in Matt LaFleur’s first season without Aaron Rodgers, there was an uptick in pre-snap motion in Green Bay, climbing from 37.9% in 2022 to 54.3% last year (sixth). 

Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos

Jerry Jeudy finished as the WR50 last year and has yet to reach 1,000 yards at the NFL level. I completely whiffed on Jeudy, as I thought he would emerge as the top target for Russell Wilson. And Wilson was much improved last year and Jeudy still couldn’t get it done, averaging 0.31 fantasy points per route run, while posting just four games as WR30 or better. Who knows who will be under center for the Broncos in 2024 but even if Courtland Sutton is gone, Jeudy is unlikely to break out in his fifth year.

Tight End

Chigoziem Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans

Chigoziem Okonkwo was my top breakout candidate last season, but it just didn’t work out. Despite seeing his route participation climb from 32% in 2022 to 68% last year, Okonkwo still finished as TE20, as his efficiency fell off a cliff. Okonkwo’s yards per route run dropped from 2.73 to 1.37, while his yards per target dropped by three whole yards. He also watched his air yards per route run fall from 2.13 to 1.37. And even with Treylon Burks out for six games, Okonkwo was still barely fantasy relevant.