2014 Draft Prep: Busts for Draft Day
Who might not live up to expectations in 2014 based on a variety of circumstances? Our Dave Richard shares a dozen names he'll likely be avoiding on Draft Day.
No one likes bad news. A leaky roof, a cracked phone, an incorrect pizza order. It could ruin your day, your week, or in the case of a player who turns into a bust, your entire Fantasy Football season.
A bust is a player who falls short of the expectations you drafted him for. If it's someone you took with a late-round pick you just cut him and find someone else for your roster, no big whoop. But if it's one of your first six or seven picks then it's a problem. Those are valuable picks used to build the backbone of your starting lineup. Miss on too many of those and you're probably no better than .500.
Let's unearth the players whose expectations are just a bit too lofty on Draft Day.
Cam Newton , QB, Panthers
The issues Newton will face this season might be too much for any quarterback to overcome. His offensive line is shaping up to be a big question mark, which means the protection when he passes or blocking when he runs will be suspect. His receiving corps is brand new, save for reliable tight end Greg Olsen . Not that he had great receivers to work with in the past, but at least he had chemistry with them thanks to years of continuity. None of his receivers have had much work with Newton and training camp will force them to try and develop rhythm quickly. Not that Cam is known for his lethal arm -- it's what he does with his legs that puts him in the Top 10 among Fantasy quarterbacks year after year. But his rushing touchdown production has declined three straight seasons and his rushing yards dropped in a big way from Year 2 to Year 3. Newton is over ankle surgery that cost him most of his offseason, but you have to wonder if it'll play a role in his mind when he takes off, or in the minds of his coaches when they think about him running for a touchdown. It'll definitely be in the minds of his opponents week after week. Newton's delivered big time for Fantasy owners in the past (even if he's done so on an inconsistent basis) but this offseason was a nightmare for the Panthers and Newton's numbers might pay the price in 2014. There are so many solid, safe quarterback picks this summer that Newton shouldn't even be a Top 12 consideration.
I'd rather draft: Philip Rivers , Jay Cutler , Ben Roethlisberger
Russell Wilson , QB, SeahawksThere's no denying that Wilson is a winner, just not in Fantasy Football. Not at the level of a Fantasy starter, anyway. He's posted 20-plus Fantasy points 15 times through two seasons (32 games), a nice amount but not enough to be considered overly reliable on a weekly basis. He's also not going to throw as much as other quarterbacks, which in turn caps his potential. Exhibit A is his stats over those last two seasons -- basically the same year over year, save for a handful of more yards and three fewer rushing touchdowns in 2013. It's tough to predict a jump in production when he didn't do it at all in his second season. It's also a little difficult to predict when Wilson will go off for a nice game. He's hit 20-plus points in 9 of 16 career home games, four of nine career games playing at an indoor venue and two of seven times when playing an opponent in an open-air stadium. That more or less means it's better to start Wilson when he plays at home, albeit it's not much better than a 50-50 proposition given his track record. Some weeks he'll shine, some weeks he'll stink. That's typical of quarterbacks on run-focused teams like the Seahawks. So even though Percy Harvin will be healthy to start the year and even though we like Doug Baldwin as a breakout receiver to replace Golden Tate , there just isn't enough evidence to suggest he'll be better than any of the other quarterbacks you can take between Rounds 1 and 11. Draft him as a backup.
I'd rather draft: Cam Newton , Carson Palmer , Sam Bradford
Fred Jackson , RB, BillsFredEx is a fan favorite in Buffalo and a lot of Fantasy owners are loyal to him because he's been so darn productive, but think about what happened last year for him to have so much success. The Bills were loyal to a fault with their run game, C.J. Spiller dealt with an injury for pretty much the whole season, the Bills didn't have another back they could lean on when Spiller was damaged. As a result, Jackson came up with a career-high in touchdowns (10 total), a career-high in receptions, a three-year high in carries and played more than 10 games for the first time since 2010. It's no secret that he's old in NFL terms (33) but he's also backlogged nearly 1,700 career carries and just over 250 catches, including his time with the National Indoor Football League. He still has some gas in the tank since he's not in the 2,000-carry danger zone, but it's tough to expect him to be as reliable as he was last season. Tack on the addition of Bryce Brown as quality depth as well as Spiller being back to full health, and chances are Jackson's days of shouldering a heavy workload are done. Draft him as a No. 3 running back? Fine. Draft him as a starter? Big mistake.
I'd rather draft: Maurice Jones-Drew , Pierre Thomas , Trent Richardson
Steven Jackson , RB, FalconsHere's another favorite in the Fantasy community who unfortunately isn't the same guy he once was. Jackson has over 2,700 career carries, well past the red-flag mark of 2,000. When a number is that high it suggests the wear and tear on a player's body is too much and he starts to break down. That happened to Jackson last year when he missed four games. Worse yet, he averaged 3.5 yards per carry and totaled 100-plus yards once in the 12 games he did play in. Like Falcons running backs before him, his saving grace was his touchdown production -- seven total. That helped him finish strong last season, and even though he had that positive end to 2013 and his O-line is improved for 2014, Jackson still shouldn't be trusted. Even the Falcons have some concern as they took rookie rusher Devonta Freeman in the draft, and he's capable of replacing Jackson in the event the 11-year veteran gets hurt or is ineffective. Don't take Jackson before Round 6, and if you do, you must spend a pick in Round 9 on Freeman to protect your lineup. The better move? Pass on Jackson and just take Freeman.
I'd rather draft: Ben Tate and Terrance West , Lamar Miller , Fred Jackson
Knowshon Moreno , RB, DolphinsIt took Moreno five years to finally have a monster season, but we're betting on it being his only one. Last year was special for him, playing in the Broncos offense and attacking six-man defensive fronts while catching passes along the way. But when the season ended the Broncos didn't do much to push to re-sign him ... in fact, they pretty much pushed him away. The Dolphins were the only team to show even mild interest, signing him to a measly one-year deal. His Fantasy prospects didn't look all that bad since the Dolphins planned on running an offense Moreno is familiar with, but he showed up to camp out of shape and then needed arthroscopic knee surgery in June, all but scrapping the start of training camp (if not all of camp). Meanwhile, Lamar Miller has looked good this offseason and could be the Dolphins back to target. No Manning, no dynamic offense, no great O-line, no offseason work with a new team and one bad knee is a terrible combination.
I'd rather draft: DeAngelo Williams , Terrance West , Khiry Robinson and Lamar Miller
Maurice Jones-Drew / Darren McFadden , RBs, RaidersMaurice Jones-Drew , Darren McFadden and anyone else you can think of in the silver and black shouldn't be counted on for Fantasy. Jones-Drew is assumed to be the top back on the list but we got cold feet after he started talking about retirement this offseason. Jones-Drew is 29 years old with over 1,800 career carries -- not that it matters since he won't get every rep in Oakland like he used to in Jacksonville. Even if he doesn't play like a guy who thought about hanging up the cleats, the Raiders schedule does MJD no favors (four games against the NFC West won't be pretty) and it will be hard for him or anyone else to run well consistently. McFadden might finally stay healthy for a large part of the season now that he's splitting with MJD, but no one's excited about drafting him. Stay away.
I'd rather draft: Frank Gore , Trent Richardson , Rashad Jennings
Eric Decker , WR, JetsEvery year there's a receiver who changes teams, collects a much-wanted pay day and then coasts for a year. It's Decker's turn. He hit double-digits in touchdowns and over 1,000 receiving yards in consecutive seasons but did it with future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as his quarterback. Now he's going to the cool combo of Geno Smith and Michael Vick . Not exactly an even exchange. Also, Decker wasn't the top banana in Denver like he will be with the Jets. And finally, we came away fairly unimpressed with Decker considering that he didn't use his size and strength as much as we thought he would. It helps his case that the Jets will play from behind a good amount, and maybe that will save him from being a bust in PPR leagues, but if you think he's going to notch another 1,000-yard, 10-score season, you're either a Jets season-ticket holder or a fan of his and his wife's reality show. Or both. Yuck.
I'd rather draft: Emmanuel Sanders , Mike Wallace , Terrance Williams
Julian Edelman , WR, PatriotsDon't expect another 100-catch season from Edelman. He got there last year because Tom Brady had no one to throw to besides Edelman. Case in point: In the six and three-quarter games he played in with Rob Gronkowski he averaged 4.4 catches for 45.6 yards and 0.3 touchdowns per game while in the nine and one-quarter games without him he averaged 8.1 catches for 80.8 yards and 0.4 touchdowns. And Gronk is not just Edelman's only problem -- the Patriots added Brandon LaFell , will have a healthy Shane Vereen stealing targets and should get something out of their second-year receivers too. Edelman had his year in the sun and it resulted in a nice new contract for him, but it's tough to expect him to be a solid weekly contributor for Fantasy owners again. Don't take him unless it's as a No. 3 option in a standard league and a low-end No. 2 choice in a PPR.
I'd rather draft: Emmanuel Sanders , Kendall Wright , Marques Colston
Reggie Wayne , WR, ColtsBack in the day, Wayne was the top target in Indianapolis and no one else could come close to knocking him off of his perch. But he'll turn 36 in November, is coming off of ACL surgery and will play in a Colts offense that added a new receiver in Hakeem Nicks and will get back another receiving threat in tight end Dwayne Allen . We're not saying Wayne's going to play poorly, just that his opportunities will be scaled back as the Colts continue to run a diverse, efficient version of the West Coast offense. His touchdowns have already been mediocre over the last four seasons (17 total in 55 games) and his receiving average hasn't been strong in five straight years. So if he's not a candidate for 100 catches anymore then why are we chasing him in Fantasy? Answer: We shouldn't be. He's a good reserve receiver as he heads into the twilight of his career.
I'd rather draft: Ladarius Green , Hakeem Nicks , Sammy Watkins
Wes Welker , WR, BroncosA year ago Welker was a player on many draft wish lists, but it's buyer beware time after suffering multiple concussions and after struggling over the second half of last season. He started out great in his new digs, scoring in seven of his first eight games. Then he scored twice more the rest of the way, including once in the playoffs. He also didn't have a 100-yard game all year, the first time since he was a Dolphin in 2006 he didn't have at least one. Is he slowing down? How will the concussions impact how he plays going forward? I don't have a problem with Welker as even a good enough No. 2 Fantasy receiver, but I can't put him in the Top 15 at his position.
I'd rather draft: Michael Floyd , Cordarrelle Patterson , Emmanuel Sanders
Martellus Bennett , TE, BearsWe can get behind Bennett if the plan is to draft him, use him for the first few weeks of the season and then look elsewhere for a tight end. He's finally been given a chance to play regularly over the last two seasons and he's begun each of them playing out of his mind. In his last two Septembers he's averaged 4.5 receptions for 51.5 yards and six total touchdowns over eight games. In his last two Octobers, Novembers and Decembers he's averaged 3.5 catches for 40.5 yards and four total scores over 24 games. Bennett has shown that he can be a good tight end, but why spend a late-round pick on him knowing that the likelihood of him helping your team long-term is slim? If we're talking about tight ends late in a Fantasy draft, then it's probably a better move to go with a player with more potential for a big year.
I'd rather draft: Eric Ebron , Ladarius Green , Heath Miller
Jordan Reed , TE, RedskinsA handful of people out there think Reed's headed toward a 1,000-yard season. Maybe if something happens to Pierre Garcon and/or DeSean Jackson he will be. Otherwise, I'm not sure the targets will be there for him to have a full-fledged breakout campaign. Reed is a great athlete and still is considered a Top 10 Fantasy tight end, but one I wouldn't really love drafting. The concussion issue that forced him off the field last year is especially worrisome -- what's going to happen the first time he takes a hit to the head? And while Jay Gruden's offense has relied on tight ends a bunch, it's not like he's produced a very good player at the position. Jermaine Gresham 2012 with 64 catches for 737 yards and five touchdowns is the best he did in three years with the Bengals (though Gresham and Tyler Eifert combined for 903 yards and six scores last season). Reed is a safe tight end pick but I don't see the upside like I do in Kyle Rudolph and Zach Ertz . To be fair, I don't see as much downside with him as I do with Rudolph and Ertz, either.
I'd rather draft: Jason Witten , Greg Olsen , Dennis Pitta