2016 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Busts 2.0
Even great players struggle from time to time, and our Jamey Eisenberg says Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Sammy Watkins are among some players you might want to avoid in 2016.
Cummings: Sleepers 1.0 | Breakouts 1.0 | Busts 1.0
The first version of my busts column was more about players I expect to struggle this season compared to how they played in 2015. This new list is about players I just have no interest in drafting relative to their Average Draft Position.
Here are the players we listed in Busts 1.0:
- Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
- Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins
- Matt Forte, RB, Jets
- Darren McFadden, RB, Cowboys
- Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars
- Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
- Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks
- Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos
- Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars
- Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
- Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks
- Gary Barnidge, TE, Browns
There are obvious exceptions to the above list and the new version when I say these are players I won't draft. At the right price, of course I'll take Forte or Baldwin or Barnidge. But that's not likely to happen given the expectation most Fantasy owners have for all of these players.
It shows in where they are being selected based on their ADP on CBS Sports. For example, Forte is going toward the end of Round 3, Fitzgerald in the middle of Round 5 and Barnidge early in Round 9. No thanks.
And the guys listed below are definitely being drafted too high. We'll see how it all plays out this season, and I don't expect to be right on all of these bust candidates. But unless they fall into good value, you won't see most of these players on any of my teams.
Many Fantasy owners made the playoffs and even won their league thanks to Bortles last season. He was among the best waiver wire additions during the year and finished as the No. 4 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues with 4,428 passing yards, 35 touchdowns and 18 interceptions and 320 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The stats were somewhat staggering as he had 12 games with at least 20 Fantasy points in a standard league, including five in his final six games of the year. But another staggering stat is what Bortles did when the Jaguars were trailing, which happened a lot with a suspect defense and lack of a quality running game. He had 29 touchdowns when trailing, three when ahead and three when tied. Now, if you believe the Jaguars are going to continue to struggle, then you expect Bortles to continue throwing the ball ad nauseam, and he had 428 of his 606 attempts when Jacksonville was trailing last year. But the defense should be better in 2016 with Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack added in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, Malik Jackson signed as a free agent from Denver and getting last year's first-round pick, Dante Fowler, healthy after being out with a torn ACL. Additionally, Ivory will upgrade the backfield in tandem with T.J. Yeldon. Bortles could be more effective throwing the ball with a higher completion percentage (58.6 in 2015) and fewer interceptions, but he also could see a decline in yards and touchdowns. I'm expecting a regression, and as a result he's being downgraded to a No. 2 quarterback this year. He is definitely not worth drafting in Round 7, especially ahead of Carson Palmer or Tom Brady.
This one is probably going to rub a lot of Fantasy owners the wrong way, and I get it. Peterson is a beast and one of the best running backs in NFL history. He's overcome a torn ACL to rush for 2,000 yards the next season, and he was suspended for nearly a full season in 2014 before coming back to lead the NFL in rushing last year. But he's 31 and coming off another year with a monster workload of 327 carries for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns and 30 catches for 322 yards. He's now played eight full seasons in the NFL with 2,381 career carries and 2,619 total touches, along with an additional 116 carries in the playoffs and six catches. Those aren't good numbers for any running back, and a breakdown could be coming. It's why I'm advocating for Jerick McKinnon to be drafted as a sleeper with a late-round pick in all leagues. Now, Peterson is a freak athlete and in great shape, so there isn't too much cause for concern. I'm not going to campaign for Peterson to be drafted in the second round or later, but right now he's going No. 3 overall behind Antonio Brown and Todd Gurley, which is too high. I'd rather have Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott, and I can see a strong case for Lamar Miller ahead of Peterson. Also, he should be drafted behind receivers like Odell Beckham and Julio Jones, and I'd rather have Rob Gronkowski as well. At some point even the great ones struggle, and this could be the year for Peterson. Use caution if you draft him this season.
Charles is expected to fine coming off last season's torn right ACL, which was the second time he suffered the injury in the past five years (he tore his left ACL in 2011). But he talked about retirement after he first got hurt in Week 5 last year and could be sharing touches more than ever before since becoming a Fantasy star. In an effort to keep him fresh, the Chiefs could lean on Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware to take pressure off Charles, which could mean anything from fewer carries or less goal line work, although it would be a surprise to see him lose catches since he's a dynamic receiver. He should still have the chance to be a Top 10 Fantasy running back - he was averaging 17 Fantasy points a game in a standard league in his first four outings last year before getting hurt - but he might not be the elite player we're used to seeing since he turns 30 in December. Like Peterson, he isn't someone to completely run away from on Draft Day, but he might not be worth drafting in the first round, which is his current ADP. I would look for Charles in the middle of the second round, and you should invest in West with a late-round pick as well. Charles is behind Bell, Gurley, Johnson, Elliott, Peterson and Miller in my rankings in standard leagues.
I like Freeman, and I advocated for him last season as a sleeper. But I never expected him to finish as the No. 1 Fantasy running back in 2015, and a regression is coming this year. To what extent is hard to figure out, and he's a better option in PPR leagues than standard formats. You just have to expect those stats to come way down this year after he had 265 carries for 1,056 yards and 11 touchdowns and 73 catches for 578 yards and three touchdowns. Now, I still have Freeman ranked as a Top 12 running back in all formats, but you should plan on drafting him toward the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3 instead of toward the end of Round 1, which is his current ADP. While the Falcons offensive line should be better with the addition of center Alex Mack, fellow running back Tevin Coleman should also improve, and he's a sleeper candidate. Coach Dan Quinn told me this offseason they want more from Coleman, who struggled with 87 carries for 392 yards and one touchdown and two catches for 14 yards, including three lost fumbles. And Freeman didn't become a Fantasy star until Coleman injured his ribs in Week 2. But Coleman averaged 4.5 yards per carry compared to Freeman at 4.0, which was the lowest YPC among the top nine Fantasy running backs in standard leagues. He also had just four games with 100 rushing yards in 2015, and he needed at least 25 carries in three of those outings to get there. His receiving prowess should save his production, but his carries and overall stats should decline.
Martin makes me nervous this season because he was so good in a contract year. Could there be a regression now that he got paid? That's what we're about to find out. He was a stud as a rookie in 2012 with more than 1,900 total yards and 12 touchdowns, but he struggled the next two years with injuries and inconsistent play. Then, when money was on the line, he showed up with 288 carries for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns and 33 catches for 271 yards and a touchdown. He was rewarded with a five-year contract extension worth $35 million, including $15 million guaranteed. He deserved the raise, and there are good things going for him with Dirk Koetter being promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach, ensuring the same system, and Tampa Bay should be improved offensively with Jameis Winston taking the next step in his career. The defense should also be better. But Charles Sims will continue to be a nuisance for Martin, especially in the passing game, and don't fall for Martin's reception total and consider him a good receiver. He had three games with more than three catches and nine games with one catch or less. He also had just four games with more than 100 rushing yards. Martin is definitely worth drafting as a Top 12 running back, but his ADP is too high in the middle of Round 2, especially in PPR.
Murray has taken Fantasy owners on quite a ride with his value since he finished as the No. 1 running back in 2014. He was correctly called a bust in this space last year when he went to the Eagles, and then for about a two-month period this offseason when he was traded to the Titans, his value trended up to where he was back in the good graces of Fantasy owners. But then the NFL Draft happened, and the Titans made a shocking move to select Alabama running back and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. And now he's back to being a bust, especially since he's getting drafted in Round 4 based on his ADP. Murray is going back to a timeshare, which was a disaster for him in Philadelphia in 2015 when he shared touches with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. My colleague Dave Richard and several other industry analysts still believe Murray can be successful with the Titans based on coach Mike Mularkey's desire to run the ball. That could happen, especially if Henry struggles as a rookie, and he should be a non-factor in the passing game compared to Murray. But Henry should definitely work at the goal line after he scored 42 rushing touchdowns in three seasons at Alabama. And Murray might be shot after nearly 500 total touches in 2014, including the playoffs, which is what it looked like last year. I don't see Murray as anything more than a low-end No. 2 running back at best, and the earliest he should be drafted is Round 5 in the majority of leagues.
There were only nine running backs with more than Hill's 223 carries in 2015 and 12 with more than his 238 total touches. But 17 running backs had more than his 794 rushing yards, and he was a disaster with his 3.6 yards per carry. And 15 receptions for 79 yards isn't something to be excited about. But Hill ran for 11 touchdowns last year, which was tied for the NFL lead, and his 12 total touchdowns were tied for second among running backs. That saved his production in 2015 and made him the No. 13 Fantasy running back in standard leagues. Now, I'll take the workload from Hill and the chance of him scoring double digits in touchdowns again (he had nine as a rookie in 2014), but he's got to perform better as a rusher to make him worth his current ADP, which is the end of Round 3. That's way too high, and he shouldn't be drafted before Round 5 in PPR. Giovani Bernard will remain a significant factor, and he had more total yards (1,202) than Hill (873). If Hill fails to be a contributor at the goal line then his Fantasy value could plummet. The hope would be that Hill returns to his rookie form of 2014 when he ran for 1,124 yards on 5.1 yards per carry and had 27 catches for 215 yards, but you don't need to draft him in Round 3 based on hope after what we saw from him in his sophomore campaign.
I had Watkins as a breakout candidate before news of his foot surgery surfaced in May. He should be fine for Week 1, but on June 1 we had Watkins himself say "nobody knows" the timetable for his return. And Julian Edelman and Dez Bryant, who are two guys that had foot surgery last season, needed a second procedure several months after the first one, so Watkins might not be done with this injury even after he's back on the field. Now, the good news for Watkins is he can be explosive in just a few games, and in 2015 he had 49 catches for 900 yards and seven touchdowns in his final nine outings after complaining about a lack of targets. That was preceded by missing three games with a calf injury and also having 11 catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns in his other three games, and he was coming off hip surgery in the offseason. The point would be even if he's limited early in the year he can still finish as a star, but it comes down to drafting him in the right spot. His current ADP is Round 2, which is crazy in standard leagues and even high in PPR. If you can get Watkins in Round 4 or later (Round 3 in PPR), until we know the extent of his rehab, that is the right price to pay. We hope his third-year breakout potential isn't ruined by this foot injury, but it's hard to trust him without further information.
The reports on Edelman's second foot surgery, which he had in April, have been positive, but this is still something to monitor heading into training camp. And while he might be 100 percent for Week 1, when you start to look at the total picture for Edelman you see some holes that might make him a risky Fantasy option given his ADP, which is Round 4 in standard leagues and could be Round 3 in PPR. Tom Brady (suspension) is expected to miss the first four games of the season, and New England loaded up at receiver this offseason by adding free agents Chris Hogan and Nate Washington, and rookie Malcolm Mitchell was drafted in the fourth round from Georgia. Danny Amendola also restructured his contract to stay with the Patriots, and they signed a prominent second tight end in Martellus Bennett. Oh, and you might have heard of that Rob Gronkowski guy. Along with Dion Lewis out of the backfield, that's a ton of mouths to feed in the passing game, which could hurt Edelman, who averaged almost nine targets a game last season and nearly 10 in 2014. He still remains the second-best receiving threat on the team behind Gronkowski, but the Patriots are always thinking about the Super Bowl and could opt to put Edelman on the PUP list if he's not ready by training camp with his foot. That's total speculation, but it is something to consider if you draft early in the summer. The negatives are starting pile up for him this year, and Edelman might be overpriced given his expected return.
Decker, and to an extent Brandon Marshall, are tied to what happens with Ryan Fitzpatrick and the quarterback situation. We saw last season that Fitzpatrick made Marshall a star again, and Decker returned to Fantasy prominence when he had 80 catches for 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns, which helped him finish No. 10 in Fantasy points in a standard league. The year before, when Decker was stuck with Geno Smith and Michael Vick, he had 74 catches for 962 yards and five touchdowns. Now, the biggest difference was probably Marshall more than Fitzpatrick because Decker is better suited to be a No. 2 receiver than a No. 1 option, but both Jets receivers would get a downgrade in Fantasy value if Smith or Christian Hackenberg started this year. Decker should still see a regression even if Fitzpatrick is back because he was extremely touchdown dependent in 2015 in the 15 games he played. The good news was he failed to score in all but three outings, and in those three games he had at least 80 yards. But he had just five games with more than 80 yards for the season, and he had seven games with 60 yards or less. If he doesn't find the end zone in those games then you could be left with a minimal stat line in standard leagues. He's being drafted in Round 5 based on his current ADP, and I wouldn't take him before Round 6 in most formats..
Crabtree belongs more on the first list instead of this one because his ADP isn't bad in Round 9, but hopefully the expectations are much lower than what he produced in 2015 when he was the No. 19 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues with 85 catches for 922 yards and nine touchdowns on 146 targets. He had more targets, catches and touchdowns than Amari Cooper, who had 72 catches, 1,070 yards and six touchdowns on 130 targets, and there's no way Cooper will be second fiddle to Crabtree this year. Clive Walford should also take on a bigger role, and Crabtree only had five games with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league last season. He also had four games with more than 80 receiving yards and 10 games with fewer than 60 yards. Crabtree was a bargain for the Raiders last season when he signed a one-year deal for $3 million, but he earned a big extension in December at four years, $35 million, including $19 million guaranteed. We hope the drive is still there for Crabtree after getting paid, but he'll settle in more like a No. 3 or No. 4 Fantasy receiver this season instead of a Top 20 option in the majority of leagues.
Anyone who listened to our podcasts or read most of my content last season knows that Eifert was my guy heading into the year, and he delivered in a big way. But now he's someone I plan to avoid in most formats, especially at his current ADP in Round 5. We hope he's fine coming off ankle surgery in May, but there's a good chance he could miss the start of the season. It doesn't sound like he'll be ready for training camp, and he could end up as a candidate for the PUP list. The Bengals need Eifert with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu gone as free agents, but he'll have to prove his health first. And for a player with a track record of getting banged up, this ankle surgery isn't a good sign. I also expect Eifert to have some touchdown regression since he led all tight ends with 11 red-zone touchdowns, and he scored six touchdowns inside the 10, which trailed only Gronkowski and Jordan Reed, who both had seven. Eifert finished last season as the No. 6 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues with 52 catches for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns, but he only had five games with more than 50 receiving yards and one after Week 8. He also had just three games with more than four catches. We hope Eifert is healthy for the start of the season, but the injury along with the expected decline in scoring should push his value down. He is not worth drafting before Round 8 or 9 in the majority of leagues.
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