Sometimes, a bust candidate is exactly that – a player you think is just going to see his value fall apart. If you had Allen Robinson as a bust pick for 2021, you nailed it without ever taking into account how much it cost to draft him.
However, more often than not, price is one of the most important factors in these discussions, if not the most important. I don't think all of the players on my initial list of bust candidates are going to have that Robinson-ian collapse, although it's on the table for at least a few. So, picking right now, five months from when we'll be drafting the majority of our teams, a lot of this is about trying to project where a player will end up being drafted.
This could be a lot of tilting at windmills, and as the market settles in early drafts over the next few months, I'll have a clearer picture of who I'm avoiding this season. For now, here's who stands out based on early mock drafts and my general sense of where the market lies.
- Chris' 1.0 Series: Sleepers | Breakouts | Busts
- Dave's 1.0 series: Sleepers | Breakouts | Busts
- Jamey's 1.0 series: Sleepers | Breakouts | Busts
- Heath's 1.0 series: Sleepers | Breakouts | Busts
KC Kansas City • #15
Age: 26 • Experience: 6 yrs.
I'm just trying this one on for size, to see how it fits. I'm not writing it in pen or chiseling it into stone just yet. But it's worth considering that, with the loss of Tyreek Hill, Mahomes may not be quite worth the premium we're used to paying for him. We saw last season that he was at least mortal as he averaged 7.1 yards per attempt from Week 7 on as opposing defenses schemed to take away the deep ball. He found his footing down the stretch – and ended up with 11 touchdowns in three playoff games, to boot – so I don't want to overreact. However, losing Hill is a big blow for any offense, and with Travis Kelce entering his age-33 season, Mahomes' skill player complements suddenly look a lot more questionable than ever before. Maybe JuJu Smith-Schuster will be healthy and turn back into a stud playmaker, or maybe Kelce can keep outrunning father time. But for the first time since he became a starter, it's worth wondering if Mahomes is worth the early-round pick we've penciled him in for.
Joe Burrow QB
CIN Cincinnati • #9
Age: 25 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Oh no, I'm really going to make you all mad here, aren't I? Burrow is an awesome player, and the run he made to the Super Bowl last season was pretty incredible stuff. But unless the Bengals dramatically change the way their offense operates, I'm just not sure he's going to end up being worth the sticker price you're almost certainly going to have to pay given the hype surrounding Burrow and this offense. We got a glimpse of what Burrow's upside could be over the final two weeks of his regular season as he attempted 85 passes, threw for 971 yards, and had eight touchdowns. With the weapons he has, that kind of pass-heavy approach would make Burrow a Fantasy stud. The problem is, even if you include the playoffs, he never came close to that kind of volume over any other two-game stretch; his closest was 75 attempts between the Divisional Round and AFC Championship, and he had just two touchdowns in that stretch. Burrow did average 35.5 attempts per game in the postseason, and that would certainly be enough to make him a must-start Fantasy QB, but unless his baseline is going to be something like 2021's 8.9 yards per attempt and 6.5% touchdown rate – both of which would basically make him the most efficient quarterback ever if he could sustain them for his career – we're probably looking at more like a low-end QB1, not necessarily the difference maker Burrow is likely to be drafted as.
Cam Akers RB
LAR L.A. Rams • #3
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
This might be the player I'm most interested to see where the value ends up come draft season. When he initially made his comeback late last season, it seemed like Akers might end up a first-round pick, given the hype around him. However, he ended up rushing for just 2.6 yards per attempt with eight catches in four playoff games, and the hype evaporated. I don't want to hold the lack of efficiency against him too much – after all, he was coming back way earlier than expected from a ruptured Achilles and faced a bunch of tough defenses along the way. But the passing game role is consistent with what he had as a rookie, and that makes it very hard for Akers to have a path to top-12 upside even if he's right. If you add this year's postseason to the games where he played 50% of the snaps or more in his rookie season, Akers has averaged just 12.8 PPR points per game in 10 games; even if you doubled his touchdowns from three to six, it only gets you to 14.4 PPG, or roughly RB18 in 2021. In our post-free agency mock draft (a PPR league), Akers was the 11th pick in the third round, at 35th overall (RB16), and that's probably around where I'd start to consider him. At this point, I probably wouldn't take Akers at that cost, but I wouldn't be too strongly opposed to the idea of it, at least. If he starts to climb toward the second round, that's when I'll be out.
A.J. Dillon RB
GB Green Bay • #28
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Dillon is another player I'll want to keep a close eye on as ADP data begins to come in, because if his price remains reasonable, it'll be a lot easier to buy in. In that post-free agency draft we did, Dillon was the first pick of the seventh round, while Aaron Jones went 29th, which is perfectly reasonable. Dillon should split carries pretty evenly with Jones and could even be the primary goal line back, but given Jones' pass-catching prowess – and the loss of Davante Adams – the veteran will need to remain ahead of Dillon. If their prices start to converge by the summer, I'll be out on Dillon, so he's on the watch list for now.
SF San Francisco • #25
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
I have to be honest: I'm worried about the 49ers offense. Not that they'll be bad, though that remains a distinct possibility with an unproven quarterback who has started two games total over the past two seasons of football. But the primary concern for me is how touches are going to be distributed in the offense. The 49ers figure to pass less than we're used to seeing with Trey Lance replacing Jimmy Garoppolo, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're going to see a ton of rushing opportunities for Michell. Lance is going to be a factor in the running game himself, and after the success they found last season, how could Deebo Samuel not be a big factor as well? If Mitchell gets 100% of the RB touches, that won't matter too much, but if he's sharing even a little bit, it might be awfully tough for him to be a must-start Fantasy option, especially since I don't think Mitchell will be a big factor in the passing game. I like the player and his fit in the scheme, but the 49ers have too many questions to answer for me to feel too comfortable about trusting Mitchell at this point.
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Amari Cooper WR
CLE Cleveland • #2
Age: 28 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Cooper leapt to WR14 in our first mock draft after the trade to Cleveland, so clearly, we're excited about what the combination of Cooper and Deshaun Watson may mean in 2022. And that combo could be very productive, obviously. But I do feel the need to remind everyone that, while Watson's criminal trial is behind him, it seems exceedingly likely he is still facing some kind of suspension in 2022, and I would be surprised if it was lighter than the six-game suspension we saw for Ezekiel Elliott a few years back. Cooper may be a borderline WR1 when Watson is out there, but I'm not sure you're going to want to start Jacoby Brissett's WR1 in a run-first offense.
Chris Godwin WR
TB Tampa Bay • #14
Age: 26 • Experience: 6 yrs.
To refer back to that mock draft yet again, Godwin went with the fourth pick of the third round, and that is just way too rich for my tastes. It's possible Godwin will be cleared to play in time for the start of the season, but he suffered his torn ACL on Dec. 12, so that would be an awfully quick turnaround. Nine months is probably about the most optimistic timetable possible for a non-QB to return from that injury, as the median return to play for football players coming back from a torn ACL was 11.6 months. That doesn't mean Godwin won't be back until November, but it's very much within the realm of possibility; Odell Beckham tore his ACL on Oct. 25, 2020 and didn't play until Sept. 26, 2021. Godwin's upside is considerable, but I can't draft him as anything more than a low-end WR2 until I see concrete reasons to believe he'll be back early.
DK Metcalf WR
SEA Seattle • #14
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
I'm really worried about what life without Russell Wilson is going to look like for Metcalf, and I'm not sure a hypothetical acquisition of Baker Mayfield would change that for me. When Metcalf has been a must-start Fantasy option, it's been largely thanks to outlier efficiency on a per-catch basis as well as with touchdowns, and Russell Wilson is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in NFL history. Metcalf is a special player, obviously, but what does his production look like with an average QB? What does his production look like with a well-below average QB like Drew Lock? I'm not drafting Metcalf as even a WR2 given the current state of the Seahawks offense.
WAS Washington • #17
Age: 26 • Experience: 4 yrs.
I suppose if you grade on a curve based on quality of quarterback, McLaurin's production the past two seasons has been pretty impressive. Unfortunately, you don't get extra Fantasy points if a player is catching passes from a bad quarterback, so McLaurin is coming off a WR37 season in points per game and was WR20 in 2020. And WR20 is probably about as high as I'd be willing to take him with the addition of Carson Wentz to the Washington offense. I suppose he's probably an upgrade on what McLaurin was playing with last season, but I'm honestly not sure; he averaged just 6.9 yards per attempt last season, the same as Taylor Heinicke. Wentz was better on deep passes, which is an important part of McLaurin's game, but that wasn't the case in 2020. I'm down enough on Wentz at this point that I just don't view him as a significant upgrade at this point.
SF San Francisco • #85
Age: 28 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Here's the part of the 49ers offense I'm really worried about. Mitchell figures to be the lead back, so he'll have plenty of value, and Deebo Samuel's combination of rushing and pass-catching skills should help keep his Fantasy value high. However, if the pass volume is going to take the hit we expect with Lance at QB, I'm just not sure how Kittle is going to keep pace with the other high-end tight ends. I think he's arguably the best tight end in the league, but the 49ers could be one of the least pass-happy teams in the league, and Kittle is in a receiving group that still features Brandon Aiyuk in addition to Samuel. Kittle will still be a must-start tight end, but I'm not sure you'll be able to count on him for consistent elite production, so he ends up in the second or third tier at the position for me at this point.