There's more than one way for a player to be a bust in Fantasy Football. In fact, there's a nearly infinite number of ways for things to go wrong for any given player. It's one of the fun things about sports – you never quite know exactly how you're going to get your heart broken.
Of course, when looking for players to consider for a busts column, I tend to sort them into two categories: The players who might not be bad, but just won't live up to the hype and expectations; and the players who might just have the floor drop out for them. The latter category is what you think about when you think about the term bust, and they obviously hurt your team a lot if you end up with them.
But the former category is sneaky in the way it can hurt your team. Think about someone like DK Metcalf last season. He finished as WR24 with 14.4 points per game, so he wasn't useless, by any stretch of the imagination. But he had so many games of just like 8-12 PPR points, and it's those kinds of weeks that can really kill your team; it's enough to keep him in your lineup and keep you from looking for upgrades, but not enough to really help you win much.
So, I'm looking for both kinds of busts. I'm not saying I won't draft any of these players, but it's a price-is-right kind of situation. If it isn't, I won't miss them.
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Joe Burrow QB
CIN Cincinnati • #9
Age: 26 • Experience: 4 yrs.
In order to justify drafting Burrow as the No. 4 QB, you have to expect him to be a lot better than he was last season because he finished 50 points shy of the No. 4 QB last season – about a point-and-half behind per game. Now, that is not at all an insurmountable obstacle for a young, ascending talent, but the problem is that asking Burrow to be even better than he was a year ago is asking an awful lot – he led the league in yards per attempt (8.9) and was third in touchdown rate (6.5%). He also enjoyed nearly unprecedented success on big plays, with more completions of 50-plus yards (12) than any QB in the last decade and the most 50-plus yard touchdowns (eight) of the past five seasons. Burrow should throw the ball more this season, but if Burrow does take a step back in terms of efficiency, that just makes the bar to reach for QB4 even higher. I think he's a solid QB for Fantasy, but I'm not passing on the dual-threat guys like Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray for him, and I'm not sure there's much of a case to be made for Burrow over someone like Dak Prescott, even.
Trey Lance QB
DAL Dallas • #15
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
As long as Jimmy Garoppolo is still on the 49ers roster, the possibility of Lance losing his job will loom over him. It doesn't actually seem like the 49ers have much interest in keeping Garoppolo around – perhaps for exactly that reason – but if he's still there come Week 1, Lance's downside risk looks more realistic. The 49ers are betting on Lance being the piece who can help the offense level up, and if he does that, he's going to be elite for Fantasy purposes. But he's incredibly unproven, having started just three games since 2019 – when he was at FCS North Dakota State -- not exactly the highest level of competition, so struggles wouldn't be unexpected. If I'm not taking a QB early, Lance is one of the guys I want to pair with someone like Derek Carr, because that's the combination of upside and floor I'll need to feel better about having Lance.
Najee Harris RB
PIT Pittsburgh • #22
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Harris overcame middling (at best, frankly) efficiency as a rookie thanks to massive volume, but can you rely on that happening again? His passing game role seems especially questionable without Ben Roethlisberger, for whom the term "statuesque" would be a compliment in his final two seasons. If it's rookie Kenny Pickett at QB, I expect Harris will still see plenty of targets, but the more mobile Mitchell Trubisky could cut into those targets, and there's still no guarantee this Steelers offense is going to be able to move the ball effectively in either phase of the game. I think it's reasonable to bet on Harris' efficiency improving in Year 2, but if it doesn't, he could certainly disappoint, providing more like RB2 production for a high-end RB1 price.
TEN Tennessee • #22
Age: 29 • Experience: 8 yrs.
All of a sudden, Henry is a 28-year-old running back coming off a missed half season due to a broken foot who nonetheless has racked up more than 1,000 touches over the past three seasons. The case for Henry has long rested on the idea that he's such an anomaly at the position that the rules don't apply to him, so I'm surprised to see he's still a consensus first-rounder now that we've actually seen him look mortal and because he doesn't catch many passes, Henry relies on outlier volume and efficiency as a rusher to be an elite option, and if either slips, the path to elite production starts to get really, really narrow. Henry is still an RB1 for me, but I also think he has the most blow-up potential of any first-round caliber player.
CAR Carolina • #6
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Any time you get to the final year of a contract for a running back, you're at the point where the grasp on their job could become tenuous very quickly. And the worst bets at the position tend to be the types of players who projected reasonably well because we think they have a solid role on a team with little competition – think Myles Gaskin or Mike Davis last season as prototypical examples here. Sanders falls into both buckets – the Eagles have no ties to him beyond this season and, while he projects to get a decent amount of work, nobody's really expecting him to have much of a role in the passing game or near the end zone. The hope for Sanders is he's a compiler on a good rushing offense, with the potential for some touchdown upside, but there's not much margin for error. If he starts to cede even some of the early-down work, there's very little buoying Sanders' value at this point.
Josh Jacobs RB
LV Las Vegas • #8
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
All that stuff about Sanders? It applies doubly to Jacobs, whose team actually turned down his fifth-year option – actual evidence that they don't view him as a long-term piece. Now, they may be content to ride Jacobs into free agency to get the most they can out of him, and he showed enough as a pass-catcher last season that I have him ranked ahead of Sanders. But there's no guarantee he replicates that role if Kenyan Drake is healthy. I'm snagging rookie Zamir White with one of my last picks in as many drafts as I can just on the off chance the Raiders simply opt to move on from Jacobs.
CeeDee Lamb WR
DAL Dallas • #88
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
With Amari Cooper out of the picture, the expectation is that Lamb will emerge as the kind of elite, go-to wide receiver Fantasy players have been expecting him to be. And I think that's a decent bet; Lamb is incredibly talented and the Cowboys also lost Cedrick Wilson and could be without Michael Gallup to start the season. But the Cowboys have never really been a team that funnels a massive target share to one single wide receiver – Cooper had a 23.8% target share in nine games in 2018, but in Kellen Moore's time as offensive coordinator, no receiver has had a target share higher than 21.1% while playing more than nine games. Lamb could change that, but it's fair to point out that a lot of Fantasy players have already overshot his expected role in two seasons so far. Will Year 3 be different? I'm cautiously optimistic, but not enough that I'm going to be the one who drafts him in most of my leagues, I would expect.
Tyreek Hill WR
MIA Miami • #10
Age: 29 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Individually, Hill and Jaylen Waddle are both terrific talents, and they combine to give Miami maybe the fastest wide receiver tandem in the league. How they'll fare playing alongside one another with Tua Tagovailoa is the question. Tagovailoa relied on quick-hitting RPO concepts more than just about any QB in the league last season, and a significant amount of Waddle's production came from those plays. Can he incorporate Hill while keeping Waddle fed well enough for both to live up to top-15 WR draft costs? A lot of that will depend on Tagovailoa's development, but it's also fair to wonder if Mike McDaniel's San Fran-inspired offense will have room enough for both – there haven't been many times when the 49ers have had multiple must-start Fantasy receivers in their run-heavy offense over the years.
Chris Godwin WR
TB Tampa Bay • #14
Age: 27 • Experience: 7 yrs.
The average return-to-play time for wide receivers coming back from ACL surgery is between 10 and 11 months, and since Godwin didn't have surgery until early January, that would put him on pace for a mid-October return, more or less. Maybe earlier, sure, in which case it's possible he's ready to be an impact player from Week 1. However, it's just as likely he needs a little more time to be healthy enough to play, and he might need even more time to look and feel like himself. Remember, Odell Beckham had his surgery two months before Godwin did in the NFL calendar the previous year and didn't play until Week 3 – and wasn't really himself for a while after that. Godwin has top-12 upside, and if he's there in the Fantasy playoffs, you might be able to live with a slow start. But there's a chance he just isn't right for long enough that it doesn't matter.
Keenan Allen WR
LAC L.A. Chargers • #13
Age: 31 • Experience: 11 year
Earning targets is a skill, and Allen remains one of the best in the league at that skill, but I can't help but feel like there's just a bit of risk here. He hasn't been particularly efficient with his targets over the past two seasons (6.7 and 7.2 yards per target), and I do wonder if at some point the Chargers might not start to distribute those elsewhere if that continues. We actually started to see that toward the end of last season, as he had double-digit targets in just one of his final five games, putting up an 85-catch, 826-yard pace – albeit with four touchdowns, so the Fantasy production was still pretty solid. The point is, Allen probably can't afford much of a dip in his target share if he's going to remain a high-end Fantasy WR, and at 30, his best days are probably behind him.
Mark Andrews TE
BAL Baltimore • #89
Age: 28 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Andrews was actually significantly better in the games Lamar Jackson missed last season, averaging 21.96 points on 11.4 targets per game in five without Jackson compared to 16.3 on 8.5 targets with him. But that was mostly because the Ravens were forced to throw more and Tyler Huntley just zeroed in on Andrews to an absurd degree, with a 28.2% target share. Jackson loves Andrews too, but he won't need to be quite as desperate to lean on him (23.6% target share), and I'm assuming the Ravens won't be quite as pass-heavy as they were when they relied on the likes of Devonta Freeman, Ty'Son Williams, and Le'Veon Bell a year ago. It all points to Andrews still being one of the best tight ends in Fantasy, but probably not the kind of difference maker he was a year ago.
Dawson Knox TE
BUF Buffalo • #88
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
I feel like I just need to write "*points to Robert Tonyan*" and that gets the point across about as well as anything else I could write. Tonyan was a more extreme example of what Knox did last season, with 11 touchdowns on just 59 targets, but the idea is the same – unsustainable touchdown luck that would require an unlikely increase in targets to justify being much more than a fringe starter. Knox had his 11 touchdowns across eight games, but reached double digits in PPR scoring just once in the other nine, so he was pretty touchdown-or-bust-y. If the touchdowns aren't there, he's going to be pretty bust-y.