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USATSI

It's hard to write about busts for an upcoming season before we know how rosters look, and free agency and the NFL Draft haven't happened yet. It's even harder to gauge if a player will bust because Average Draft Position usually sets the measuring stick for their Fantasy value, and that data isn't relevant until the summer.

But these are players I'm likely avoiding this season based on their expected Fantasy cost on Draft Day, as well as circumstances that could be problematic. Some of these guys were already trending in the wrong direction, and some could end up in bad situations this year.

Now, once we see what happens this offseason, as well as when the ADP is real, I could change my mind on these players. But for Busts 1.0, these are players I don't expect to have much stock in for the 2022 season.

Quarterbacks
Projections powered by Sportsline
ARI Arizona • #1
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
74th
QB RNK
6th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
33
2021 Stats
PAYDS
3787
RUYDS
423
TD
29
INT
10
FPTS/G
25.1
This listing isn't so much about Murray's play on the field but more about what could happen this offseason. Murray has made it clear he wants a contract extension, and he could hold out in training camp to make a statement. It's worth watching, and it could make it tough to draft Murray as a potential top-five Fantasy quarterback, especially if that lingers into the season. We also have to see what Arizona does in free agency and the NFL Draft because Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, Zach Ertz, James Conner and Chase Edmonds are all impending free agents. And then there's Murray's injury risk, and he missed three games with an ankle injury in 2021, as well as dealing with a shoulder injury in 2020. Murray should still be drafted as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback. But he could start to fall on Draft Day if his contract situation becomes a bigger issue as training camp approaches.
Running Backs
Projections powered by Sportsline
DAL Dallas • #21
Age: 26 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
48th
RB RNK
20th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
5
2021 Stats
RUYDS
1002
REC
47
REYDS
287
TD
12
FPTS/G
15.1
I'm hopeful that Elliott rebounds in 2022 and that the knee injury he said he played through last season was the reason for his decline. But 2021 was frustrating for Elliott and Fantasy managers who rostered him, and it's hard to justify drafting him in the first two or maybe three rounds this season. Elliott went 10 games in a row last year with fewer than 55 rushing yards, and he became touchdown dependent to save his Fantasy production. He did have some productive games as a receiver, including three outings with at least six catches, but Tony Pollard looked like the best running back in Dallas almost every time he touched the field. We'll see how Elliott does this offseason and the reports on his health. And we'll also monitor reports on Pollard maybe taking on a bigger workload this season. But Elliott is no longer a running back to covet on Draft Day with a first- or even second-round pick. If you want someone in the Cowboys backfield, just wait for Pollard in Round 7, and he might be better than Elliott as a Fantasy option in 2022.
SF San Francisco • #25
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
40th
RB RNK
19th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
NR
2021 Stats
RUYDS
963
REC
19
REYDS
137
TD
6
FPTS/G
18.3
Mitchell was great as the lead running back for the 49ers as a rookie in 2021, but history isn't on his side heading into his sophomore season. Kyle Shanahan has been the 49ers coach since 2017, and he's had a different leading rusher in every year (Carlos Hyde in 2017, Matt Breida in 2018, Raheem Mostert in 2019 and Jeff Wilson in 2020). We'll see if Mitchell can break that trend, and the offseason will be telling since Mostert and Wilson are impending free agents. Trey Sermon could have a bigger role in his sophomore campaign, and 49ers general manager John Lynch said of Sermon at the NFL Combine that "Trey is someone we're really excited about." But you also have the dynamic of Trey Lance taking over at quarterback, and he could steal rushing production. Deebo Samuel is going to be a factor in the backfield. And Mitchell struggled with injuries in 2021, missing six games with various ailments. He also had a limited role in the passing game with just 19 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown on 20 targets, and that isn't expected to dramatically change this year. In non-PPR leagues, Mitchell is worth drafting in Round 4, and he did have 1,100 total yards and six touchdowns in 11 games. Hopefully, he can repeat as the best running back for the 49ers for the first time under Shanahan and be great again. But in PPR, the earliest Mitchell should be drafted is Round 6. I'm concerned that anything sooner than that is a mistake.
TB Tampa Bay • #7
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
54th
RB RNK
23rd
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
89
2021 Stats
RUYDS
812
REC
69
REYDS
454
TD
10
FPTS/G
20.5
Fournette was amazing with Tampa Bay the past two seasons, and he averaged a career-high 19.5 PPR points per game in 2021. But he's a free agent this offseason, and we'll see if he can land in a good spot to keep his Fantasy production at a high level. Even if he returns to the Buccaneers I'd still be concerned about his Fantasy outlook because of Tom Brady's retirement. We'll see who replaces Brady, but I don't expect that quarterback to enhance Fournette's Fantasy value in the same way. Fournette was great in the passing game last season with 69 catches for 454 yards and two touchdowns on 84 targets in 14 games. He also added 180 carries for 812 yards and eight touchdowns, and he averaged a career-best 4.5 yards per carry. He should be coveted as a free agent this offseason, even though he's 27, and we'll see where he ends up. In the right situation, Fournette can still be a high-end Fantasy running back in all leagues. But I'm looking at him more like a No. 2 running back worth drafting in Round 4 at the earliest. I'm concerned that the best of Fournette might be behind him at this point in his career.
ARI Arizona • #6
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
70th
RB RNK
29th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
92
2021 Stats
RUYDS
752
REC
37
REYDS
375
TD
18
FPTS/G
17.8
Maybe the best-case scenario for Conner this offseason is to stay in Arizona and Edmonds leaves as a free agent. That would keep Conner as a high-end Fantasy running back and remove him from this list. But if Conner leaves the Cardinals and goes to a worse situation as part of a crowded backfield then his Fantasy outlook could be bleak. Last year, Conner did well when Edmonds was healthy, but Conner was touchdown dependent. In the first eight games when Conner and Edmonds shared touches, Conner had just four games with more than nine PPR points, and he needed to score to boost his production. But Edmonds injured his ankle in Week 9 and missed the next four games. With Edmonds hurt, Conner averaged 24.8 PPR points per game in the five games he was the lead running back. I hope he can get the opportunity to do that over a full season, but Fantasy managers shouldn't be chasing that production. He'll need a featured job, and that's something to monitor this offseason. For now, plan to draft Conner in Round 6 at the earliest.
Wide Receivers
Projections powered by Sportsline
TB Tampa Bay • #13
Age: 28 • Experience: 9 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
29th
WR RNK
12th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
43
2021 Stats
REC
74
TAR
114
REYDS
1035
TD
14
FPTS/G
19.7
Evans is awesome, and he's building a Hall of Fame resume with his career in Tampa Bay. In eight seasons in the NFL, Evans is already the Buccaneers all-time leader in receptions (606), yards (9,301) and touchdowns (75). And in 2021, he set the NFL record with his eighth consecutive 1,000-yard season. But now Evans could be tested with Brady's retirement, and we'll have to see what the Buccaneers do at quarterback this offseason. Evans could also be in line for a lot of attention from opposing defenses if Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski don't return to Tampa Bay. I still expect Evans to be drafted as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver in the majority of leagues, but it could be tough to call him a top-10 option if the Buccaneers go with someone like Blaine Gabbert or Kyle Trask at quarterback. Keep an eye on what happens, and Evans could fall from a Round 2 pick to Round 3 or even Round 4 if his quarterback situation is awful.
ARI Arizona • #10
Age: 30 • Experience: 9 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
51st
WR RNK
23rd
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
20
2021 Stats
REC
42
TAR
64
REYDS
572
TD
8
FPTS/G
14.7
Hopkins could benefit this season with more targets if the Cardinals don't bring back or have significant replacements for Kirk, Green and Ertz. But Hopkins could also be in trouble if Murray decides to hold out and misses any time in the regular season. Hopkins also could be nearing the point in his career where he starts to slow down since he'll be 30 in June. He missed significant time due to injury in 2021 for the first time in his nine-year career. After missing Weeks 9-11 due to a hamstring strain, he suffered what was eventually revealed to be a sprained MCL prior to Week 15 that required surgery and forced him to miss the rest of the season. He should make a full recovery by training camp, but Hopkins is no longer worth drafting in the first two rounds in the majority of leagues. The earliest I would draft Hopkins is Round 4, but that's only if Murray is ready to go by Week 1, which is something we'll have to monitor this offseason.
CLE Cleveland • #2
Age: 28 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
52nd
WR RNK
24th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
44
2021 Stats
REC
68
TAR
104
REYDS
865
TD
8
FPTS/G
14.7
Cooper's offseason could be eventful if the Cowboys decide to move on from him. His contract is an issue, and his $20 million base salary does not become fully guaranteed until the fifth day of the 2022 league year. The Cowboys designed his $100 million contract in a way in which they could get out of the deal after two seasons. If they cut Cooper, he would count $6 million against the salary cap, not $22 million. With that in mind, Cooper could be headed to a worse situation with a new team and a downgrade at quarterback. His value could also improve on a different roster without as many mouths to feed, and that's what we'll be looking at over the next several weeks. In 2021, Cooper's Fantasy value declined when he averaged just 14.2 PPR points per game, which was his lowest total since 2017. He only had six games with at least 15 PPR points and six games with nine PPR points or less. Cooper should not be drafted prior to Round 5 in most leagues.
DET Detroit • #14
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
64th
WR RNK
28th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
NR
2021 Stats
REC
90
TAR
119
REYDS
912
TD
6
FPTS/G
13.4
I was excited for St. Brown when he was drafted by the Lions last season. I liked the situation with their barren receiving corps, and I expected St. Brown to have the chance to make plays for Jared Goff. St. Brown didn't really take off until the end of the season, but he was on a rocket ship over the final six games of the year. Over that span, St. Brown had at least eight catches, 73 yards and 10 targets in each outing, and he scored five touchdowns. He scored at least 15 PPR points in each game and at least 23 PPR points in five of those games. He averaged 24.5 PPR points in those six games. It was amazing, but you have to put it in context. T.J. Hockenson missed five of those games with a thumb injury, and D'Andre Swift missed four of those outings with a shoulder problem. And now the Lions are talking about adding receivers this offseason according to new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. We'll see what happens, and St. Brown is still going to be productive. But he will likely struggle with more weapons on the field, and the earliest I would draft St. Brown is Round 6 in the majority of leagues.
Tight Ends
Projections powered by Sportsline
SF San Francisco • #85
Age: 28 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
45th
TE RNK
5th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
23
2021 Stats
REC
71
TAR
94
REYDS
910
TD
6
FPTS/G
15.8
At the NFL Combine, nearly every incoming tight end said they wanted to model their game after Kittle, which makes sense. He's the most complete tight end in the NFL with his receiving and blocking ability, and he's a star. And he's still going to be a great Fantasy asset this season. But he continues to struggle with injuries, and he missed 13 games over the past three years with various ailments. And now you have to deal with Lance taking over at quarterback, which could be a problem for Kittle. He played in two games with Lance in 2021, and Kittle combined for just five catches for 69 yards on 12 targets. It's a small sample size, and Kittle and Lance should be able to connect for plenty of production. But now Kittle is the No. 5 Fantasy tight end coming into the year for me behind Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, Kyle Pitts and Darren Waller, and the earliest I would draft him is Round 4. If he makes it there, he's a great value pick, but I still expect Fantasy managers to draft him sooner than that, which could be a mistake.