We're talking about bust candidates for 2021 today, which really means we're talking about hype. The more the hype around a player builds, the more likely they are to be a bust.
Last offseason, expectations were pretty high for Kenyan Drake. He broke out in a big way after joining the Cardinals midway through the 2019 season, and wound up with an average draft position of 21st overall in 2020 drafts. You know what happened next.
Drake flopped. Sure, he finished as the No. 15 RB by the end of the season, but 23 backs played at least 10 games while averaging more points per game in PPR. He wasn't a total bust -- mostly because he scored 10 touchdowns -- but he was one of the most frustrating players in the league to have on your roster: too good to cut, certainly, and too involved in the offense to bench, but not good enough consistently enough to be a difference maker.
Drake is a free agent now, and Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters Thursday he thinks Chase Edmonds could be ready to step up as the team's "bell cow" back. Edmonds sure looked like he had more of a spark than Drake as the pass-catching back for the Cardinals, and there were plenty in the Fantasy community hoping the Cardinals would take some of Drake's touches and give them to Edmonds even last season. There's bound to be plenty of hype around him this offseason, especially if the Cardinals opt not to bring Drake back or make a significant investment at the position otherwise.
Edmonds' price in our early mock drafts hasn't been unreasonable at all -- he went 90th in our PPR mock and 73rd in a 0.5 PPR mock back in January -- and maybe the experience with Drake will temper expectations. Or maybe people start getting it in their heads that Edmonds could be a No. 2 RB and he gets pushed into the third-round range. You know how it goes with running backs.
Ultimately, where he ends up being drafted will play a role in how he is viewed for 2021, and that's what makes talking about bust picks at this point in the offseason somewhat tricky. It's all relative -- I can think Cam Akers is a very good player, for example; a likely must-start Fantasy option in 2021. And I also view him as a bust candidate if people are going to value him as a top-15 pick. We'll get a better sense of that side of things as more drafts come in, and we talked about the players we expect will be overvalued in 2021 drafts this week on the Fantasy Football Today podcast. Heath Cummings and Jamey Eisenberg gave some of their bust picks on the pod, and Jamey's got more with his full column available here -- Heath's column will be available next week.
I've got a few bust picks of my own for you, but first, let's check in on a few players Heath and Jamey are wary of, starting with Jamey's concerns about David Montgomery, a player who probably carried a lot of you to Fantasy championships this offseason:
Jamey: "I just worry about where he's going to get drafted and what he's going to be able to do with Tarik Cohen back on the field. Assuming that Cohen is healthy. With the quarterback situation, we still don't know what's going to happen in Chicago. Is there going to be guy that's going to throw to both of those guys? But mostly it's what Montgomery did close last season and what the expectation is going to be. I love Montgomery. I think you know he's got a chance to be a very good running back in the NFL and still has a chance to be a great fantasy running. But if he's getting drafted closer to a No. 1 guy as opposed to still being a quality No. 2 running back, I think that's a mistake."
Heath aimed even higher with one of his bust picks, tabbing Aaron Rodgers to disappoint in 2021:
Heath: "Well, this is one where I stepped in it last year in calling Rodgers a bust, but I'm going to go back to it because I learned nothing. He was awesome, but some of the concerns that we had going into last year actually came true. We were worried about them cutting way back on pass attempts and being more of a run first offense. He only threw 526 passes. Now it didn't matter because he had a one of the best years of his career. He had a 9.1% touchdown rate, which is three points higher than his career average, and his career average is the second highest in NFL history. So that is not something you should expect to even come close to repeating. And that's a lot. 3% of 526 passes is like 17 touchdowns."
Adam: "I can tell you that if he had been at his career touchdown rate, he would have been the No. 10 quarterback in six-point-per-pass-touchdown Fantasy leagues, ninth in four-point."
Heath: "So, there's some obvious regression coming with Aaron Rodgers and it may not be enough to knock him outside of the top six or seven quarterbacks, but I've got him at QB7."
Heath: "I would rather have Herbert and Wilson."
Adam: "OK, but the bombshell would be would you rather have Hurts than Rodgers? Please say yes so I can yell at you."
Heath: "As of right now, I will say no. If we get to May and the Eagles have added anything at wide receiver and they have not added competition for Jalen Hurts, then I may just say yes."
Jamey added that he is concerned about Rodgers, and he has him in his first run of the busts column, which you can read here. Some of their other bust picks included:
- J.K. Dobbins. Heath: "I think Dobbins is supremely talented. It's just that situation in Baltimore, it's kind of what we say about Buffalo only a little bit more limited. Because they're not going to throw to their running backs very much I we're just hoping that at some point they decided to give one running back more than one-third of their carries, but they just haven't. There is hope for JK Dobbins. I do agree that Clyde Edwards-Helaire is more likely to bust, but in the current roles that the Ravens have established the past three years, I don't see how Dobbins could be a top-15 back in PPR."
- Will Fuller. Jamey: "Obviously, if he changes teams, if he loses Deshaun Watson, you know those things come into play. But as I told you on Fantasy Football Today in 5, I always get concerned when guys go into contract years with injury history and then they magically stay healthy for that season … You see it in a lot of other sports. You know, guys go out there. They get their contract and then maybe things don't work out for them the same the next year when there's a track record of the missing time due to injury. He's somebody I think has got a world of potential. You know, I was banging the drum for him last year. I was really excited about the situation with the Watson leaning on him with DeAndre Hopkins gone. But I don't feel the same way about him going into this year. I think he's more of a guy that you settle for as a No. 3 receiver as opposed to a guy that you target."
Now, here are five more bust candidates I'm wary of as the offseason starts to heat up:
- Nick Chubb. If there is one kind of player I am going to systematically be lower on than the industry consensus, it is running backs who don't catch passes. Chubb is going to be a consensus first-round pick coming off his 12-touchdown, 1,067-yard season in just 12 games, but I don't have him as a top-12 RB right now. It's not that I'm especially down on Chubb -- I have him projected for the third-most rushing yards and second-most rush touchdowns -- it's just a math problem. Chubb has just 31 catches on 40 targets in 22 games alongside Kareem Hunt, which means he doesn't just need to be one of the two or three best runners in the league to be worth a first-round pick -- he probably needs to get to 1,400 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He can certainly do that, but we saw him rush for 1,494 and eight touchdowns in 2019 and he finished as RB10. It's just a lot to ask.
- Cam Akers. It's not hard to look at how Akers finished the season -- 561 rushing yards and three touchdowns in his final six games -- and projected No. 1 RB production onto him. But the context of that late-season run is worth acknowledging: Akers had at least 15 carries in all but one of those games and averaged 22 carries per game. And, despite dominating work, he saw just 14 targets in those six games, with as many games with one or zero targets as three or more. Back in the Todd Gurley era, running backs were a big part of the Rams passing game, and new QB Matthew Stafford has leaned on the dump-off game, too, so it's entirely possible that facet of Akers' game improves. However, if he's going to cost something close to a No. 1 pick, I'm going to be out on Akers.
- DK Metcalf. Obviously, much will depend on whether the Seahawks opt to trade Russell Wilson or not, but I'm a bit wary of Metcalf if he's going to be drafted as a top-10 WR in 2021. It'll probably be fine if Wilson returns -- Russ is a tremendous deep ball thrower and one of the most efficient quarterbacks in NFL history -- but Metcalf will probably never be that consistent, week-in, week-out dominant No. 1 WR you want to lead your team. He looked like he was making that kind of leap early in 2020, with at least 92 yards in seven of the first eight games, but he did that just twice in his final nine, including the playoffs. And if Wilson is gone ... well, let's just say I won't be drafting Metcalf.
- Mike Evans. Evans ended up as the No. 11 WR in Fantasy last season, but he needed 13 touchdowns to get there. Evans, of course, is a huge target who makes plays consistently in the red zone, but it's worth remembering he hadn't had a double-digit touchdown season since 2016 before last year. And he followed his two previous double-digit touchdown seasons up with three and five, respectively. Evans wasn't bad in 2020 -- he averaged 9.2 yards per target -- but Tom Brady just didn't look for him very often, as his 109 targets were nine fewer than he had in just 13 games in 2019. And that was with Antonio Brown not joining the team until late and Chris Godwin missing four games. In fact, Evans averaged just 55.6 yards per game in the 12 Godwin played, compared to 80.5 in the rest. Godwin's free agency will be interesting to watch, but if he returns to Tampa -- and I suspect he will -- Evans won't be a top-15 WR for me.
- Justin Herbert. There's usually an assumption that players who were stars as rookies will continue to improve in Year 2, but that isn't necessarily the case. Let's not forget, it was Baker Mayfield's rookie pass TD record Justin Herbert broke last season, and Mayfield was pretty disappointing in his follow-up. That's not to say Herbert will struggle similarly, but 2020 was a weird season -- offense was up across the league in a way that likely won't be sustainable when defenses have a normal offseason and practice schedule. Herbert will likely be a very good QB, but a step back wouldn't surprise me, especially since he'll be learning a new offense.