Top 10 Fantasy Football Busts
Published: Jun 28, 2022
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
Top 10 Fantasy Football Busts in 2022
If the player you take with your first pick in your fantasy football draft gets hurt, is he considered a bust or are you just unlucky? Given the lack of predictability for injuries, we say that’s not a bust. You may want to argue the point by citing the injury history of Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley, but for us, we say, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Injuries happen and no NFL player is immune.
We define a fantasy football bust as a player who does not return value commensurate with where the said player was drafted. It’s not necessarily in relation to his fantasy football ADP because, as we said in the Top 10 Sleepers article, average draft position and actual draft position can vary significantly from league to league. So for this piece, to put it simply, should your first-round pick remain healthy all season and still return nothing more than sixth-round value, he should be considered a bust. Similarly, if you drafted a player in the eighth round and you end up cutting him by Week 5, he too is a bust. Identifying them can be difficult, but after analyzing player performances, offensive schemes, and various coaching and personnel changes, I have 10 players who you might want to think twice about on Draft Day.
Howard Bender’s Top 10 Fantasy Football Busts for 2022
Of course, we’ll bring up last year’s broken foot and how being on pace for 400 touches after two straight years of 300-plus carries may have contributed. Yet, the primary reason I don’t see Derrick Henry yielding the same production, despite potentially seeing another 300-touch effort, is the Tennessee offensive line. Most people will look at the line changes for the Titans and immediately turn to the potential pass-blocking issues they will have this season. While they would be right, you also need to take a long, hard look at how the loss of both left guard Rodger Saffold and right tackle David Quessenberry – both now with Buffalo – will affect the ground game. It’s no coincidence that Henry’s breakout came once the Titans added Saffold to the left side of the line alongside Taylor Lewan. They had been riding that train right up until Henry’s injury last year. Converted center Aaron Brewer is expected to set up as the new left guard, but he is nowhere near the same run-blocker Saffold was, even in his “twilight” years. Couple that with continued injuries for Lewan and the left side gets a little shaky. On the right, Nate Davis remains at the guard position, but the team will slide guard Dillon Radunz over to tackle. He might be serviceable at times, but Radunz could struggle to work as the right tackle. Henry is still a bull-rusher and will see significant touches to start the season, but I’m concerned with how effective he will be. Plus, if he does see that huge workload, will he be able to stay on the field this time? I prefer to use my first-round pick on a player with fewer question marks and whose career trajectory is still pointing up.
Anyone who has read through the pages here at Fantasy Alarm knows just how big a fan I am of Dalvin Cook. He was an incredibly talented back coming out of Florida State and found himself in an offensive scheme that was tailored for him. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and offensive line coach Rick Dennison were notorious for creating game-breaking running backs when Cook joined the Vikings. Most people knock Cook for the injuries, but he appears in this article due to the change in coach, coordinator, and scheme. He remains the bell-cow in this backfield but with former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell serving as the Vikings’ new head coach and former Rams passing game coordinator/tight ends coach Wes Phillips taking over the offense, Cook is not going to see the consistent carries in a run-first scheme as we’ve seen over the last few seasons. Maybe a reduction in touches helps keep him healthy, but this new offense is going to be much more focused on the pass as O’Connell and Phillips prefer to work out of 11-personnel formations. That leaves a sole running back in the backfield with just one tight end and three receivers, making running lanes tough to come by at times. UPDATE (8/22) – My opinion really hasn't changed much here. I still love Cook, but I do worry about the juice being worth the squeeze. Check out the Player Debate I had with Colby Conway on Cook for additional insights.
If there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that neither Ron Rivera nor Scott Turner views Antonio Gibson the same way they viewed Christian McCaffrey. The former RB/WR hybrid out of Memphis struggled with injuries during his first season, but even before he got banged up, Gibson wasn’t utilized in the passing attack the same way Rivera and Turner used their backs in Carolina and only saw 44 targets his first year. Now maybe you thought, “Hey, he’s a rookie. He’ll work on his pass-blocking and be a force in his sophomore campaign.” Nope. Just 52 targets in Year 2 and while his rushing work jumped, he was still technically just an early-down back. Third time is a charm? You’d like to think so, but not only did the Commanders match the offer the Bills made to pass-catching back J.D. McKissic, but they also added running back Brian Robinson in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Now Robinson isn’t the be-all, end-all, but his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame profiles him as more of a short-yard specialist in the NFL. If McKissic continues to handle the pass-catching work while Robinson starts to poach short-yardage and, potentially, goal-line carries, what’s happening with Gibson’s overall value in fantasy? His early ADP has him being drafted in the late-third/early-fourth rounds, which might be a little too early for me given what we’ve seen with this offense. UPDATE (8/22) – Again, my opinion hasn't changed, but I am starting to bump Robinson up my boards a little more. Gibson is having a terrible camp and it appears as if Ron Rovera and OC Scott Turner are losing some faith in him.
Most will consider this low-hanging fruit, but those who may be new to fantasy football or don’t understand the X’s and O’s of the game might be fooled into believing Cordarrelle Patterson can repeat what he did for the Falcons last year. I don’ think he can. First off, let’s not forget that Patterson fell into the role he did last year out of pure necessity. Mike Davis was a garbage pick-up for the team in 2021 and they had no one else to work out of the backfield. Patterson obliged and he, along with Deebo Samuel of the 49ers, paved the way for the league’s “wide-back” position. But Patterson managed just 4.0 yards per carry last year and Atlanta knew he wasn’t long for the role, especially after watching him struggle to gain yards towards the end of the season. They added pass-catching running back Damien Williams via free agency and drafted running back Tyler Allgeier, who rushed for over 1,600 yards and 23 touchdowns at BYU last year, in the fifth round. The Falcons also have a much more mobile quarterback in Marcus Mariota now. So even though Arthur Smith likes to run it, the scheme may not put the ball in Patterson’s hands as much. Recent ADP has him coming off the board right around where backs like Kareem Hunt and Chase Edmonds are going, and even that is looking like a stretch.
As great as it was having Jaylen Waddle on most of my fantasy teams last season, I’m avoiding him this season as the Miami offense transforms. New head coach Mike McDaniel is building his own version of a West Coast offense, which is simply a variation of what we’ve seen from his former mentor, Kyle Shanahan. That means the horde of running backs the Dolphins acquired in the offseason will be utilized heavily as McDaniel like the Niners did under him and Shanahan, will use the run to set up the pass. But the problem for Waddle isn’t necessarily the scheme as much as is the new personnel. Waddle took 43.8-percent of his snaps out of the slot last year and was incredibly effective. But the team traded away significant draft capital to acquire Tyreek Hill, who played 37.8-percent of his snaps out of the slot in Kansas City, and then signed free agent Cedrick Wilson, who took 78.8-percent of his snaps out of the slot in Dallas. Would you be surprised to hear that all three were more effective working out of the slot than they were lined up on the outside? Probably not. So now you have a strong use of the ground game, three slot receivers, and a pass-catching tight end all vying for targets in this Miami passing attack. Tough to see Waddle coming even remotely close to the 141 targets he saw last year.
There are a number of things working against Skyy Moore for me this season. First off, he’s not Tyreek Hill and he’s not going to replace him in this Chiefs offense. Size might be the most comparable thing between the two players and that’s not really a good thing. Moore doesn’t have the speed or the athleticism of Hill and while he posted good but not great numbers at the combine, let’s face it – how much does the combine really factor in? Remember how much buzz there was around Rondale Moore from the combine? What did he do last year? You also have incumbent receiver Mecole Hardman and veteran free agents JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling joining a receiving corps that is still led by tight end Travis Kelce. Just because Patrick Mahomes is a wizard under center, doesn’t mean that Moore will break through with sudden opportunities throughout the season. Let’s also not forget how Andy Reid brought in Ronald Jones to join Jerick McKinnon as pass-catchers out of the backfield. So where does that land Moore in the realm of target distribution? Not in a great place, that’s for sure.
On almost any other team, DK Metcalf would be a bona fide No. 1 receiver and likely a first or second-round pick in fantasy still. Unfortunately, he remains in Seattle and the personnel turnover might just be too much to overcome. We say “might” because there is still an outside chance the Seahawks bring in either Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield to work under center in lieu of Drew Lock or Geno Smith – but we haven’t seen any movement towards that in recent weeks, save for a few rumors. Seattle offensive coordinator Shane Waldron likes the West Coast dink-and-dunk passing to move the chains and set up the deeper plays downfield, but head coach Pete Carroll insists on a strong ground game as well – thus the offense continues to struggle with its identity. On top of that, neither Lock nor Smith have found much success at the NFL level and both lack the true touch needed to pull off the high-percentage passes asked of them. Originally, Metcalf worked out well with Russell Wilson and handled plenty of the heavy-lifting on sideline routes with some slants over the middle while Tyler Lockett handled the deep work. Metcalf saw some deep balls but it was his yards after the catch that highlighted his skill-set. But then last year came and went with Metcalf seemingly out of favor with his quarterback and/or offensive coordinator as he finished with even fewer downfield opportunities. Until there’s a legitimate quarterback under center in Seattle and Metcalf becomes the featured target again, I’ll pass on him this season – even if he’s falling to the fifth or sixth round of drafts.
Here’s another situation where the quarterback situation takes a big bite out of the receiver’s value. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger was not good, but guess what…? Neither is Mitchell Trubisky nor Mason Rudolph. Maybe Kenny Pickett and his tiny, little baby hands blossom eventually, but if we’re talking about re-draft leagues here, I’m out on Diontae Johnson. He’s shown decent year-to-year growth in Pittsburgh but now has to establish a whole new rapport with his quarterback who could also be running for his life on the regular. Yeah, this offensive line didn’t really get the offseason makeover it needed which means the Steelers are going to have less time to let their plays develop and less time for the receivers to properly run their routes. The ADP has Johnson being drafted right around the same spot as Michael Pittman, Mike Williams, and Terry McLaurin – all of whom I would rather draft than Johnson this season.
Granted, the root of most of Michael Thomas’ issues was found in his lack of relationship with Drew Brees and Sean Payton. We don’t need to get into the specifics of things, but it was very obvious that Thomas either didn’t want to play football anymore or he just didn’t want to play for the Saints. With Payton and Brees gone and Thomas seemingly healthy, why does he sit among the busts again? Well, for a few reasons actually. New head coach Dennis Allen is a defensive-minded coach and is likely to just let offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael handle things. But while Carmichael has been the Saints OC for 13 years, he has never been one to call the plays. Payton always did. And the one season in recent memory where Carmichael did call the plays (Payton was suspended for the year after Bounty Gate), the Saints offense struggled mightily. Now, Thomas wasn’t with the team back then, but again, it was Payton’s play-calling that force-fed targets to Thomas as the X-receiver. Now, in addition to a new play-caller, Thomas has a much less accurate quarterback in Jameis Winston and doesn’t have the on-field rapport with him either. He may have hated Brees, but at least the two had chemistry on the field. Thomas will also compete for targets with Jarvis Landry and rookie Chris Olave. Given all of that, plus the injuries and drama baggage he comes with, I’ll let someone else believe they are drafting the 2019 version of Thomas.
I know the tight end position is a tough place to find quality fantasy options, but are we sure we should be drafting T.J. Hockenson as a top-seven option? He sees the targets, but it’s usually just for short gains. He caught eight passes over 20 yards last season but had zero big-receiving games – averaging just 48.6 receiving yards per game. Hockenson also doesn’t see a lot of red-zone targets, which dramatically limits his touchdown upside. Now Detroit has a major pass-catching back in D’Andre Swift and a receiving corps that features Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, and a number of depth options. That doesn’t even include first-round draft pick Jameson Williams, who should start stealing targets in the second half of the regular season once he returns from injury. Don’t be blinded by the name or any of the senseless hype you see on fantasy football Twitter. Hockenson is about as average as you can get at the position and players like Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, and Hunter Henry will all provide you with better overall production at a much cheaper price.
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