Passing Judgment - The Top Ten Fantasy Football Busts
Michael A. Stein reviews the top ten fantasy football busts of the season.
Drafting in fantasy sports leagues is an art, not a science. All the preparation in the world does not guarantee or assure anything once the season starts. Generally, most fantasy GM’s know that, but it is still a tough pill to swallow when your best laid plans do not come to fruition. It is easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and second guess yourself if things do not pan out. But you are likely not alone because there are several “sure things” that are costing GM’s dearly through the first seven weeks of the fantasy football season.
We are going to break down the top ten early round busts of the season thus far. To qualify as a bust, these players had to have lofty projections and expectations along draft positions within the first few rounds. These are the kind of players you build your roster around, so when they fail to deliver it usually spells doom for your team.
LeSean McCoy (RB-PHI)
Coming into the 2014 season, LeSean McCoy was the consensus first overall pick in just about any fantasy football league. He is a dynamic running back who scores touchdowns, catches passes, and is a lock for well over 1,000 yards. He also has the fortune of playing in Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense, so there was little to think about if you had the first overall pick in a draft. However, things have not exactly turned out as expected. McCoy struggled mightily through the first five weeks failing to reach 100 rushing yards in any game. In fact, over a two-week period in September he carried the ball 29 times for an astonishing total of 39 yards. He only topped 100 yards in a game for the first time this year in Week 6 against the Giants. There is a strong likelihood that McCoy will turn things around and be highly productive from this point forward. But if you are evaluating the performance of the first overall pick through seven weeks of the season, McCoy and his 422 rushing yards (3.6 yards per carry) with only one touchdown is clearly the biggest bust of all.
Jamaal Charles (RB-KC)
Those who did not select LeSean McCoy with the first overall pick in a draft likely opted for Jamaal Charles instead. That seemed to be a safe pick as well as Charles is one of the most explosive runners in the league. For some reason, he only carried the ball seven times in the Chiefs’ Week 1 loss against Tennessee and then he got injured after two carries in Week 2. Charles missed Week 3 but came back with a vengeance in Kansas City’s thrashing of the Patriots in the Week 4 Monday night game. He has played better over the past three weeks, but the fact remains that his season totals are 290 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns which is unacceptable for one of the top two picks in the draft.
Adrian Peterson (RB-MIN)
Without delving into the legal, procedural and moral aspect of what happened, it is conclusive that Adrian Peterson is considered a complete bust. Heading into the season, Peterson was typically viewed as the third or fourth overall pick in many drafts. He had a highly productive year in 2013 (1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns) despite not coming close to replicating his epic 2012 season (2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns). Now another year removed from knee surgery, it was reasonable to expect at least 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns from the Vikings’ superstar. But as we all know, Peterson has ended up on the NFL’s Exempt List as a result of his legal troubles and the disturbing news that has come out about him. All fantasy GM’s got out of him was one game for 75 yards rushing, and that certainly qualifies AP as one of the biggest busts of the year.
Calvin Johnson (WR-DET)
For the first time in a couple seasons, it was debatable whether Calvin Johnson should be the first wide receiver taken in a fantasy draft. The emergence of Demaryius Thomas and his ideal situation in Denver presented valid arguments why he should be taken ahead of Johnson. Either way, Johnson was a consensus first round pick coming off another terrific season. The addition of Golden Tate and the selection of Eric Ebron in the NFL Draft were supposed to give the Lions those extra weapons they need to provide better matchups for Megatron. All of that sounded great except for the fact that Johnson cannot stay on the field due to an ankle injury. He had a monster game in Week 1 with seven catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns, but it has been all downhill from there. He has not caught a touchdown since then and has even suited up for a couple games simply to be a decoy. All told, a grand total of 22 catches for 348 yards and two touchdowns through Week 7 is not going to cut it for a first round pick.
Jimmy Graham (TE-NO)
No longer is it taboo to draft a tight end in the first round. Jimmy Graham was certainly worthy of selecting with your first pick as he provides statistics akin to an elite wide receiver. He did start the year off strong with 32 catches for 340 yards and three touchdowns through the first four weeks. But since then, he suffered a shoulder injury which forced him out of a game and cost him another. It is questionable whether he will play in Week 8, but either way his season totals are not where they need to be to justify his selection in the first round. It is understandable that injuries happen and everyone is susceptible, but if you are going to take a leap of faith by drafting a tight end with your first pick then you had better get elite production from him on a weekly basis.
A.J. Green (WR-CIN)
It is hard to criticize a player for being injured, so bear in mind it is not a reflection on one’s ability to handle pain. But the fact is that A.J. Green has missed several games this season with a toe injury which has cost both the Bengals and fantasy GM’s dearly through the first two months of the season. He has had two separate stints of dealing with the injury and even left a game early in the first quarter which is catastrophic for fantasy owners who could not adjust their lineups. Green is one of the top five fantasy wide receivers in the league and was likely selected in the late first round or second round of many drafts. He could be back as early as this week, but he has missed too much time already to really live up to the expectations we had for him. Plus, he is dealing with a recurring toe injury which can be re-aggravated at any time. Even if he does come back, he is a ticking time bomb and can vanish again at any moment.
Eddie Lacy (RB-GB)
Eddie Lacy was coming off a rookie season where he ran for 1,178 yards and scored 11 touchdowns which made him a legitimate first or second round in fantasy drafts in 2014. There was a lot to like from Lacy who has the benefit of being surrounded by one of the most prolific quarterbacks and wide receiving corps in the league. But through seven games, Lacy has only carried the ball 92 times for 369 yards and four touchdowns. He is only averaging just over 13 rushes per game and he has not run the ball more than 17 times in any single game. This has led to a pedestrian 52.7 yards per game which makes him worthy of being classified as a bust.
Montee Ball (RB-DEN)
After Knowshon Moreno left Denver via free agency, the door was opened for Montee Ball to emerge as the next great running back for the Broncos. Being a running back in a Peyton Manning-led offense should be a recipe for success because opposing defenses clearly must focus on Denver’s prolific passing game and elite receivers. However, Ball has been highly unproductive amassing only 172 yards rushing and one touchdown thus far. On top of that, he sustained a groin injury and has missed several games. In fact, when he returns he will likely not be the starting running back because Ronnie Hillman has supplanted him. There is a good chance you drafted Ball at some point between the first and third rounds, and now you are left with a gaping hole of mediocrity.
Zac Stacy (RB-STL)
Zac Stacy emerged as the Rams’ starting running back in the course of his rookie season in 2013 and finished the year with 973 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Heading into the 2014 fantasy football draft season, there was a lot of hype surrounding Stacy thanks to his productive rookie year and projected improvement thanks in large part to St. Louis’s offensive line. He was typically drafted between the second and fourth rounds as a low RB1 or high RB2. However, all Stacy has managed to produce this year is 240 rushing yards and one touchdown. He saw his workload steadily decrease after Week 2 to the point where he only played two snaps in the Rams’ win over Seattle in Week 7. He has now lost his starting job to Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham, and there is no indication he will reclaim the job. Now that he is relegated to the bench as the Rams’ third running back, he is droppable in most leagues which makes him an absolute fantasy bust.
Alfred Morris (RB-WAS)
If you passed on a running back over the first three or four rounds, you were probably ecstatic to see Alfred Morris still on the board in the fourth or fifth round. Despite having decreasing statistics over the past couple seasons and being a black hole in PPR leagues, Morris has been a solid second or third-tier running back. We knew that the Redskins were probably going to throw the ball a lot more with Jay Gruden running the show, but Morris would still run for 1,000 yards and have his fair share of touchdowns. Unfortunately, the Redskins have been a disaster with the chaos at the quarterback position and have also found themselves playing from behind all season. Morris is only getting 12-15 rushes per game and is averaging less than four yards per carry. Because he is incapable of catching passes, Roy Helu has seen an increased role out of the backfield which has cut into Morris’s snaps. Morris may not have been a third round pick, but he was still drafted as a solid RB2 with an impressive resume. Thus far, he has failed to come close to what was expected from him.
Michael A. Stein, Esq. is the Chief Justice of Fantasy Judgment, the industry's premier dispute resolution service, and is also the co-host of the Fantasy Alarm podcast. You can contact him at email@example.com or on Facebook and Twitter (@FantasyJudgment),