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Fantasy Football Preview 2013: Top 5 Quarterback Busts

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Fantasy Football Preview 2013: Top 5 Quarterback Busts
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Yes, Colin Kaepernick, fantasy hearts you, too, but that's precisely why you're on this list. Don't prepare that bust in Canton for this first-time, full-year starter just yet.

The Internet trolls are going to hate this story—well, at least the ones that don't understand what a fantasy football bust is.

We are already prepared for it, though. So bring on the hate and ignore the warnings below at your own peril.

In order for a fantasy pick to be considered a bust at season's end, the player has to be universally adored going into the season. No one cares if Mark Sanchez goes from rags to out of the NFL in 2013, because no one is picking him before the very late rounds anyway.

It is those highly regarded early picks that are at risk of becoming a bust. However, picking five guys at a position that only starts a total of 12 players in a standard league demonstrates difficulty of putting this list together.

Still, here are five supposed gems that could be primed for disappointing seasons relative to draft position in 2013. And it is worth mentioning that there is a theme (and method) to this supposed madness: read-option is a bad option in fantasy, and that will be reflected in these rankings.

 

1. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers

How is this for bold?

Everyone loves the postseason hero, and why not? He has a rocket arm, he can run like the wind and he has a top contender to call his cadence for. He also has cool tattoos to draw in those artsy-fartsy types that go to such great lengths to stand out from the crowd.

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There is no reason to dislike Kaepernick right now, and that is precisely the reason why he will never wind up on any of this fantasy analyst's teams this summer.

Kaepernick just ran too hot a year ago—literally. Despite the fad of the read-option craze running rampant through the NFL right now, this is still a passing league made for traditional pocket passers. Don't let the sudden success of Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III distract you.

Despite all the hype and his elevated draft position (he is averaging out as the 39th pick in Yahoo! leagues and the 40th pick in ESPN leagues), Kaepernick averaged just 17 completions in 27 attempts for 1.43 touchdowns per game in his seven starts at the end of last season. Those are mediocre fantasy numbers for such a high draft position.

Then, Kaepernick lost leading receiver Michael Crabtree to a season-threatening Achilles' tear during OTAs in May. Also, his primary tight end, Vernon Davis, has had to spend OTAs and parts of training camp working at wide receiver. Oh, and the 49ers are still decidedly a team that prioritizes the run over the pass, too.

Kaepernick attempted 30-plus passes in just two of his 11 games (seven starts) last season. That is the same number of games that the Falcons' Matt Ryan didn't attempt at least 30 passes in 16 starts. Tom Brady had one such game last season, and the Lions' Matthew Stafford had none!

Those are the guys you are going to be eschewing when you pick Kaepernick in Round 4 because you liked how he performed in the postseasonor you like how his tattoos look. However, postseason numbers and tattoos don't win fantasy championships—pass-happy quarterbacks do.

Even Tony Romo (three sub-30 attempt games) or Andrew Luck (four) would be better options, and they will be on the board multiple rounds later.

Many will argue that Kaepernick scores points on the ground, too, so he will outproduce the pocket passers. But all they have to do is ask Robert Griffin III's fantasy owners about how their midseason trade for him worked out last year.

He went bust in the fantasy postseason because his body couldn't take the weekly beating over the course of a 16-game season running the read-option. Guess what? Kaepernick's body hasn't proven capable of taking the beating for 16 games, either.

Don't get sucked in on the Kaepernick hype—let someone else make that knee-jerk mistake this summer.

 

2. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Newton's own second season as a starter should serve as a cautionary tale. He started slow last season, disappointing those that drafted him in the early rounds, and perhaps he even led some owners to trade him as their fantasy season was spiraling into the abyss. But, the Panthers moved away from a read-option based offense to a more traditional one around midseason, and Newton wound up taking off.

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
He is not Tebowing. Things just weren't as easy for Cam Newton in Year 2. Let that be a lesson for those jumping on the instant quarterback successes.

Newton is going to be more of a standard dropback quarterback this season, albeit one that can run. We actually like that about him. But the problem comes with the amount of weapons he has around him.

Newton's primary receiver is Steve Smith, who is 34 years old and past his prime. His secondary targets are Greg Olsen and the unproven Brandon LaFell, so he is not surrounded with much help.

Stud fantasy quarterbacks need to get to 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. It is hard to see how Newton is going to do that with the aforementioned group of receivers. Smith is good for about 900 yards and six scores, and Olsen should get around 800 yards and five touchdowns. So, are LaFell, Ted Ginn (gasp) and Domenik Hixon going to combine for 2,300 yards and 14 scores? Fat chance.

Newton is a potential beast, but one with a suspect supporting cast. Somehow, though, he is going off the board two rounds before Matt Ryan, who has Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. That is just outlandish.

Yes, this argument ignores the potential 700 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on the ground from Newton. But you don't draft your kicker to punt, and you shouldn't be drafting your passer to run. After all, it never worked out well for those who drafted Michael Vick.

Be wary of Newton at his draft position. There are plenty productive quarterbacks, solid pocket-passer types, that will be available as many as five rounds later.

 

3. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

OK, now this is just piling on the mobile quarterbacks. But we won't even mention the injury risk they put themselves outside the pocket; we just need to go back to the opportunities.

Again, quarterbacks need passing attempts to pile up consistently elite fantasy numbers. And make no mistake, Wilson is still drawing an elite fantasy quarterback's draft position (44th overall on Yahoo!—just a few picks after Kaepernick).

Wilson, you might not know, was dead-last in the NFL among 16-game quarterbacks in passing attempts last season. He tied with RG3 (15 games) at 25th overall in passes with 393. The Seahawks, like the 49ers, are a running team. They pass merely to break up the monotony and also to hit the big play.

Harry How/Getty Images
Whether he runs by design or runs out of necessity, Russell Wilson passed the ball less than all the other 16-game quarterbacks a year ago.

Sure, they intended to change that a bit this season by adding Percy Harvin to run some short and intermediate routes, but Harvin is out until at least Week 13, and the running game figures to be as strong as ever. Even if Marshawn Lynch can't withstand the physical punishment his body takes in the rugged NFC West, the "Incredible SeaHulk" Robert Turbin and rookie Christine Michael are there to pick up the slack.

The read-option is still a run-first NFL scheme. The quarterback takes the snap, reads a defender (usually the end) and either hands to the back, pulls it out and runs himself, or pulls it out and steps back to throw. Throwing it is third on the list there and, when they did get to that level in the progression, it tends to be a one-read pass to a receiver—they don't have all day to go through another set of passing reads.

It just isn't conducive to huge passing numbers.

Again, the dropback guys like the Ryan, Brady, Stafford, Luck and Romo are better high-volume bets, and in some cases, they will be on the board rounds later, too.

 

4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

You might have bought into what we were selling above, even if loosely, but odds are high that you are now out of your mind livid.

How could he dare knock the only back-to-back 5,000-yard passer the world has ever known? Well, no one lives forever, especially in the rugged NFL. Those terms are at least fathomable to you. 

Brees is now 34 and, if you have survived that many years on this planet, you know just how hard it is for the body to bounce back from injury, strains and just the general wear and tear. The old mare ain't what she used to be. Brees needs to prove he can handle all those throws, all those dropbacks, all those hits into his mid-30s.

Now, a fair counterpoint to that argument might be: how come we don't list Peyton Manning, 37, as a bust here then? Well, Manning did miss an entire season at age 35 due to multiple neck surgeries, proving that even he wasn't invincible. Neither was Tom Brady, as he missed a year to a knee injury a few seasons ago as well.

Brees is a risky pick as the first or second quarterback off the board. You are better off taking Aaron Rodgers over him, or waiting multiple rounds to pick through the leftovers of Manning, Brady, Ryan or even one of the read-option guys above. You could even wait until the back-end fantasy starters in the dropback category start going in the later rounds like Stafford, Romo and Luck.

 

5. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

Now, this writer is almost entirely at risk of losing you as a reader, especially if you consumed my previous "Top 5 QB Sleepers" piece. How in the world can RG3 be a sleeper and a bust? This writer must he out of his mind!

Where are you going to pick your fantasy quarterback?

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Those angry folks need to understand that "sleeper" is a relative term. If RG3 is called a sleeper and someone goes out and picks him in Round 4 instead of Round 8, he was no longer slept on—he was outrageously overrated.

There is this potential here, certainly. RG3 can be as productive as anyone, but that doesn't mean you should consider taking him before at least eight other QBs are off the board. The risk for injury is too great (or terrible, as fantasy fate would have it).

When you are picking RG3, you are guaranteeing that you have to pick a bye-week replacement, perhaps in addition to his backup Kirk Cousins. Three of your 15 or 16 roster spots on quarterbacks would be a heavy investment in the position in lieu of the rest of the roster. You would have been better off being the first fantasy owner to pick a quarterback, selecting Aaron Rodgers, and not worrying about that position for 16 games.

And, make no mistake, no matter how productive RG3 will be in the weeks he plays, there will be weeks he doesn't play at all (or he plays at something less than 100 percent). He has already needed two knee surgeries (one in college at Baylor), so certainly another catastrophic season-ending injury isn't out of the question either.

Mitigate the risk by stacking your roster with high-end talent at running back and wide receiver before selecting a player who could go either way (sleeper or bust) like RG3.

 

If you want a deeper, wider-angle view of the quarterback position, check out the quarterback primer at SI.com. Also, you can hear this writer chat about the nuances of the position on his Fantasy FatCast: QB rankings.

 

Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter @EricMackFantasy, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.

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