Fantasy Football 2014: 10 Bust Candidates to Avoid
Fantasy football is all about maximizing your team's potential and minimizing your risk. And what's the best way to minimize risk? By avoiding fantasy busts.
Busts are players who produce far less than their fantasy owners predict them to and can therefore be catastrophic to a fantasy team's chances of reaching the playoffs.
Many players become busts due to injury, others just can't seem to find the end zone, and some disappoint because they lose their starting jobs.
The following players are the leading candidates to let your team down this season, so be mindful when you see them on your draft board this summer, as they might just sabotage your plans for a fantasy championship in 2014.
QB Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
Nick Foles burst onto the scene last season filling in for injured starter Michael Vick. However, the player who entered as a stop-gap eventually won the job outright with his exceptional play, throwing 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions.
This made Foles a hot waiver wire pickup, and his production was responsible for turning around the fortune of many a fantasy team in 2013.
You can't argue with Foles' numbers, but I can't imagine him keeping up his pace in 2014, especially not without favorite target DeSean Jackson.
Chip Kelly brought a new brand of offense to the NFL last year, but revolutionary offenses tend to fall off in year two, as we saw with the Wildcat offense in Miami.
Also working against Foles is nearly a full year of tape for opponents to analyze. He can compensate for this by spending additional time in the film room himself, but I see him as more of a great natural talent than a student of the game.
Many fantasy owners will remain high on Foles this year, but I advise you to be weary of drafting the third-year quarterback; he is a high bust risk in my eyes until he can sustain the success for another season.
QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots
It feels wrong to cast one of the NFL draft's all-time, late-round gems as a bust, but the label fits for several reasons.
Namely, Brady will be overdrafted despite his lack of reliability as a QB1 in 2013, so I offer this as a warning to not reach for him in your draft's early rounds in order to beat your league-mates to the punch.
There are a litany of solid QB1 options this year in the fantasy football world, so it makes little sense to reach on a risky pick like Brady.
Many will bank on the unlikelihood of the superstar quarterback having two unproductive seasons in a row, but his supporting cast has not been significantly upgraded, and the team will likely rely on the running game more heavily if running back Shane Vereen can stay on the field.
The days of 40-touchdown seasons are behind Brady for now, so if you're waiting for a sudden increase in production, you'll have to keep waiting.
QB Michael Vick, New York Jets
Once again in 2014, Michael Vick is one of the premier boom-or-bust fantasy football players. With Eric Decker bringing a legitimate No. 1 receiver presence to the team, Vick has the potential to have a great comeback season. But as always, drafting him brings with it a generous serving of risk.
Vick hasn't completed a healthy season since 2006, and that remains the only season of his entire career where he did not miss a game due to injury.
Now 33 years old, the risk of injury is only rising for Vick, and you have to wonder how quickly his athleticism will begin to deteriorate. He remained a highly effective scrambler in his five seasons with the Eagles but only ran the ball a mere 36 times in 2013.
You also have to consider the possibility of the Jets handing the ball over to Geno Smith if Vick struggles early in the season. Smith started as a rookie, and although his complete body of work was not impressive, the talent is there for him to grow into a starting role for the team.
RB Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons
Jackson was a workhorse during his time in St. Louis, and the toll that took on his body was more apparent than ever in Atlanta last season.
His 3.5 yards per carry marked a career low, and his 191 receiving yards were his lowest since his rookie season. The Falcons used their first pick on tackle Jake Matthews to turn their running game around, but they also drafted a player who will be a threat to Jackson's production.
Rookie running back Devonta Freeman lasted until the fourth round, but he provided great value there and is a talented running back in all facets of the game. He should put a serious dent in Jackson's workload sooner rather than later.
Even if Jackson begins the season taking the majority of snaps, he will be 31 years old in July, and with over 2,500 carries on his legs, his play is likely to begin deteriorating before long.
On an offense that will be focused on the passing game, Jackson simply does not present enough value to be considered a viable RB2 or flex option. I would rather take a chance on Freeman at this point than an aging Jackson.
RB Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
Backfield timeshares are the enemy of fantasy owners, and for good reason; many RB2s and flex options can become non-starters for your team when their carries are being redistributed to backups.
Stacy is a candidate to fall victim to such a situation after the Rams used a third-round pick on rookie Tre Mason, the explosive running back out of Auburn.
With a solid offensive line in front of him and balanced offensive scheme, Stacy could still remain a flex option if he does fall into a timeshare, but many will be looking to draft Stacy in the third round, and I just don't see the value there.
Several clear starters, such as Washington's Alfred Morris and Arizona's Andre Ellington, should outlast Stacy on the board, but I see them as providing much better value and assurance.
Stacy is also a health risk after missing two games in 2013, so he has several factors working against his stock as a potential RB1 in 2014.
If you find yourself heavy on receivers through four rounds of the draft and Stacy remains on the board, selecting him would be a high-risk, high-reward pick, but that's one of very few situations in which I can envision drafting the St. Louis running back.
RB DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray has failed to complete a healthy season since entering the league three years ago. He's been consistently productive and efficient when in the lineup, but he's missed 11 games in his short career.
In 2013, Murray experienced his definitive "breakout" season. In 14 games, he rushed for nine touchdowns and over 1,100 yards. Those are very solid RB1 numbers, but expect them to dip in 2014.
Besides the obvious risk of injury, Murray becomes more of a risk when considering the potential change in play-calling distribution brought about by the addition of passing game coordinator Scott Linehan.
This will mean more three-receiver sets for Dallas in what will likely be a more pass-oriented offense. That's not to say that Murray will not get his share of carries, but I don't like to trust running backs in pass-heavy offenses in any starting role but the flex slot.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
Patterson did not miss a game due to injury in 2013, but he also wasn't incredibly productive, totaling just 469 yards receiving and four touchdown receptions. He did add three rushing touchdowns to that total, but it's not smart to expect rushing numbers from receivers to carry over into the following season.
Consider also that very little has changed on Minnesota's offense besides the return to health of Adrian Peterson, who will be the main focus of the Vikings offense once again in 2014 as long as he's on the field.
Either Matt Cassel or rookie Teddy Bridgewater will be holding down the starting quarterback position, and neither will be highly efficient passers in 2014, nor will they be as trusted with the ball near the goal line as long as Peterson's in the backfield.
This means that Patterson will get very few red-zone looks and potentially less targets overall on offense, as the Vikings have stuck to a defense-first mentality this offseason that will slow the pace of their games in 2014.
WR Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts
Many are drooling over the new passing duo of Andrew Luck and Nicks, but before you stick Nicks in your starting lineup, remember that he's the third receiver on the depth chart in Indianapolis.
Ahead of Nicks are Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton, who had productive seasons in 2013 although Wayne's season was cut short by an ACL tear. Both will figure to get the majority of the snaps once again in 2014, with Nicks entering mainly in three-wide sets.
A major implication of this is that Nicks will rarely see the field in the red zone, not that he has been effective in those situations, anyway; last season, he caught zero touchdown passes with the Giants and had just three the previous season.
Nicks has also been bothered by lower-body injuries since entering the league and hasn't completed a full healthy season as an NFL player. His knack for picking up small but nagging injuries scares me into thinking that he won't be around when I need him in the fantasy playoffs.
WR Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks
Many are anticipating a Comeback Player of the Year season from Harvin in 2014 as he becomes the Seahawks' main target now that Golden Tate is in Detroit. However, that's a lofty expectation for a player who played in just one regular-season game in 2013.
Harvin did manage to return for two playoff games, but he was far from effective with just 26 receiving yards on four receptions.
If Harvin can remain in the lineup all season, he has the potential to be an elite fantasy receiver, but it's very unlikely that he survives the whole season without a hiccup or two along the way.
From his concussions, to his history of migraines, to his hip surgery, Harvin has too long a history of injuries for me to give him a starting position on my fantasy team without a great backup behind him.
TE Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
Jordan Cameron had a strong start to 2013, but his production fell off sharply in the final seven weeks of the season, as he reeled in just 321 yards and a single touchdown.
It's possible that Cameron's six touchdowns and 596 yards in the first half of the season were just a fluke, which makes his production in 2014 even more difficult to predict.
Also consider that Josh Gordon is unlikely to play in 2014, and Cameron's outlook becomes even more difficult to predict. He remains a matchup nightmare on linebackers, but he will now receive greater attention from defenses because the Browns lack receiving weapons outside of him.
It's not a terrible idea to take a chance on a tight end like Cameron in your draft, but keep in mind that he has high bust potential. You should cover yourself by picking up a solid backup tight end, which isn't always ideal on a fantasy roster, where it's preferable to stockpile running backs and receivers.