Fantasy Football Risks & Busts You Need to Avoid in Your Draft
There are two things you cannot disparage in this world without stirring the ire of dissenting opinions: 1. A mother's kid; 2. A fantasy footballer's favorites.
We will leave your snotty, smelly, spoiled and self-entitled brats out of this. Yeah, we know they can do no wrong. We won't grant the same immunity to your fantasy favorites as we present a slideshow on the risks and busts to avoid in drafts right now (holdout Marshawn Lynch is one of the "right now" examples).
There are myriad ways a pick can go wrong, especially when you consider age and injury risk.
In order for a fantasy player to be a bust, or even be considered a risk, you have to have some significant perceived value. This is the reason we play devil's advocate here and attack some of the biggest names in fantasy. We aren't copping out and calling Geno Smith a bust here. He's a fantasy nobody at this point.
No one cares if their late-round pick goes bust. It is the early round guys we need to be worried about, because we are spending the premium on their potential.
Before listing the potential busts at each position, we break down some of the risky players relative to their draft position, using the consensus rankings at FantasyPros.com as a guide. We give the reasons we believe they might not perform up to expectation and dig even deeper into the ones we go so far as to label the potential busts.
"Avoid" is a strong term in fantasy speak. Eventually there is a reasonable time to draft even the riskiest of players. We wouldn't necessarily avoid any of these guys completely in drafts, but we won't be touching them at their current draft position, either.
Someone drafted in the early rounds is bound to crash hard this season. Heck, a number of them likely will. It happens often every year. These guys for 2014 are contained in this must-read slideshow. We will proceed to duck as you spew your hate in the message board below for us talking bad about one of your own.
Quarterbacks: We Shouldn't Be Sure of Nick Foles After One Semi-Full Big Year
- Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos—He can't play forever, right? Plus, you have to draft him early.
- Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints—Ditto from Manning.
- Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers—His ankle is not 100 percent and his wide receivers group is a mess.
- Tom Brady, New England Patriots—Like Manning and Brees, Brady cannot star forever. Eventually Father Time wins.
- Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns—His off-the-field antics in his first few months as a pro make him an obvious risk, and then you add the fact he might not even start.
Potential Bust: Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
Picking a bust at the quarterback position is incredibly tough, especially since so many fantasy footballers wait a long time on the position nowadays. Again, a bust has to come from someone with high expectations.
After a first semi-full season as a starter, one in which he threw for an incredible 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions, the expectations have to be sky high on the Eagles' Foles. That kind of season is tough to repeat, especially for a quarterback who is still so wet behind the ears.
Foles does benefit from the high-octane Chip Kelly attack, which scores points in bunches. He had a game last season where the threw for seven touchdowns and four others where he threw for three.
But, it is too easy to overlook the fact Kelly's system is still a run-heavy one. The Eagles led the NFL in rushing and Foles threw for more than 300 yards in just two games last season. If the running game falters, Foles' touchdown total can take a hit.
In order to get Foles on your team, you are going to have draft him among quarterbacks that throw for 300-plus yards every week, not to mention ones that started more than the mere 10 games Foles started a year ago.
Also, Foles has lost his No. 1 wide receiver, DeSean Jackson, and he has to break in some rookies.
Foles can overcome all of this and become a huge star. Many are expecting him too. We are more apt to err on the side of caution here, like we did with the read-option guys like Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III a year ago.
Running Backs: Risk, Bust Potential Is Here from No. 1 Jamaal Charles on Down
- Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks—He is currently holding out, has had a high workload the past few years and is now on the wrong side of 27.
- Arian Foster, Houston Texans—His offense doesn't have a great answer at quarterback, so he will see stacked boxes. He hasn't been a pillar of health, either.
- Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams—The Tre Mason talk has died down, but that doesn't mean it won't kick back up when the preseason action starts.
- Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals—Bruce Arians wants him to be a bell cow but can his smaller frame hold up for a full season?
- Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers—The history of backs past the age of 30 is sordid at best.
- Shane Vereen, New England Patriots—He is more of a receiving back, so can he really hold off Stevan Ridley as the feature guy?
- Ben Tate, Cleveland Browns—Does anyone really expect him to make it healthy through 16 games? He hasn't been able to do that as a part-timer.
- Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons—He was another example of a 30-year-old running back bust and he didn't get any younger.
- Maurice Jones-Drew/Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders—Who wins the position battle and which one stays healthy and for how long? Just too many question marks.
- Knowshon Moreno, Miami Dolphins—He might prove to be damaged goods and Lamar Miller can take off as a feature back in his third year.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
We wouldn't have had any reservations with arguably the No. 1 overall player if he didn't get knocked out with a concussion in the playoffs last January and lose a number of starting offensive linemen. Yes, he remains No. 1 on our board, but that is a tenuous position and a lot to live up to. You need to handcuff him with Knile Davis, because the offensive line turnover and injury history here can make him go bust.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
Murray is coming off a career year and is an easy back to love...when healthy. The reality is Murray hasn't played a full 16-game season thus far in his career. There is oozing potential here, but it can go bust from the first-round draft position you have to select him at. It is hard to make your first-round pick a player you cannot guarantee will be there for you throughout.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We tend to agree Martin is a bit underrated in drafts right now. Lovie Smith is a defensive-minded head coach that will likely call for a run-heavy game plan week to week. But, we cannot be sure which version of Martin shows up, though: The 2012 monster or the 2013 bust? Charles Sims is potentially waiting to steal his thunder, too.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
The potential is astounding, but the injury history and his smaller 200-pound frame make him more than a mere risk. Spiller is another speedster who just might never fit the mold of a feature back. He might never approach 300 touches or play 16 games.
Wide Receivers: Quarterback Question Marks Add a Variable to Age, Injury Risks
- Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons—Foot injuries have claimed the careers of many fantasy football stars, even if Jones is still young.
- Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings—Is hype going to get him picked too high for a second-year receiver who doesn't have certainty at the quarterback position?
- Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints—He has had chronic foot issues and is now past the age of 30.
- Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles—He has had plenty of recovery time but major reconstructive knee surgery is nothing to brush off.
- Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts—The oldest starting wide receiver in football is coming off major knee surgery, too, and he has a lot of young talent to contend with for targets.
- Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs—Alex Smith might be a capable game-manager, but he struggled mightily to get the ball downfield to Bowe last season.
- Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills—He is a great talent, but who is sure EJ Manuel can capitalize on it in Buffalo?
- Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts—Years of leg issues have sapped what was once a promising career. The risks are clear, even if there is potential for a rebound.
- Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers—A rookie receiver working with a journeyman quarterback isn't necessarily something you want to put a lot of stock into.
- Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers—He turns 34 this season and can fall behind Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and now even Stevie Johnson in Colin Kaepernick's pecking order.
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
He found out just how hard it is to sustain success at the age of 32 a year ago. Leg issues piled up for him and his numbers took a nose-dive, despite Jones (foot) not sucking up targets and receptions on the other side of the field. White missed the first two games of his career last season and missing games should only become more of the norm as he turns 33 in November.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
He is unhappy with his supporting cast and frankly we hate his quarterback situation, too. How in the world do the Texans go into the offseason with that long-time quarterback hole and come out with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starter? Maintaining top receiver numbers at the age of 33 is difficult enough. Johnson is best avoided.
Wes Welker, Denver Broncos
While Welker is coming off a career-high 10 touchdowns, his reception and yardage total took a big hit in Denver a year ago. Heck, they were nearly cut in half. Welker is clearly in the twilight of his career now and he is competing for targets with a lot younger and more talented receivers with the Broncos. Finally, perhaps most important, concussions have piled up for him over the years. He might be just one more from retirement.
Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Don't be fooled again by Harvin's potential. He is an annual injury waiting to happen. You might not believe injury is in Harvin's DNA, but we do. When you pick Harvin at his elevated draft position, you are picking up a player who is certain to be a headache.
Tight Ends: Owners Have High Hopes for High-Risk, High-Reward Rob Gronkowski
- Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots—He looks like a bionic man with his arm and knee both in braces at training camp. Even if those injuries are healed, what injury will come next?
- Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers—He didn't hold out, but that doesn't mean he is happy with his contract situation. Also, he has reached 30, the age of slowdown at the position.
- Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings—Another year, another quarterback. If Teddy Bridgewater is the answer, injury any perceived risk here. How many believe Bridgewater is the answer right away? Thought so.
- Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens—You have to wonder if he rushed back too soon from hip surgery a year ago. Also, how much might Owen Daniels' signing with Baltimore eat into Pitta's projected production?
- Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers—Do you get the sense the future Hall of Famer is merely hanging on too long? Also, Ladarius Green is ready to erupt.
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
This is a tough bust pick for many to swallow. After all, who the heck do the Browns have to throw to if Josh Gordon loses his appeal and is indeed suspended for the entire season? We find that is a reason Cameron can go bust. He is the guy to cover. Cameron won't be falling under the radar anymore, so he can go bust if someone reaches up and picks him in Round 3. The Browns' lack of a supporting cast and a move to a more run-heavy offense should be serious marks against him.
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Witten hasn't missed a game due to injury in his 11-year career. That means he is due at age 32. Second-year tight end Gavin Escobar isn't legitimately pushing Witten for snaps at this point, so making it through another healthy 16-game season seems unlikely. With age slowing his legs when he is playing, a loss of juice and snaps should combine to keep Witten from performing up to his still-high draft position among tight ends.
Defense/Special Teams: Injury, Suspension, Age Can Bust the San Francisco 49ers
- Seattle Seahawks—This might be flimsy criteria, but Super Bowl hype and the fact they are the clear No. 1 unit in football might get them drafted a few rounds too early. There could also be a Super Bowl hangover.
- Kansas City Chiefs—They were great against a last-place schedule a year ago, but they unraveled down the stretch and now face stiffer competition. They also have unfilled holes in the secondary.
- Houston Texans—There is a lot of talent on this defense, but that offense could be so shaky again without a franchise quarterback the defense gets put in uncompromising positions.
San Francisco 49ers
This is still a franchise that will rely on its defense, but slotting No. 2 at this position in the FantasyPros.com consensus rankings is fairly lofty for myriad reasons. They have aged along the front seven, Aldon Smith faces a suspension and NaVarro Bowman (knee) is out for about half of the season. Oh, they also lost Donte Whitner in free agency.
There are a lot of bust signs here; yet, no one is dropping them from being second to the Seattle Seahawks. You will be better off waiting a few more rounds on picking your defense and taking the best of the leftovers.
Kickers: Sebastian Janikowski Has Been Overrated (and Overweight) for Years
- Phil Dawson, San Francisco 49ers—We expect the 49ers defense to slip and the offense to improve with another year under Colin Kaepernick's control. It can lead to less field-goal attempts. Also, he is approaching 40 at age 39 now.
- Dan Bailey, Dallas Cowboys—Tony Romo is coming off back surgery and DeMarco Murray has never stayed healthy for a 16-game season. Those two guys go down, forget about Bailey on fantasy rosters.
- Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons—He is 39, so in the twilight of his career. Also, the Falcons offense should be better than it was a year ago in scoring touchdowns over field goals.
Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders
Honestly, there is no such thing as a bust at kicker, since they are all drafted as replaceable parts in the last round. Sea Bass is one that proved he can still be even worthless than that a year ago.
He gets drafted every year because of name recognition and blind loyalty, but he isn't a fantasy-worthy kicker. The Raiders offense doesn't produce many points, and Janikowski hit a career-low 70 percent of his field goals last season. He also happens to be 36...with the body of an unfit 50-year-old.
Any pick of Janikowski is a wasted one.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, 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.