Fantasy Football 2014: Predicting Biggest Bust at Each Skill Position

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2014

New York Jets' Chris Johnson (21) runs during a drill at practice during NFL football training camp Saturday, July 26, 2014, in Cortland, N.Y.  (AP Photo)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

It happens every year in fantasy drafts around the globe.

Some poor owner, unaware of the pitfalls of a potential bust, pulls the trigger, applies a self-pat on the back and watches in horror as the player careens off a cliff, taking the owner's entire roster and dreams of a title right with him.

Believe it or not, being that guy or gal is rather easy to avoid. It takes an understanding of a wealth of factors and keeping up with all of the latest details surrounding each player in the league, but that is what happens to separate the best from the rest.

Some of the most inexcusable busts can be found below.


Quarterback: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Through three years, Cam Newton has been an absolute fantasy stud owners felt safe to gamble on thanks to his dual-threat production. Last year alone he ranked as the No. 4 overall scorer at all positions.

Pump the brakes this year, though, especially on that 7.10 average draft position. 

Newton is hobbled, as he himself pointed out once training camp began, per Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer:

It seems likely that the former Auburn star will be good to go by the regular season, but is a surgically repaired ankle something owners truly want to lean on in the early goings of the season? Of course not, especially at a position where the scoring differential in the top 10 is so similar, sans the top two (Peyton Manning and Drew Brees).

To make matters even worse, gone is the cast of Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon. In are Kelvin Benjamin, Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery. Not a bad tradeoff, but timing and chemistry take time—neither of which is being fully realized with Newton hobbled.

Quarterback is a fickle position. Last year just two players scored more than 300 points. Newton scored 282. The next 10 players on the list were within 30 points of that margin. Better options exist at a cheaper price.


Running Back: Chris Johnson, New York Jets

Uncredited/Associated Press

It matters little that Chris Johnson had minimal help around him in Tennessee last year. He still wound up as the eighth-best scorer at the position, although he breached double-digit production in just seven games.

A year later, going on the age of 29 in a new environment, which may very well turn out to be a committee, Johnson is in no way a lock to tally top-10 production once more.

There are a host of problems. ESPN's Christopher Harris chronicles a few in an apt manner:

CJ?K finished 45th out of 47 qualified RBs in average yards after contact last year, and lost much of his decisiveness at the line. He's still fast, but when he doesn't bust a big play, he isn't effective. Chris Ivory is a younger, bigger player, and he'll be a serious TD drain. As a weekly feast-or-famine player, Johnson is a viable flex, but someone in your league will draft him higher than that. Don't be that person.

Chris Ivory finally stayed healthy last year after missing 24 games in three seasons. He appeared in 15 in 2013 and bruised his way to 833 yards and three scores on a 4.6 average. Even worse, running backs coach Anthony Lynn confirms that Ivory will be a goal-line hawk next season. 

“If we were playing tomorrow, Chris Ivory would be on the goal line, obviously,” Lynn said on Monday, per Seth Walder of the New York Daily News. “Sometimes in those situations you have an extra defender that you can’t block, and you need a back that can take him on.”

Let's also go ahead and point out the fact that Bilal Powell and Daryl Richardson have proved effective in years past. Johnson's 5.03 ADP is wishful thinking at best.


Wide Receiver: Wes Welker, Denver Broncos 

JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

Last year, in his aged-32 season, Wes Welker was able to sneak into the top 25 scorers at wideout and even post a career-high 10 touchdowns.

Just don't expect him to come anywhere close to that production again. Welker suited up for only 13 games and had lows in receptions, targets and yards that date back to 2010.

The argument that he resides in an elite passing attack no longer holds weight at his age. Targets such as Montee Ball out of the backfield, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme stand in the way of Welker's production.

It does not help that it sounds like the Broncos may rely more on the rush next season, as hinted by ESPN's Jeff Legwold:

Manning himself might be asked to throw less so the offense can be more. To face the realities of age and four neck surgeries and use his remember-when mind to help diversify the team’s attack, not only to help give it a plan B but endorse it in what he calls at the line scrimmage if things don’t go right on another important football afternoon.

Welker has an ADP of 4.06, meaning he is No. 16 at wideout. Cordarrelle Patterson, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Roddy White and T.Y. Hilton are just a few of the names being picked after him.

Don't conform because Welker is in a pass-first offense and has a recognizable name. The edge of the cliff seems near.


Tight End: Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Vernon Davis was a monster last year, ranking as the No. 2 scorer at tight end and tallying eight double-digit contests. Suffice it to say, it was a far cry from his 2012 performance that saw him rank No. 15.

Next season, expect Davis to be closer to that 15.

The main point is rather simple—additions will help to neuter his production. Michael Crabtree is fully healthy to start the season. Stevie Johnson is now in town and a legit option on each down, and Anquan Boldin is still on the roster to boot. Rookies Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington have something to offer, too.

Add in the fact the 49ers are still very much a run-first team, with Frank Gore seemingly a cyborg and Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore waiting in the wings, and a lack of production for Davis may simply be the result of a lack of opportunities.


Honorable Mentions

Nick FolesQBPhiladelphia EaglesLack of DeSean Jackson creates questions.
Ryan MathewsRBSan Diego ChargersKen Whisenhunt is gone.
Andre JohnsonWRHouston TexansQB is a mess.
Dennis PittaTEBaltimore RavensJoe Flacco now has Torrey Smith and Steve Smith to work with.



All average draft positions courtesy of All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues.


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