As much as fantasy football owners want to find the next hidden gem, avoiding a high-profile bust is equally important.
The early rounds will be littered with excellent talent that will anchor fantasy teams across the world in 2014, but there are also plenty of land mines that promise to detonate and ruin championship hopes from the get-go.
Such busts can come from out of nowhere at times and even develop due to extenuating circumstances that limit them during the season. With that said, other busts can be detected from a mile away.
Here are three highly drafted players whom you should avoid early in your draft due to the possibility of a disappointing campaign.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been one of the most exciting signal-callers in the NFL since entering the league, and he has rewarded fantasy owners as well. The 25-year-old star has never missed a game as a professional, and he possesses a dual-threat skill set that very few can stake claim to.
That has made him a fantasy asset, but there is a certain degree of volatility to his game. Even though he has been among the best fantasy quarterbacks in the game in each of his three seasons, NFL.com's Michael Fabiano points out that he has actually regressed:
Cam Newton's fantasy point production has dropped in each of his three NFL seasons. And he's still finished no worse than 4th among QBs.— Michael Fabiano (@Michael_Fabiano) December 30, 2013
Newton passed for over 4,000 yards, rushed for over 700 yards and racked up 35 total touchdowns as a rookie. Compare that to less than 3,400 passing yards, less than 600 rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns in 2013.
Those statistics are nothing to sneeze at, but trouble could be on the horizon. Newton arguably has a worse supporting cast in 2014 than ever before. Steve Smith is now with the Baltimore Ravens, and Brandon LaFell joined the New England Patriots. That leaves Newton with tight end Greg Olsen along with wide receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Kelvin Benjamin as his primary targets.
If that isn't ominous enough, Newton is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery. The Auburn product admitted recently that he continues to deal with ankle pain, according to Jonathan Jones and Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer.
"It's like a thump from your mom when you said something that you weren't supposed to, she'll thump you dead in your ear or on your head," Newton said. "It'll hurt for that little second but it'll go away after two to three minutes. It's a reminder that, hey, you better check yourself."
One might assume that Newton's lack of weapons will increase his workload in terms of running the ball, but he clearly still has some limitations because of his ankle. Newton could very well find a way to be a top-10 quarterback by hook or by crook, but he isn't worth the price it will take to land him.
ESPN.com ranks Newton as the No. 5 fantasy quarterback, but several players ranked behind him are safer. In fact, the likes of Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Tony Romo can be had several rounds later. Rather than spending a fourth-round pick on Newton, load up at other positions and grab a passer with a higher floor later in the draft.
Fantasy projection for 2014: 3,200 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 500 rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns
St. Louis Rams running back Zac Stacy was one of the most pleasant surprises in fantasy football last season. The fifth-round rookie emerged from the bottom of the depth chart to rush for 973 yards and score eight total touchdowns despite missing two games and having just one touch until his breakout performance in Week 5.
Normally, it would seem obvious that someone like Stacy is bound to continue improving, but it could be extremely difficult for him to repeat what he did 2013, let alone improve. For starters, quarterback Sam Bradford is back and healthy, so the Rams figure to place more emphasis on the passing game. In addition to that, Stacy has far more competition for carries.
The Rams didn't have any proven studs or blue-chip prospects last season. Enter Auburn's Tre Mason, whom St. Louis selected in the third round of the 2014 draft. Mason had a prolific campaign for the Tigers and was among the finalists for the Heisman Trophy.
He is already making waves at the Rams' training camp as well with NFL Network's Albert Breer identifying him as a potential star:
Tre Mason running with the same type of authority and decisiveness he did at Auburn. Rams may have a gem there.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 9, 2014
Mason is explosive, while Stacy is the antithesis of that. Stacy is a solid workhorse who will grind out yardage, but he averaged less than four yards per carry last season and was fairly ineffective in the passing game as well by averaging less than six yards per catch.
Stacy figures to be the Rams' preferred choice around the goal line, but don't be surprised if Mason eventually gets most of the work everywhere else. Stacy is going in the second or third round in most drafts, which is way too much to pay for a guy who may end up splitting carries.
Fantasy projection for 2014: 810 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns, 20 receptions for 120 yards
Looking at Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron's 2013 season as a whole suggests that he should be an elite player in 2014. In breaking it down into segments, however, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about his viability during the upcoming campaign.
Cameron scored five touchdowns in his first four games but only scored twice more the rest of the season. Also, aside from a nine-catch, 121-yard outburst against the New England Patriots in Week 14, Cameron never racked up more than 69 yards in any of his final eight games.
Which player will be the biggest fantasy bust in 2014?
He most definitely faded down the stretch, and there will be even more pressure on him to perform this year. Although his situation is still murky, superstar wide receiver Josh Gordon is facing a possible year-long suspension. That would leave Cameron as the only viable pass-catching option on the roster.
Perhaps that means he will put up numbers simply because there will be nowhere else for the quarterback to turn, but it also means that Cameron will face double and even triple coverage throughout the season.
Also, the Browns' quarterback situation is unsettled with veteran Brian Hoyer battling rookie Johnny Manziel. Regardless of who wins out, though, it is a less than ideal situation for Cameron.
That means fantasy owners must proceed with caution. Apparently Cameron won't be too worried about that, however, as he isn't a fan of fantasy football, according to NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala:
Today I learned: 1. Jordan Cameron hates fantasy football 2. Abilene Christian's Taylor Gabriel can CATCH 3. Nate Burleson is still fast— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 28, 2014
Cameron's 2013 performance has been picked apart by fantasy owners, which is likely why he isn't particularly fond of it. Cameron is a guy who doesn't fit in with the elite group of five tight ends who will come off the board in the first five rounds, and it can be argued that he doesn't measure up to the likes of Greg Olsen or Jordan Reed either.
Someone will pay for Cameron's 2013 production without digging deeper, but don't let that person be you.
Fantasy projection for 2014: 60 receptions for 675 yards and five touchdowns
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