Biggest Fantasy Football Busts to Avoid in 2018

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2018

Biggest Fantasy Football Busts to Avoid in 2018

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    The wait for football is nearly over, folks. NFL training camps are about to get underway, and preseason kicks off Aug. 2. Naturally, this also means fantasy football season is right around the corner.

    Now is the time to start zeroing in on which players you want to target early, and, more importantly, those you want to shy away from.

    Passing on the next breakout player hurts, but wasting a high pick on a player who underperforms can kill your season.

    We're here to examine seven potential fantasy busts to avoid in 2018.

WR Allen Robinson

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    Let's be clear: New Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson can help your fantasy team. However, drafting him high could lead to some disappointment.

    There are more than a couple of reasons to pass on Robinson early. The most obvious is that he is making his way back from a torn ACL. The Bears brought him in to be their No. 1 receiver, but there's no guaranteeing he's physically prepared to fill that role.

    Robinson will be catching passes from second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who led the league's worst passing attack last season (175.7 yards per game). Trubisky has better weapons around him, has an offensive head coach in Matt Nagy and has a year of experience under his belt. However, he is far from a proven gunslinger.

    Let's not forget the Bears have a strong backfield comprised of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Chicago is going to lean on the running game.

    FantasyPros has Robinson's average draft position (ADP) at 20.8 among wide receivers in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues. This is too high for a guy with a lot of question marks and who has only topped 75 receptions for 1,000 yards once in his career.

    Target Instead: Josh Gordon, Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks

TE Jordan Reed

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    When he's healthy, Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed can be one of the best players at his position. The problem is that it's difficult to count on him being healthy. He has never completed a full 16-game schedule and is coming off a season in which he missed 10 games.

    He also underwent toe surgery in the spring, and there's no guaranteeing he'll be at 100 percent early in the season.

    In addition, Reed is going to be playing with a new quarterback in Alex Smith. Since Reed has been recovering from surgery during the offseason, the two probably haven't had much time to get on the same page. Reed isn't Smith's only option at tight end, either—Vernon Davis (a former teammate in San Francisco) racked up 43 receptions and 648 yards last year—so if the chemistry isn't there, Smith won't be forcing him the ball.

    Yet, Reed is still being considered a solid fantasy tight end heading into 2018. FantasyPros lists Reed with an average draft position of 10.2 among tight ends.

    Target Instead: Eric Ebron, Benjamin Watson, David Njoku

WR Emmanuel Sanders

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    The Denver Broncos are counting on quarterback Case Keenum improving their passing attack this season—hence the two-year, $36 million deal they gave him this offseason. Yet, it's hard to see him being enough of an improvement at the position to suddenly reverse the course of Emmanuel Sanders' career.

    Sanders, who peaked with 1,404 receiving yards in 2014, has seen a drop in yards every season since. He had just 555 yards and two touchdowns in 2017. Yes, Keenum should help him rebound some, but Sanders will also be competing with rookie second-round pick Courtland Sutton for a major role alongside Demaryius Thomas.

    Getting back to the 1,000-yard range doesn't seem reasonable for the 31-year-old Sanders, especially if Sutton begins to earn the trust of Keenum and head coach Vance Joseph.

    Yet, ESPN.com still has Sanders ranked 53rd overall for PPR formats. A wideout on the decline who is battling younger competition is not the type of player you want to target with a fifth-round pick.

    Target Instead: Marvin Jones Jr., Pierre Garcon, Brandin Cooks

RB David Johnson

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    The Arizona Cardinals are getting running back David Johnson back after he missed most of last season with a wrist injury (15 games, in fact). This is obviously great for the Cardinals offense, but this is also a return that is going to sucker some people into drafting Johnson too high.

    ESPN.com has Johnson ranked third overall in PPR, but that's a big gamble. While a wrist injury isn't going to be as difficult to return from as a torn ACL or broken ankle, it has still kept Johnson away from live action for the better part of a year. It's not going to help that the Cardinals don't boast much receiving talent or a surefire field-stretching quarterback.

    When Johnson topped 2,000 rushing and receiving yards in 2016, Arizona had Carson Palmer chucking the ball for more than 4,000 yards. This year, it will have either the unproven Josh Rosen or the fragile Sam Bradford under center. Those guys will have no proven receiving talent aside from Larry Fitzgerald to throw to.

    Expect teams to disrespect Arizona's passing attack for much of the season and to clamp down on Johnson. Can he still have a solid year? Sure, but there are safer top picks for your fantasy draft.

    Target Instead: Antonio Brown, Ezekiel Elliott, DeAndre Hopkins

RB Dalvin Cook

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    Unlike Johnson, Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is making a return from a torn ACL. This alone makes him a risky high fantasy pick.

    Yet, ESPN.com still ranks Cook as its 13th fantasy player for PPR formats. Yes, he flashed a lot of potential in his four games as a rookie (354 rushing yards, 90 receiving yards), but do you feel comfortable about using a borderline first-round pick on him?

    The Vikings might not even be ready to give Cook a heavy workload, especially early. They'll likely split the carries between him and Latavius Murray, who amassed 842 yards rushing last season. Cautiously, after all, is the way to approach playing a potential franchise player returning from a serious injury.

    Cook is a better target for Round 3 or 4. Picking him late in Round 1 or early in Round 2 puts him firmly in bust territory.

    Target Instead: Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Devonta Freeman

TE Trey Burton

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    Last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, tight end Trey Burton produced 248 yards and five touchdowns in a limited role. He parlayed that into a four-year, $32 million deal with the Bears this offseason, which comes with a fair amount of fantasy hype.

    FantasyPros lists Burton's ADP at 10.3 among tight ends. That's high for a player who has fewer than 630 receiving yards in his three-year career.

    Burton is in store for a decent season, but he's not top 10 at his position. Not when he's going from Carson Wentz to Trubisky at quarterback.

    Yes, Trubisky should be ready to make a year-two jump, but he isn't suddenly going to go from leading the worst passing attack in the NFL to being an MVP candidate like Wentz. We've already discussed the strong backfield for Chicago, which will work against Burton here.

    Avoid buying into the hype and making Burton one of your top targets at tight end.

    Target Instead: Eric Ebron, Benjamin Watson, David Njoku

QB Andrew Luck

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    Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck appears to be on his way back. After a series of shoulder procedures put him away from the game for more than a year, this is welcome news for Colts fans and fantasy football managers.

    However, you shouldn't be too eager to grab Luck early—and that's something plenty of people are ready to do. FantasyPros has Luck's ADP set at 12.1. That's higher than Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan and Jared Goff.

    We can't forget that Luck is working with a rebuilt shoulder, has been away from live action and only recently started throwing again. As Colts general manager Chris Ballard explained, Luck has to get used to live-ball action again.

    "I don't think there's any mental restrictions," Ballard said, per Mike Wells of ESPN.com. "I think it's more of getting the live reps versus live people. That's the timing, getting used to moving in the pocket. All those are the things you have to get used to."

    He'll have a short amount of time to absorb and master the offense of new head coach Frank Reich. The Colts, meanwhile, should be doing their best to ease Luck back into action and to limit his exposure.

    Don't expect him to be a fantasy star in his first year back, especially early.

    Target Instead: Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Jared Goff