Fantasy Football Busts You Need To Avoid in 2020

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJuly 27, 2020

Fantasy Football Busts You Need To Avoid in 2020

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    In fantasy football, there is one pitfall that drafters must avoid above all others. One gaffe that can send a season down in flames.

    No one—and I do mean no one—wants to get bust-ed.

    "Bust" is a term that gets thrown around a lot in fantasy football—much like "sleeper." But while there are some players who bust each year because of forces beyond their control (like injury), in most cases, you can see a bust is coming before it happens.

    Using the point-per-reception average draft position data at Fantasy Football Calculator, each of the following players is being drafted as weekly starters in 12-team fantasy leagues in 2020. Each is also set to disappoint fantasy managers this year.

    This doesn't mean these players don't have value—or that they don't have a place on fantasy squads in the season to come.

    But given where they are presently being drafted, you're better served to stay away.

Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    ADP: 56.4, QB3

    There is a lot to like about Kyler Murray.

    As a rookie last year, he passed for over 3,700 yards and ran for an additional 544. It was only the second time in league history that a first-year QB topped 3,500 yards in the air and 500 on the ground. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft finished eighth in fantasy points among quarterbacks.

    The Cardinals also made arguably the biggest personnel splash of the offseason in adding wideout DeAndre Hopkins.

    Murray now has a deep and talented array of passing-game weapons at his disposal in Hopkins, Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald. With Hopkins in town, the Cardinals should be able to run more of the four-receiver sets that head coach Kliff Kingsbury favored at Texas Tech, and Murray's mobility is a major boost to his fantasy value.

    Some are predicting that Murray will follow in the footsteps of Patrick Mahomes in 2018 and Lamar Jackson in 2019 as the next second-year breakout under center.

    But while Mahomes and Jackson were both drafted as low-end weekly starters or even backups, Murray's asking price has skyrocketed to third among quarterbacks. He's being drafted in the fifth round of 12-team drafts on average.

    With that sticker price, Murray has to break out. Fantasy-wise, he is being set up to fail.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    ADP: 90.8, QB9

    There was a time when Aaron Rodgers was the king of the mountain. He was the No. 1 fantasy signal-caller in 2011 in Yahoo scoring. And again in 2016.

    However, last year, he barely hit the 4,000-yard mark in passing yardage. His 26 touchdown passes were the second-lowest total of his career in a 16-game season. That the lowest (25) total came the year before doesn't help his case. The 36-year-old finished the 2019 campaign ranked outside the top 10 in fantasy points.

    Also, the Green Bay offense has become considerably more run-heavy under head coach Matt LaFleur, and outside of Davante Adams, the Packers don't have many weapons in the passing game.

    As Liz Loza wrote for Yahoo: "Folks rostering him are doing so because of reputation and perceived value. And that's fine. However, I'd argue there are players with similar ADP and more upside—like Matt Staffordwho could boom in a bigger way."

    The Packers are a good team led by a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but Rodgers' days as a fantasy stud are over. He's not going to finish as a top-10 quarterback in 2020.

    He may not even crack the top 15.

Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    ADP: 13.3, RB11

    At first glance, it's not difficult to see why Nick Chubb is ranked where he is. He broke out in his second season, finishing second with 1,494 rushing yards. He also averaged five yards per carry, caught 36 passes, scored eight touchdowns and ranked eighth in PPR fantasy points at the position.

    As Nick Kosko reported for 247Sports, Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson predicted recently that even bigger things could be in store for Chubb.

    Chubb deserves respect, but the first-round pick being spent on him in many fantasy drafts is another story—and Kareem Hunt is the reason why.

    Over the first eight weeks of last season (while Hunt was suspended), Chubb was fifth among all running backs in PPR fantasy points per game. But from Week 9 on, that number fell to 23rd.

    Getting low-end RB2 numbers from a first-round pick is how fantasy squads are sunk.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Denver Broncos

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    ADP: 35.3, RB21

    The 2019 season was a forgettable one for Melvin Gordon.

    He started the campaign holding out for a new contract. After that failed, he reported but ended the season with a career low in rushing yards (612) while adding fewer than 300 receiving yards on 42 catches and averaging under four yards per carry.

    Despite that and the presence of Phillip Lindsay on the roster, the Denver Broncos signed Gordon to a two-year, $16 million pact. And as Ryan O'Halloran reported for the Denver Post, Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said he intends to make sure neither back is bored in 2020.

    "I think there are times when they both can be on the field at the same time," he said. "They've both been very productive in this league, and we intend to use both of them."

    But Gordon is being drafted as if he's going to be the lead back, but Lindsay was the better runner in 2019, and Gordon has failed to average even four yards per carry four times in five seasons. Lindsay, meanwhile, has never averaged fewer than 4.5 yards per run.

    Never mind the presence of Royce Freeman.

    This has the makings of a committee backfield. If that's the case, Lindsay in the ninth round makes infinitely more sense than Gordon in the third.

Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    ADP: 36.9, WR13

    Over his year-plus with the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has not been a fantasy option for the faint of heart. There have been massive weeks and disappearing acts—with little middle ground.

    Still, as the top wideout for one of the league's most prolific offenses, Cooper garners quite a bit of attention in fantasy drafts.

    Too much attention.

    The thing is, Cooper isn't really the top wideout for the Cowboys—or at least he wasn't a year ago. In terms of both targets per game (7.4) and yards per game (74.3), Cooper took a back seat to teammate Michael Gallup. Cooper averaged more fantasy points per game, but not by a wide margin—fewer than two PPR points per contest.

    In case you were wondering, Gallup's average draft position in 2020 is over three rounds later than Cooper's.

    Cooper had three games in 2019 with at least 100 receiving yards—including an 11-grab, 226-yard eruption against the Packers. All three of those big games came at AT&T Stadium.

    He also had seven games with fewer than 50 receiving yards—including a goose egg against the Patriots and two other contests where he caught just a single pass. In Weeks 15 and 16 (the fantasy playoffs), he had all of five receptions for 43 yards. In eight road games, he averaged 40 yards per contest and only caught 52 percent of his targets.

    With talented rookie CeeDee Lamb now in Dallas, that volatility could increase in 2020. And while the couple of huge games you'll get from Cooper are nice, they aren't worth the fistful of bad ones.

A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    ADP: 42.0, WR17

    OK, before the tomatoes start flying and the pitchforks and torches are handed out, let's make one thing abundantly clear: labeling A.J. Brown a potential fantasy bust has nothing to do with his talent.

    He had one of the most efficient rookie seasons we've ever seen from a wideout, topping 1,000 yards and scoring eight touchdowns on just 52 receptions and 84 targets.

    That's 20.2 yards per reception and 12.5 yards per target.

    And there's the issue with Brown: That kind of per-target production isn't sustainable.

    As Heath Cummings of CBS Sports pointed out, there are six wide receivers with 100 touchdown catches since 1992. Only Randy Moss had a touchdown rate of over 8.2 percent—and even his rate checked in over a half a percentage point lower than Brown's a year ago.

    Then there's that ridiculous 12.5 yards per target. The all-time leaders in that category are Seattle's Tyler Lockett and Kansas City's Tyreek Hill at 9.44 yards per target.

    If you project Brown at 9.94 yards per target, he'll need 106 targets just to match last year's yardage. At the median touchdown rate (7 percent) for those six all-time greats mentioned earlier, Brown will need 115 targets to match last year's eight scores.

    Projecting more than those 115 targets is wishful thinking—there have been four total seasons with fewer than 450 pass attempts since 2014, and the 2018 and 2019 Titans have two of them.

    And as great as Brown was as a rookie, in PPR scoring systems he wasn't a top-20 receiver.

    There are several options at wide receiver coming off the board after Brown (such as Robert Woods) with a better chance of exceeding their ADP than the second-year speedster.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    ADP: 69.7, TE6

    There isn't a more hyped team in 2020 than the Buccaneers—and that hype has spread to the fantasy landscape as well. Whether it's quarterback Tom Brady or wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, plenty of fantasy managers are making a sizable investment in the new-look Bucs.

    That includes veteran Rob Gronkowski, who has climbed all the way to sixth among tight ends after coming out of retirement.

    There was a time when Gronkowski was more than just the consensus No. 1 player at his position. After hauling in 90 passes for 1,327 yards and a jaw-dropping 17 touchdowns in 2011, he was a first-round pick in many fantasy drafts the following season.

    Of course, 2011 was a long time ago. It was also the last (and only) time that Gronkowski has played in all 16 games.

    Back in 2017, he posted a 69/1,083/8 stat line that was good for a runner-up finish at the position in leagues that awarded a point for receptions. But injuries limited the 31-year-old to 47 catches, 682 yards, three scores and a TE11 finish in 2018.

    Gronkowski hasn't played football at all since Super Bowl LIII in February 2019. He's on the wrong side of 30 and has dealt with a number of injuries throughout his career. He will also be battling Evans and Godwin for targets in Tampa's passing attack.

    There will be a big week or two, but expecting the sort of consistency it would take to justify Gronkowski's asking price isn't realistic.

    Unless you own a time machine.

Jared Cook, TE, New Orleans Saints

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    James Kenney/Associated Press

    ADP: 111.1, TE11

    Over 11 seasons spent with five teams, Jared Cook has run the fantasy gamut. He's been a surprise star. A massive disappointment. And just about everything in between.

    The 2019 season was a good one for Cook—he set a career high with nine touchdown catches in his first year with the Saints and finished the season seventh among all tight ends in PPR fantasy points.

    After that impressive debut, Cook is being drafted as a weekly starter in fantasy leagues in 2020, but there's a good chance he won't finish the year as one.

    For starters, he racked up those nine touchdown catches on a paltry 43 catches and 65 targets. That's a 13.8 percent touchdown rate, which is unsustainable.

    It's also not likely the 33-year-old is going to see a significant bump in targets this year. Not only is Michael Thomas the unquestioned No. 1 pass-catcher for the Saints (and the most targeted receiver in the NFL last year), but the team added an upgrade opposite Thomas in veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders.

    Last year, the second-most targeted wide receiver in the Big Easy was Ted Ginn Jr. with 56. Sanders is a good bet to receive more looks than that—and those targets have to come from somewhere.

    Cook is almost certain to regress across the board in 2020, so don't get caught chasing last season's production.

         

    Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year.