Fantasy: Bust candidates to avoid in your draft
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In an effort to save you the frustration that comes with a disappointing fantasy pick, here are this year's top bust candidates.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Now that trade rumors have subsided, Wilson will play at least one more year in Seattle. And while he got off to a dominant start in the first eight games last season, his struggles in the final two months are worrisome.
"Teams just started to figure us out," receiver DK Metcalf explained, via Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic. "We've been running deep pass ever since (coach) Pete (Carroll) got there. Play-action. Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, go deep. Teams just said, 'We're just not gonna let you all go deep.'"
After letting Russ cook in the first eight games of 2020, averaging the second-most fantasy points among quarterbacks (29.52) during that time, Wilson was the QB16 on a per game basis (17.08) over his last eight contests.
It's the second straight season his production faded as the year went along. In 2019, Wilson came out as the QB2 in fantasy points per game (23.29) in the opening eight contests, only to deliver QB14 per game numbers (18.42) in the next eight appearances.
Perhaps more concerning is how his head coach seems to be reacting to this development.
A heavier dose of the running game is not what Wilson's fantasy managers want to hear. When you pair that with the uncertainty surrounding the Seahawks' offensive line and the number of quality fantasy QBs heading into 2021, it's fair to question Wilson's outlook.
He also has the second most difficult schedule at his position based on our metric, including tough matchups with the Rams (Week 14) and Bears (Week 15) during the fantasy playoffs.
If you're drafting him in hopes of another early season surge, which you can capitalize on when you trade him midway through the year - then sure, roll with Russ. But there are enough warning signs to keep me away from him this season.
Other QB bust candidates:
- Matt Ryan, Falcons - The 36-year-old's career splits without Julio Jones are scary and should cause concern for fantasy managers.
- Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers - Despite excellent weapons, Big Ben will need to prove he still has something left in the tank after fading last year.
- Jameis Winston, Saints - Though he's projected to win the starting job, Taysom Hill is likely to remain involved, which lowers Winston's ceiling.
David Montgomery, RB, Bears
Montgomery might be the easiest fade on this list, which is a stunning comment to make about a player who finished as the RB4 last season and averaged the eighth-most fantasy points per game (17.7) among running backs.
That's because he capitalized on a lack of backfield competition after Tarik Cohen went down with a season-ending injury. He then kicked his production into overdrive thanks to an absurdly weak schedule down the stretch.
Montgomery failed to crack 90 rushing yards in a game before accomplishing the feat four times in his last six appearances. Of his 10 touchdowns on the season, just two came before his Week 11 bye.
The 23-year-old also got a significant receiving boost from Cohen's absence. Montgomery saw three targets in each of the first three outings with Cohen in the lineup, only to see that number spike to five per contest after the pass-catching specialist was sidelined for the year.
In addition to Cohen coming back at some point this season, the Bears added free-agent Damien Williams and rookie Khalil Herbert to the backfield. The depth issue is now solved, and the combination of Cohen and Williams could severely limit Montgomery's involvement in the passing game.
Rookie quarterback Justin Fields creates an interesting wrinkle, as well. The Bears' first-round pick rushed for more touchdowns than every quarterback in this class other than Trey Lance. It's possible we see him steal a couple carries around the goal line.
That leaves us with a volume-dependent running back, who is unlikely to see the same target share and could have some of his scoring opportunities vultured by a new dual-threat QB.
It's enough to treat Montgomery as a low-end RB2 in fantasy and not the top-10 option he appeared to be at times last season.
Other bust RB candidates:
- Miles Sanders, Eagles - Philly's continued desire to add running backs this offseason doesn't bode well for Sanders emerging as a workhorse.
- J.K. Dobbins, Ravens - The sophomore will need a massive touchdown total to overcome his lack of receptions in a Baltimore offense that rarely throws to their RBs.
- Melvin Gordon, Broncos - When your team trades up to draft a runner early in the second round, it's a bad sign for your future production.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Browns
However, he's yet to crack the top 30 in that category since joining the Browns - coming in as the WR33 and WR39 over the past two seasons.
The 28-year-old is also recovering from a torn ACL suffered in Week 7 last year. And though all reports indicate his rehab is going well, he'll be nine months removed from surgery when training camp gets underway, putting his early season availability and effectiveness in doubt.
The biggest issue for OBJ in Cleveland remains his volume. During those five seasons in New York, he saw 10.5 targets per outing, while his brief stint with the Browns has resulted in 7.7 targets per contest. In more practical terms, that's the difference between a top-five target getter and being outside the top 25.
Beckham can still be a fantasy starter, but his days as a WR1 might be over barring a trade or a dramatic shift in the Browns' play-calling. Cleveland was among the bottom five in pass attempts in 2020. With a strong rushing attack powered by quality backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, as well as a defense that should be improved following several key offseason additions, we're not likely to see their offense turn pass-happy anytime soon.
It's time to lower your expectations for Beckham, to view him as a boom-or-bust WR3 who could get off to a slow start depending on the health of his knee come September.
Other bust WR candidates:
- Adam Thielen, Vikings - He's been held under 60 yards in 17 of his last 25 games and will also face touchdown regression in 2021.
- Kenny Golladay, Giants - Target competition will be an issue in a passing attack loaded with skill-position talent.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers - Miscast as a No. 1 receiver after Antonio Brown left, JuJu has settled in as a volume-dependent option in an offense likely to run more in 2021.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Dolphins
Gesicki finished as a top-10 fantasy tight end in 2020 and is going off the board as a TE1 in this year's drafts, but he's an incredibly risky option to trust in your lineup.
The majority of his production last season came after No. 2 receiver Preston Williams was lost for the year in Week 9, including a few games where the Dolphins' top target DeVante Parker was sidelined.
Prior to Week 9, Gesicki was averaging the 22nd-most fantasy points (8.4) among tight ends, with just two notable performances in those first eight outings.
With Williams sidelined, Gesicki's production skyrocketed to 13.2 fantasy points per game, sixth best at his position over that span.
Not only are the Dolphins getting back Williams and Parker, they added free agent Will Fuller and first-rounder Jaylen Waddle to the receiving corps. Miami also drafted a potential Gesicki replacement at tight end in third-rounder Hunter Long.
While the rookie won't immediately assume top spot on the depth chart, his presence is noteworthy as Gesicki enters the final year of his contract.
Even if Tua Tagovailoa breaks out in his second season, which we expect to happen, the increase in target competition will make it tough for Gesicki to maintain consistent numbers - as we've seen in the past.
He doesn't belong in the TE1 mix and anyone who drafts him will end up dropping him back on the waiver wire in the first few weeks.
Other bust TE candidates:
- Evan Engram, Giants - He'll deal with the same issue as Golladay, trying to find consistent targets in an offense filled with capable pass-catchers.
- Robert Tonyan, Packers - Touchdown regression is coming after he found the end zone on 11 of his 52 receptions last year.
- Logan Thomas, Washington - With Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown joining the offense, Thomas will have a hard time replicating his 19% target share.
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