Wednesday, August 24, 2016



By Eric. C. Wright 
Much more so then in fantasy baseball, a fantasy football draft bust can absolutely cripple your team to the point of no return.  The 2015 season saw an astronomical amount of first or second round picks go bust which made it a major challenge for owners of these players to keep their title hopes alive.  The roll call of these disastrous picks read like a pre-2015 potential All-Pro team:  Eddie Lacy, Andrew Luck, Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray, Le’Veon Bell, Dez Bryant, Matt Forte.  On and on it went as each of those first or second round picks went down with injury or had a terrible season numbers-wise.  Prior to 2015, they were among the most sought after players, which make predicting a fantasy football bust very tough to forecast.  With that said, there are some factors and themes that can at least identify the players who carry more risk than others.  We are not saying to avoid all of the players we identified as falling under this premise below but proceed with caution.
Russell Wilson:  It is not that we don’t respect the player that Russell Wilson has become since entering into the NFL but the 34 touchdowns he tossed in 2015 scream “outlier.”  For one thing, the Seattle Seahawks have been one of the most run-heavy teams in football during Wilson’s tenure and they only were forced to throw more in 2015 due to the season-ending injury to star RB Marshawn Lynch.  Head coach Pete Carroll has said publicly that the Seahawks will go back to running the football more heavily in 2016 and that will mean fewer chances for Wilson to repeat his 30-TD passes.  Wilson will be hyped up due to last season’s numbers combined with the terrific work he does on the ground but the chances of duplicating such an effort seem unlikely. 
Matthew Stafford:  Always a bit of an enigma, Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford surprised with 32 passing touchdowns in 2015 to go with 4,252 yards.  Unfortunately Stafford will now have to go into a season for the first time in his career without star wideout Calvin Johnson who is off into retirement and replacement Marvin Jones is a clear downgrade.  With the Lions once again fielding a leaky offensive line, Stafford could go right back to his maddening ways this season. 
Todd Gurley:  With so many first and second round running backs going bust in 2015, there is zero doubt that some other prime early round options from the position will follow suit.  Once guy who we think screams out “bust potential” is super-fast St. Louis Rams second year back Todd Gurley.  While we are not doubting Gurley’s electrifying game-breaking ability in the least, we instead are focusing on the durability question marks that are well earned.  From the torn ACL in college to the turf toe issue that landed him in a walking boot to finish out 2015, Gurley has not proven yet that he can physically handle a consistent NFL pounding.  The injury question mark is legitimate and Gurley could very well become the latest first round running back to ruin his owners’ seasons due to ill health. 
Doug Martin:  Cashing in on a contract year, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin erased the memories of TWO ugly back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014 with 1,402 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.  Now that Martin has been paid, the edge is off in terms of a desire to gain a new contract.  Throw in the very capable backup presence of Charles Sims who handles most of the pass receiving among the Tampa Bay backs and Martin is not without risk. 
Devonta Freeman:  One of the bigger mid-season storylines in 2015 was the sudden emergence of Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman.  With rookie Tevin Coleman going down injured right at the start of the season, the Atlanta Falcons’ plan to use a two-headed rushing attack went up in smoke. Forced to ride Freeman as the bell cow back, some big numbers began flowing throughout the middle portion of 2015.  The good times didn’t extend into December though as Freeman slowed and for the season his yards per carry was mediocre.  The return of Coleman is perhaps the biggest issue for Freeman’s ceiling in 2016, as the Atlanta front office are wedded to the former 2015 draft pick and as a result, will want to see what they have there.  A strict split is likely between the two which caps the value of both Freeman and Coleman.  Since most will draft Freeman expecting last season’s numbers, there is a high probability of disappointment here. 
Matt Forte:  We have to be careful doubting Chicago Bear defections to the New York Jets after totally blowing it on Brandon Marshall in 2015 but Matt Forte looks like a classic case of a back in the twilight of his career that is headed for a major drop in production.  Forte has had a ton of carries and mileage on his legs during his very productive tenure with the Bears and his 2015 was messy with a drop in yards per carry and for the fact he missed time with injury.  Now Forte goes to a Jets team with a very capable back of their own in Bilal Powell and at the very least the latter should play on third downs and take up a good chunk of potential pass receptions.  While Forte should still receive a sizable amount of work, we saw with Steven Jackson when he left St. Louis for Atlanta that things can get ugly in a hurry for an aging back. 
T.J. Yeldon:  It was durability question marks regarding T.J. Yeldon that led the Jacksonville Jaguars to sign free agent power back Chris Ivory during the winter and as a result, the former Alabama star is facing a tough challenge being viable in 2016 fantasy football.  While Yeldon will clearly handle the pass receiving duties, Ivory comes off his best season in 2015 and will likely take on a large amount of carries.  Yeldon could supply some RB 3 value in PPR setups but that is not a lot to go on when it comes to weighing a pick here. 
Demaryuis Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders:  We felt it made total sense to include both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryuis Thomas in the same blurb because both are looking at trouble ahead due to the QB situation being less than ideal in Denver.  With Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch dueling it out for the right to start in Week 1, the fantasy football fortunes of both Thomas and Sanders look quite shaky.  Even last season, we saw both players get hurt production-wise (especially Sanders) due to the utter collapse of Peyton Manning’s arm and the up-and-down play of Brock Osweiler.  We think Thomas can still be impactful but more in a WR 2 sense.  His draft price doesn’t figure to drop to that range though and that is where the trouble lies.  Sanders meanwhile should be in the WR 3 range and nothing more. 
Sammy Watkins:  Every season we seem to say the same thing about Buffalo Bills wideout Sammy Watkins.  Incredible talent but a guy who is hurt badly by the poor annual play of the team’s quarterbacks.  While Tyrod Taylor did a decent enough job for the team in 2015, he lacks the arm and the accuracy to be a consistent passer to continue feeding Watkins.  That means Watkins’ amazing athleticism and ability will get underutilized again in 2016 and ultimately will disappoint his owners. 
Jordan Reed:  It was a crazy second half performance by Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed a year ago that led to many of his owners coming home with their league’s loot by the end of the season.  Proving unstoppable at times, Reed did it all in terms of catching a ton of passes and also hauling in a slew of TD’s.  What allowed all of this to happen was Reed staying healthy for more than a game or two which was a losing challenge for him both in 2013 and 2014.  Counting on Reed to stay so healthy for the second season in a row is asking a ton and that becomes scary when you consider the elevated draft cost for Reed this time around. 
Gary Barnidge:  When you see a guy literally come out of nowhere at the advanced age of 30 after 6 years in the NFL and post a top five receiving season at any position, the numbers have to be looked at with a grain of salt.  The outlier police are shouting to the rafters when it comes to Cleveland Browns tight end Gary Bardidge after his crazy 2015 breakout when he caught 79 passes for 1,043 yards and 9 scores. 
Antonio Gates:  Pushing back on retirement due to a new two-year contract extension with the San Diego Chargers, All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates remains a big name in fantasy football circles.  That big name is well-deserved due to Gates’ annually splendid contributions in the Chargers’ passing game but at the age of 35, trouble could very well lie ahead.  Gates was never a dependable guy with his health even when he was young and asking him to stay in one piece for all of 2016 is foolhardy.  Gates missed a slate of games a year ago which served  as a reminder of how fragile he can be and overall the name brand currently outpaces what the actual production will be for him going forward. 
ANY DEFENSE OR KICKER BEFORE LAST TWO ROUNDS:  We remind you all each and every season the utter foolishness of drafting a kicker before the very last round or a defense before the second-to-last.  Sure we would all love to have the Seattle Seahawks defense at our disposal but they were very inconsistent and downright lousy during the first half of 2015.  This served as another reminder of how crazy it is to draft a defense before the second-to-last round as we strongly advise streaming the units based on matchups.  Meanwhile kickers should be picked in the last round period.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  Don’t be that guy who likes to be different for the sake of being different.  You will hurt only yourself and help your league by making such a big drafting error. 

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