The All-Bust Team
August 29, 2016 | Jackson Safon
Just as there is no such thing as a “sleeper” anymore, the concept of a “bust” is relative to draft position.
First round “busts” are the most obvious because they require the most draft capital, but a fifth rounder who comes in at RB60 on the season is just as much of a bust as that first rounder who didn’t pan out.
Everything comes back to that magic word “value”. You can gain value in every round and you can lose value in every round. But for the sake of this article, we’re going to refer to a bust as a player currently being drafted as a starter — top 12 QB, top 24 RB, top 36 WR, top 12 TE — who is being drafted at least one round too high.
So in conjunction with my all-sleeper team, here is the all-bust team for 2016:
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QB: Eli Manning (QB9, 8.05)
Last season Eli Manning was the QB10 based on FantasyPros standard scoring and is being drafted as the QB9 this year. Seems reasonable considering the offense is largely the same with the exception of adding second round receiver Sterling Shepard, right? Wrong. In points per game, Manning was the 14th best quarterback last season and there is some reason to expect he doesn’t improve statistically.
Manning is coming off what is arguably his best statistical season. It was a career high in touchdowns and tied for his second lowest season in terms of interceptions. While that is good and dandy, some regression should be expected. The fantasy football community loves to tout regression, one of the main arguments for why Blake Bortles (being drafted as the QB10) will be a bust this year. Yet Manning is never lumped into that regression argument.
Aside from the fact that Manning is due to regress to the mean simply by its definition, there’s a good chance Manning’s touchdown numbers decrease. Last year, the Giants had the second highest percentage of their touchdowns come via the pass (88 percent), second only to the Chargers. League average last season was 69 percent.
Over the past four seasons the Chargers and Steelers are the only teams to consistently have over 75 percent of their touchdowns come through the air, so if the Giants end up closer to average, Manning’s touchdown totals will likely end up in the upper 20s, seriously hurting his fantasy value.
RB: Adrian Peterson (RB3, 1.09)
Peterson has one of the safest workloads of any running back in the NFL, but is still being drafted too high in PPR leagues. In standard leagues, his ADP is fine, but in PPR he’s just not the fantasy asset people think he is.
In his last two complete seasons, Peterson was the PPR RB8 both times, well below his current draft position. Throughout his entire career, Peterson has only had two seasons in which he eclipsed 300 PPR points. Why is that 300 point threshold important? Because in four of the last five seasons a running back would’ve needed 300 points to crack the top-3.
Oh and let’s not forget that Peterson is 31, well past the dreaded running back age cliff. While he hasn’t shown any signs of decline to this point, and betting against the superhuman that is Adrian Peterson tends to be a mistake, there’s a reason its called an age “cliff”, because it’s sudden, dramatic, and people hardly see it coming.
Peterson’s PPR ceiling is just not as high as people think, and neither is his floor as evidenced by his last two RB8 finishes.
RB: Thomas Rawls (RB15, 4.05)
Rawls broke onto the scene in rather absurd fashion last year, taking over the lead role for the Seahawks in the six games Marshawn Lynch was out with injury. The undrafted free agent averaged 18.6 fantasy points in the weeks he got a full slate of carries while averaging 5.65 yards per carry.
Rawls missed the end of last season with an ankle injury that required surgery, and has not played a down yet in the preseason. For many players this wouldn’t be a problem, and it might not be a problem for Rawls. However, as an undrafted second year player Rawls doesn’t necessarily have a lock on the starting job. Throw in the fact that the Seahawks drafted three running backs in the NFL Draft this year, have brought back the savior Christine Michael, and Rawls’ outlook looks even more hazy.
While all of those arguments belong on narrative street, they’re still relevant. But possibly the most important thing is that Thomas Rawls offers virtually nothing in the passing game. He had nine receptions all of last year and was consistently taken out on third downs. Rookie C.J. Prosise and Christine “The Awakening” Michael look to take over that role.
While Rawls certainly has the ceiling to be a RB1, there’s an abundance of reasons he could fall well below his floor, and a running back by committee system is just one of them.
WR: Amari Cooper (WR12, 2.09)
Cooper’s ADP is one of the most baffling things to me of this summer. Cooper is an extremely talented young player with a solid young quarterback, but he’s not a top-12 redraft receiver.
Last season Cooper was the PPR WR28 on a points per game basis. Yes, 28. But if you’re drafting Amari Cooper this high it’s because you’re expecting some sort of change from last year. You’re expecting a large increase in target share. While his target share will likely increase a little from his rookie season, expecting a large bump is to say that Michael Crabtree’s will go down in a similar fashion, which I just don’t see happening.
But the scariest statistic when looking at Cooper’s outlook is the fact that he only received seven targets in the red zone last year and zero inside the ten yard line. He wasn’t used even remotely in the most important area of the field. Plus, he only converted one of those seven red zone targets. Cooper proponents are expecting a target share increase, more red zone targets, and a better red zone conversion rate.
That’s got bust written all over it.
WR: Demaryius Thomas (WR17, 3.05)
Thomas has been one of the most consistent receivers over the past four seasons. He’s been a top-10 fantasy receiver each of the last four seasons and has had at least 90 receptions and 1,300 yards as well. He still managed to be a top-10 receiver last year with Peyton Manning (under)throwing him duck after duck. So why does he have bust potential when his ADP is WR17?
Because even though he was the WR9 in raw scoring last year, he was the WR15 in points per game. But not only that, Thomas showed serious signs of decline last season. In his historic four year run, 2015 was his low in yards, yards per reception, touchdown, and catch rate. Most importantly, it was his career low in fantasy points per target.
But even when looking at the counting stats, there’s something that stands out: touchdowns. Thomas only finished with six touchdowns, after having at least 10 in each of the three seasons prior. This is because Thomas was as bad in the red zone as Jarvis Landry is controversial. According to FFToday, Thomas only scored three red zone touchdowns on 19 targets including two on eight targets inside the 10. While some of this can surely be attributed to Manning’s rapid decline, Thomas simply was not as sharp as he has been in years past.
Thomas was the WR15 in points per game last season, and there’s a bevy of reasons pointing to a continued decline from one of the most consistent receivers over the past four years.
WR: Tyler Lockett (WR35, 7.01)
Fantasy football is about volume. Fantasy football is about volume. Fantasy football is about volume. I’ll keep writing it like Bart Simpson on a chalkboard.
Tyler Lockett was one of the most exciting rookies in the league last year and after Matt Harmon’s reception perception, his ADP shot up. Lockett has all the talent in the world but his opportunity just isn’t quite there to justify this ADP. Last season Lockett was the WR44 and WR58 in points per game. The Seahawks will certainly give him more targets than he received last year, but with Jermaine Kearse as the starter, will it be enough?
Say Lockett’s targets jump from 69 last year to 100 this year. I don’t expect Lockett’s insane catch rate of 74 percent to maintain, especially if he keeps his role as a deep threat. If his catch rate declines to 68 percent but his yards per reception stays the same, he would finish at 68 catches and 884 yards. The problem is touchdowns.
If Russell Wilson finishes with 30 touchdowns, it’s hard to find touchdowns for Lockett. This seems like a pretty reasonable projection of touchdowns:
Doug Baldwin: 8
Jimmy Graham: 6
Jermaine Kearse: 5
Running backs: 5
That’s 24 already, and there will be at least a few that go to the Paul Richardson/Luke Willson’s of the world. Maybe Lockett finishes with the volume and touchdowns to exceed his ADP, but with Jermaine Kearse holding down a starting job, which he will continue to do because of his run blocking, I don’t see it happening.
TE: Tyler Eifert (TE8, 8.09)
Yes, this is cheating. Eifert’s recent setback with his ankle injury isn’t yet reflected in his ADP. While Eifert was originally expected to only miss a game or two, now it’s looking more like 4-6. That being said, I’m fading Eifert as a top-10 tight end entirely.
Eifert was the sixth best fantasy tight end last year, scoring 13 touchdowns. Eifert’s 41 percent of his points coming from touchdowns was second to only Jeremy Hill for all FLEX players in fantasy last year.
There are two ways to look at that.
- Eifert is an elite touchdown scorer and can be expected to continue at a similar pace
- Eifert is a good touchdown scorer but his TD rate should regress
Considering he only had two touchdowns his rookie year on 60 targets, odds are the second one is more accurate. To buoy his scoring this year with an expected touchdown drop, Eifert would need a large increase in targets, which is no guarantee. Take into account that he’s going to miss at least 1/4 of the season, and he’s borderline undraftable.