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2015 Fantasy Football Bust Candidates

by Matt Giraldi | @Mgiraldi | Featured Writer
Aug 13, 2015

Now one year older and playing without Julius Thomas, is Peyton Manning worth a third round pick?

Now one year older and playing without Julius Thomas, is Peyton Manning worth a third round pick?

The Democrats and GOP aren’t the only people who are currently engaged in debates. It’s fantasy football season and the focus on sleepers and busts has commenced. A bust will be drafted by nearly half your league this season. Steering away from a bust does not happen by taking a pill, but rather risk-prevention. Getting to know the candidates and why they bring increased risk starts early.

With training camps starting across the NFL, we are getting our first views at depth chart formations, personnel and offensive schemes. This is particularly important for players that carry a lofty ADP (average draft position) because it gives them more bust potential.

Despite multiple factors going against him, Peyton Manning is still revered in the fantasy community. Drew Brees likely shares similar sentiments about his fantasy outlook. Both quarterbacks know about losing touchdown producing tight ends this offseason as well. Waiting on a quarterback is a common practice. But if you are going to spend a lot for a quarterback, should you take either of these two?

Over the past four seasons, the top 12 picks in fantasy football have varied considerably. During that period, only LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte have had their ADP rest in the first round in standard scoring leagues. Both running backs will be in new offenses in 2015, and both still carry first round price tags. As a result, both backs are potential candidates for the bust tag.

2014 was the year of the rookie wide receiver. Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mike Evans netted over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Now Evans is being drafted with the likes of Alshon Jeffery. Andre Johnson has been in the NFL for 12 seasons. Recency bias is strong with Evans. After changing teams for the first time in his career, he is going ahead of Julian Edelman in PPR leagues. I know Andrew Luck is a huge upgrade to the nothingness in Houston, but how much more does Johnson have in the tank

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Peyton Manning vs. Drew Brees

Tale of the Tape: Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning is another year older and with time comes change. This year, however, brings changes aplenty.

Only Louis Vasquez remains from the 2014 Broncos’ offensive line. With the left side of the line being replaced and a new center, you have to wonder about the probability for success. After all, Manning’s pre-snap cadences might cause disruption on a relatively young offensive line.

John Fox is gone as the head coach, and Gary Kubiak is in. Kubiak is reportedly looking for a ‘bell cow’ running back. In 12 years as an offensive coordinator or head coach, Gary Kubiak’s offenses have ranked in the top half of the league in passing attempts just four times.
Disclaimer: I am not insinuating that Jake Plummer or Matt Schaub were on Peyton Manning’s level.

Manning’s arm strength looked weakened last season. While there has been talk that he has zip on some of his throws in camp, he also is fresh from the offseason. Does anyone expect the same in December? Additionally, Julius Thomas is in Jacksonville and his 12 touchdowns a season need to be replaced. Can Owen Daniels and Virgil Green replace Thomas and Jacob Tamme?

Brett Favre threw for 4,202 yards when he was 40 years old and Manning turns 40 next March. Does Peyton have a high floor? Yes. Is he a relatively safe bet to finish in the top 10 for quarterbacks? Yes. The problem ultimately lies with the cost. The difference between Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler (QB12) was fewer than three points per game last season. Is that worth spending a third round pick? Just like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone said, “I don’t think so.”

Tale of the Tape: Drew Brees

Drew Brees has a four more years until he has to worry about hitting 40 years old. But there is another fantasy related problem that lingers around the New Orleans Saints. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Saints no longer have Jimmy Graham. It’s not easy to replace nearly 138 targets, 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns a season.

The Saints acquired Max Unger in the offseason. Unger ranked as one of the top five run-blocking centers in 2014 according to Pro Football Focus. I know what you’re thinking. With the pickup of Max Unger and Mark Ingram’s re-signing in the offseason, the Saints should start running the ball more. In 2009, the Saints finished with the seventh-most rushing attempts in the league. Their 21 rushing touchdowns were third in the NFL. They also won the Super Bowl.

The Saints under Sean Payton have not had an offense rank worse than sixth in total yards. A big contributor to that has been Drew Brees. Regardless of the rushing attack the Saints talk about, their success lies in Brees. In the last eight years, Drew Brees has had only one season where he didn’t attempt at least 635 passes. Once again, the year that the Saints won the Super Bowl.

Going to the Polls: Peyton Manning will be the bust candidate. There was one thing I left out regarding the year the Saints won the Super Bowl. Drew Brees completed 70.6% of his passes for 4,388 yards, 34 TDs and ran for two more touchdowns. Brees offers a cupcake schedule coupled with 10 games inside domes (including a Week 16 home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars). Unfortunately, Manning and the myriad of questions I have concerning the gunslinger are not worth the price. If I’m spending up at quarterback, Manning won’t be on my list.

LeSean McCoy vs. Matt Forte

Tale of the Tape: LeSean McCoy

LeSean McCoy was dealing with a toe injury early in training camp. If you followed McCoy in Philadelphia last season, you would recall a similar nagging injury. What isn’t being discussed enough about McCoy’s change of scenery is that the grass might not be greener on the other side because they use field turf in Buffalo. For a running back who has played on grass from college through his time with the Eagles, this change might not be for the best. After all, McCoy’s ADP is predicated on a lot of usage of those feet.

When you think of bell cow running backs, Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles all come to mind. LeSean McCoy is the only running back in the last two seasons to top 300 rushing attempts, however. When you factor in his receptions, Shady McCoy has had over 320 touches in three of the last four seasons. Yes, he’s young, but there a lot of miles on those legs and toes. And besides, 27 years old is the new 30.

Rex Ryan has never really had a competent quarterback and nothing has changed in Buffalo. While he and offensive coordinator Greg Roman focus heavily on the running game, defenses are going to make whoever “wins” the quarterback competition beat them. Not the backfield. I see tough sledding in the Buffalo backfield this season.

Tale of the Tape: Matt Forte

The absence of Marc Trestman cannot be overstated when it comes to prognosticating Matt Forte’s success in 2015. Forte caught 176 passes for 1,402 yards in Trestman’s offense. In non-PPR leagues you might think that the loss of receptions doesn’t hurt as bad. Unfortunately, Forte averaged 7.9 yards per reception last season while averaging a paltry 3.9 yards per carry. If you take away 40 receptions (158 yards) when projecting for 2015, you’d lose approximately one point per game in non-PPR leagues.

Forte will be 30 years old in December. While he has never topped 300 carries in a season, he has had a lot of mileage on his tires as well. In Forte’s case, he’s racked up 731 touches in the last two seasons.

The Chicago Bears lost their last five games last season. Brandon Marshall missed the final three and a half games. With Kevin White’s lingering injury, the Bears offense is going to be eerily similar to the conclusion of 2015. And during those last five games, Forte hit 100 yards from scrimmage only once, averaged 2.37 yards per carry, and only had two total touchdowns.

Going to the Polls: Matt Forte will bust this season. I’m not bullish on either running back for 2015, but LeSean McCoy’s youth and offensive system presents less risk. John Fox prefers offensive balance and likely won’t utilize Forte as heavily as his predecessor. The lack of usage for Matt Forte ultimately will be his demise in 2015. Buyer beware.

Andre Johnson vs. Mike Evans

Tale of the Tape: Andre Johnson

They said that Andre Johnson would have to eventually regress. While Jonathan Bales was incorrect in regards to 2013, the nail hit the head last season. The 12-year veteran averaged his third-lowest yardage total per game. The 85 catches were his lowest output in 10 years (only counting seasons where he played at least 15 games).

The past three seasons have been very kind to Andre Johnson in terms of his health. But it wasn’t long ago that many labeled Johnson as injury-prone. Now a part of the Indianapolis Colts, he joins an offense that needs it’s skill players to be healthy and active. Last season, only Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief played in all 16 games at wide receiver for the Colts.

With Reggie Wayne’s and Hakeem Nicks’ combined 184 targets disappearing, Johnson is going to have plenty of opportunities. I’ve long believed opportunity breeds success. I just don’t know if I can pay the price tag for a 34-year-old wide receiver.

Tale of the Tape: Mike Evans

I get it. I really do. While Evans had a dominating rookie season scoring 57% of Tampa’s offensive touchdowns. Josh McCown was second on the team with three touchdowns. I don’t see those numbers to be sustainable.

Wide receiver sophomore slumps are debated. Some agree with the numbers and some chalk it up to too many interchanging variables. One thing is for sure: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to have some changes on offense. That starts with Jameis Winston. Your opinion of Winston likely will impact Evans’ projected value. Unfortunately I don’t trust rookie quarterbacks to set the world on fire.

Finally, I believe we need to step back and focus on the sample size of the players being drafted around Mike Evans. Currently, Evans is going ahead of Jimmy Graham, Justin Forsett and DeAndre Hopkins in most leagues. In CBS leagues, Evans is even going ahead of Alshon Jeffery. The upside is nice, but Evans’ struggles at times against coverage leaves me wanting a slightly higher floor.

Going to the Polls: Andre Johnson will bust in Indianapolis. Despite Mike Evans’ high price tag, he brings enormous upside. While Lovie Smith’s offenses historically haven’t been good, Evans is a bright spot in the young Tampa offense. Andre Johnson has waited his entire career to get a competent quarterback. Unfortunately, he’s finally doing so near the end of his career. Martavis Bryant, Julian Edelman and Jordan Matthews will all likely outperform Johnson for a cheaper cost.

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Matt Giraldi is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Matt, check out his archive or follow him on Twitter @Mgiraldi.

Busts, Correspondent, Draft Prep, Featured, NFL