8 Wide Receiver Busts (Fantasy Football)
There is sometimes a lot of negatives associated with late summer. Hurricane season, back to school, unrelenting heat and humidity–the second half of August and early September can be draining. However, if you’re a fantasy football fanatic, this is truly the most wonderful time of the year: It’s draft season!
As millions of football fans fight through the dog days of summer, preparing for their upcoming drafts or auctions brings a motivating relief and anticipation towards another NFL season.
While the vast majority of fantasy players are just starting to prepare for the upcoming season, plenty of analysts and fantasy football experts have been working hard to establish projections, rankings, and all the tools fantasy fans will need to build a championship roster this draft season.
With fantasy drafts on so many minds, one of the most popular topics is knowing which players to avoid this football season. Whether it’s a poor schedule, coaching changes or they’re simply being overvalued, knowing which fantasy football players are likely to bring a negative return on investment is vitally important when assembling your fantasy roster.
Amari Cooper (OAK) ADP – 25, ECR – WR10
Cooper is certainly one of the most coveted young wideouts in the game. Etering his third season, many are expecting his numbers to continue to improve, even culminating into a third season breakout. But until Cooper can start making a bigger presence in the touchdown department, he’s being overvalued–especially in non-PPR formats.
As a rookie, Cooper finished as the WR23, then improved to WR14 last season by catching 10 more passes and upping his receiving yards, but his touchdown totals have lagged far behind other elite fantasy WRs. Cooper is simply not as involved in the offense when the Raiders get near the goal line. In fact, Cooper has never caught a pass inside the opponent’s 10-yard line in his career.
For some perspective, Jarvis Landry, who also racks up a ton of catches but scores few touchdowns, can be drafted some 23 picks after Cooper, but Landry has outscored Cooper in both standard and PPR scoring dating back to 2015.
While Michael Crabtree has excelled in that area, even lackluster Seth Roberts has played a bigger red zone role than Cooper. The reasons for this are puzzling, but the addition of a red zone beast like RB Marshawn Lynch likely means that Cooper’s role in that area isn’t set to take a leap in 2017, meaning he’s more likely to remain a WR2 that comes with a WR1 price tag.
Keenan Allen (LAC) ADP – 42, ECR – WR19
One of the biggest mistakes fantasy players can make is to chase the past. That’s been a hard lesson for many around the fantasy industry, as Allen’s fantastic 2013 rookie campaign seems to be fresh in their minds, but Allen’s long list of injuries and a talented supporting cast mean he’s more likely to be a WR3 than to rekindle the magic of four long years ago.
Allen has been limited to only nine games in the past two seasons and has yet to play a full 16-game slate. Dating back to college, Allen has managed to accrue some major injuries including multiple knee ligaments and a lacerated kidney that ended 2015 and 2016 early. While injuries are hard to predict, some players frames or playing style simply make them more susceptible to getting hurt.
When healthy, Allen has also seen his role change since 2013. As a rookie, he averaged 14.7 yards-per-catch, but that figure dipped to under 11 yards-per-grab in each of the past three seasons. After hauling in eight touchdowns grabs that first season, Allen has caught four, four and zero since. He’s being used more as a chain-moving possession receiver than a dominant WR1.
The Chargers also have a deep and talented offense that is likely to keep Allen from getting enough targets to finish as a WR1. RB Melvin Gordon, WR Tyrell Williams, TEs Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry, and even injured rookie WR Mike Williams will all compete for touches from Philip Rivers. Even if he can finally stay healthy for 16 games, it will be difficult for Keenan Allen to finish as a top-15 wideout in standard scoring leagues.
Davante Adams (GB) ADP – 46, ECR – WR20
One year ago, Adams was derided for his drops and went undrafted in most fantasy leagues. Out of nowhere, Randall Cobb disappointed and the Packers got little from their tight ends and running backs and Adams picked up the slack to produce career highs in targets, receptions, yards, and a dozen touchdown grabs en route to a top-10 fantasy WR finish.
But 2016 looks like an outlier, as Adams continued to be plagued by drops and the Packers have added TE Martellus Bennett, and three rookie running backs to potentially take away from the 20 red zone targets Adams received last season. A healthy Randall Cobb, who prior to last season was a red zone favorite for QB Aaron Rodgers, could also reclaim his role as Green Bay’s No. 2 receiver.
2016 stands out as a career year for Adams when compared to his first two uninspiring pro seasons. As with most things, the truth is probably in the middle, meaning Adams will probably be good enough to warrant weekly fantasy value, but not consistent enough to justify a third- or fourth-round investment.
Jarvis Landry (MIA) ADP – 48, ECR – WR21
Like the aforementioned Amari Cooper, Landry has more value in PPR leagues, but unlike Cooper, Landry doesn’t appear to be an ascending talent that we can see developing into a superstar. Even the Dolphins have been reluctant to begin contract extension talks with Landry, who seems set to enter 2018 as a free agent.
While Landry has been a target monster, averaging an impressive 137 targets in his first three pro seasons, he has also padded his stats with short and underneath targets and caught only 13 touchdown receptions. These stats work in PPR leagues for a Julian Edelman-like slow-and-steady approach, but in standard scoring, Landry’s 8.7 points-per-game ranked 24th among wide receivers, making him a safe, but low-upside weekly pick.
Landry could also be in for a decreaed role, with the Dolphins affirming that the offense will run through RB Jay Ajayi and the addition of TE Julius Thomas potentially taking further targets from Landry. Re-signing WR Kenny Stills to a big money deal while ignoring Landry’s upcoming free agent status also doesn’t bode well for Landry’s future with the club.
Donte Moncrief (IND) ADP – 88, ECR WR33
Typically, Moncrief is a better target in standard leagues than he is in PPR formats due to his nose for the end zone. Moncrief has scored 16 touchdowns in 39 games, but it’s that reliance on touchdowns that makes him a volatile weekly option that’s being drafted as a WR2.
Last season, Moncrief scored one touchdown in seven of the nine games he played on only 30 receptions. Almost 58-percent of his 72.6 standard-scoring points came from those touchowns–an unsustainable rate.
Take away the touchdown receptions and Moncrief had little impact. He’s had only four 100-yard performances in his career and none since Week 12 of 2015. Moncrief has been held to three or fewer receptions in 22 of his 39 career games (56.4%).
Andrew Luck’s injured shoulder is also a major concern for the entire Colts offense. Combined with Moncrief’s tendency to disappear at inopportune times, it makes him a very risky pick as a WR2.
John Brown (ARI) ADP – 120, ECR – WR43
Earlier this offseason, Brown was a popular sleeper candidate who looked like a nice pick to bounce back and reclaim fantasy relevance in 2017. But as the preseason has advanced, Brown hasn’t been on the field much and has fallen behind Jaron Brown as the Cardinals WR2.
While Bruce Arians implied that Brown has been healthy enough to be on the field with his teammates, Brown has stated that he won’t be able to practice until he’s 100-percent healthy–a risky proposition for a player who was banged up all of the 2016 season.
Brown’s ADP has steadily risen throughout the early 2017 draft season, but he’s becoming a risky target that seems more likely to be a back-of-the-draft bench stash than a player to target as a reliable flex in the middle rounds.
Jordan Matthews (BUF) ADP – 139, ECR – WR45
The trade that sent Matthews from Philadelphia to Buffalo likely torpedoed any chance that Matthews had of being a mid-round fantasy value in 2016. While the Eagles were sixth in the NFL last season with 609 pass attempts, the Bills had only 474, which was dead last.
While the Bills are expected to up their passing game under new head coach Sean McDermott, Matthews suffered a chip fracture to his sternum during his first practice with the Bills. While Matthews is sidelined, he’s missing reps and falling behind Anquan Boldin and Zay Jones for targets.
With LeSean McCoy also expected to play a larger role in the passing game, it’s hard to envision Matthews approaching the 112 targets he averaged with the Eagles. Without a lot of touchdown upside to pad his fantasy stats, it’s hard to envision Matthews as anything more than a late-round bench stash.
Breshad Perriman (BAL) ADP – 176, ECR – WR60
It looks like the Ravens missed with Perriman, who has done little after being selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Perriman missed his entire rookie campaign with a PCL injury, then played 15 games last season for a Ravens offense that led the league in pass attempts, but Perriman only finished as the WR91.
Now Baltimore has acquired Jeremy Maclin as their potential WR1. With Mike Wallace entrenched as the outside WR2, Perriman looks destined to once again be the WR3 for a Ravens offense that only utilized ’11’ personnel 58% of the time in 2016.
The Ravens haven’t had much success with their pass-happy approach, and Joe Flacco’s injury also implies that Baltimore could be looking to scale back the pass attempts and try to run more in 2016, which means even less opportunity for Perriman to live up to his draft status. Perriman is best left on waivers in most fantasy leagues.