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6 Wide Receiver Busts (2020 Fantasy Football)

Aug 25, 2020

One list that nobody wants his or her favorite player to be on is a bust list, but I often think that people take the bust label the wrong way. When many fans hear the word bust, they think it means that the player is terrible, that he does not help the team win football games, that he is not worth having on the NFL team.

Many times, a player’s bust potential in fantasy football has nothing to do with the talent of the player. It has to do with supporting cast, the schedule, or the scheme of the team. Fantasy stats are nothing more than how many receptions, yards, and touchdowns a player is going to accumulate in a season. The higher the ADP, the more of those statistics a player is going to need to justify that ranking.

Some receivers are invaluable because of their ability to help spring big plays in the running game with a key block. Some receivers draw coverage away from the middle of the field and open up plays for the tight end or the running back. Some receivers only have a few catches a game, but they always seem to come on third down and help extend a key drive. All of those things are great things for a football team, but they do not translate into big fantasy points.

The player I always think about when talking about doing things for the football team that did not show up in the stat sheet is Hines Ward. The Pittsburgh Steelers do not win the Super Bowl in the 2005 and 2008 seasons without Ward. Ward only had 100 receptions in a season one time, back in 2002. He only topped 1,200 yards one time, which was also back in 2002. In 2002, 2003, and 2005 he did manage to top double-digit touchdowns but never had more than the 12 he had in 2002. Because of that, he was only in the Top-10 in fantasy points three times and in the Top-20 five times.

Despite all that, he is probably one of the elite wide receivers of his era. Nobody blocked better than he did and there is no way the Steelers would have been an elite rushing offense without his blocks downfield that opened lanes for the running backs. In the fourth quarter, when the Steelers needed a big catch to extend a drive or a touchdown to go ahead in the game, nobody was more reliable than Ward. Yet in terms of fantasy, he was never a dominant player.

Here are six players that you need to be careful about in your fantasy draft. All of them are going to have big games and contribute at times this year, but all of them are in situations that are going to give them an excellent chance not to meet fantasy owners’ expectations.

ADP is referencing FantasyPros consensus ADP

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Mike Evans (TB): ADP WR8
Evans is one of the best deep threats in the NFL, he has averaged 17.7 and 17.3 yards per reception the last two years. Even though he had only 67 receptions last year, he was still the WR12 in 0.5 PPR leagues, due to his 1,157 yards and eight receiving touchdowns. His problem is that QB Tom Brady has joined the team and Brady is 43-years old and does not have one of the strongest arms in the league. The last deep threat that had success with Brady was Brandin Cooks in 2017 with 65 receptions for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns. Cooks was the WR12 that year.

For the most part, it has been the tight end, slot receivers, and running backs that have put up the big numbers with Brady. The only season since 2014 where a running back, slot wide receiver, or tight end did not end up being Brady’s favorite target was 2017 with Cooks leading the way with 114 targets. Valuing Evans as the eighth-ranked fantasy wide receiver is problematic to me given his quarterback situation. That ranking means he is being valued at his ceiling right now and if Brady regresses at 43-years old or does not throw the ball deep as much as last year’s starter, Jameis Winston, there is not much of a chance that Evans lives up to that ranking.

Tom Brady’s Favorite Target Since 2014

Season Player Position Targets Rec Yds Yds / Rec TDs
2014 Julian Edelman Slot WR 134 92 972 10.6 4
2015 Rob Gronkowski TE 120 72 1,176 16.3 11
2016 Julian Edelman Slot WR 159 98 1,106 11.3 3
2017 Brandin Cooks WR 114 65 1,082 16.6 7
2018 James White RB 123 87 751 8.6 7
2019 Julian Edelman Slot WR 153 100 1,117 11.2 6

 
Amari Cooper (WR – DAL): ADP WR9
Cooper is one of the most fundamentally sound receivers in the NFL. He has great footwork and makes difficult plays look routine. When he is on, he can put up unbelievable stat lines, like the 10 receptions for 217 yards and three touchdowns he had against Philadelphia back in 2018. The problem is he has a lot of dud games too, last year he had five games where he finished with less than 40 yards receiving and he failed to score a touchdown in any of those games. That is a hard pill to swallow for a player that is currently the WR11.

I think there are going to be a lot of challenges for Cooper to live up to that ranking. The Cowboys have Michael Gallup coming off a 1000-yard season and they added CeeDee Lamb in the first round of the NFL Draft. There is going to be a lot of competition for targets in the passing game. The Cowboys also have a solid running game with Ezekiel Elliott likely to command 350 touches. Cooper is going to have a few monster games this year, but I think the combination of several dud games and the competition for targets with other players is going to take him outside of the top-10. Cooper is currently being valued at his ceiling, which is dangerous given the Cowboys’ commitment to the run and the other talented players they have in their passing game.

Allen Robinson (WR – CHI): ADP WR16
The thing that concerns me about Robinson is how many targets he needed to achieve his fantasy success last year. Robinson had 154 targets on the season, which was the third-most in the NFL. He turned those targets into 98 receptions for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns. He only averaged 11.7 yards per reception, and he averaged only 7.4 yards per target. He was the WR11 despite being the third most targeted player in the NFL. That was due to having one of the least efficient quarterbacks in the league, Mitchell Trubisky.

I am not sure how the Bears offense is going to look this year. It sounds like they are going to go with Nick Foles, but Foles has never started more than 11 games in a season and I am not sure he will hold up for the entire 16 game schedule. Trubisky is likely to see the field and there is no better way to destroy rhythm in an offense that rotating quarterbacks due to injury and /or poor play. Robinson’s is the 10th overall wide receiver, which is a very high ADP given their quarterback situation. I just feel like last year is the best version of Robinson that can be expected in their offense and it was good enough for only 11th among fantasy wide receivers. Robinson is being valued at his ceiling and erratic quarterback play could easily sabotage his 2020 fantasy value.

Tyler Lockett (WR – SEA): ADP WR18
Lockett has been a very steady wide receiver playing with Russell Wilson. He had 57 receptions for 965 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018 and followed that up with 82 receptions for 1,057 yards and eight touchdowns last year. He is only 28 years old and playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. That should be an instant recipe for fantasy success. Here is the issue. The Seahawks are traditionally a run-first offense. The Seahawks were third in rushing attempts last year versus 23rd in pass attempts. The year before that they were second in rushing attempts and 32nd in passing attempts. This team is not going to throw the ball 600 times, Wilson’s career-high in passing attempts is 553 and he has had less than 500 passing attempts five times in his eight-year career.

The Seahawks also seemed to favor D.K. Metcalf more in the passing game in the second half of the season. Metcalf finished only 10 targets behind Lockett’s team-leading 110 targets. Metcalf had four games where he was targeted at least nine times, all of them coming after Week 6. Lockett was the WR14 last year, but he was the 29th ranked fantasy wide receiver in the second half of the season. Some of that can be blamed on a leg contusion suffered in Week 10 and a couple of weeks where he battled the flu, but I think him being ranked as the WR19 fails to take into account what we saw in the second half of the season. This is another player that is being valued at his ceiling and there are huge concerns that Metcalf becomes the receiver to own in an offense that stays on the ground as much as any team in the NFL.

Keenan Allen (WR – LAC): ADP WR19
Allen has been pretty consistent in the last three seasons. The least amount of receptions he has had is 97 and the most he has had is 104 receptions. His least amount of yardage was 1,199 and his most yardage was 1,393. He scored six touchdowns in all three seasons. The result has been a fantasy receiver in the top-12 all three seasons. If Philip Rivers was back again in 2020, I would project him to have 100 receptions, 1,200 yards, and six touchdowns. He would be in the second tier of WR1 options. The problem is Rivers is not back again this year, he is now with the Indianapolis Colts. The Chargers are likely to open the season with Tyrod Taylor under center and eventually transition to rookie Justin Herbert.

Taylor’s career-high in passing yards is 3,035 yards and his career-high in touchdowns is 20 passing touchdowns. Herbert has no experience taking snaps from under center and there will likely be a learning curve. Rivers has been incredibly consistent over the last seven years, topping 4,000 yards passing in all seven seasons. His worst touchdown total was the 23 touchdowns he threw last year, and his next lowest total was 28 touchdowns in 2017. Allen still being ranked as the 20th ranked fantasy receiver does not take into account the drop-off at the quarterback position. I think he is much closer to a WR3, and his current value is still close to his fantasy ceiling.

Keenan Allen’s 2017-2019 Statistics 

Season Targets Rec Yds Yds / Rec TDs Fantasy Points WR Fantasy Rank
2017 159 102 1,393 13.7 6 233.2 3
2018 136 97 1,196 12.3 6 211.6 12
2019 149 104 1,199 11.5 6 209.5 8

 
Robert Woods (WR – LAR): ADP WR20
Woods is a possession receiver in the Rams’ offense that does not score a lot of touchdowns. Last year he had 139 targets, 1,134 receiving yards, and just two receiving touchdowns. He also added 17 rushing attempts for 115 yards and one touchdown, but the bottom line is that he was the ninth most targeted player and he was only the WR17. When a player scores that few touchdowns, it is hard to be an elite fantasy wide receiver, even with huge reception and yardage totals.

Woods’ ranking has dropped from last year, he is down to the WR23. I think the Rams are set up to be a run-oriented offense. The Rams RBBC consists of Malcolm BrownDarrell HendersonJohn Kelly, and rookie Cam Akers. Last year, they passed the ball 632 times and ran it only 401 times, and the result was an inconsistent offense, 9-7 record, and no playoff appearance. I think Goff regresses to 525 to 550 pass attempts this year on a team more committed to running the ball. That means Woods could be closer to 100 to 110 targets, which would be a huge blow for a player that already does not score many touchdowns. Woods is another player that feels like he is being valued at his ceiling and not his floor. He’s going to be a good player, but I do not know if fantasy owners will be happy with him as an early sixth-round pick.

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Derek Lofland is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Derek, check out his archive and follow him @DerekLofland.

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