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12 Early Fantasy Football Busts (2022)

May 18, 2022

Finding out which players may heavily underperform expectations takes far more than just comparing their final ranking last year with their current ADP or consensus rank. That’s because injuries and changes to a player’s role or situation can have huge impacts on every player’s season-long output or final ranking. Injury-prone players or athletes who start the season hurt are always a massive risk, especially in the early rounds. Plus, changes like the loss of a reliable quarterback or the potential for a younger player to steal a veteran’s job are risks to account for when evaluating every skill player across the football landscape. Inconsistent, boom-or-bust athletes who produced the majority of their fantasy points in a few games are another trap that ensnares plenty of fantasy managers each year.

Our featured pundits know exactly what to look for when identifying potential busts. So to help you begin your research, they’ve each listed an RB and WR they think have the biggest odds of falling short of expectations. Read on below to see who you may want to think twice about selecting and why.

Q1. What RB in our consensus top 24 should fantasy managers fear the most as a bust candidate?

Antonio Gibson (WAS): Consensus Rank – RB18
“Antonio Gibson was on the RB1 track heading into 2022 free agency after J.D. McKissic had reportedly signed a deal with the Buffalo Bills. AG averaged 14.9 fantasy points per game in half-point scoring (RB9) in the five games that McKissic missed last season. In the other 11 games, the Memphis product owned just an 8% target share and ran a route on 36% of the team’s dropbacks to go along with 12.1 fantasy points per game (RB23). With third-round rookie running back Brian Robinson added into the mix as a likely candidate to earn touches on early downs, the volume distribution in the Washington backfield is not favoring Gibson’s fantasy upside. Third-round running backs have earned 125 touches on average since 2013, making it unlikely AG is able to repeat his fourth-ranked 300-touch workload from a season ago. Gibson’s current ECR ranking at RB18 is the same as his fantasy points per game finish in half-point scoring from 2021. ”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

Antonio Gibson is unlikely to be on many of my rosters this year. Despite opening his career with back-to-back seasons of 1,000-plus yards and double-digit touchdowns from scrimmage, Gibson carries significant downside into the 2022 campaign. He possesses a true three-down skill set, but the Commanders seem more desirous than ever to limit Gibson’s workload after he played last year with an assortment of lower-body injuries (hip, turf toe, shin). Even though they had Jaret Patterson, Wendell Smallwood and Jonathan Williams on the roster, the Commanders went out of their way this offseason to re-sign J.D. McKissic (who had already agreed to a deal with the Bills) and to invest a top-100 pick into Brian Robinson (who was drafted “at least a full round” early, per ESPN’s Matt Miller). With McKissic stealing targets and Robinson challenging for goal-line touches, short-yardage work and rotational series, Gibson could turn into a low-ceiling, low-floor between-the-20s committee back.”
Matthew Freedman (FantasyPros)

Javonte Williams (DEN): Consensus Rank – RB12
“Regardless of how much I love his talent, Broncos RB Javonte Williams is by far the most overrated pick at his current RB12 price. If the thorn of Melvin Gordon was removed from Williams’ side, he’d warrant top-5 RB consideration — in fact, Williams led all RBs with 28.1 PPR fantasy points in his one game as the lone dog. Sadly, Gordon is back. He outscored Javonte in 10 of their 16 games together in 2021, and averaged more PPR FPPG on the season (12.6 vs. 12.2). Yes, Williams has earned the first crack at weekly carries and will likely flip the fantasy production in his favor. But Gordon is plenty capable, especially on the “money touches,” with 250 career receptions and 10+ TDs in five of seven seasons. The backfield should be even more productive with Russell Wilson under center, but I’d much rather tap into that with Round 9 Gordon than with Round 2 Williams, who’s laughably ahead of Aaron Jones in ECR.”
Wolf of Roto Street (Roto Street Journal)

Elijah Mitchell (SF): Consensus Rank – RB23
“Elijah Mitchell frightens me to the core. Mitchell survived last year with the 13th-ranked snap share and third-highest opportunity share, but his efficiency and high-value touch volume were the stuff of nightmares. He ranked 31st in weighted opportunity, 30th in breakaway run rate and 34th in yards created per touch. If the volume gets divided up between Mitchell and his backfield mates, he’ll be a bust because he isn’t efficient or explosive enough to overcome the dip. ”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Austin Ekeler (LAC): Consensus Rank – RB3
“This may come as a shocker, but Austin Ekeler could be a bust compared to where he is currently ranked. Ekeler is a stud in PPR, but his 20 touchdowns in 2021 are due for major regression. I believe the Chargers have found a back who complements Ekeler in Isaiah Spiller. Spiller is a bigger back who could handle that short-yardage and goal-line work. Spiller’s arrival allows the Chargers to not overwork Ekeler in hopes for a Super Bowl run. ”
Steven Pintado (The Fantasy Coaches)

D’Andre Swift (DET): Consensus Rank – RB9
“Without a doubt, D’Andre Swift should be a running back fantasy managers should fear the most as a bust candidate this coming season. With the emergence of Amon-Ra St. Brown last season, the acquisition of D.J. Chark in free agency, the drafting of Jameson Williams this year, and the steady presence of T.J. Hockenson, receiving targets are at a premium for the Lions heading into 2022 — something that Swift has been reliant on in order to be fantasy-relevant his first two seasons in the league. Combine all that with his inability to stay healthy for a full season over the course of his career, and you better believe I’m advising you to temper expectations for him as a top-24 running back this season.”
Jorge B. Edwards (Fantasy In Frames)

Cam Akers (LAR): Consensus Rank – RB16
“Cam Akers has bust candidate written all over him. Unfortunately, I think Akers will have a disappointing season this year for fantasy football. Coming off injury and stuck in an RBBC, I don’t love Akers at his ADP this year.”
Luke Sawhook (Dynasty Nerds)

Q2. What WR in our consensus top 24 should fantasy managers fear the most as a bust candidate?

Jaylen Waddle (MIA): Consensus Rank – WR14
“Jaylen Waddle set an NFL record last year for a rookie with 104 receptions. That’s cool, I guess, but let’s be honest — it wasn’t a great season. Waddle’s bottom-line production (1,015 yards receiving) pales in comparison to what we’ve seen out of other rookies recently on far less volume (140 targets): Ja’Marr Chase (1,455, 128), Justin Jefferson (1,400, 125), Michael Thomas (1,137, 121), Odell Beckham (1,305, 130). Last year, Waddle was basically Amon-Ra St. Brown (912 yards, 90 receptions) but with 21 more targets — and this year he could earn fewer opportunities, given that the team acquired No. 1 WR Tyreek Hill and the new coaching staff is likely to rely on the running game (based on HC Mike McDaniel’s history with Kyle Shanahan). I just don’t see a strong reason to invest in the No. 2 receiver in an offense that might want to limit the number of times QB Tua Tagovailoa throws the ball.”
Matthew Freedman (FantasyPros)

Jaylen Waddle at WR 14 is rich for my blood. Even without Tyreek Hill coming to Miami. I’m not sure I’d be willing to pull the trigger at that price. While Waddle is an uber-talented young WR, I’m not sure if Tua can support Hill, AND Waddle in a big way for fantasy this season. Very risky, but it could work out. ”
Luke Sawhook (Dynasty Nerds)

Terry McLaurin (WAS): Consensus Rank – WR19
“I want Terry McLaurin to succeed as much as the next analyst, but he’s egregiously overpriced at WR19, 10+ spots higher than Marquise Brown, Allen Robinson and Amon-Ra St. Brown. I’d take all three ahead of Terry straight up. Besides shocking the fantasy world as a rookie, what exactly has Terry done to warrant his darling status? WR30, WR20 and WR32 finishes in FPPG and just four and five TDs the past two years despite being bathed in 134 and 131 targets? Yes, I’m aware his QB play has contributed to this inefficiency, but ranking as the WR88 and WR90 in Fantasy Points Over Expectation shouldn’t be ignored either. Especially since Carson Wentz, who ranked 28th in true completion percentage, is unlikely to play the role of savior. Stir in more target competition from the addition of first-round rookie Jahan Dotson, a true college alpha, and McLaurin presents as an easy avoid given the WRs available around and after him. ”
Wolf of Roto Street (Roto Street Journal)

Diontae Johnson (PIT): Consensus Rank – WR13
“Diontae Johnson (ECR WR13) is the second-highest-ranked Steeler in drafts behind running back Najee Harris, and I have a hard time buying Johnson at the price tag. Allen Robinson was WR12 (27% target share) with Mitchell Trubisky in 2019 after finishing as WR35 in points per game in 2018. The best-case scenario for the Steelers’ No. 1 wide receiver is seeing a boatload of targets — albeit inefficient ones like last season, when he ranked second in that category — to deliver for fantasy. Because whether it’s Trubisky or Kenny Pickett under center, that is the reality with DJ. Let’s not forget that last year’s coveted rookie quarterback class fueled almost zero reliable WR options outside of Brandin Cooks (WR20), Jakobi Meyers (WR33) and Kendrick Bourne (WR30). With a top-15 early best-ball ADP in an offense with target competition from Chase Claypool, Pat Freiermuth, George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, I would need Johnson to fall significantly in drafts before selecting him. ”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

A.J. Brown (PHI): Consensus Rank – WR10
“A.J. Brown should put fear into fantasy owners heading into this season. Brown has only barely put together two of three 1,000-yard seasons during his career while being the only real pass-catching option with the Titans. With the Eagles, he’ll have to compete with Dallas Goedert and DeVonta Smith in another run-first offense. Brown would need his quarterback, Jalen Hurts, to make a major passing jump to continue his elite play. I wouldn’t be shocked if Brown finishes outside the top 24 receivers based on the offense and usage. ”
Steven Pintado (The Fantasy Coaches)

Chris Godwin (TB): Consensus Rank – WR21
“Chris Godwin is a player who could disappoint by no fault of his own. Godwin’s ACL recovery has been up in the air, so we can’t assume he’ll be ready for Week 1, much less at full strength when that time arrives. The Buccaneers went out and signed Russell Gage this offseason to fill out their three-wide sets and as Godwin insurance. Godwin is currently WR21 in ECR. He’ll have an uphill climb in paying off this draft cost if he misses any time or starts on the PUP to begin the season. ”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

D.K. Metcalf (SEA): Consensus Rank – WR17
“Is Drew Lock the second coming of garbage time Blake Bortles or something? What exactly has he shown you over the course of his career that makes you think he could support a top-24 ranked WR like D.K. Metcalf? The answer: Nada This is a no-brainer, folks. Until the Seahawks make an upgrade at QB, D.K. Metcalf should be considered the biggest bust candidate at wide receiver inside the top 24 consensus. ”
Jorge B. Edwards (Fantasy In Frames)


Thank you to the experts for giving us their thoughts on their early fantasy football busts. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and subscribe to our podcast below for advice all year round.

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