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Andrew Erickson’s Busts (2022 Fantasy Football)

Aug 13, 2022
Diontae Johnson

Value is the name of the game in fantasy football. You’re doing it wrong if you aren’t exposing value by taking advantage of market holes and dodging player landmines based on overpriced ADPs. We build the foundation of a championship-winning roster by aggressively attacking the mispriced players, not by reaching on overvalued players and teams that are primed for busting.

Leveraging my 2022 fantasy football rankings is a great way to start identifying overvalued candidates, but I’ve taken it a step further by pinpointing a select few players who are strong fades at their current price tags. These players are clear “avoids” in the early-to-middle rounds (top-100 overall selections) who could end up torpedoing your season like Calvin Ridley, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chris Carson, Allen Robinson, Mike Davis, Kenny Golladay, Robbie Anderson and Trey Sermon were in 2021.

These players all fall higher in most early ADPs than in my overall rankings, which is why I rarely draft them in fantasy drafts. And until the market decides to lower the price on these players — because everybody has a price — I’ll continue to avoid them. And you can find my full list of fantasy football busts in our 2022 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

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2022 Busts

Patrick Mahomes (QB – KC) ADP: 34 OVR, QB2

Best real-life quarterback? Of course. The clear-cut No. 2 option in fantasy? Not worth the price of admission.

Patrick Mahomes ranked fourth in fantasy points per game (22.0), tying Justin Herbert with 12 weekly top-12 QB finishes in 2021. Still, Mahomes averaged fewer fantasy points per game than in 2020 (25.2). And that was with Tyreek Hill in the fold.

My findings from the QB boom-or-bust report was also glaring.

– Mahomes posted the highest bust rate among QBs inside the top 3 ADP (25%).
– The Chiefs QB’s average fantasy finish in 7 games that Hill busted in 2021: QB11. One top-five finish.
– The Chiefs QB’s average fantasy finish in games that Hill finished top-20 or better in 2021: QB7. Five top-five finishes.

Heading into 2022, Hill’s departure cannot be ignored. The duo ranks second in combined passing touchdowns (41) since 2016 — despite Mahomes not becoming the starter until the 2018 season. There’s genuine concern about his top-tier weekly ceiling without Hill that is not being factored into his top-3 ADP and ECR ranking.

Especially coming off a season where he posted a career-low PFF passing grade (77.5) and a career-high in interceptions (16). He’s being overvalued as the QB2 in early drafts on name recognition alone.

Ezekiel Elliott (RB – DAL) ADP: 29 OVR, RB15

Ezekiel Elliott’s main fantasy appeal is the touchdown opportunity he will see in a high-powered offense, coming off another season with poor rushing efficiency marks. The Dallas Cowboys running back finished fifth-worst in PFF’s elusive rating (25.0) and averaged fewer fantasy points per game than in 2020 (14.6 versus 15.4) in a better offensive situation. There is a caveat with Zeke’s inefficient rushing: He reportedly played with a torn PCL last season.

However, history doesn’t necessarily indicate that Elliott is in for a significant comeback in 2022 based on running backs that have had similar careers.

Steven Jackson, Walter Payton and Clinton Portis profile closest to Elliott based on their workloads and age, per Stathead.com. Each running back totaled over 1,800 touches before their age-27 season.

But the feedback was negative, with each running back seeing a dip in average PPR points per game (1.34) and total fantasy points (-18). And that came with each of them still seeing 370-plus touches on the season.

Elliott hit a career-low in total touches (284) and touches per game last season (16.7) — nearly three fewer than in 2020.

Dallas has every right to feed Zeke to their heart’s desire with an out in his contract at the end of the season. But they are also in the business of winning games and understand that Elliott breaking down at the end of last season did not help the offense.

Meanwhile, backup running back Tony Pollard quietly averaged 11.3 touches — three more than the year prior — and flashed elite rushing ability as PFF’s second-highest-graded rusher.

Elliott barely out-scored Pollard during the second half of the season (10.5 versus 11.5) despite scoring 6 TDs versus Pollard’s one.

Pollard was also dynamite as a receiver, ranking third in yards per route run (2.03) on the 10th-most targets. Zeke finished 6th in targets… but 57th in yards per route run.

I hate to be the one to bury an older running back as washed, as that burned me last season somewhat with the likes of James Conner and Leonard Fournette. However, I am not overly convinced that Elliott will be a volume monster in 2022 after the team dialed back his usage while Pollard continued to impress at every opportunity he received.

And even if Elliott’s efficiency increases slightly after a lackluster season, the Cowboys’ offensive line might mitigate any of those benefits if they take a step back with a plethora of moving pieces.

If Zeke follows in the same path as the previous backs I’ve mentioned, he’s looking at 235 fantasy points (low-end RB1 last season) if he plays a full slate of games. But his points per game fall in the back-end RB2 range at RB22, averaging 13.5 points per game.

Chances are that Elliott will probably beat his ADP because he is an iron man and doesn’t miss games. He’s missed just one game due to injury over his NFL career.

But even the greatest Zeke fans will admit the ride for him to finish as RB10-12 hardly will feel smooth when he’s hanging middling RB2 production most weeks. He’s finished as a top-12 fantasy RB1 in just 35% of his games the past two seasons. Elliott won’t end up being a true difference-maker at this stage in his career, and the cost of drafting him over league-winning WRs in the middle rounds is something I can’t justify.

Keep in mind that 13.5 PPR points per game equated to the WR29 last season. And that point projection is nearly identical to his 2022 projection.

And if the sole argument for drafting Zeke is touchdowns (valid argument), why not just draft Josh Jacobs instead at a discount? Or cheaper guys like Antonio Gibson, Elijah Mitchell, Damien Harris and David Montgomery, who all finished as RB1s at a similar percentage (greater than 32%) in 2021? 

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Diontae Johnson (WR – PIT) ADP: 40 OVR, WR16

Diontae Johnson’s expert consensus rating (ECR) of WR15 is super aggressive. It’s vastly higher than my rank (WR23). And it’s a pretty price to pay up even for a target hog like Johnson when he will almost surely see inefficient targets.

Too often last season, I was drafting WRs in the third and fourth round who were projected to be target magnets with bad quarterbacks — Terry McLaurin, D.J. Moore — and those ended up being poor fantasy selections. Johnson looks like he is in that similar ilk, so I am hesitant to get excited about drafting/ranking highly.

Let’s not forget that last year’s heavily-coveted rookie quarterback class produced almost zero reliable options outside of Brandin Cooks (WR20), Darnell Mooney (WR26) Jakobi Meyers (WR33) and Kendrick Bourne (WR30).

Moreover, by most accounts, new Steelers’ rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett would be drafted after all the 2021 signal-callers, so what makes the experts so confident that he can fuel a fringe WR1 season for Johnson?

The Steelers are one of those offenses that have the chance to totally bottom out in 2022, with major question marks at quarterback.

And I know that arguments and takes will be made as to why Trubisky is a better option at quarterback than Ben Roethlisberger was last season; it’s possible that happens.

Just be aware that in Trubisky’s best season (2018) as an NFL quarterback, the Bears’ offense ranked 24th in yards per game (344) and 10th in points per game.

The room for an improved offense is realistic, but I’m not as bullish on paying the premium price for a wide receiver like Diontae Johnson in Round 4 with so much uncertainty under center.

Johnson already threaded the needle with bad quarterback play last season – finishing as the lone top-10 WR in half-point scoring on an offense that generated a negative EPA per dropback.

Four more finished in the WR18-WR24 range.

Receivers like Johnson are fantasy WR2s and won’t be fantasy WR1s on their existing bad offenses unless they see absolutely absurd target volume.

It also needs to be considered that the new quarterbacks have zero ties to Johnson being their primary target. Chase ClaypoolPat FreiermuthGeorge Pickens, and Calvin Austin III will all be vying for targets in the Steelers’ passing attack.

There’s also a chance that the Steelers’ pass-play rates drop dramatically with an inexperienced and/or new quarterback. Pittsburgh has ranked second in pass-play rate over the last two seasons with Ben Roethlisberger. During the 2019 season, when Big Ben missed all but two games, the Steelers ranked 23rd in pass-play rate. Nobody on that offense saw more than 100 targets.

Why pay a premium for Diontae Johnson’s 2021 26% target share in Rounds 3/4, when you can take other WRs that project to lead their team in targets ie. Michael Thomas, Cooks, Mooney, Christian Kirk, Kadarius Toney, Allen Lazard that go much later.

Also greatly prefer Chase Claypool at ADP outside the top-100 picks.

Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS) ADP: 36 OVR, RB19

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 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 points per game (RB23).

All in all, Gibson finished as a fantasy RB2 in just 53% of his games last season; three of them came in games that J.D. McKissic missed last season. McKissic — keep in mind half-point scoring — finished as fantasy RB2 in 45% in the 11 games he played last season.

Gibson is facing a major uphill battle for maximum upside that he’s virtually hands-off in the first five rounds.

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. As a result, Gibson’s current ADP at RB19 is nearly identical to his fantasy points per game finish in half-point scoring from 2021 (RB18).

It’s too large a price to pay for a running back being selected in the dread RB Dead Zone despite his back-to-back top-12 finishes the past two seasons.

His FantasyPros aggregate ADP is still too high (36th overall, RB19), but his best ball ADP – specifically on Underdog at 79th overall – is probably too much of an overreaction to the added competition.

It’s all about draft price where you draft with Gibson that you have to consider. Rounds 3-5, I’ll likely be fading him. Don’t pay up or aggressively draft Gibson.

But if he falls into Rounds 6-plus outside the top-60 picks, it’s hard to just fade that value. Because Gibson is still a do-it-all RB that ranked third in red-zone carries, fourth in touches, and owns two RB1 finishes (RB12, RB10) in his first two years in the NFL. AG is the business casual Nick Chubb, who also operates in a committee but still gets drafted in the second round of fantasy drafts.

Remember, most RBs are in some kind of committee. So all else being equal, Gibson is not just one of the cheapest ones now, but one of the more talented backs that you can get in the dreaded RB dead zone. Reminds me a lot of D’Andre Swift or Josh Jacobs‘ draft stock falls from last season. Both teams’ offseason additions didn’t matter when the dust settled.

All the “hype” for guys that really are just average backs in Kenyan Drake and Jamaal Williams.

DK Metcalf (WR – SEA) ADP: 46 OVR, WR15

The difference between having Geno Smith/Drew Lock at quarterback versus Russell Wilson cannot be overstated enough. Both guys have sub-80.0 career passer ratings. Wilson‘s career passer rating (101.8) ranks second all-time among QBs with 100 starts.

It’s a horrible situation to be in and puts DK Metcalf in a tough spot.

The alpha wideout rose to the occasion under a small sample size last season, averaging 14.9 fantasy points per game (15th — same as his final season-long standing) without Wilson at quarterback for three games.

But I suspect that removing their quarterback, who led the NFL in yards per attempt (10.4), passer rating (133.6) and passer rating from a clean pocket (130.9) before his finger injury, is going to create a much more significant impact over a 17-game sample size.

Metcalf thrives off touchdown production — 32 touchdowns over his first three seasons –, but scoring might be a rare commodity for this 2022 Seahawks offense.

One of Seattle’s two top pass catchers might be able to get by based solely on volume in 2022, but that’s a bet I am not willing to make drafting in the middle rounds.

There’s also no guarantee that Metcalf holds a stranglehold as the team’s target share leader after he and Tyler Lockett have posted nearly identical target shares over the last two seasons.

The other major concern is how much raw passing volume is even available in the Seahawks’ offense, with head coach Pete Carroll looking to establish the run early and often. And the addition of a capable No. 3 pass-catcher in Noah Fant should not be overlooked. Recall that when Gerald Everett was most productive in 2021 it took a toll on Metcalf’s numbers. The former Seahawks tight end out-scored Metcalf from Weeks 10-16.

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