Before you start yelling at me, I just want you to know something: I hope I'm wrong about every player I call a bust in Fantasy. Every year.
I can't speak for every Fantasy analyst out there, but at least for me, I'm never rooting against any of my bust picks. It's nothing personal, and it's not like I can't see the case for them, for the most part. Most of these guys are being drafted where they are for a reason; I just don't necessarily agree with that reason.
But the thing is, in Fantasy drafts, every pick is a zero-sum game. Every time you pick one player, you are making a choice to not pick several other players. It doesn't mean you don't like the players you passed on, it just means you liked someone else.
That's usually what's happening with my bust picks. I'd be happy to end up with Trevor Lawrence as my QB if I'm waiting on the position, but that's usually not possible. He's going off the board in the fourth round on average, and I just can't justify taking him in that tier. And even in drafts where he lasts a little longer -- such as in our recent FFT staff mock draft, where he went in the sixth round -- I'm usually not in the market for a QB when he goes. I already had Patrick Mahomes on that team, because ; Lawrence hasn't shown us he can be that yet.
That doesn't mean I can't see the case for Lawrence as a difference maker, or that I don't want him on my team. It just usually doesn't work out that he's the right pick for me. We've got to make choices on who we want to target and who we want to fade. Again, it's nothing person.
If you do want to yell at me, you can do so at Chris.Towers@Paramount.com with the subject line "Ask FFT" and maybe we'll even post some of your rebuttals in future editions of the FFT Newsletter -- I'd love to get some conflicting viewpoints in here.
Here are the bust risks I'm avoiding in my drafts this year, along with some picks from Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings:
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jaguars (47.74 ADP)
This is one of the bust picks where it's mostly about the price. I like Lawrence, and I think it's unlikely he isn't at least worth starting for Fantasy. But he needs to be a whole lot better than just "worst starting" based on where he's going – he's QB7 in NFC ADP, just ahead of Justin Fields. Fields outscored him by 2.1 points per game last season, and feels at least as likely to take a big step forward as Lawrence. Lawrence had 12 games with fewer than 20 Fantasy points last season, and was really only a difference maker in Fantasy for one five-game stretch, when he had 13 of his 25 passing touchdowns between Weeks 10 and 15. Lawrence is a good player who is surrounded by plenty of weapons, but if I'm going to spend a fourth-round pick on a QB, I'd rather spend it on Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, or Fields, all of whom go within 12 picks of Lawrence right now.
I think there's a perception among a lot of Fantasy players and analysts that Philadelphia is a great place for running back production, but that really wasn't the case. In fact, they produced the second-fewest Fantasy points for running backs in the league in 2022, ahead of only the Bears. Swift is a terrific playmaker, but he hasn't exactly been a great rusher, especially relative to teammate Rashaad Penny (one of my sleeper picks in yesterday's newsletter). I wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles started throwing to their running backs a bit more now that they have Swift, but I would be pretty shocked if he even came close to last year's 70 targets (in 14 games) – the Eagles had just 61 targets to their running backs all season! I'm starting to think Penny is just going to open the season as the lead back for the Eagles, and while Swift will have a role, I just don't think there's enough of one to make him a consistent starting option for Fantasy.
There really isn't very much in White's profile to get excited about at this point. He was a third-round pick a year ago whose biggest strength was supposed to be his pass-catching, but he didn't even outperform Leonard Fournette (currently looking for a job) in that facet of the game. White feels like a classic Dead Zone RB – a guy being drafted as high as he is almost entirely because we don't project him to have much competition for touches in his offense. The problem there is, White seems like just an average talent at the RB position himself -- are we sure he's better than Chase Edmonds, really? If White holds on to the starting job here, he could have some RB2 upside, but if he breaks camp in a timeshare with Edmonds, I wouldn't be surprised at all. It's just not a profile I'm particularly interested in buying.
D.J. Moore, WR, Bears (48.24)
I think it's fair to expect Moore to have a big impact on the Bears offense, but I just don't think the Stefon Diggs-to-the-Bills comps are particularly fair. I expect the Bears to call more pass plays with Moore at the top of the receiving hierarchy, but there's still a problem there: 26% of the Bears called pass plays last season didn't end in a pass attempt, by far the highest share in the league – No. 2 was 17.9%. I hope I'm wrong on this one, because I think Moore is one of the best wide receivers in the league, but I still think pass volume is going to be pretty limited here – and the quality of his targets may not improve much with Justin Fields. If you want to bet on Moore making a big impact on this offense, I'd rather do it by drafting Fields than betting on Moore becoming a must-start wide receiver.
Here's the full list of rookie wide receivers over the past five seasons with an average depth of target over 10 yards, average yards after catch of more than 5 yards, and at least 60 targets in their rookie season: Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, A.J. Brown, Chase Claypool, Jerry Jeudy, Calvin Ridley, Antonio Callaway, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Michael Gallup. I feel like that sums up the range of possible outcomes for Watson, an elite athlete who flashed game-breaking skills as a rookie. The problem? He's got a gigantic question mark at QB, something none of Chase, Jefferson, or Brown faced coming off their rookie seasons. I think it's very likely Watson ends up better than the lower end of that group, but he could still struggle to make an impact if Jordan Love just isn't a starting-caliber quarterback. That's an unknown, but as I wrote in my Packers preview, what we've seen from Love so far in the NFL isn't particularly inspiring.
The case against Pittman is very similar to the one against Moore, except I'm a lot less certain that Pittman is a very good wide receiver. Pittman had a terrific 2021 season, but was largely irrelevant as a rookie, and then took a big step back last season. I don't necessarily blame him for last year's struggles – Matt Ryan was a disaster, even by the relatively low standards of post-Andrew Luck QB play in Indianapolis – but he probably isn't going to come anywhere close to repeating 141 targets with Anthony Richardson at QB. This will probably be one of the lowest-volume passing games in the league, and we should probably expect the quality of targets to be pretty low. Pittman's price isn't prohibitive, but it feels like there just isn't much upside in this situation.
Kittle ended up as the No. 3 tight end last season, but if you actually had him on your team, you might remember things a bit differently. Through Week 14, he was averaging just 10.4 PPR points per game, before going off for seven touchdowns in his final four games to salvage his season. Those four games were pretty high for Fantasy players, but he also had fewer than 30 yards in two of them, so it wasn't like he was dominating consistently. Kittle will always have that kind of weekly upside, but he also had fewer than 40 yards in six of eight games with Brock Purdy at the end of the season, so it's not like the QB change totally saved his season. The 49ers have a crowded offense, and Kittle was fourth in target share at just 11.5% in the six games with Purdy at quarterback and all of Kittle, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk healthy. You're drafting Kittle as if he's an every-week difference maker on the rest of the TE position, and I'm just not sure he's going to be that.
Jamey Eisenberg's Busts
Should Garoppolo fail to be cleared to start in Las Vegas, the Raiders are left with 37-year-old journeyman Brian Hoyer, fourth-round rookie Aidan O'Connell and 2022 undrafted free agent Chase Garbers as the other signal-callers on the roster at the time of publication. Does that sound appealing to Adams? Maybe Tom Brady, who purchased a minority ownership stake in the team in May, could come out of retirement and save Adams. But that doesn't seem likely to happen. And Adams has already expressed his frustration with the organization, which could make him disgruntled, especially if the Raiders are losing and he's not producing at a high level.
Adams is also 30 now, and receivers at his age haven't fared well of late. In the past 10 years, only 17 receivers at 30 or older have averaged at least 15.0 PPR points per game. And only three over that span -- Brandon Marshall in 2015 at age 31 (21.2 PPR points per game), Jordy Nelson in 2016 at 31 (19.0) and Antonio Brown in 2018 at 30 (21.6) -- produced at the level Adams did in 2022. Adams could join that trio as an elite 30-year-old. Or history might not be on his side. And you have to expect him to be in that range if you plan to draft him in Round 1. I don't like the way this is heading for Adams. I love him as a player, and I hope he can still play at a high level in 2023 with Garoppolo. But he's someone I plan to avoid this season, especially if he's being drafted in Round 1.
I actually don't mind Henry's June ADP at No. 25 overall, but I haven't seen him go that late in any drafts that I've done this offseason. He's typically a Round 2 selection and is usually a top-15 overall pick. I'm not drafting Henry in that spot, and I'm afraid Father Time will catch up to Henry this season. He turned 29 in January, and that's not good for a running back. While he bounced back from the foot injury he sustained in 2021 that limited him to eight games -- he played 16 games in 2022 -- he has a lot of mileage on his massive frame with over 380 total touches in two of the past three seasons. The Titans offensive line is going through a makeover this year, but Pro Football Focus still ranks the unit last coming into the season. Henry has been amazing when healthy over the past four seasons, averaging more than 18.1 PPR points per game every year since 2019, but I'm concerned he's reached the end of his run as an elite Fantasy option. I don't plan on buying a lot of stock in Henry this year.
Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers
Samuel had a quality season in 2022 when he averaged 12.2 PPR points per game, but he was a bust compared to his 2021 campaign when he averaged 21.2 PPR points. It looks like he could be a bust again based on his June ADP at No. 34 overall as the No. 17 receiver off the board. I can't draft him that high, and the earliest I would select him is Round 5. For starters, the expected starting quarterback for the 49ers, Brock Purdy, is dealing with an elbow injury that could keep him out to start the season. We'll see if San Francisco turns to Trey Lance or Sam Darnold if Purdy can't play, and I don't love either scenario for Samuel. Next, you have to look at what happened to Samuel with Purdy, and the two played five healthy games together, including the playoffs. In those games, Samuel averaged 6.8 targets and 16.8 PPR points. That's great, but one of those games included a rushing touchdown, and Samuel only topped 60 receiving yards once. If you want to argue that Samuel's rushing production will continue to help him, he averaged just three carries per game after Christian McCaffrey joined the 49ers in Week 7 and had one rushing touchdown. He had eight rushing touchdowns in 2021. I love Samuel, but he's not someone you should draft in Round 3 this year.
Dave Richard's Busts
Feel free to give Watson a pass for his 2022 play when he averaged 16.6 Fantasy points per game in his final six. You can even focus on the 24.8 average he had in his final two games versus the Commanders and Steelers. He's still going way too soon as the ninth quarterback off the board in Round 7. We can't say with certainty that Watson will recapture his mind-blowing form from his Houston days, which immediately puts him behind those passers who aren't obvious early-round guys but still carry skyscraper upside like Anthony Richardson, Tua Tagovailoa and Dak Prescott. Hurting Watson further is Browns play-caller Kevin Stefanski, who has never ramped up his pass rate past 54% over five seasons with two teams. Watson was over 57% in each of his last two years in Houston and came back to a 51.6% pass rate in his six games in 2022. Think of him as a potential top-12 passer, not a top-six guy as his past performance would indicate.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Free Agent
Where would Cook have to land to be considered a reliable Round 4 pick? In Miami he'd likely be the lead running back in an offense that ran the ball 37.1% of the time when Tua Tagovailoa was on the field last season. In New York with the Jets he'd essentially be the lead option until Breece Hall is ready to take over, which sounds like it could be sooner than later. Where else would he be in the same position he was last year in Minnesota when he averaged 17.8 touches per game? Until we can answer that question with confidence, the dude should be nowhere near a top-50 pick.
I'm not even sure Metcalf should be taken ahead of Tyler Lockett -- Lockett has outscored Metcalf on a per-game basis each of the past two years and were 0.3 points apart in 2020! What worries me about both Seahawks wide receivers is the addition of Jaxon Smith-Njigba to the offense. The excellent rookie prospect is coming to Seattle to strengthen their three-receiver set and attack the middle of the field, which is territory that the Seahawks had a problem with last year. It should mean a downturn in targets for Metcalf and Lockett. That means neither should be taken anywhere near the first 40 picks, much less the first 30-ish like Metcalf.
Heath Cummings' Busts
Kenneth Walker, RB, Seahawks
Walker ranked in the top 20 on NFL running backs in yards before contact per attempt, yards after contact per attempt, and broken tackles per attempt; 12.7% of his rushes went for at least 10 yards, which ranked ninth among backs with at least 100 attempts. So why did the Seahawks go draft Zach Charbonnet in Round 2? Two reasons, I suspect. 23.7% of Walker's rush attempts last year went for zero or negative yards, and only James Robinson had a worse rate. These types of numbers don't generally lead to goal-line carries, which I would expect to go to the 220-pound Charbonnet. The rookie also has a better pass-catching profile. Walker will have a hard time justifying his RB17 ranking without many catches or touchdowns.
Pacheco is ranked at RB27, just inside Round 6 in consensus rankings. It's possible he pays off at that cost, but like Walker, I wouldn't expect Pacheco to do much in the passing game and the Chiefs just don't hand it off to a running back in a traditional manner inside the 5-yard line very often. Unlike Walker, Pacheco wasn't particularly explosive and doesn't have the same draft capital. Betting against Day 3 backs coming off of a Year 1 surprise has been an excellent bet for the past five years. I'm doing it again with Pacheco.
Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers
Godwin is a star in his prime, but this situation could not be much worse. I expect the Buccaneers will throw at least 150 fewer passes in 2023 than they have the past two years and those passes will be coming from either Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask. This means a 20% reduction in targets for Godwin with a decrease in efficiency that may be nearly as big. His consensus ranking is WR18 in Round 4, and I view him as more of a mid-range WR3 who I wouldn't draft before Round 6.