Fantasy Football Busts: 7 Players Who Could Underperform Expectations

Jul 13, 2019 10:00 PM EDT
Credit:

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Todd Gurley

  • Our experts identify seven potential fantasy football busts for the 2019 season.

Every season there are players who fall short of expectations. So which guys should you approach with caution this year?

Our panel of seven experts identify seven potential fantasy football busts for 2019.

Note: Average Draft Position (ADP) data for PPR formats and as of July 12.

Peter Jennings: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams 

Gurley really scares me this season.

Although he’s shown brilliance in the past, his injury risk as well as risk of load management is uncharacteristic of someone being drafted as high as Gurley is right now. His ADP has fallen recently (14th overall), however, so he’s not as much of a risk as he was when he was being drafted in the top 10.

If you’re going to take the risk on Gurley, it’s important to mitigate it as much as possible. If I draft Gurley, I always make sure to handcuff him with Darrell Henderson. The need for a handcuff to go along with Gurley’s very low floor is a big concern and makes it difficult to justify drafting him at his current price.


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Chris Raybon: Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets

Anderson has been a fun bright spot on what’s otherwise been a lacking Jets passing attack over the past two years. The problem is, he always seems to have a huge end to the season that inflates his draft stock.

After a PPR WR18 finish in 2017, Anderson slipped to WR37 last season, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. He was the WR72 through the first 12 weeks of the season before salvaging respectable results thanks to his annual end-of-season target-hog-by-default status.

Anderson’s numbers have historically taken a dip even when a relative non-difference in Quincy Enunwa is on the field (2.9/43/0.25 with vs.4.3/62/0.45 without), and now Anderson will have to compete with not only a healthy Enunwa, but also the emerging Christopher Herndon as well as newcomers Le’Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Robby Anderson

Anderson will have his big weeks, but he could easily devolve into “I have no idea when to start him” territory, and there are too many other WRs still on the board at his current ADP (WR30) who either have higher floors, ceilings or both. You can get players with a similar or better range of outcomes at almost any point later on like Will Fuller, Marvin Jones, DeSean Jackson, Kenny Stills, etc.

Sean Koerner: Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Let me first state that I think he’s a talented back in what should again be one of the top offenses. However, he’s the type of RB I would label as being part of the “frozen pond.”

On the surface, he’s being drafted appropriately as the RB13. For Week 1 I’ll likely have him projected as being a borderline RB1, but there’s such a hidden downside that he’s not worth the lofty draft capital in Round 2. There are scenarios in which Carlos Hyde and/or rookie Darwin Thompson become much more involved and tank Williams’ stock.

WRs being drafted in this range, like Mike Evans or T.Y. Hilton, don’t really have that non-injury threat to their value, so I lean toward getting WRs here and banking on picking up RBs like Williams during the season vs. burning second-round capital to get last season’s stats.

Jonathan Bales: Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Fantasy owners managed to land Thielen as the PPR WR42 and WR14 in ADP in 2017 and 2018, respectively. This season he’s going as the WR9.

Thielen and Stefon Diggs both managed to finish among the league’s top-10 fantasy receivers in 2018, which marked just the 22nd instance of that happening since 2000. History isn’t on their side of repeating that feat, as only five sets of wide receivers have managed to work as teammates and still each rank inside the league’s top-10 PPR wide receivers in multiple seasons since 2000.

The Vikings’ slot maven has proven plenty capable of providing top-10 fantasy production over the past two seasons, but it’s unclear if the 2019 edition of the Vikings; offense will still be able to enable multiple top-tier receivers. They’re expected to utilize a more run-heavy offense under new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and advisor Gary Kubiak.

There’s underrated risk here considering Thielen was fairly volatile in 2018, working as the PPR WR1 in Weeks 1-9 then the WR18 in Weeks 11-17.

Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs

Justin Bailey: Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings

In a vacuum, I like Diggs, but I am slightly worried about the coaching changes in Minnesota. From Weeks 1-14, the Vikings had a pass rate of 64%, which was the fourth-highest rate in the league, while their 36% run rate checked in at the fourth-lowest rate.

Once Stefanski was promoted to offensive coordinator for Weeks 15-17, their pass and run rate essentially flip-flopped, ranking 24th in pass rate and sixth in run rate. If they continue to implement their run-heavy approach, the chances if the Vikings being able to support both Diggs and Thielen could be challenging.

Matthew Freedman: Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Even as a prospect, Boyd struck me as a low-upside player, and his 1,000-yard season in 2018 hasn’t done much to dissuade me from that opinion.

Do you remember 2013, when wide receiver Harry Douglas had 1,067 yards receiving with the Falcons in a season in which Julio Jones and Roddy White were both limited with injuries? That was basically 2018 Boyd, who had a career-best campaign in a season that saw A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard collectively miss 23 games.

Given the return of all three players and the possibility that the Bengals’ offense might struggle under new head coach Zac Taylor and coordinator Brian Callahan, it’s fair to expect Boyd to regress this season.

Not infrequently, there are mediocre players who have NFL success: Douglas, Kendall Wright, Brian Hartline, to name a few. That they’re successful doesn’t mean that they’re actually desirable players, and their success is usually fleeting.

Lacking in exceptional size and athleticism and trapped in an offense unlikely to excite, Boyd is an underwhelming fantasy option. Although he’s being drafted as a WR3, I could see Boyd finishing outside the top 50 at the position.

Ian Hartitz: Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions

I like Johnson. He looked like one of the best young running backs in the league last season, as his average of 5.43 yards per carry was the highest by any Detroit player (minimum 100 carries) since Barry Sanders averaged 6.13 yards per carry in 1997. Overall, only Aaron Jones (5.47) averaged more yards per carry in 2018 among all running backs with at least 100 carries.

There’s just one problem: Opportunity.

ESPN’s Matthew Berry reported after the combine that his sense from head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn is “that they were pretty clear they do not intend to give [Johnson] a feature-back role and that both believe in multiple backs.”

New offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had a history of feeding Marshawn Lynch the rock in Seattle, but Johnson will have to compete for touches with:

  • C.J. Anderson: A rich man’s version of 2018 Lions’ early-down grinder LeGarrette Blount.
  • Theo Riddick: Caught at least 50 passes in each of the past three seasons.
  • Zach Zenner: The  front office thought enough of Zenner to re-sign him to a one-year deal this offseason.

Johnson isn’t egregiously priced as the RB19 in ADP, but there’s an underrated low floor here in what has the makings of another crowded and below-average offense.

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