Fantasy football is one of the greatest joys of life. But with great joy must come deep, soul-crushing sadness. As can be the case when one of your so-called stud picks turns out to be a complete bust that kills any chance you have of making your fantasy football playoffs.
Busts are a real part of fantasy football and they happen every year. There’s nothing you can do if a player gets hurts, benched or suspended, but there is something you do have control over.
You can (and should) try your best to avoid any player who might not perform to their ADP or even to what they are capable of.
Predicting these players can often be harder than dividing fractions, but luckily here are some players that you should be wary of in 2015.
1. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
Things aren’t looking good for Brees in 2015 and a lot of it has to do with Brees himself and what people expect of him. A lot of drafters look at past history as a predictor for future success and that’s where they go wrong and ultimately miss the playoffs (hopefully you have a few of these players in your fantasy league). Now Brees was a decent QB1 last year, throwing for almost 5,000 yards with 33 touchdowns. Who wouldn’t take that?
The problem was that he was drafted to be a top-3 fantasy QB and fight to be fantasy’s No. 1 overall player. That was with All-Pro TE Jimmy Graham and speed burner Kenny Stills running down deep balls. Now both Graham and Stills are gone and there really isn’t anyone to replace them. Brees will have second-year WR Brandin Cooks (back from injury) to toss the pigskin to (Cooks is one of my must-have 2015 fantasy breakouts) and he also has new RB C.J. Spiller to take over the role that Darren Sproles once starred in.
The way New Orleans’ offseason went (especially with trading Graham for center Max Unger) and re-signing RB Mark Ingram, it looks like the Saints also realize that Brees’ best days are behind him and they are going to be more of a run-heavy team in 2015. You should draft accordingly and let someone else fall for the idea that Brees is still a top-5 fantasy QB.
2. Julius Thomas, TE, Jacksonville
Believe it or not, the Jags’ offense won’t be terrible this year, but if you draft Thomas to be a top-3 TE and match the numbers he put up in Denver, you’re crazy. First of all Thomas goes from Peyton Manning throwing him the ball to Blake Bortles. That’s never a good thing.
Also, Bortles has a history of ignoring his tight ends. Now that will probably change since Jacksonville paid Thomas a boatload of money and will have plays specifically designed to get him the ball. There’s a good chance that someone will take Thomas way too early in your league and hope that he produces top-5 TE numbers. You can call that person a fool when Thomas is fighting to be the 12th-best fantasy TE in 2015.
3. DeMarco Murray, RB, Philadelphia
This is not a slight against Murray. There is no doubt that he will still be a first-round pick or at the very least, an early second-round pick in almost all fantasy football leagues across the country. So Murray probably won’t really be a bust, so consider this more of a warning.
When thinking about selecting Murray on draft day keep in the back of your mind three things:
1. He’s been injured every year (except last year), even going back to his college days
2. He’s coming off a 392-carry season (that’s an insane workload)
3. He’s no longer running behind the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line
Yes, he now has offensive-minded guru Chip Kelly calling the plays for him, but Murray has to be downgraded on draft day because not only can a lot of his success be attributed to Dallas’ O-line, he also no longer has Tony Romo or Dez Bryant to draw attention from him. Opposing defenses will target Murray, especially early in the season, until they see something from Sam Bradford. Just look at LeSean McCoy’s numbers from last year. They were decent, but not elite, especially considering that McCoy was a top-5 pick last year. Don’t make the same mistake with Murray, he’ll be good, but not great.
4. Joique Bell, RB, Detroit
Bell finds himself in an ideal situation. He is the default No. 1 RB on a team that has a QB with a cannon arm in Matthew Stafford, and one of the best wide receiver combos in the game today in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Bell probably went into the offseason really excited to start the 2015 season, and then the Lions drafted Ameer Abdullah, casting a large shadow over Bell’s role with the team.
To make things worse Bell is trying to get back to 100 percent health from a knee injury that has hampered him all offseason and now he is dealing with an Achilles issue. So he is pretty banged up and the season hasn’t even started yet.
The only thing that isn’t hurt is Bell’s confidence. He has been quoted this offseason saying “he’s going to rush for over 1,200 yards.” You have to love his confidence, but keep in mind that his career yards per carry average is a weak 3.9, he has never rushed for more than 860 yards in a season and he is 29 years old. Stay away.
5. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City
This one is so easy. It has nothing to do with Maclin’s ability; he is an excellent wide receiver and has all the intangibles. The problem is that he left the pass-happy scheme of Chip Kelly for wide receiver hell in Kansas City. This sentence basically sums it all up… Jeremy Maclin has Alex Smith throwing him the ball.
Actually, I take that back. This sentence is even better than that one… Somehow, Alex Smith managed to throw zero touchdowns to a wide receiver all of last year.
Read that last sentence again. In a league where passing is off the charts, wide receivers are better than ever and the rules greatly favor offenses, Smith couldn’t manage to throw a touchdown to a single wide receiver. That’s amazing.
Maclin will probably score a few touchdowns this year as he is a major upgrade over all the wide receivers Kansas City had on the roster last year, but most people will draft him based off of name value and not based on his current situation. Don’t be one of those people.
6. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina
Newton had a decent campaign in 2014, but even though he has been in the league now for four seasons, he still gets hype each and every year. This is crazy. If you are seriously considering drafting Newton as your starting QB check out his stats over the last four seasons…
2011: 4,051 passing yards, 21 TDs
2012: 3,869 passing yards, 19 TDs
2013: 3,379 passing yards, 24 TDs
2014: 3,127 passing yards, 18 TDs (14 games)
What stands out? That he is getting worse as he gains more experience, at least fantasy football-wise.
Now Carolina has done him no favors by giving him pathetic options to work with over his career. Yes, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen are nice options, but they are hardly elite, and Benjamin is now out for the season due to a torn ACL. Jonathan Stewart is the starting running back, so if Carolina is going to make it back into the playoffs, it will be up to Newton. This makes him a good QB, but we are talking about fantasy QBs here.
Most drafters fall in love with the fact that Newton can run, which is true. But even his rushing numbers are going down each year and so are his rushing touchdowns and this is simply because he is a valuable asset and Carolina doesn’t want him getting hurt, which makes perfect sense.
Here are his rushing numbers…
2011: 706 rushing yards, 14 TDs
2012: 741 rushing yards, 8 TDs
2013: 585 rushing yards, 6 TDs
2014: 539 rushing yards, 5 TDs (14 games)
Newton will not be a top-12 fantasy QB this year. Yet he is still being drafted ahead of Tony Romo, Ryan Tannehill and Eli Manning. All of which will have a better fantasy year than Newton. You’ve been warned.
7. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver
This has everything to do with the fact that Gary Kubiak is the new head coach and play-caller in Denver. This all but eliminates the run-and-gun approach that Peyton Manning has loved his entire career.
Peyton is going to line up more under center more than ever before, which will mean less shotgun formations and less three-wide receiver sets while Denver pounds the rock.
Last year Sanders was a draft day steal. Most likely drafted after Wes Welker in the later rounds of the draft and he produced as an elite WR2. He will not be able to match last year’s numbers. His targets will be down and this year he will have more competition from fellow wideout Cody Latimer. Plus Sanders has a nasty concussion history and you have to wonder if that will affect him this year.
8. LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo
Arguably the No. 1 overall pick last year, Murray sure didn’t help win many fantasy football championships in 2014. His rushing yards were down, he only scored five total touchdowns and thanks to Darren Sproles, he became an afterthought in the Eagles’ passing game.
Now McCoy finds himself in Buffalo, a fantasy football wasteland, with perhaps the worst coach in terms of fantasy football in Rex Ryan. Yes it’s true that Ryan loves to run the football and yes McCoy will get his touches. The primary backup in Buffalo is 79-year-old Fred Jackson (okay, he’s 34) and then they have a cast-off in Bryce Brown. So if you are looking for volume, McCoy is your guy.
But EJ Manuel or Matt Cassel will be McCoy’s starting QB. That’s not a misprint. Buffalo goes into the 2015 season with by far the worst quarterback situation in the league. Basically opposing defenses can stack all 12 guys in the box to stop McCoy because Manuel or Cassel don’t scare anyone. Plus, Buffalo added Percy Harvin (another perennial, injury-prone bust) and all Harvin is going to do is take catches away from McCoy in space. Oh and somehow Buffalo needs to get the ball to wide receiver Sammy Watkins because he’s their best playmaker. See how much of a mess this is?
Come draft day McCoy will probably be drafted in the first round based off his name value. Don’t be that fool. If he falls to you in the late second round maybe, but there still might be better options with more upside out there.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.