The term "bust" is one no NFL player ever wants associated with their name, and the same is true for fantasy owners. No one wants to draft who they think is one of the most reliable sure-things, only to find out that the player is a bust.
But as the 2017 NFL and fantasy football season revs up, owners need to take stock in a number of factors beyond a player’s stats and success in the last two or three seasons. There are contract situations, shifting personnel, age and wear and tear, and coaching changes, each of which, either working together or separately, can fully or partially derail a player’s season.
Let’s take a look at six potential busts based off their average draft positions (ADP) via FantasyPros, who could wind up ruining your fantasy squad this season.
Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears (15 Overall, RB7)
Howard became the focal point of the Bears’ offense last season after taking the starting running back job from Jeremy Langford. The former Hoosier ran for more than 1,300 yards in his rookie campaign behind an above average offensive line. He will look to duplicate those numbers in 2017, but I think he will have a hard time doing so. Howard will enter the season as the No. 1 back, but last year’s opening day starter Langford will be back at 100 percent and his pass-catching ability will likely earn him some third-down touches. Teams will be keying on the Bears’ running game because that will put more pressure on their two new quarterbacks to make tough decisions. Howard will see a large volume of touches, but I think he will be less effective due to the amount of game planning teams will be doing for him. I would not draft him with a first-round pick.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons (85 Overall, QB6)
In his second year with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, things clicked for Ryan and he posted a career-high 38 touchdown passes. But the year prior, when the offense was new to him, he struggled woefully. While new OC Steve Sarkisian is known for his work with quarterbacks, this is a transitional season for Ryan. Except for 2016 he has never – over eight separate campaigns – finished with more than 32 TD passes. If you didn’t invest in Ryan last year then you lost out. He’s all floor and no ceiling in 2017, which is why I have him ranked behind up-and-comers Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, who are going much later in most fantasy drafts.
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots (55 Overall, WR29)
It’s tough to go against a receiver who saw 159 targets last year while playing for New England, but Edelman turned all those looks into just three touchdowns. He also got a modest 1,106 yards thanks to an underwhelming 6.9 yards per target that ranked No. 72 among wide receivers. In fact, his fantasy points per target (1.44) ranked No. 80 in the NFL. He did make that remarkable catch in the Super Bowl, but Edelman isn’t a deep threat or in the red zone, so his upside is limited (obviously he gets a boost in PPR formats). He’s only surpassed 1,000 receiving yards one other time before last season, and his career high in touchdowns is seven (he’s averaged five over the last four years). The Patriots added Brandin Cooks during the offseason, and it’s possible Rob Gronkowski stays healthy for 16 games, so Edelman’s target share should diminish in 2017 (he had the third most in the NFL last year). You won’t make a profit on Edelman based on where he’s currently going.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders (38 Overall, RB15)
There’s a lot to like about Lynch’s situation heading into 2017. He’s tied to a productive offense, he’ll do his running behind an excellent O-line and he’s the presumptive goal-line back for Oakland. But let’s all just try to recall that when we last saw Lynch on the field, he was averaging 3.8 yards per carry for the Seahawks, during a season in which injury limited him to seven games. He’s a high-mileage player entering his age-31 season, and he’s coming off a long layoff. This appears to be one of those cases in which early drafters are focused only on the player’s ceiling and not the floor.
Ty Montgomery, RB, Green Bay Packers (56 Overall, RB18)
The source of much debate in 2016, Montgomery continues to exist as a powder keg for fantasy enthusiasts. Wowing after contact, the RB/WR racked up the second-best breakaway run rate of the season with an impressive 9.1 percent. While that’s an eye-popping stat, he also faced a light front nearly 90 percent of the time. Yes, having Aaron Rodgers as a QB certainly has its perks. But I still don’t see a clear path to touches for Montgomery. Sure, he was promoted to the top of the depth chart after Eddie Lacy went down. But from Weeks 7-17 he averaged fewer than 10 total touches per game. And if the team were confident in his abilities to carry the load, they wouldn’t have added Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones via the draft. Furthermore, Montgomery’s struggles in pass protection may keep him off of the field. He’s a fine athlete, but you won’t find me overpaying for last year’s success in a limited sample size.
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders (80 Overall, QB7)
Carr will be facing one of the toughest schedules in 2017. As well, Oakland runs a balanced, conservative offense which limits Carr’s numbers. The Raiders have brought in Marshawn Lynch to solidify their running game, and he figures to be heavily involved in the red zone. Carr will put up pretty good numbers, but avoid overdrafting him based upon his two excellent receivers. His weekly fantasy points don’t justify drafting him early.
— 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.