Everyone acknowledges that Todd Gurley was a bust in 2016. But what
about Jamaal Charles? Some folks think Charles gets a pass because
By that logic, Rob Gronkowski should be exempt from the bust label
because of his injuries (hamstring, chest, back).
But Gronkowski was definitely a bust.
If you owned Gronk last season, it's probably because you nabbed
him in the first round (or at an auction premium). You're not interested
in notes from Gronk's doctor. You think of him as a bust because
he's a busted spot on your roster—a spot where you paid far
too much for far too little.
So let's dispense with the health vs. injury distinction when it
comes to busts. If you say Gurley was a bust and Charles wasn't,
it's probably because Gurley was going in the middle of the first
round in 2016 drafts, whereas Charles was going in the beginning
of the third. It's easy to recover from a risky third-round pick
with high upside. It's hard to overcome a first-rounder who fails
to reach even his presumed floor value.
For the purposes of this article, any player taken in the first
two rounds who drastically underperformed expectations in 2016 (e.g.
DeAndre Hopkins) qualifies as a bust. Quarterbacks and tight ends
tend to go later, so a better formula for those positions is probably
any top 5 consensus QB/TE who failed to finish the season in the
top 10 (e.g. Cam Newton). Players taken later can also qualify.
Even though Randall Cobb wasn't an early pick, he was a bust because
he finished the season behind 56 receivers (in terms of average
points/game) despite ranking as the 19th WR according to ADP.
But instead of compiling a comprehensive list of busts in 2016,
it's better to figure out which of the 2016 busts are likely to
rebound in 2017 and which ones seem poised to falter yet again.
Accordingly, this article will examine two 2016 busts at each of
the four major offensive skill positions and explain why one is
on my fantasy radar for 2017 and the other . . . not so much.
I'll be urging you to snap up Cam Newton
if you can get him at his current ADP in the 6th or 7th round.
Newton's ADP was sky-high last year (17th overall, 1st among
QBs), but he finished the season as a mid-QB2. Unsurprisingly, Newton's
ADP has plunged in 2017—all the way down to the end of the sixth
If that trend holds through August, Newton will definitely be back
on my radar. It's anybody's guess whether promising rookies like
Christian McCaffrey (RB) and Curtis Samuel (WR) can have a major
impact on the Carolina offense, but we don't have to guess about
whether Newton can be a monster even without a strong supporting
cast. Newton's most important weapon in 2015 (his career year) was
Greg Olsen. He still has Olsen. Even if McCaffrey and Samuel don't
take the Carolina offense to the next level, Newton can get it there
all by himself. I urged readers to steer clear of Newton in 2016
because he was overpriced, but I'll be urging them to snap him up
in 2017 if they can get him in the sixth or seventh round.
Wilson's overall ADP (34th) was much lower than Newton's in
2016, but he was still a popular choice in drafts (usually 3rd among
QBs). Despite injuries, Wilson still managed to scratch out a spot
as a low-end QB1 in 2016. Even so, most of his owners felt they
paid too steep a price for him.
They won't have to pay that much this year. Wilson is currently
the 8th-ranked QB by ADP, going near the end of the seventh round
in early summer drafts. So even though he outperformed Newton last
year, he's cheaper than Newton this year. That's probably because
2016 revealed how suspect the Seattle running game is in the absence
of Marshawn Lynch. It's true that Wilson held the Seahawk offense
together in the second half of 2015 after losing Lynch to injury,
but Seattle's anemic rushing attack in 2016 plainly impacted the
QB position, as Wilson threw more interceptions than ever before
(11) and scored a career-low 22 TDs (passing and rushing). Maybe
Eddie Lacy can help take some pressure off Wilson, but I'll have
to see it to believe it. Until then, Wilson is off my radar because
I've only seen him post gaudy numbers with Lynch in the backfield.
The obvious choices here are Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley because
that part of the article writes itself. Readers don't even have
to be reminded that Peterson has moved to a crowded backfield in
New Orleans or that Gurley, thanks to the arrival of Sean McVay
in Los Angeles, has finally escaped Jeff Fisher's one-dimensional
approach to offense. You can ignore all of that and focus on Peterson's
age and Gurley's youth to know which one should be back on your
radar and which one shouldn't. But instead of belaboring the obvious,
let's examine a more interesting pair of RB busts from 2016.
Miller was the 6th most coveted running back in 2016 (and the 16th
most coveted player), but he finished the season as a low-end RB2
Crowell, and Carlos
Hyde). He's back on my radar in 2017 not because his situation
has improved (it hasn't), but because his ADP has tumbled to the
bottom of the second round in 2017. I don't know how good rookie
Watson can be for the Texans (or even how much he'll play),
but if we learned anything from Houston's quarterback carousel in
2015 and the Brock
Osweiler experiment of 2016, it's that any human being on the
planet not named Osweiler can competently manage the Houston offense.
Sure, Miller may lose some playing time to rookie D'Onta
Foreman (a third rounder), but Miller was most productive in
Miami when he split time with other backs; maybe he'll improve in
Houston if Foreman spells him from time to time.
Martin was the 11th RB off the board in most leagues last year
and the 31st player taken overall. But he spent all his energy telling
people not to call him "the Muscle Hamster," which plainly left
him tired during games. He finished the season behind 51 other RBs,
including teammate Jacquizz
Rodgers. Worse yet, thanks to a looming 4-week suspension, Martin
will presumably fall behind Charles
Sims (yet another member of the crowded Tampa backfield) in
early 2017. No thanks.
DeAndre Hopkins was a consensus top 5 WR going into the 2016 season,
taken 11th overall on average. He finished the year as a low-end
WR3—with fewer yards than Kenny Britt, DeSean Jackson, and
Pierre Garcon. I blame the poor play of his quarterback. In 2015,
Hopkins went through seven QBs and found a way to be productive
with every single one of them (including Ryan Mallett, for crying
out loud). In 2016, that changed. Hopkins finished shy of 1000 receiving
yards with only 4 TDs—such a decline from his 2015 numbers
(1521 yards and 11 TDs) that he is currently being drafted in the
early third round as the twelfth WR off the board. At that price,
Hopkins has my attention. So what if the QB situation in Houston
is a murky tossup between an injury-prone backup (Tom Savage) and
a rookie (Watson)? It was even murkier in 2015, and Hopkins was
fine—better than fine.
Allen Robinson was the 6th receiver drafted in most leagues last
season and the 15th player taken overall. He finished 2016 as a
high-end WR3 (883 yards and 6 TDs). Although he cost less than Hopkins
and delivered roughly the same value, he's being drafted even later
(end of the third round) than Hopkins so far in 2017. That may seem
weird, but the situation in Jacksonville is even more off-putting
than the situation in Houston. The return of Tom Coughlin (the inaugural
head coach in Jacksonville, now in the front office) and the drafting
of RB Leonard Fournette suggest that the Jaguars intend to redefine
themselves as a running team (perhaps resembling the Jaguars of
old, when Coughlin was coaching and Fred Taylor was fragiling).
The Jaguars have also rededicated themselves to defense, which should
result in less garbage time play, which translates to reduced opportunities
for Robinson to catch TDs from Bortles after cornerbacks have grown
tired of picking off the ball. Robinson is a lot like Hopkins in
that he had a stellar 2015 followed by a lackluster 2016. The difference
is that 2017 could be a repeat of 2015 for Hopkins (if only because
anything seems possible in Houston), whereas nothing about Jacksonville's
offseason suggests that Robinson's situation will be any better
this year than it was last year.
Gronkowski was far and away the most desirable TE last summer—routinely
going at the end of the first round or the beginning of the second.
He finished the season on IR with only eight games played. His overall
value has plainly taken a hit, as he now lasts deep into round 2.
Nevertheless, he remains the consensus No.1 TE in fantasy—with
good reason. He has accounted for more than one-fifth of the Patriots'
receiving yardage over the past five years, and he's surrounded
by talent (including a legendary head coach, a Hall of Fame QB,
and a receiving corps that just added Brandin Cooks' speed to Julian Edelman's reliability). People call Gronk injury prone because he
has missed 19 games over the past five years, but that's overblown.
In fact, he has played in at least 15 of 16 regular season games
four times in his seven-year career and has played fewer than 10
games only twice. With Martellus Bennett shipped off to Green Bay
and a speedster like Cooks able to stretch the field, Gronk is even
more attractive to me in 2017 than he was in 2016. I don't care
how badly he burned you last year. He's on my radar.
Tyler Eifert was one of many TEs who disappointed in 2016 thanks
to injury. He was generally the 7th TE taken, which meant that owners
could wait until the middle of the 8th round to grab him. He cost
far less than Gronk (who finished the season with 540 yards &
3 TDs) but returned almost as much value (394 yards & 5 TDs).
So why don't I like Eifert more and Gronk less? Partly it's the
sense I have that Gronk will start the 2017 season but that Eifert
won't. But even if they're both healthy in Week 1, I still consider
Eifert far more injury prone than his peer in New England. Eifert
has been on the Bengals' roster for four years—long enough
to have played 64 regular season games. He's played 37. In other
words, he's missed more games in four years than Gronk has in seven,
which should serve as a reminder that there are different degrees
of being injury prone. So far in 2017, Eifert tends to be the 6th
TE taken (ahead of Delanie Walker, Martellus Bennett, and Hunter
Henry). But I'm so put off by his injury history that I would rather
wait a round and settle for whichever of those three fell to me.
Who do you think should be on my radar that I didn't mention? Which
of the off-my-radar players do you think I'm wrong about? What about
Eddie Lacy and Alshon Jeffery? Are they on your 2017 radar or not?
Please send me your thoughts,
corrections, and quibbles. I'll include the most interesting responses
in my column for July.
Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and
playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning
a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms)
can be found here.