That is the question right? Well, I may have some answers for you about some of your favorite players going into the season who may not live up to their expectations or simply blow up in your face altogether. I tried to come up with something clever to include the word combustible but just know that it all ties together. Moving on…
In this article, I’ll be highlighting 4 players at the four major positions that I believe (and I’m usually right) won’t be so pleasant to roster by year’s end. Let’s start with the most obvious position, quarterback.
Quarterback: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
“Let Russ cook!” That’s the mantra we’ve been yelling from the fantasy rooftops for years. And every year we get a brief glimmer of hope that this may finally be the year Pete Carroll cares about fantasy football. Then he reminds us that he doesn’t and Russ does his half-season disappearing act again. It’s been a trend for several years now. Take last season for example.
During the Seahawks’ first 8 games of the season against mostly subpar defenses (Falcons, Patriots, Cowboys, Dolphins, Vikings, Cardinals, 49ers, Bills) Ciara’s husband threw for 2,541 yards (317 yards per game) along with 28 TD’s. However, Week 8 against Buffalo exposed a chink in Seattle’s armor. Despite the good game overall (390 pass yards and 2 passing TD’s and one rushing TD) Russ also threw 2 interceptions and fumbled twice and was sacked 5 times. Up to this point, Buffalo was probably the most legit defense Russ faced. It was all downhill from there.
In the next 8 games against the rest of the NFC West (including a poor showing in a rematch against the Cardinals where Seattle could barely move the ball) Russ totaled 1,671 passing yards (208 passing yards per game), 12 passing TDs, and one rushing TD. They were blanked by the Rams in their first meeting, only scored 12 points against a tough Giants defense, and Russ was sacked 24 times including 2 games with 5+ sacks. Russ also threw 5 interceptions and fumbled twice in that time frame while also throwing for less than 250 yards in every game but one (263 vs Giants). Mr. Wilson threw for 1 TD or less in 5 of his final 8 games, in 2 more he only threw 2, and the one game where he passed for more than 2 was Week 14 against the hapless Jets (4). He had less than 200 yards passing 3 times (Cardinals Week 11, Washington Week 15, 49ers Week 17).
“Well they got a new offensive coordinator and he plans to let Russ cook!” I hear ya 12th Man but according to your own team’s website (seahawks.com), Pete Carroll is planning to “run the ball more effectively” this upcoming season which is one of the reasons he hired Shane Waldron in the first place. That doesn’t exactly sound like cooking to me. Not to mention that on the final 53 man roster Pete Carroll has elected to keep 5 RB’s in Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, and Alex Collins. How many WR’s did they keep? Glad you asked. FOUR! No that’s not a mistype. D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Dee Eskridge, and Freddie Swain. What do you think the probability is they run more to protect Russ (who’ll be 33 in November and not getting any faster) and cut down on turnovers? No calculator is needed for that. Russ cooking seems to leave Carroll steamed (see what I did there?) and for a man who will be 7 decades old in less than 2 weeks do you really think he’s ready to stop being stubborn now? Fine don’t listen to me but can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Running back: Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
Do you remember all the hype last year when J.T. first got drafted? There were lots of corny Home Improvement jokes and numerous comparisons to (insert Hall of Fame RB here). He was on everyone’s hype train and breakout list and people couldn’t wait to pronounce him as an RB1. Then to start the season, he was behind incumbent starter Marlon Mack, who was a good RB in his own right and was also losing passing down work to Nyheim Hines. Mack got hurt early in the first game of the season but was actually off to a good start (4 carries for 26 yards, 3 receptions for 30 yards).
So when Mack went down everyone who had young Taylor in their fantasy lineups against a woeful Jacksonville Jaguars defense saw a brief glimmer of hope. The backup Colts RB was destined for a huge game and those people would be half right. Nyheim Hines actually stole the show that fateful day. He recorded 28 rushing yards on 7 carries and scored on the ground. Hines also caught all 8 of his targets for 45 yards and an additional receiving TD. Well, don’t that beat all? Not exactly sure what that phrase means but I’ve heard it enough to know that it fits here.
“But, he had 26 carries for 101 yards and a TD the next game!” Those are the Taylor apologists who will tell you they’ve seen this coming since his high school days. However, that was against the Vikings who had an absolutely atrocious run defense. In their first 3 games, they gave up 158 yards (Packers), 151 yards (Colts), and 134 yards (Titans) on the ground. That same game Jordan Wilkins had 9 carries for 40 yards (4.4 yards per carry).
The next game was against the miserable Jets. I shouldn’t even have to break this one down but follow me for a minute. Taylor did have 13 carries for 59 yards and a TD (great for a low-end RB2) but Jordan Wilkins once again received 9 carries while being totally ineffective. Hines was back in the fold though and was given 7 carries for 21 yards and 4 receptions for 40 more. Time share? There is no time share. That’s what Taylor fans were saying by this point. Just a figment of our imagination.
Against Chicago, Cleveland (he did score a TD), and Cincinnati Taylor had moderate rushing yard totals. While on the bye there was a lot of talk about Taylor becoming more acclimated to the offense and how he was about to take off and be a league winner. In a dream matchup against the Lions though, Taylor ran 11 times for 22 yards. Meanwhile, out of nowhere, Jordan Wilkins was back in the fold with 20 carries for 89 yards and a TD plus an additional 24 yards on a catch which caused many of even the most loyal Taylor owners to run to pick up Wilkins because who knew what was going on.
A meeting with a tough ranked Ravens defense once again saw Taylor be out carried by the less talented Wilkins although Taylor did at least score. Taylor was next out carried by both Hines (12) AND Wilkins (8) to his 7 against a poor Titans run defense that should have been a cakewalk to be such a top-tier talent. But Week 11 Taylor began to give his loyal fantasy managers what they’d been waiting for…..a breakout! Taylor was phenomenal, to be honest. Weeks 11-17 (he missed Week 12) he never rushed for less than 74 yards. Taylor had 3 games where he scored 2 TDs and games where he rushed for 150 yards and a whopping 253 yards! So what the heck is all the pessimism for Devekkio Carter? Jordan Wilkins is an afterthought and clearly, he’s the starting RB in Indy going forward.
Well, the strength of schedule for one. Those end-of-year opponents couldn’t have been any better for Taylor. He faced an average Packers run defense, a terrible Texans defense, a poor Raiders run defense that couldn’t contain anyone, a formerly formidable Steelers defense that had been decimated by injuries and ran for 253 and 2 TD’s against a Jaguars team where the coaching staff was in the process of looking for new jobs and almost everyone on the roster except for Laviska Shenault wasn’t even sure if they’d be playing there the next season.
This season he’ll start with an improved Seahawks D, followed up by the Rams, and will also face the Dolphins, Ravens, 49ers, Bills, Buccaneers, and Patriots. Those are a lot of tough weeks against excellent run defenses that won’t be fearful of Carson Wentz’s already battered body and bruised ego. Expect heavy boxes to come his way. Good thing he gets the Texans and Jaguars twice a year. Not to mention Marlon Mack was re-signed and is talented enough to present a legitimate threat and also nbcsportsedge.com is reporting that the Colts actually want to get Hines more touches this season as well. Draft him as an RB1, just don’t be disappointed if this Colt turns out to be more of a little pony (sorry, couldn’t help it and I promise it won’t happen again).
Wide Receiver: Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Not sure if you heard of this guy named Justin Jefferson but he’s really really good. He was drafted to be the replacement for Stefon Diggs and he’s filled in quite admirably. The reason Diggs is no longer in Minnesota however, has nothing to do with Justin Jefferson and everything to do with his veteran teammate, Adam Thielen. Thielen had somewhat of a breakout season in his third year in the NFL, all with the Minnesota Vikings, as he recorded 69 receptions for 967 yards and 5 TDs. He then proceeded to make 2 consecutive Pro Bowl seasons (one with Sam Bradford) and has been a primary target of QB Kirk Cousins since he arrived in 2018. In the 2019 season, Thielen battled numerous injuries and only played 10 games. Even with that, he recorded 30 catches for 418 yards and 6 TDs. Who knew this would be a precursor to the following COVID stricken 2020 season? Thielen, in 15 games, still received over 100 targets (108) that equated to 74 receptions for 925 yards and an amazing 14 TD receptions.
The problem with Thielen is that he’s now age 31. While he’s an excellent route runner he’s never been the fastest guy and getting older doesn’t help especially when you’re constantly battling injuries. Plus with the emergence of the aforementioned Jefferson, Kirk will have a younger and more talented primary target. Thielen has had a relatively short run of success and even so, long gone are the days of 90+receptions and 1,000 yards receiving. Last season Thielen’s fantasy value was heavily buoyed by his high number of TD’s (finished 3rd in the league) and based on his career history of never even having reached double digits this is more likely an anomaly than an upward trend.
In 9 of his 15 games played last season, Adam recorded 4 receptions or less. Without the aid of the TD’s, that’s a flex play at best in PPR formats. He also had multiple games where his yardage was almost unimpactful. In Week 2 he had 31, Week 3 he had 29, 27 yards Week 8, 38 yards Week 9, and 43 yards Week 10. Near the end of the season, around fantasy playoffs time, he recorded 39 yards in Week 14 and a paltry 11 yards in Week 15. That’s enough games to safely establish what some people would like to call, a pattern. But we can’t fail to mention that Dalvin Cook will continue to be a TD vulture as well any time they get in close so those TD’s will be less likely to salvage his days this fantasy season. When it comes to Adam, I’m just not Thielen him this year (I know I promised but I couldn’t help it).
Tight End: Nobody
If you’ve been playing fantasy football for at least the last 5 seasons you know there’s no such thing as a bust at TE. There’s always a top 5 (ish) and then you just hope for the best after that. Years ago the TE’s to have were Gronk, Aaron Hernandez, Jason Witten, Greg Olsen, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis, and Jimmy Graham. Shoot, half of those guys were still in the league as of last season. It’s been a precipitous decline since those “glory days” however.
Every year there are guys we go after because this is supposed to be their seasons like the now-retired Jordan Reed or the recently traded Chris Herndon. You know you got one of them every year because you didn’t want to miss out on what could have been. Honestly though, if you don’t have Kelce, Waller, Kittle, Andrews, or maybe even this year Kyle Pitts (I have him in almost all my leagues and I’m way more excited about it than a fully grown male adult should be) then just take a flier on a few guys and hope someone pops. If they don’t then it didn’t cost you much. Those other guys are likely to perform, barring injury, and perform well so if you miss out on them just throw some darts and see what happens.
All that said, TE’s simply can’t be busts, the same way tomatoes can’t be fruits (they’re vegetables people stop it, no child ever asked for sliced tomatoes as a snack). So go grab Cole Kmet and then be sad when Jimmy “Grahampa” scores 2 TDs. Add the eternal Jared Cook and watch how he only plays well on the weeks you sit him on the bench. By all means, continue rostering Noah Fant and touting him as a sleeper while all the Broncos do every season is draft uber-talented WR’s. This is how TE’s work if you don’t get one of the top guys but if they happen to get you double digits you can feel like a fantasy Guru like me for just one week.
Hope you enjoyed this bust article and if you didn’t it’s because you’ve already drafted and most of these guys are in your starting lineup. Look out for my Start/Sit columns throughout the season so that you can win your matchups each week and remember not only to follow me on Twitter at @DevekkioCarter but also subscribe to our website at thefantasysphinest.com. Looking forward to an exciting season.