Most fantasy football fans are hard at work, reading recommendations, doing mock drafts, poring over last season’s stats and future projections, all for one purpose – trying to determine who will get me the most points. Players balance out a fair bit – not everyone on your roster will have a perfect game every time, but you want players who will consistently bring you enough points to stay on top of your league. There’s always an element of risk in any draft selection, and everyone has a different strategy. While some opt to select steady players who will be nearly guaranteed to put up a respectable amount of points, others are willing to gamble a bit on their selections in hopes of a high-risk, high-reward outcome.
When adding up the points, it quickly becomes evident that who you don’t pick is nearly as important as who you do pick. Picking a bust can jeopardize your team more than you would initially think – it could cause you to lose a superior player by drafting a bust too early. Once it becomes evident that your projected star is a useless dud, he has likely become essentially untradeable (unless you have some players in your league whose lack of knowledge can be manipulated – in that case, definitely try to trade your bust away and let him become someone else’s problem – there is no love in the league). A bust just takes up blank space in your line-up, and with many match ups going down to the wire, even a few points could make a difference between a win and a loss.
There will always be things that no one could possibly predict. The star of your team could get an injury two weeks into the season. A team could significantly change their strategy, or decide to split a position more than you had anticipated. You can’t entirely prevent a bust from infiltrating your roster, but you can do your best to limit the risks and increase your chances of sweet, sweet victory. Here’s a list of twenty players you probably shouldn't bank on when it comes down to draft day.
20 Trent Richardson – RB, Indianapolis Colts
You need to do a lot to justify being traded for a first-round pick, and Richardson isn’t doing much of anything. He had one of the worst fantasy seasons ever in 2013. While he wasn’t exactly in ideal circumstances in his bust season (being newly traded, shaky offensive line), it might not be worth it to bet on a 2014 bounce back. Richardson has stated that he’ll be working hard in the offseason to learn the Colts offense – which hopefully he can master. Additionally, he’s a bit injury prone, undergoing knee surgery before his rookie season, rib, finger, ankle, and calf injuries, and most recently recovering from fairly non-invasive shoulder surgery. He likely won’t be as bad as last year, but you can’t use him as a top-2 running back, and there are more solid bets to pad your team in the flex or third running back spots.
19 Johnny Manziel – Qb, Cleveland Browns
Oh, Johnny Football. He’s entertaining, definitely, but he is also disgustingly overvalued. Many fantasy owners are looking to draft him in the hopes that he’ll be a star on their roster. While risky picks can sometimes pay off, all the buzz surrounding Manziel means he’s being valued at way more than he’s worth. If you can get him in later rounds, he could be a good one to watch and see how he develops. Don’t pick him early, though – you’ll likely sacrifice a much more solid pick.
18 Seattle Seahawks Defense
The name Legion of Boom is really cool, and they’re the best defense in the league. This is all true. However, people get really stupid about the Seahawks defense. It’s just not worth it to sacrifice a potential superstar offensive player merely to snag the Seahawks. Let someone else make that mistake.
17 Zac Stacy – RB, St. Louis Rams
It’s certainly fun to watch Zac Stacy as he tears down opposing defenses, but there’s a good chance he might tear down your roster if you bet on him. He isn’t necessarily a bad pick, but he’s getting picked way, way too high. Yes, he finished among the top 20 running backs in total points last year. Rankings slaves are viewing him as a potential first-round pick, and it’s just not worth it for someone who averaged only 3.9 yards per carry last season. His starting job isn’t even guaranteed, as he’ll again be battling with fellow teammates for game time, as well as with new Heisman finalist Tre Mason.
16 Darren McFadden – RB, Oakland Raiders
Statistically, he hasn’t been doing that well, getting about 3.3 yards per carry since 2012. The bigger issue, however, is his body itself. McFadden practically needs his own personal doctor at this point, standing at the sidelines of whatever games he manages to play in. McFadden has missed 19 games over the past three years alone, and has never played more than 13 games in a season. He’s an injury machine, and while other players all have the risk of getting injured, with McFadden it’s not a question of if – it’s a question of when. Don’t waste a pick on someone who will likely be sitting out due to an injury.
15 Chris Johnson – RB, New York Jets
Let’s keep it simple – in average yards after contact last season, he finished 45th out of 47 qualified running backs. He’s an all or nothing player. While he might be worth a very late round flex pick, do not draft him earlier. Don’t hold out hope that he’ll magically be the Chris Johnson of old. It won’t happen, and you’ll waste your pick.
14 Cordarrelle Patterson – WR, Minnesota Vikings
ADP data shows Patterson being picked higher than Michael Crabtree and DeSean Jackson, and it’s not entirely understandable why. Yes, he is young and fast, two things that are beneficial traits. However, stop to consider who he’ll be receiving passes from. The options are Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, or rookie Teddy Bridgewater. If the quarterback position has no consistency, it will certainly affect the receiver. Patterson still does have some improving to do, and with a question mark tossing him the ball, it’s not a good bet.
13 Marshawn Lynch – RB, Seattle Seahawks
Lynch has been a steady point producer for awhile, but that definitely doesn’t mean he’s a sure thing for 2014. First of all, his stats have dropped over the past years from 5 yards per carry in 2012 to 4.2 yards per carry in 2013. There’s no reason to say that was a fluke – the offensive line for the Seahawks is a bit inconsistent, and Lynch’s stats could very well continue at that pace and drop to 3 point something yards per carry this year. Another issue is competition within the team itself. Sources indicate that Robert Turbin and Christine Michael are coming into the mix in bigger roles, and if Lynch is splitting his role, you shouldn’t be picking him early anymore. He’s by no means useless, but you shouldn’t use a first or second round pick on him as in previous years.
12 Matt Ryan – QB, Atlanta Falcons
His previous season wasn’t great, with a whopping 17 interceptions. It’s not time to write him off – he might be able to pick himself up by the bootstraps and become a solid member of your fantasy roster. The catch is that he likely won’t be able to do it alone, and there aren’t many on his team who could help. The solid veteran Tony Gonzalez has retired, Steven Jackson was a bust last season, and injuries abound as Roddy White has a hamstring that really should be taken back to the manufacturer’s and Julio Jones is recovering from a difficult foot injury. If you want to be clutching the couch in anxiety every time the Falcons play, by all means pick him – but it’s a huge risk that you’d probably be better letting someone else take.
11 Ray Rice – RB, Baltimore Ravens
Rice didn’t exactly put his best foot forward last year. He came in overweight (having perhaps scarfed too much rice) and sluggish. He also had his lowest production season since his rookie days. The 27 year old vowed to come in in fighting shape, but even if he corrects his physical form and brings himself back up to snuff, there are other issues. First of all, he’s suspended for the first two games of the season for his domestic violence charges, so you won’t even be able to use him until week 3 at least. Additionally, Bernard Pierce was extremely solid last year and might very well be Baltimore’s bell cow. Avoid Rice, it’s not worth it.
10 Maurice Jones-Drew – RB, Oakland Raiders
Forget Turn Down for What – Jones-Drew has a history of hold out for what. His history is peppered with training camp holdouts. This year, he signed he's back on his home turf in Oakland. The second Oakland RB to make this list, the main problem here is that MJD is on the wrong side of 29 and might be on his last legs. Based on past performances, some owners are still choosing to draft him very early – like, first five rounds early. Don’t do it.
9 Knowshon Moreno – RB, Miami Dolphins
“But…but he had over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns last season!” you cry with dismay. Yes, but it was neither average nor replicable this season. First of all, look at who he was with – Peyton Manning. Enough said. Now he’s been yanked away from the Broncos and to Miami, where he’s already behind Lamar Miller on the depth chart. Additionally, other than last season, Moreno has never rushed over 1,000 yards, so it’s not exactly a standard number to bank on for him. Last year’s performance was more the exception than the rule. Running backs can make or break a team, so if you want a strong roster in 2014 just say More-NO.
8 Tom Brady – QB, New England Patriots
I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I know the over-moisturized, over-coiffed supermodel of a quarterback is basically football royalty. In a lot of leagues he’ll probably get chosen way too early just because he is the almighty Brady, but there are some things to consider. First of all, he’s starting to drift downwards slightly – he’s 36 years old, and his productivity has been dropping little by little with a lowest touchdown total since 2009 with 25 last season. Second, who does he have to throw to? Brandon LaFell, a slew of average receivers, and a tight end who is equally likely to be a superstar or super drunk and injured. Brady is definitely a great quarterback, but he might not be someone you want on your roster this year.
7 Anquan Boldin – WR, San Francisco 49ers
Boldin is in his 30s, which while it isn’t a deterrent in itself, is something to consider. His receiver ranking fell in his last four years wit the Ravens before last year and he struggled to put up 900 yards with the Ravens most years. He did decently last season, but that was largely because Kaepernick’s options were limited to him and Vernon Davis. With a lot of players returning this season (Michael Crabtree in particular), Boldin will have a lot more competition and likely a lot less points this year.
6 Wes Welker – WR, Denver Broncos
It’s a temptation to pick anyone connected to Peyton Manning, because it’s usually hugely beneficial to be on the receiving end of that cannon of an arm. However, in Welker’s case, owners need to face the facts. He may or may not be able to put up a 100+ receptions this season – people are fairly divided on that, but to be safe, let’s say those days are behind him. Additionally, Denver has a couple more options in the passing attack. He also suffered multiple concussions last season and struggled a fair bit towards the latter half. He could be a good pick for your WR 2-3, but definitely don’t pick him as your first wide receiver.
5 Eric Decker – WR, New York Jets
Eric Decker was a fantasy surprise – drafted somewhere in the middle of the rounds in the previous year, he rewarded unsuspecting owners with 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was a superstar with the Broncos, and this led him to a huge free agent contract in New York. And that’s where things will likely change this season. No man stands alone on the field, so it’s always important to consider who your draft picks are playing with, not just how they themselves are playing. Decker’s switching from Peyton Manning to Geno Smith, a significant downgrade in the quarterback position (in fact, Smith’s QB rating was the worst among all regular starters). Without Peyton to bolster him, Decker’s previous stats have been average at best. He’s not worth it.
4 Percy Harvin - WR, Seattle Seahawks
With the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory fresh in football fans’ minds, and with Harvin’s thrilling touchdown in particular, there is a high chance that Percy Harvin will be overvalued in a lot of drafts. Many claim that since Golden Tate is out of the picture, Harvin will be the numero uno target for the Seahawks. However, statistically, he hasn’t ever reached 1,000 receiving yards in a season. And more importantly…he only played in ONE regular season game last season. ONE. To add to it, he has a history of migraines, concussions, and has had a hip surgery. There are red flags all over this one.
3 Frank Gore – RB, San Francisco 49ers
Gore has a lot of huge fans, but owners need to look past how fun it is to watch him and focus on the facts. With Jim Harbaugh’s run-heavy attack, the bruiser role that Gore occupied with such expertise may be coming to an end. Second-year runner Kendall Hunter might very well fit in better with the 49ers after a little development, though he's currently hurt. The 49ers also recently nabbed hugely promising running back Carlos Hyde, who might also challenge Gore’s game time. With reports that the 49ers want to share the touches in 2014, Gore is one to avoid this year.
2 Reggie Bush - RB, Detroit Lions
Bush’s performance last season will lead a lot of rankings slaves to pick him too early, thinking he’ll put up similar numbers. Don’t make that mistake. The talented Joique Bell was already challenging Bush last season, and his role with the Lions will only increase in 2014. The addition of wide receiver Golden Tate further emphasizes that Bush’s role will be drastically reduced for the short passing game. It’s not worth picking him early only to have him sit around as a shared target.
1 Cam Newton - QB, Carolina Panthers
Last year, Newton finished as the number 3 quarterback in fantasy, so you should be scrambling to pick him up sooner rather than later, right? Maybe not. The trouble is his horrendous offseason. The Panthers lost their three top wide receivers, a solid left tackle, and Newton got injured. All these things raise a bit of worry, and should at least cause you to hesitate for quite some time before picking him. Newton’s ankle surgery went well and he’s slated to participate fully at training camp, so there’s a chance that his injury will have a minimal impact on his play this year.
The bigger issue, however, is his receivers – not only are they ones he has to learn to get accustomed to (a process that can be difficult)…they’re also not really that great. Summary – Newton still has his skill, but with a cast of average at best new replacements for other parts of the team, he’s probably a pick to shy away from – even if he served you well last year.