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Midseason All-Bust Fantasy Team: Peyton Manning, Eddie Lacy make list

·Will Laws, PointAfter
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We’ve reached the halfway point of the NFL’s regular season, and the postseason picture is only beginning to take form. But in the world of Fantasy Football, most owners have an inkling of whether they’ll still be adjusting their lineups while they’re home for the holidays.

But what some people don’t realize is that one’s postseason fate is decided long before this juncture. Sure, you can occasionally grab a surprise high-scorer like Gary Barnidge or Stefon Diggs off the waiver wire to save your season. Oftentimes, however, seasons are sunk from the beginning because poor decisions in drafts that handcuff owners to a highly regarded player who ends up miserably disappointing.

[Yahoo Daily Fantasy Football: First place wins $100K in our $500K contest for Week 9]

That, my friends, is what we call a bust. And as I’ve been doing every week this season, I’m going to make a standard fantasy lineup of the players who have most egregiously underperformed their weekly projections through Week 8. That distinction is determined by calculating the difference between each player’s projected Yahoo point totals and his actual outputs from each week. PointAfter visualizations illustrate the players with the worst sums.

If you were one of the unlucky souls to draft one or more of these players, take some time to reflect on what went wrong and craft a plan of action going forward. On the other side of the coin, if you think one of these guys is due for a second-half resurrection, now is the time to pounce on their despondent owner with a cheeky trade proposal.

Just don’t get too hopeful — these guys are on the All-Bust lineup for a reason.

QB: Peyton Manning, Broncos

Projected weekly average (preseason position rank): 18.3 (6th)

Actual weekly average (position rank): 13.0 (33rd)

There’s not much more to say about the demise of Manning that hasn’t already been said. Even during his resurgent outing against the Packers, Manning still couldn’t find the end zone and added another interception to his ever-growing tally.

Manning has averaged fewer points per week than EJ Manuel and Matt Hasselbeck did in their brief first-string tenures. The only regular starters Manning’s outperformed are Teddy Bridgewater and Nick Foles.

With Manning’s arm seemingly weakening by the second, the acquisition of Vernon Davis is a long overdue move by Denver to finally replace the void in the middle of the field left by Julius Thomas. It seems doubtful that’ll be enough to tip the scales in Manning’s favor going forward, though. The weather is getting colder in the Rockies, and Primetime Peyton isn’t walking through that door.

RB1: Eddie Lacy, Packers

Projected weekly average: 13.0 (4th)

Actual weekly average: 7.3 (36th)

When Jordy Nelson was lost for the season back in August, some predicted that Lacy could see more action if Green Bay wanted to switch to a more run-heavy scheme. That has not been the case by any stretch of the imagination.

In addition to averaging a career-worst 3.8 yards per carry while battling a nagging ankle injury, Lacy is basically in a timeshare with James Starks at this point — and Starks has been the more productive of the pair.

That’s a tough pill to swallow for Lacy’s owners, who undoubtedly spent their first-round pick on him.

RB2: Alfred Morris, Redskins

Projected weekly average: 10.4 (19th)

Actual weekly average: 4.7 (59th)

Morris is part of a three-headed monster in Washington’s backfield, and that monster is as scary as Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc.

After averaging 1,320 rushing yards and 4.5 yards per carry across his first three NFL campaigns, Morris is down to 3.3 yards per carry and just 302 yards through seven games this season.

Morris has basically seen worse results with each passing game, and with Chris Thompson returning from injury this week to take more touches away from him and Matt Jones, there’s no end in sight for Morris’ sudden and sharp decline.

WR1: Roddy White, Falcons

Projected weekly average: 6.4 (38th)

Actual weekly average: 3.9 (86th)

White’s projected weekly average, noted above, doesn’t portray how much his fantasy owners valued him after draft day. It’s just that White has been so bad, his projected output on Yahoo shrank from 8.4 in Week 1 all the way down to 4.4 in Week 6.

Even though Leonard Hankerson (hamstring) was absent from Atlanta’s wideout pecking order on Sunday vs. Tampa Bay, rookie Justin Hardy was targeted more often in his NFL debut than White was.

With just 16 receptions, 28 targets and 210 yards halfway through the season, the 34-year-old is on pace to post career lows across the board. The longest-tenured Falcon could conceivably be fourth on the team’s receiver depth chart once Hankerson returns, and he shouldn’t be on a roster in standard fantasy leagues for another second.

WR2: Jordan Matthews, Eagles

Projected weekly average: 8.9 (10th)

Actual weekly average: 6.3 (49th)

Chip Kelly’s decision to anoint Jordan Matthews as his de facto No. 1 receiver for the 2015 campaign has horribly backfired, and is perhaps the most obvious reason for the Eagles underachieving this season. If you were depending on Matthews as your WR1, chances are the same can be said for your fantasy squad.

The two wideouts Kelly has given the most snaps to (Matthews and Nelson Agholor) have been graded by Pro Football Focus as the league’s two worst receivers among 110 qualified players. Matthews’ drop rate of 10.2 percent is behind only Amari Cooper for the second-worst mark among the 30 wideouts with at least 50 targets in 2015.

So, it’s fitting that Matthews is the second-most disappointing wideout in fantasy this year, too. With just one 100-yard game and one touchdown to his name, Matthews hasn’t topped 5.0 fantasy points since Week 2.

There was a recent report that Matthews suffered a hand ligament injury several weeks ago, which could explain his concerning case of the dropsies. That injury has reportedly healed over Philly’s bye week, but you should wait and see for proof on the field before putting him back in your lineup.

TE: Larry Donnell, Giants

Projected weekly average: 6.2 (20th)

Actual weekly average: 4.3 (30th)

Larry Donnell entered the national consciousness last season with a three-touchdown outbreak against Washington in Week 4. It was a fantastic story, and seemed like a sign of things to come for the then-25-year-old who had spent his first few years in the league toiling on special teams.

Donnell wasn’t in the spotlight for long, however. Odell Beckham Jr. debuted the following week. Donnell has only matched the eight targets he received that game once, and has scored four touchdowns in the 20 contests since. That’s not a great sign for Donnell’s owners, since his value essentially depends on whether or not he’ll reach the end zone on any given Sunday — he hasn’t eclipsed 40 yards once this season.

Flex: C.J. Anderson, Broncos

Projected weekly average: 10.2 (7th)

Actual weekly average: 6.4 (47th)

Had it not been for Anderson’s out-of-nowhere Week 8 explosion (14-101-1), there’s a good chance he’d be occupying the RB1 slot in this All-Bust team. Because up until Sunday, Anderson’s owners rued the day they interpreted last season’s second-half breakout as a harbinger for Anderson becoming the focal point of Denver’s offense.

In fact, they probably still are — Anderson was only started in 32 percent of leagues last week. And it’s hard to fault the owners who have already given up on the 24-year-old. He completed the near impossible task of underperforming his projection every single week leading up to Sunday, when he finally cashed in his first touchdown.

Once a clear-cut RB1 in the preseason, Anderson is now a borderline flex option in standard leagues. All that said, he and backfield mate Ronnie Hillman do have some tantalizing matchups against the Colts, Chiefs and Bears over the next three weeks, maybe there's some reason for hope.

D/ST: Houston Texans

Projected weekly average: 8.0 (3rd)

Actual weekly average: 6.3 (22nd)

If you take out this unit’s 20-point outburst against the hapless Titans last week, the Texans D/ST has averaged just 4.3 points this season, better than only Chicago and San Diego.

For a unit that boasts the sport’s most dominant defensive player and scored the third-most fantasy points among defenses in 2014, that’s a remarkable drop-off.

With Houston on its bye before facing a suddenly elite Cincinnati offense in Week 10, it’s time to drop the Texans D/ST if you still own them and find a viable alternative for your playoff push.

Kicker: Adam Vinatieri, Colts

Projected weekly average: 7.9 (23rd)

Actual weekly average: 6.5 (30th)

Vinatieri is probably the most famous kicker of all time. His heroics in helping New England win its first three Super Bowls will never be forgotten by Patriots fans.

However, the combined death knell of Indianapolis’ underachieving offense and Vinatieri’s own fading, 43-year-old leg (9-for-11 on field goals, 18-for-19 on extra points) has left him as waiver-wire fodder in fantasy. Nevertheless, he’s still owned in 72 percent of leagues, the eighth-highest mark among kickers.

It’s time to move on to another kicker who could be the difference between making a Cinderella run to your league’s championship or clinching a spot in the consolation bracket.

Will Laws is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that's part of the Graphiq network.