Some bust candidates we know, some we don't. Even the term "bust" is relative — it doesn't always equate to a do-not-draft player and can even be someone to avoid at ADP versus an outright flop. But don't worry — fantasy football analyst Dalton Del Don is here to do the hard work for you. He sifted through every NFL roster heading into the 2022 season to key on big-name players with serious question marks and others who are being over-drafted, explaining why they might not meet expectations in 2022.
Conner has a long injury history and has missed multiple games during every season of his five-year career. While Chase Edmonds is gone, Eno Benjamin has impressed and is expected to take over as Arizona’s passing-down back (and if not him, then newcomer Darrel Williams).
Conner still has nice touchdown potential, but losing receiving work would be huge to his fantasy value (he’s only surpassed 755 rushing yards once and has never reached 1,000 during his career). The volatile Conner has proven to be a better fantasy pick when he’s coming off a down season, but he enters 2022 with high expectations.
Patterson had an incredible 2021, breaking out as a running back at age 30. But he wore down badly, averaging just 2.3 YPC over the final four games. Now on the wrong side of 30, Patterson is unlikely to even approach last season’s 153 carries, and competition for targets has increased in Atlanta with first-rounder Drake London joining Kyle Pitts. With a new QB attacking different parts of the field, Patterson looks egregious as a top-100 pick in Yahoo leagues.
The average RB dip in fantasy points per game in the season following ACL surgery has been around 17 percent since 2009, and Dobbins hasn’t exactly appeared back to full strength this summer. He's clearly Baltimore’s best running back, but he may not be close to 100 percent until the second half of the season (if not next year) and plays for a Ravens team that loves to split carries with its running backs. He also has a quarterback who’s capable of rushing in scores and has targeted his RBs an NFL-low 12.9 percent since 2017.
Buffalo Bills: James Cook
Cook had impressive target stats in college, but he’s also being drafted too highly in fantasy leagues. Cook never had 115 carries or 30 receptions during any season in Georgia, and only Lamar Jackson has targeted his running backs less than Josh Allen over the last five seasons. With Devin Singletary (and Zack Moss) dominating early down work on a Bills offense that produced bottom-three fantasy points from the running back position last season, Cook is only an option in PPR formats.
Carolina Panthers: D’Onta Foreman
Montgomery plays for one of the lowest-projected scoring offenses and has a teammate in Khalil Herbert who’s likely better than him. Chicago’s new coaching staff has no ties to Montgomery, who’s not the best fit for the team’s new outside zone-blocking scheme. In fact, Montgomery saw time on special teams this summer. Running behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines and with a teammate in Herbert who appears to be the real deal and a budding star in the same backfield, Montgomery’s a shaky fantasy pick.
Over-drafted is a better way to describe Mixon than a true “bust,” but it won’t be easy for him to return value at such a high ADP while continuing to leave the field on passing downs. Mixon is a threat to score double-digit touchdowns again running behind an improved Bengals offensive line (and it helps to have a QB who just easily led the league in YPA), but Cincinnati’s refusal to use him as the team’s passing-down back hurts his fantasy upside.
Cooper’s PPR production has fallen nearly 20% when playing outdoors throughout his career, and 15 of Cleveland’s 17 2022 games are scheduled outside. He’ll also be catching passes from Jacoby Brissett for most of the season, although Deshaun Watson will be back from suspension during the most important fantasy weeks.
While less competition for targets is nice, leaving Dallas and Dak Prescott for Cleveland and Brissett (6.4 career YPA) is a dramatic downgrade for Cooper, who’s somehow never exceeded a 22% target share during his seven years in the league.
Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott
Elliott is the first starting running back in decades to see his rushing yards per game decline in five straight seasons and has a concerning career workload (historically RBs start showing a noticeable decline when reaching 1,500 career rush attempts). While Elliott’s weak production last year can be partially blamed on playing through a torn PCL, don’t forget he was bad before suffering the knee injury. While Dallas could remain stubborn and keep Zeke as its feature back, it’s clear he’s not the team’s best option at the position.
Sutton’s ADP looked like one of the most egregious in recent memory before Tim Patrick went down for the season, but now he’s just regularly overvalued. While it’s certainly a boost to have Russell Wilson as his quarterback, Sutton’s ADP treats him as a top-20 WR, which is awfully aggressive. Sutton’s target per route rate dropped 38% and his yards per route run fell from 2.10 to 0.48(!) with Jeudy on the field last season. In other words, even though Jeudy was playing through a serious high-ankle sprain, 83% of Sutton’s fantasy points came with his teammate off the field last season. While there’s admittedly been some Wilson/Sutton buzz this summer, there’s a real argument the wrong Denver receiver is being drafted first in fantasy leagues.
Williams has an extremely bright future, but it’s odd seeing him taken in the top 13 rounds or so in fantasy drafts considering he was never expected to be ready to play until mid-season at best. Recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the National Championship game in January, there’s a real chance the Lions hold out the rookie receiver all of 2022.
Those who burned a draft pick on Williams will at least have an easy first-cut decision.
Given how raw of a prospect he was (and with little college production), Watson was always expected to develop slowly, but a summer knee injury really pushed his timeline back. Fellow rookie Romeo Doubs was considered a better prospect by some, and he’s separated from Watson by a wide margin during a mostly impressive camp. Even with Davante Adams gone, Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb and Doubs all enter the season well ahead of Watson on Green Bay’s depth chart, and both running backs (and Big Bob Tonyan) will command plenty of targets as well.
Houston Texans: Marlon Mack
The next running back to enjoy serious success after returning from an Achilles tear will be the first, and Mack is the latest example, ranking 98th out of 105 running backs in rush yards over expectation last season. Meanwhile, rookie Dameon Pierce has immediately locked up the Texans’ starting role with an impressive camp, and Rex Burkhead is slated for third-down work, leaving Mack a distant third in Houston’s RB pecking order.
If you’re drafting Mack before Darrell Henderson, then you also probably don’t like “Better Call Saul.”
Pierce has impressed and clearly has a nice future, but his ADP has spiked recently, and Parris Campbell has looked good too now finally healthy. Pierce could easily be the fourth or fifth option (Michael Pittman has emerged as an alpha, while Nyheim Hines and Mo Alie-Cox will also command targets) on a run-heavy Colts team.
Jacksonville Jaguars: James Robinson
Robinson is a good football player whom Jacksonville trusts in pass protection, but he likely won’t be close to his old self until the second half of the season (if ever) while returning from a torn Achilles in December. And while Trevor Lawrence looks poised to explode in Year 2 without Urban Meyer, Travis Etienne also looks terrific and destined to lead the team’s backfield.
Coming off a serious injury without a clear timeline and sharing touches with a superior back whenever he does return, Robinson’s ADP is too high.
Maybe Kelce qualifies more as an over-valued player than the harshly termed “bust,” but he’ll soon be 33 years old and is clearly in the decline phase of his career yet is being drafted as a top-20 pick. Kelce’s yards per route run has decreased nearly 20% over the last three seasons with Tyreek Hill off the field, and Kansas City added JuJu Smith-Schuster to play the slot during the offseason. Kelce is being drafted higher than Mark Andrews, who’s six years younger, lost Marquise Brown as competition and saw 15 end-zone targets last season compared to only four for Kelce. Make it make sense!
The new Raiders coaching staff declined to pick up Jacobs’ fifth-year option and then drafted Zamir White. The release of Kenyan Drake had no impact, as the new regime already announced Ameer Abdullah as the team’s new passing-down back. While the Las Vegas offense could be nice this season, Jacobs is stuck in a committee without a receiving role under a coaching staff that may not be fans of him.
But at least Jacobs has missed time every year he’s been in the league too.
Allen has a safe floor and a star quarterback throwing to him, but this is a 30-year-old whose yards per route run has dropped in every season since 2017, ranking just 30th among 90 qualified WRs last year. Most importantly, Allen’s targets and fantasy production declined sharply once Joshua Palmer took over as LA’s WR3 over the final five weeks last season.
Put differently, Allen saw his target per route run rate drop from 27 percent to 20 percent with Palmer on the field, and the sophomore wideout figures to see far more action in 2022.
Los Angeles Rams: Cam Akers
As impressive as Akers’ early return from his Achilles tear was last season, he also looked like a shell of his former self while getting just 2.6 YPC over 67 rush attempts in the playoffs. He finished last among 105 running backs in rush yards over expectation by a wide margin. While it’s entirely possible Akers returns in 2022 with more explosion further removed from the injury, history suggests this may just be the new him, unfortunately. Moreover, Rams running backs haven’t combined for better than a 12.5% target share in any of the past three seasons, and a whopping 80% of the team’s touchdowns came via the pass last year.
While Sean McVay has typically liked to use a feature back, the Rams have been splitting work with the starters evenly between Akers and Darrell Henderson this summer. Henderson has durability issues, but he also may be the team’s best running back. Akers is already dealing with a soft-tissue injury and is a real risk being drafted as a borderline top-20 RB.
Miami Dolphins: Mike Gesicki
Gesicki is competing with two wide receivers in newcomer Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle who project to be among the league leaders in target rate. If that’s not worrisome enough on an offense where questions remain surrounding the quarterback (regarding Tua Tagovailoa’s durability, if nothing else), Gesicki’s changing role under Miami’s new coaching staff might be even more concerning. Mike McDaniel didn’t like to use tight ends in San Francisco the way Gesicki was employed last year, and his role as a blocker is about to be increased. Whatever the reason, Gesicki’s targets are about to go way down, yet he’s curiously still being drafted as a top-15 fantasy tight end.
Minnesota Vikings: Alexander Mattison
While it makes perfect sense to back up the injury-prone Dalvin Cook in a terrific situation in Minnesota, the problem is the Vikings have two other impressive backs who would undoubtedly share carries should Cook go down. Both rookie Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu possess crazy workout metrics and make it riskier to draft Mattison in the top 125.
New England Patriots: Hunter Henry
Henry left Justin Herbert, saw 18 fewer targets despite playing three more games, yet somehow finished as a top-10 fantasy tight end thanks to nine touchdowns last season. Put differently, Henry somehow caught 41% of Mac Jones’ touchdown passes despite a 14.5% target share. New England added DeVante Parker during the offseason, and Jonnu Smith reportedly looks much better during Year 2 in New England. It’s all a recipe for a letdown season from Henry, who’s being drafted as a borderline top-15 fantasy tight end.
New Orleans Saints: Michael Thomas
Thomas has played just seven games and hasn’t scored a touchdown since 2019, and he still wasn’t running full strength when summer started. Now, he’s dealing with a hamstring injury. There’s obvious fantasy upside given his track record, but Thomas is a giant injury risk, and there were already questions about him producing without Drew Brees.
Don’t be surprised when rookie teammate Chris Olave has a better fantasy season than Thomas in 2022.
New York Giants: Kenny Golladay
Kadarius Toney seemingly can’t stay on the field, and the Giants’ offense has reason for optimism under new coach Brian Daboll, but Golladay has remained a huge disappointment throughout camp, still lacking any ability to separate (and still without Matt Stafford to help compensate). Rookie Wan’Dale Robinson, Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley are all competing for passes along with a seriously elite target hog in Toney, so you’re better off listening to Kenny G than drafting him.
New York Jets: Garrett Wilson
Wilson enters the season as New York’s WR4 behind Elijah Moore, Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios in the slot. While things change (and injuries occur), Wilson has a few other obstacles, namely playing outdoors in NJ weather with one of the shakiest quarterback situations in the league (is a healthy Zach Wilson better or worse than a 37-year-old Joe Flacco?) while competing for targets with one of the league’s budding superstars at the position.
Philadelphia Eagles: Miles Sanders
Sanders suffered some poor luck not scoring a touchdown over 160+ touches last season, but his situation remains a big problem for his fantasy value. The Eagles have arguably the best offensive line, but Kenneth Gainwell saw more high-value touches last season, and Boston Scott remains in a committee that also saw QB Jalen Hurts among the league leaders in carries inside the five-yard line last year. Moreover, Sanders has missed at least four games in each of the past two seasons, and he’s currently sidelined while nursing a hamstring injury.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris
Volume was huge for Harris during his impressive rookie campaign when he played a whopping 171 more snaps than the next closest RB yet ranked 48th in fantasy points per opportunity. Coaches were already talking about lessening Harris’ workload earlier this summer, which will be made easier by the emergence of rookie Jaylen Warren. With Ben Roethlisberger no longer around relying on dump-offs and playing for a team with one of the worst offensive lines and quarterback situations in all of football, Harris is unlikely to justify his lofty ADP.
San Francisco 49ers: Deebo Samuel
Samuel is being drafted as a borderline top-five fantasy receiver despite not ranking top-50 in routes run or top-25 in targets last season. And his role in the passing game this year remains a question mark with San Francisco turning to Trey Lance, who worked exclusively with Brandon Aiyuk throughout summer while Samuel mostly held out for a new contract. San Francisco's new starting QB is going to attack an entirely different level of the field than Jimmy Garoppolo.
Samuel is a yards-after-the-catch beast who’ll be used all over the field, but last season was the first he didn’t miss a game. It also marked the first time he ever saw more than 81 targets. Samuel somehow rushed for eight scores on just 59 attempts, and the 49ers’ RB room enters 2022 much healthier and far deeper. Samuel simply isn’t projected to see nearly the same volume as other receivers being drafted around him, making him an extremely risky second-round fantasy pick.
Seattle Seahawks: DK Metcalf
Metcalf is still being drafted as a borderline top-20 fantasy receiver despite Seattle losing Russell Wilson during the offseason. Geno Smith is the favorite to take over QB duties, (and the alternative is hardly better), and Metcalf has seen his air yards per game cut in half and his target share fall below teammate Tyler Lockett with Smith playing quarterback. He’s talented enough to overcome his suddenly shaky situation (Seattle also ran by far the fewest number of plays in the NFL last season), but realize he benefitted greatly from a Hall of Fame quarterback who perennially targeted him in the end zone more often than any other WR in the league.
And we haven’t even started on Metcalf’s “nutrition” yet.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chris Godwin
The second half of the fantasy season matters most, but Godwin is being aggressively drafted as a top-35 fantasy receiver despite the very real chance he’s nowhere close to his old self anytime soon after undergoing ACL surgery in January. Tampa Bay also has a 45-year-old quarterback playing behind a badly injured offensive line also missing both guards from last season. With Mike Evans, Russell Gage and Julio Jones also competing for targets, Godwin is a stretch being drafted as a top-60 player in NFBC leagues.
Tennessee Titans: Treylon Burks
Burks has struggled throughout summer, and his preseason usage suggests you should expect an extremely slow start to the season despite joining a Tennessee team with a bunch of vacated targets. Given the way Burks was used in college, his transition to the NFL was assumed to be slower even before the injuries and asthma hit in camp. There’s a chance Burks isn’t even the Titans rookie receiver with the most fantasy points this year (Kyle Philips).
Washington Commanders: Terry McLaurin
Scary Terry is one of the best wide receivers in football, but he’s being drafted in fantasy too high, as if he’s no longer saddled by a poor quarterback situation. Carson Wentz was one of the league’s most inaccurate QBs last season and now will be playing outdoors and with a downgrade at offensive line. Moreover, rookie WR Jahan Dotson has reportedly shown more chemistry with Wentz, so I have a hard time ranking McLaurin, who posted a 23-318-0 line over the final seven games last season, as a top-15 WR like his ADP.
Imagine drafting McLaurin ahead of Allen Robinson this year.