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5 Wide Receiver Busts to Avidly Avoid on Draft Day

2017 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview
Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Wide receiver busts are usually harder to find than running back busts. The top couple of tiers of wide receivers are much more consistent than their running back peers. Nevertheless, there are players being over-valued at the position.

My wide receiver busts from last season were definitely a mixed bag. I nailed the Sammy Watkins over-valuing for sure. However, I did not trust Keenan Allen to stay on the field or Tyreek Hill to get so many touches on offense. Woof, was I wrong on those.

Brandin Cooks and Alshon Jeffery finished a tier below where they will drafted, so I will call those wins as well. I mean it’s not easy to find a top-rated wide receiver that will underperform without guessing injuries.

How to Find Wide Receiver Busts

Once again, I must clarify: when I use the term “busts” I am really just finding players that are simply over-valued. The most prevalent over-valuing with wide receiver busts is drafting guys at their absolute ceiling. What I mean by that, is that if everything breaks perfectly for that receiver, he finishes as the WR12 overall and he is being taken around that same spot in drafts. Mike Evans was a good example of this last year (and, spoiler alert, he might be again this year).

The other big factor that I keep seeing is opportunity or lack thereof. It may be a passing league now, but there are more receiving options on each team now than ever. Almost every team has two capable pass-catching tight ends and at least two more pass-catching running backs. If there are three solid wide receivers, then you all of a sudden have (at least) seven different players splitting up targets.

So the type of offense that a team runs needs to be examined closely. If you notice, the majority of my wide receiver busts come from offenses that are some of the few “run-first” units left in the league. Think of Dez Bryant last season.

Over-hyping can be a problem with wide receiver busts as well. Running backs tend to be involved in such a massive game of musical chairs that you need to reach and find the gems. With wide receivers, there is more stability at the top. People then try and over-hype certain prospects so that they can be the ones to discover them. I was a victim of this with Terrelle Pryor Last year.

So keep all of this in mind with not just these wide receiver busts, but any receiver you take this draft season. Every player has a value that they are worth rostering, you just have to decipher that breaking point. I’ve given you a comparable player that I would rather have, later in drafts than these wide receiver busts.

2018 Wide Receiver Busts

The Average Draft Position (ADP) data is from FantasyPros.com PPR ADP and is up to date as of 7/26/18.
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Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP: WR9, OVR21)

Mike Evans has played four seasons in the NFL. The Buccaneer has just a single finish as a WR1 or in the Top 12 at the position. Evans is being drafted well within WR1 territory in almost every draft.

I’ll say this about Evans: he has the highest floor of any of these wide receiver busts. He will get to 1,000 yards barring catastrophic injury. What worries me is the massive fluctuation in touchdowns. His touchdown rate moves up and down like Bitcoin stock.

Evans has scored 12 touchdowns twice in his career. In the year immediately following those double-digit spike seasons, he has averaged just 4 scores. We all know that the majority of time touchdowns have a high luck and variance from year to year. Dropping by 67% is too much variance for my taste.

What worries me even more is his target share. As previously mentioned in my wide receiver sleepers with Adam Humphries, Evans has the slot man Humphries, DeSean Jackson, and the emerging Chris Godwin all competing for targets. When you toss in tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate with Charles Sims still being the 3rd-down back of choice, that is one crowded receiving group. Evans’ 22% target share in 2017 was an 8% drop from 2016.

So let’s say he hits his averages of 70 catches for 1,050 yards and seven touchdowns. That is 217 PPR points and would have been good enough for WR16 last season. He finished as WR17. The only way Evans lives up to his lofty draft status is if he scores double-digit touchdowns because the 96 catches of 2016 are just not happening again. I am not risking my Round 2 pick on that much uncertainty.

I’d Rather Draft: Doug Baldwin a full round later. He has a higher floor and a higher ceiling.

Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears (ADP: WR18, OVR41)

With Allen Robinson we will always chase what he was able to accomplish in 2015. In his second year in the league, Robinson put up 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. That type of ceiling has Fantasy pundits salivating like ESPN whenever they find a LeBron James Jr. highlight. So is that really his current ceiling or just a one-year outlier?

In Robinson’s other three seasons, he has 1,448 yards and 8 touchdowns… combined. I know, he missed almost all of last season with the ACL injury. In 2015, ARob averaged 5 catches for 87.5 yards and .875 touchdowns per game. That works out to exactly 19 PPR points a game. In every other game of his career, he has an average of 4.88 catches for 57.98 yards and 0.32 touchdowns per game. That comes up to an average of 12.59 PPR points per game.

Don’t get me wrong, that is still solid production. Over a 16-game season, that would land you at WR19 last season. How much do you trust Robinson to play all 16 games coming off the serious knee injury? I mean, I have heard people (most of which have never played the game) act like it’s more or less and ankle sprain nowadays with the advances in medicine and rehab. It does not always go as smoothly as AP crushing for 2K.

Even if he is 100%, I don’t like his new situation. Is he probably the #1 target in the Bears’ offense? Yes. But are we sure the top target in the Chicago offense is worthy of a high Round 4 pick?

Consider: Blake Bortles threw the ball 606 times for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns during Robinson’s best season. Their leading rusher that year had 182 attempts for 740 yards and just 2 touchdowns. The Bears threw the ball 473 times for 3,085 yards and just 13 touchdowns last season. Their leading rusher rushed 276 times for 1,122 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Now I know that Chicago wants to open up Trubisky more this season so those numbers should spike up some. However I also know they drafted my favorite wide receiver in the draft Anthony Miller in the second round, signed the under-rated Taylor Gabriel from Atlanta and have their former first-round pick Kevin White coming back from injury. Toss in the fact that they signed shiny new tight end Trey Burton from the Super Bowl Champs and still have capable pass-catcher Jordan Howard starting at running back with pass-catching specialist Tarik Cohen as their change-of-pace back. That is another receiving group that will be fighting for targets like a mass of kids at a free Easter Egg drop.

So at best, if fully healthy and 100% back from injury for 16 games (a questions mark to begin with) I think Robinson gets 20% of the target share. Even if there is an increase in Trubisky’s numbers, that still works out to about 100 targets. Even if Robinson can pull in 70% of those targets (unlikely with the type of offense and receiver he is) that works out to about 70 catches for 750 yards and 4-5 touchdowns. That would slot him at WR30. Usable, but definitely not worth taking as WR18.

I’d Rather Draft: Golden Tate in the next round. Tate is about as consistent as they come, especially in PPR settings.

Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: WR22, OVR51)

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Pretty much everything about the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles’ season went perfectly. Even their star quarterback going down with a season-ending injury led them to a Super Bowl victory. So with all of that said, Jeffery finished as WR20 last year.

So you’re telling me that in a perfect season/scenario for his team, Jeffery’s ceiling is WR20 and now I’m taking him at WR22? If he does not reach his absolute apex of production, then you are getting a negative return on your draft capital investment.

You also have to factor in that Carson Wentz will probably not be back for (at least) the first few games of the season. When Nick Foles started the last four regular season games, Jeffery never caught more than half of the targets aimed at him and never crossed the 52-yard mark.

What about Jeffery’s production, in general? Do you realize that he has not had a 1,000-yard season since 2014? Or that 2017 saw the second-lowest yardage total in his career next to his rookie season? What about the fact that it was just the second time he has started all 16 games in a season?

The way the Eagles’ offense is set up, you just are not going to see Alshon catch 80 or 90 passes. If he doesn’t reach the 9-10 touchdown range, then that means that you are a WR3 or worse on your hands. There are just too many red flags on Jeffery, combined with some serious regression for the Eagles as a team.

I’d Rather Draft: Chris Hogan almost two rounds later. With Edelman’s suspension, Hogan has a legitimate WR2 argument.
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Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans (ADP: WR26, OVR64)

Davis is widely seen as the hottest second-year breakout wide receiver. I just do not see it at all, and this hype has pushed him clearly into my wide receiver busts.

When I’m looking for a second-year breakout receiver, there are some criteria that I try to check off. Did the player have a holdout/injury giving him a slow start to the year? No, Davis was there all of camp and played the first two games before getting hurt.

Is the player a part of an explosive offense with an elite quarterback? I would hardly call Tennessee’s run-first, run-second, then maybe pass on third down approach explosive. I would also say that Marcus Mariota has a ways to go before he is close to the elite category.

Did an opportunity in said offense open up for the player? Uhhh… Eric Decker left? Besides that, there is still their lead-target Rishard Matthews, the two annual sleeper picks Taywan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe, an elite tight end in Delanie Walker and now they added one of the best pass-catching backs in the league, Dion Lewis. I would say there are less targets to go around in Tennessee this year.

Lastly, I want the player to have shown signs/glimpses of what he can do. Davis did not have a 100-yard game (only one game with even 70 yards and only two where he crossed 49 yards) and he had ZERO touchdowns in the regular season. I have not even mentioned that he had just 34 catches for 375 yards last season on a 52.3% catch percentage.

So to recap: Davis showed no explosive games; no Red Zone threat; he had a very low yards per catch average while also having a below-average catch percentage; and he missed five games due to injury. Yes, there is tons of promise there with his athleticism and route running.

I am not taking promise at WR26. Give me the promise of Mike Williams in a much better passing offense at WR52.

I’d Rather Draft: Mike Williams almost 100 picks later. I wrote about it in my sleepers, and I’m not sure there is much separation, if any, between the two players.

Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: WR27, OVR66)

This will be my third year running with Sammy Watkins as one of my wide receiver busts. So far, I’m two-for-two so why change a good thing?

Watkins makes the move from the West Coast to the Midwest as he will now be one of the primary weapons for Patrick Mahomes’ first seasons as the Chiefs’ starter. Let’s start there though: I am the biggest Mahomes’ fan (homer) you will find. I still think he has a ceiling of 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. Once again, that’s the MAX I think he can produce this first year.

Then let’s get to the weapons at the disposal of the former Red Raider. Tyreek Hill is still the WR1 on the roster. Chris Conley is still lurking to soak up 45 catches and 500 yards should he stay healthy. Travis Kelce is arguably the best tight end option week-in and week-out in the game. Kareem Hunt proved to be quite capable of catching the ball out of the backfield (53 catches in 2017). That is a lot of mouths to feed for an offense that should only yield 315-340 completions.

Look I get that Watkins is a massive home run threat. He has a career average of nearly 16 yards per catch. He had 8 touchdowns on just 39 catches last season. His strength matches the strength of Mahomes’ big arm. I could see him getting 7-8 touchdowns again. I just do not see him catching more than 55 passes. With 16 yards per catch, that puts him at WR25 last season.

So basically, you would have to almost draft Watkins at his ceiling. Anything less than that and he is a negative return on your draft pick. Any bad touchdown luck or injuries (he has missed 12 games over the past three years and parts of a few more) and you are getting another year of Watkins fitting in the wide receiver busts.

I’d Rather Draft: Robby Anderson over 30 picks later. Anderson is the go-to guy on a team that will have to throw a ton.


That’s it for my 2018 wide receiver busts! Be sure to check out all of our rankings and my wide receiver sleepers!

Michael Tomlin
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Michael Tomlin

Michael Tomlin is an ESPY-nominated, former college football player who stays associated with the game through Fantasy Sports. He has been writing his personal blog, Dirkland.blogspot.com, for three years and it focuses on Fantasy Sports, as well as handicapping. He was born and raised in the DFW Metroplex, and he follows all of the Dallas teams, along with Texas Tech athletics and Manchester City F.C.
Michael Tomlin
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