It happens every year. Fantasy standouts from the previous year get over hyped and reached for in drafts. You feel so confident that last season’s stars will recreate that magic they had last year. Then all of the sudden it’s Week 4 and your roster is in disarray because the players you pegged to be stars aren’t producing and have become busts.
Cam Newton burst onto the scene in 2015 as a Fantasy superstar. Newton threw for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns while throwing just 10 interceptions. He also ran for 636 yards and added 10 more rushing touchdowns. In 2016, Newton threw for just 3,509 yards and only 19 touchdowns while throwing 14 interceptions.
Todd Gurley became a rookie sensation in 2015. He ran for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015, while only playing in 13 games. In 2016 Gurley played in all 16 games and regressed immensely, running for just 885 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Allen Robinson had a breakout year in 2015. Robinson hauled in 80 of his 153 targets for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. 2016 was a different story for Robinson. While he was targeted about the same amount (153 in 2015, 151 in 2016) and he caught about the same number of passes (80 in 2015, 73 in 2016), Robinson had only 883 yards, and 6 touchdowns in 2016.
Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in the league but not even he could avoid regression. In 2015, Gronkowski played in 15 games and had 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 2016, Gronkowski played in only eight games and had only 540 yards and three touchdowns.
So now it’s time, 7 months early, to predict the biggest busts of the 2017 season.
Fantasy Football Bust Candidates
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers throws the ball an obscene amount. In 2016 he threw the ball less than 24 times just once, and he reached 35 or more attempts in 11 of 16 games. This is mostly due to the lack of a ground game when Eddie Lacy went down, and James Starks and Christine Michael were rendered ineffective.
Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL, no questions asked, but the Packers are going to try to balance that offense out with an effective running game. Eddie Lacy is now a Seattle Seahawk, so expect the Packers to draft an effective running back to help the run game.
I still expect Rodgers to have a good season, but 4,428 yards and 40 touchdowns will be hard to reach.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Following in the footsteps of Cam Newton, 2015’s MVP, I expect Matt Ryan to regress in 2017.
Losing Kyle Shanahan is a big deal.
2015, Ryan’s first year under Shanahan, didn’t go so well. The passing yardage of 4,591 was decent, but the low touchdown number (21) and high interception number (16) shows the struggles Ryan faced in his first year with the new coordinator.
The new offensive coordinator (Steve Sarkisian) is an unknown NFL product and past NFL success isn’t on his resume. Expect less from Ryan in 2017.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
2016 didn’t seem like a great year for Andrew Luck, but he quietly put together a pretty strong campaign. Luck had 4,240 passing yards and 31 touchdowns. It seems like Luck should continue to take a step forward in 2017 but nothing has changed in that offense, and that’s the problem.
The offensive line is terrible; Luck was sacked 41 times this past season. Who’s to say Luck can even stay healthy in 2017? The best running back on the Colts roster is Frank Gore who will most likely retire this offseason at age 33.
The defense is also bad, and the Colts cut one of their better defensive players in D’Qwell Jackson. The only upside to this offense, and this team frankly, is the wide receiver group which includes T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, and newly acquired Kamar Aiken.
If the Colts don’t make some drastic changes, I expect Luck to spend most of the season on IR, making him an unreliable fantasy player.
LeGarrette Blount, Free Agent
LeGarrette Blount scored 18 touchdowns in 2016. He will be 30 years old for the 2017 season. And the rushing totals for Blount had never been there before 2016.
Before this past season, Blount reached the 1,000-yard total once, back in 2010. The team Blount ends up with will likely use him as a goal-line back, but 18 touchdowns will be extremely hard to reach again in 2017, therefore, I expect Blount to regress in 2017.
Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings
In 2016 for the Oakland Raiders, Murray ran 195 times for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns in 14 games. Oakland has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL so it’s easy to see how Murray had success rushing as a Raider.
The problem is that Murray isn’t in Oakland anymore. Instead, he plays for the Minnesota Vikings who were the worst in the NFL at running the football in 2016 and have one of the league’s worst offensive lines. They added Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to bolster the offensive tackle positions, but the line still has some questions.
Jerick McKinnon is still on the roster and he should take carries from Murray which makes the Minnesota backfield a timeshare at best.
With a weak offensive line and only having a share of the carries, it’s hard to see Murray having much success in 2017.
DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
2016 was only the second time in DeMarco Murray’s career that he played in all 16 regular season games. Injuries have been a problem in the past, and it’s quite shocking he made it through all 16 games this season.
With Derrick Henry waiting in the wings, I expect the Titans to move into more of a committee system at the running back position meaning less opportunities for Murray, and more for Henry.
Together, the injury history and former Heisman winner breathing down his neck, less should be expected from Murray in 2017.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
It feels like I’m knocking the whole Packers offense but that’s not the point here. I still expect the Packers offense to be productive but I think Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers will both be drafted way to high.
Nelson stands out as a potential regression threat due to his high yardage (1,257) and 14 touchdowns. Rodgers will still be throwing him the ball in 2017 so that’s a plus, but Nelson will be 32 years old next year, so the speed to be a deep threat for Rodgers may not be there next season.
Green Bay also has other threats in the receiving game with Randall Cobb and Devante Adams returning, the emergence of Geronimo Allison, and the free agent acquisition of Martellus Bennett.
The anticipated offensive balance with an increased running game presence, and the presence of other threats in the receiving game, 2017 could mean a down year for Nelson.
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Tyreek Hill scored 12 touchdowns this year (six receiving, three rushing, two punt returns, and one kick return). Toward the end of the year, teams started figuring out the smart thing to do, not kick to him. That essentially eliminates the kick/punt returns.
It’s no secret he’s fast, probably the fastest player in the league, and that’s what scares me. When he’s on the field, teams will be weary of jet sweeps, and fly routes. The manufactured touches the Chiefs tried to create for him will be hard to come by because teams will try to scheme against it. Along with man coverage with a cornerback, teams will try to put a safety over Hill, making it harder for him to take the top off a defense.
While the catches will be there as he continues to expand his role in the offense, the touchdown numbers will decrease for Hill in 2017.
Brandin Cooks, New England Patriots
It feels like he’s entering the DeSean Jackson territory. A speedy wide receiver who can take the top off a defense, you just don’t know the games it’s going to come in.
Cooks had games of 27, 23, and 30 points in standard scoring. Those are fantastic numbers, but they only came in three games. On the other end of that spectrum, he had games of 1, 3, 4, and 0 in standard scoring.
In total, he had 10 games of less than 10 points, and six games of 10 points or more for Cooks.
Going from Brees to Brady is essentially a lateral move, but the Patriots are already deep at offensive skill positions with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Rob Gronkowski, and Dion Lewis already on the roster.
Cooks is a boom or bust pick, and I lean toward bust for 2017.
Antonio Gates, Los Angeles Chargers
The emergence of Hunter Henry hasn’t helped Antonio Gates. It is my assumption that the more athletic, and younger Henry overtakes Gates as the primary tight end. Gates could still be a fixture in the red zone as he was this year (seven touchdowns), but I expect Henry to take in much of the catches, and receiving yards, and to get most of the touchdowns in Los Angeles in 2017.
The scenarios are not all the same for these players but they all have one theme in common, bust. Things change from year to year and whether it is a change in coach, scheme, age, or just being a simple outlier, the players mentioned above are certainly at risk for negative regression in 2017. With that being said, try to avoid these bust candidates in 2017.