Nothing can sink a fantasy football season faster than missing on an early-round pick. You have so much hope for a particular player with so much potential only to see it all swirl down the drain (along with your championship aspirations) because of an injury or unexpected poor performance. However, missing on middle-round picks hurt too, as busts don’t only exist in the first 2-3 rounds of fantasy drafts.
Avoiding busts is not an exact science, but it helps to do your research on risky players before allocating draft capital to select them. Whether it’s an extensive injury history, a new quarterback throwing him the ball, a new offensive system, a new starter that will eat into playing time, or simply unrealistic expectations, there are a variety of factors that lead to players having a higher than average bust potential.
Let’s take a look at five players you should avoid at their ADP in 2020. Note, all stats and rankings below are for PPR formats. TDN Premium members can check out more busts by position, as well as deeper rankings and player stat projections by clicking here.
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
TDN Rank: WR34
Non-linear progression is a reality for many young NFL players. While we all like to think of success as a staircase, sometimes simply repeating a highly successful rookie season in year two is a sign of progress. That’s what I expect from Metcalf in 2020.
Metcalf led all rookies in targets last season with 100, but it’s hard to imagine him eclipsing that total this season. He’ll likely finish somewhere in the 90s, which is fine but will hamper his fantasy upside. His current average ADP is WR21 with some leagues taking him as high as WR17. Metcalf finished as the WR35 in total points and WR45 on a per-game basis last season and I expect a somewhat similar, but slightly better finish in 2020.
He ranks as my WR34 entering this season with a stat line projection close to his rookie year. That’ll be very useful, but not worthy of a WR2 selection. For my money, a similar statistical output as a sophomore compared to his rookie season would represent growth, especially considering he’ll be a focal point for defensive coordinators this season.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans
TDN Rank: QB22
This is slightly painful for me because I was the conductor on the Tannehill hype train last season, writing about him in nearly every waiver wire pick-up article in the back half of the year. However, I do have some concerns this season. The crux of which involves his workload.
Tannehill was incredibly efficient last season. He led the NFL in pretty much every yards-per-attempt stat and had a touchdown rate of 7.7%—only Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had a higher touchdown percentage (9.0%). I project only a modest drop in touchdown rate, down to his three-year average of 6.18%, but his lack of passing volume will hold him back.
It’s no secret the Titans are a run-first team that relies on Derrick Henry for success. That’s not changing while Henry’s still under contract. Tannehill averaged 27 passes per game as a starter last season and should be somewhere around that mark this year. As such, I have him projected for fewer than 450 passes this season. If his yards per attempt regresses back to his career average, and the number he finished with two of the previous three seasons (7.2), his total passing yards will be among the lowest of any full-time starter.
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys
TDN Rank: WR66
Lamb is a supreme talent, but his spot on this list is all about hype and opportunity. He’s an offensive skill position player who was taken as a first-round pick for the Cowboys—it’s tough to come into the league with any more hype than that. While he does join a high-powered Dallas offense, he does so as the third pass-catching option (really fourth if including running back Ezekiel Elliott) behind Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.
Given the contract Cooper just signed and the progression of Gallup in 2019, it’s hard to imagine quarterback Dak Prescott and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore straying from those top-two options (both Cooper and Gallup had more than 100 targets last season). I still think there will be 75-ish targets available for Lamb, but he’s not going to be starter-worthy on a weekly basis.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TDN Rank: RB39
Ever since Bruce Arians arrived in Tampa, fantasy football managers have been clamoring to find the next great running back, the next David Johnson. The combination of Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber failed to impress last season and the latter was replaced by 2020 third-round pick out of Vanderbilt, Vaughn. Naturally, all the hype that existed last season for the position as a whole has now shifted to Vaughn, who’s being drafted as a starting flex option based on ADP.
However, Arians brings rookie running backs along slowly. As good as Johnson was in Arizona as a rookie—at times it felt like he scored or had a huge play every time he touched the ball—he didn’t start his first game until Week 13. Vaughn will have value this year, but it’ll likely be in the latter portion of the season (unless Jones suffers an early-season injury). He’ll spend a lot of time on your bench before he has the chance to produce top-30 RB value.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills
TDN Rank: WR33
Diggs’ bust potential in his first season in Buffalo is higher than many are accounting for. For starters, he’s joining a team that actually throws less often than the team he got traded from. Over the last two seasons, the Bills are averaging 32.1 passing attempts per game compared to Minnesota’s 33.8 per game. Buffalo did throw more than the Vikings last season, however, one has to imagine the Bills want to be closer to 31 pass attempts per game than the 33 they averaged last season with a more effective run game following the addition of running back Zack Moss (via the 2020 NFL Draft) alongside sophomore Devin Singletary.
The other factor to consider is the rest of the WR room. John Brown and Cole Beasley each had more than 100 targets last season. While both will cede some of that target share to Diggs, we haven’t really seen how productive the former Viking can be with two other wide receivers getting significant volume. Aside from 2016, the No. 3 WR on the Vikings never had more than 53 targets—and that’s despite some missed games from Diggs and Adam Thielen. Plus, Diggs is yet to play a full 16-game season in his career. He’s averaged two missed games per season in his five-year career.
Dawson Knox won’t have the same target share as Kyle Rudolph had, which is in Diggs’ favor, but unless you believe Brown or Beasley’s targets fall off a cliff, it’s tough to imagine Diggs returning his ADP value when the Bills throw fewer than 500 times per season.