It’s rare that an otherwise consistently selected player should be entirely avoided in fantasy football drafts, because at the right price, risk is mitigated. However, some recognizable names just don’t warrant inclusion on 16-man rosters. Fantasy football gamers also need to be aware of players who are going much earlier than warranted.
“Bust” is a loaded term that isn’t entirely fair, nor is it an accurate reflection of a player’s risk. Furthermore, it’s tough to find a consensus definition. Can an injury create a bust? Is it only a bust situation if the player goes up in flames without an injury? Both? Are busts only early-round selections? You get the point. Regardless of how one defines it, the term is far from perfect.
This piece highlights some of the more commonly drafted players whose selections may cause headaches. Therefore, we’ll focus on “overvalued” and “bust potential” in this space. Just because a player appears in this list, it doesn’t automatically mean he will be a total flop, but the players in question certainly have elevated risk of failure. All players are ordered from least risk to most.
Note: All ADP figures are courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com and use PPR scoring, unless noted otherwise. ADP variations between sites are wild this time of the year, so expect them to level out over the coming weeks.
2022 fantasy football busts and overvalued players
WR Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers
Johnson has inconsistent hands, but he has improved in this department. The real concern here is what happens with the quarterback situation. Mitchell Trubisky may enter with the slight edge on rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett, though the veteran will be on a short leash if he indeed earns the starting nod for Week 1.
Trubisky managed to keep Allen Robinson quite relevant in Chicago, but there’s no guarantee he’ll have chemistry with Johnson. The same can be said for Pickett and the fourth-year wideout. While the Pittsburgh product is arguably the most NFL-ready rookie passer, he still will have tremendous expectations placed upon him and has huge shoes to fill following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger. Take nothing here for granted.
Johnson is in a contract year, which should provide added incentive on his behalf. He also is wholly dependent on volume, and it’s unclear just how many targets one can reasonably expect this year, especially if Pickett starts. Johnson’s body of work suggests he’s a fringe WR1, but he may net out as an inconsistent No. 2 in 2022.
WR Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints
An extremely talented rookie, Olave’s outlook for 2022 is a mixed bag. Jameis Winston returns from a Week 8 ACL tear to steer the ship in the Saints’ first season without Sean Payton calling the shots after 16 years of his leadership. There won’t be too many changes, however, as Pete Carmichael was retained as the offensive coordinator following the promotion of Dennis Allen from defensive coordinator to head coach.
Olave’s initial forecast immediately following the NFL draft was as promising as any rookie receiver of this class. Since, New Orleans has added veteran reception hog Jarvis Landry, and wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) was given a promising prognosis to be available for training camp.
Last year, the goal was to prevent Winston from making a ton of mistakes, and he was on pace for just a shade of 400 attempts, which would have placed him behind 24 other quarterbacks. Will he be given more freedom this year? Probably. How much more? It’s up for debate.
What happens if Thomas returns to form and Landry is his usual self? That could consume the vast majority of targets. Also, don’t forget about that Alvin Kamara dude. Now, if Kamara is suspended for an alleged off-field incident, Olave will see some light shining through the crack in the door.
Take this as more of a warning than a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to targeting the rookie in drafts. Olave probably takes over as the team’s WR1 in 2023, but he might not be utilized frequently enough this season to warrant more than a late-round flier.
WR Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In Week 15 of the 2021 season, Godwin tore an anterior cruciate ligament. Knee reconstruction was performed in early January. Even though ACL tears aren’t necessarily as serious as they were in the past, it still takes a skill player close to a calendar year before he feels like himself from the trust aspect. Godwin’s not the shiftiest of receivers, so it’s slightly less of a concern, but it is definitely worrisome.
He shouldn’t be given the same fantasy respect this spring. Godwin’s current ADP is the middle of Round 4, which places him at an ambitious WR19 slotting. Last year, in 14 appearances, he was WR13 in PPR. His 2019 breakout saw Godwin finish as the second receiver overall behind Michael Thomas.
Don’t draft Godwin fully expecting a top-15 performance. He may finish there thanks to sheer volume, but it’s probably going to require a second-half surge in production. In a format where every win is of extreme importance, falling behind early in the season could be catastrophic and render a second-half uptick less effective relative to your team’s situation.
TE T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
The talent is rather obvious when watching Hockenson play, but he has been up and down through three seasons. The Iowa star has struggled to stay on the field in two of his first three campaigns, highlighted by a 67-723-6 line in Matthew Stafford’s final year with the club.
While he played only 12 contests in 2021, Hockenson managed to post a personal-best 11.9 PPR points per game on a 61-catch, 583-yard, four-score showing. A new system in place may help, but there’s no promise he’ll take another step forward. Detroit’s lack of receiving talent last year cut both ways. He saw more targets come his direction, but defensive attention was heightened without a legitimate playmaker to take away defenders.
Hockenson’s season ended in Week 13 last year, which coincided with Amon-Ra St. Brown taking off to close out 2021. Will Jared Goff favor St. Brown more now? Will the addition of receivers DJ Chark Jr. and Jameson Williams further cut into Hock’s opportunities to touch the ball? There’s much to be concerned with, and none of those elements touch on his durability concerns.
He’s a TE1, but you’ll have ample options ahead of him to consider on draft day. Hockenson can thrive with fewer touches as long as he emerges in the red zone. Just keep in mind that his current TE6 draft placement requires a healthy showing at his average of 11.45 PPR points per game over the last two years to return on investment.
D/ST Indianapolis Colts
On average, Indy goes as the fourth fantasy defense this spring. The group finished DT19 last year in conventional scoring after generating a modest 33 sacks while logging as many takeaways — only one of which went the other direction. Despite the impressive takeaway count, Indy didn’t make enough big plays compared to its counterparts. For example, 17 teams tallied more defensive touchdowns, and 10 squads scored more times via special teams.
The real question mark here is how the team will respond to losing defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus to Chicago in the offseason. Veteran coordinator Gus Bradley was hired as the replacement DC. After breaking through with Seattle, his defenses haven’t been nearly as impressive over the last decade. Bradley has just one top-10 fantasy unit since leaving Seattle following the 2012 season.
Defense is arguably the most fickle position in fantasy from one year to the next. Indianapolis has a solid group from a personnel perspective, and the division offers some favorable matchups, but considering this unit a top-five lock is overly optimistic.
QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Before jumping all over this one, hear it out … Jackson’s style of play opens him up to an elevated risk of injury, which reared its ugly head last year. That’s not to say it will happen again, but ignoring it comes at a personal disservice.
The more prominent concern is a lack of weapons. Trading away Marquise Brown leaves a cavernous hole in the passing game. This team needs a player to step up as a vertical threat, and we’re not seeing an obvious option on the roster. Second-year receiver Rashod Bateman will assume the No. 1 chores, which is basically being a second receiver behind tight end Mark Andrews.
Jackson’s path to QB1 stardom has come from his exceptional rushing ability, and that’s not going to change. But it is easier than ever to game plan against him with several years of tape. Granted, knowing how to slow him vs. actually doing it is a different conversation.
It’s mildly alarming to see a QB4 ADP when Jackson’s receiving corps is arguably the worst in the NFL. Let someone else assume the risk with quarterback being one of the deepest positions in fantasy.
TE Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills
In 15 games played, Knox finished TE11 in point-per-reception scoring a year ago. He managed such success with the 20th-most targets, 18th-most receptions, and 15th-most yardage overall. It was his tie for the league lead with nine touchdowns that established Knox as a starting fantasy tight end.
Volatility is a hallmark of the modern NFL tight end. Aside from a couple of consistent options atop the pecking order, this is one of the wildest positions to predict from season to season. Knox doesn’t have a clear path to enough targets to offset a significant reduction in touchdowns if Gabriel Davis and Jamison Crowder are even remotely competent.
For the sake of argument, we’ll pretend Knox scored only six touchdowns, or the average number of trips to the end zone by last year’s top-12 fantasy tight ends. Knox would have finished TE15 and effectively averaged a score every three games. Anyone playing him in 2021 did so with the mentality of it amounting to roughly a coin toss for a touchdown while expecting little else in return. He would have gone from a basically a plug-n-play to a pedestrian gamble, and that’s the fear in 2022 if he remains overly reliant on finding paydirt.
WR Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who loves Renfrow as much as this guy, but being pragmatic outweighs my appreciation for his overachieving ways. Last year, Renfrow emerged as one of the best fantasy assets among his positional mates after he racked up 103 catches, or two shy of his prior 29 games combined. The result was 1,038 yards and nine scores.
Three of his four best performances came between Weeks 13 and 17 when Darren Waller was out of commission. In fairness, Renfrow was useful for PPR purposes in all but a pair of outings when Waller was healthy. The star tight end returning to the field isn’t so much the concern as the addition of Davante Adams dramatically cutting into Renfrow’s requisite volume.
Adams wasn’t acquired and extended just to stand around and look pretty. He’ll be force-fed passes from Derek Carr, his former collegiate quarterback at Fresno State. The Raiders also have a pair of running backs who can catch adequately, and the team bolstered its receiver depth with Demarcus Robinson and Keelan Cole.
Where Renfrow will be most useful to the Raiders is on third down and in the red zone. He’s a crafty route runner and will exploit soft spots in zone coverage and tear up man when defenses are forced to double either Waller or Adams. But that will be tough to rely on in fake football lineups, and it also will make for consistent results. Shaving off even 25 percent of his 2021 stats while increasing his average from 10.1 last year to his career average of 11 would see his WR10 finish plummet to WR39.
Renfrow will have utility in PPR and may even maintain his TD rate. He’s just not worth the current sixth-round price tag viewing from even the rosiest of outlooks.
WR Skyy Moore, Kansas City Chiefs
The trading of Tyreek Hill created a massive hole in the passing game, and Kansas City’s second-round selection of Moore piqued the interest of many gamers. The vertical speedster brings a Hill-lite style of play and has the fundamental similarity of being able to house one any time he touches the ball. The Chiefs intend to replace Hill using a group effort after signing JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency, along with signing one-time prized prospect Justyn Ross after the NFL draft concluded.
Valdes-Scantling’s vertical traits will be the closest competition for Moore among the newcomers, but Mecole Hardman was drafted as the Hill clone. They’re similarly built in stature and possess game-breaking speed, but Hardman has yet to show more than a few flashes of potential.
The point being, how many targets can we realistically expect for Moore playing in this complex offense? Don’t be surprised if he is seldom used, especially early in his career. The Chiefs likely will design a handful of routes for him out of specific sets. Efficiency will need to be through the roof in such a scenario. Moore has a brilliant future but may not be as relevant as early drafters are assuming. Take a late-round flier on him, should the rookie last that long.
TE Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
Presume the Eagles’ draft-day acquisition of A.J. Brown goes exactly as planned and he’s a stud who doesn’t miss a game. Then give 2021 rookie Devonta Smith the respect he deserves following an underrated inaugural campaign. Next, factor in the sheer volume of rushing attempts by this offense last year that directly coincided with an uptick in performance in the W-L column. Just how much is left over for Goedert?
Now, there’s still room for Goedert to inconsistently cobble together TE1 stats when all is said and done, but what kind of ebbs and flows will we experience along the way? Goedert’s situation suggests a better relative return in best-ball than traditional weekly lineup leagues where consistency is paramount.
This one is a balancing act of draft placement and expectations. Brown is a legit WR1, and Smith isn’t far behind him, but Jalen Hurts remains a work in progress. Goedert’s situation could go either way if the Eagles open up the passing game more with Hurts playing at his best, and there’s also room for more if Brown suffers another injury. Drafting Goedert as TE7 is optimistic and requires just about everything to break his way. He’s far closer to being a fringe TE1 than a surefire starter if Smith and Brown live up to expectations.
RB Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
Vegas chose to decline Jacobs’ fifth-year option as the new regime wants to go in a different direction. Now, that’s not saying it’s impossible for him to return should Jacobs use that as fuel to produce a career season, but the writing is on the wall for his departure next spring.
Kenyan Drake is still on the roster and should be 100 percent healthy following an ankle fracture suffered last season. Selecting Zamir White is of particular note as he’s not dissimilar to Jacobs. Furthermore, the Raiders should shift into more of a pass-heavy design after adding Davante Adams via trade.
Could the selection of White accelerate the process if Jacobs gets hurt once again or struggles to adapt to the new system? It’s not an outlandish idea. Between increased competition, a new regime, the dependence on scoring touchdowns, and a lack of a long-term commitment, Jacobs is extremely risky and poised for a letdown. That said, there’s still a chance the Raiders run him into the dirt knowing he won’t return, but it’s reasonable to be skeptical about his ability to remain healthy with an increased workload.
QB Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns
Until we know more about the likely punishment of Watson for his alleged role in sexual assault accusations, there’s an enormous leap of faith on the part of anyone who drafts him. Watson’s potential suspension could be anything from a couple of games to possibly a couple of years, but that’s all speculation at this stage. He may not even get banned given the lack of criminal charges.
Regardless of what happens, we’re talking about a guy who had an entire year off, so rust could be at play early on, but the far greater concern is the situation in which he enters. Cleveland’s West Coast system is overly reliant on the ground attack, and it’s at least fair to question the weaponry in the passing game.
David Njoku will have a huge weight on his shoulders to live up to a recent contract extension, and Amari Cooper has been among the more erratic supposed WR1s in the NFL since he entered in 2015. Donovan Peoples-Jones led the offense in receiving yardage a year ago, but we’re talking about 597 yards. Rookie David Bell will have a significant role, although it could take time before he’s ready to be a consistent contributor.
Will the volume be there for Watson? Can he make up for it with his legs? Should we be worried about chemistry with the receiving corps? Those are some big ifs for a guy going as QB12 and even a little earlier.
WR Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans
Over the long haul, Burks should do just fine in fantasy football. He has all of the physical tools to excel. With that established, the long haul is not now, and now is all that matters in 2022 fantasy football leagues.
Tennessee is a run-centric team and has tasked the Arkansas rookie with replacing a franchise receiver in A.J. Brown. To make matters worse from a pressure perspective, the exact pick used to select Burks was acquired from trading Brown to Philadelphia. He’ll forever be linked to the man he’s replacing.
Early reports painted Burks as out of shape in rookie minicamp and has been unavailable for mandatory practices at times. Take that with a grain of salt. Remember all of those reports last year about Ja’Marr Chase having trouble catching the ball? How did that work out for anyone who bought too much into the news? There’s a fine line to walk with rookie news reports, and putting a lot of stock into reports from May is unfair.
Burks doesn’t have much around him to help alleviate pressure as a 30-year-old Robert Woods returns from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Everyone else in the passing game has proven nothing as of yet. Choose the rookie as a No. 4 if he manages to fall, and don’t be heartbroken if he is nabbed earlier.
RB James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Aside from tearing an Achilles tendon late last season, Robinson faces stiff competition from 2021 rookie Travis Etienne. The latter missed the entire season with a Lisfranc foot injury but has returned to the field and is moving well.
Complicating the situation is a new coaching staff and system. Robinson will find himself sharing touches regardless of how well he and/or Etienne perform if for no reason other than that’s how Doug Pederson prefers his backfield utilization to operate. In 2021, it appeared as if Robinson was being phased out when Etienne was chose in Round 1, that is until fate had other plans.
Running back is quite possibly the toughest position to come back from an Achilles tear with all of the cutting, planting, leg driving, etc. Los Angeles Rams RB Cam Akers’ same-season return last year is not the norm.
As long as Etienne is even competent in the offseason, Jacksonville has no incentive to rush Robinson back. J-Rob’s current draft placement is RB32 with a seventh-round average investment.
RB Cordarrelle Patterson, Atlanta Falcons
Where to start … how about with why it took five teams and a position switch before a 30-year-old Patterson broke out? He had dabbled with playing out of the backfield in past stops with mixed results, but it wasn’t until Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith moved him into a full-time role when the dynamic return man came into his own.
Some of that positional switch was born of necessity as journeyman Mike Davis couldn’t capitalize in Atlanta on his relief appearance for an injured Carolina Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey.
The Falcons chose to cut the veteran after the 2022 NFL Draft due to the selection of BYU’s Tyler Allgeier. The rookie back is in a prime situation to assume the early-down work and push Patterson into a change-up and/or third-down role to take advantage of the veteran’s natural receiving skills. This scenario is speculative but not unfounded and would create a symbiotic one-two punch that maximizes each other’s best skills.
Allgeier offers essentially nothing as a receiver but has a nose for the end zone. Patterson’s 11 total touchdowns last year largely buoyed his fantasy worth. A quarterback battle may be brewing between Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder. Both players are quite accomplished with their legs and should cut into the Patterson’s touches around the end zone.
At 31, with improved competition for touches, Patterson is about as risky as any running back in terms of repeating his 2021 success. Rarely is an accomplished player totally avoidable in fantasy drafts, but this is close to being one of those situations. If you must, also snag Allgeier, and don’t invest more than an RB4 pick into Patterson to help mitigate the damage.