Identifying busts each season enables fantasy football players the ability to avoid losing the early portion of drafts. Busts occur because players with name recognition and obstacles to fantasy production don’t have their ADPs properly adjusted. For example, Le’Veon Bell was a first round pick last season. Drafters failed to take into account two factors. First, Bell sat out an entire NFL season in 2018 and was not in NFL playing shape. Secondly, he went from a team that was a top 7 offense in total yards from 2014-2017 to an Adam Gase-led dumpster fire.
Those who drafted Bell last season in the first round are likely suffering from draft PTSD this season. It may even cause permanent damage resulting in avoiding drafting Bell ever again. Remember that we hate ADPs, not players. Players should never be avoided. Let’s identify this year’s fantasy football busts to prevent draft PTSD from occurring next season. Using PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats and metrics, we’ll look at the one player at each position most likely to bust.
QB – Drew Brees
Last season, Drew Brees was top 7 in ALL of PlayerProfiler’s completion percentage stats. His +24.5 (No. 3 among qualified quarterbacks) Production Premium, 8.6 (No. 2) Adjusted Yards Per Attempt, 114.0 (No. 1) True Passer Rating, and 7.9 (No. 1) Accuracy Rating showed elite efficiency. There is no doubt that Brees was the best passing quarterback in the NFL last season. Efficiency, although impressive, does not equate to fantasy football upside. His 6.8 (No. 32) yards of Pass Attempt Distance Per Attempt attributed to his efficient play in fantasy last season. Despite his passing excellence, his 20.4 Fantasy Points per Game put him in a three-way tie for No. 5 at the position.
Not convinced that Brees will be a 2020 bust in fantasy football? Alvin Kamara’s 2019 high ankle sprain forced the New Orleans Saints to pass more in 2019. Their 37.9 Pass Plays Per Game ranked No. 16 in the NFL. This was up from 33.7 (No. 29) Pass Plays Per Game in 2018. That’s a total difference of over 67 pass plays. The 2019 season was the first time Kamara suffered an injury in the NFL. Also, it was the first season since the Saints drafted him that they finished above the NFL average in passing rate.
Brees is the eighth quarterback going off the board with an overall ADP of 77 according to Fantasy Football Calculator. His efficiency won’t matter when he loses passing volume. Because volume leads to fantasy points, Brees’ decreased pass attempts will disappoint people drafting him top 7 at his position.
RB – James Conner
James Conner‘s ADP is a product of coach/team narrative. Casual fantasy football players draft Conner because he’s a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mike Tomlin always uses a bellcow running back. Conner averaged 13.1 (No. 19) Weighted Opportunities Per Game last season. That’s a significant dropoff from the 18.5 (No. 6) Weighted Opportunities Per Game that he had in 2018. The primary reason for the decrease in his 2019 opportunities were the five separate injuries that he suffered. Injuries have led to Conner becoming the running back with PlayerProfiler’s No. 1 Injury Probability ranking in 2020.
Times have changed in Pittsburgh. For a second consecutive draft, the Steelers took a running back in the fourth round. Anthony McFarland is short at 5-8, but well-built at 208-pounds with a 4.44 (92nd-percentile) 40-Yard Dash and 107.0 (85th-percentile) Speed Score. His athleticism contrasts Conner’s underwhelming 4.65 (31st-percentile) 40-Yard Dash. Benny Snell, the team’s fourth-round pick last year, has slimmed down to 212-pounds. Snell and Conner had similar success on the ground last season. Snell had 426 (No. 44) rushing yards on 3.9 (No. 43) YPC, while Conner had 464 (No. 40) rushing yards on 4.0 (No. 40) YPC.
Conner’s FFPC ADP of 25.24 is baffling, to say the least. Recent seasons of draft investments at running backs does not invoke confidence in Conner returning to his 2018 bellcow status. For comparison, the Steelers drafted Le’Veon Bell in 2013 and went three full drafts without drafting a running back before drafting Conner in 2017.
WR – D.K. Metcalf
Last season D.K. Metcalf melted fantasy football minds with his shirtless pictures. He was the 1.01 of bodybuilding wide receivers. His 11.88 (4th-percentile) Agility Score did not prevent him from producing in year one. He received 100 (No. 30) targets and turned them into 58 (No. 36) catches for 900 (No. 28) yards and seven (No. 13) touchdowns. He played at least 68-percent of his team’s snaps in every game last season and averaged 11.6 (No. 41) Fantasy Points Per Game.
FFPC drafts have Metcalf going in the fifth round. Should he be though? He had one top 12 performance last season and two other top 24 performances. This is despite having Russell Wilson throwing him the football his entire rookie season. Metcalf had an 82.0-percent (No. 24) Catchable Target Rate, but only managed a 70.7-percent (No. 103) True Catch Rate. The problem isn’t the guy delivering the ball.
Metcalf will improve from his rookie season, but his ADP is a red flag for two reasons. First, the guy lining up on the other side of the field is better than him. Tyler Lockett, who goes right after Metcalf in FFPC drafts on average, saw high quality throws from Wilson too. The difference is that Lockett turned his 85.5-percent (No. 5) Catchable Target Rate into an 87.2-percent (No. 22) True Catch Rate. Lockett had more targets, catches, yards, and touchdowns than Metcalf. He also had a higher Target Share, more Deep Targets, and a higher Target Premium.
The other reason that Metcalf will be a fantasy bust is because the Seahawks remain a run-heavy team. Even though Pete Carroll has a great passer in Wilson, he remains committed to running the ball. Seattle ranked top 6 in run rate in each of the last two seasons. When was the last time that Wilson supported two top 24 wide receivers? The answer is never. With both Metcalf and Lockett being picked in that range, don’t draft the wrong one in the fifth round.
TE – Tyler Higbee
Tyler Higbee had two events occur for him to become a fantasy football sensation. The first was he faced the easiest stretch of tight end defenses over five weeks. The opponents that Higbee faced were the Cardinals, Seahawks, Cowboys, 49ers, and Cardinals again. 62-percent of his season’s receptions (43) and 71-percent of his season’s receiving yards (522) came during this stretch. The Cardinals gave up 16 touchdowns to tight ends last season. Simple math equates that to a tight end touchdown allowed per game. In two games against the Cardinals, Higbee scored two touchdowns.
The Cardinals, Seahawks, and Cowboys were the three worst teams in receptions allowed AND yards allowed against tight ends. They each allowed 96-plus catches and over 1,000 yards to the position last season. Higbee won’t be facing these kinds of matchups every single week. That’s why four impressive fantasy performances against horrendous tight end defenses are not impressive.
Check out Tyler Higbee’s 2020 Projection on PlayerProfiler’s “World Famous” Draft Kit:
The second event that led to Higbee’s fantasy football ascension was Gerald Everett suffering a knee hyperextension in Week 12. Everett was the preferred pass-catching tight end on the Rams before his knee injury. He had 408 (No. 22) receiving yards before he went down, which more than doubled the number of yards Higbee had (192) during that stretch. Everett had four games with 25-plus routes run in his ten healthy weeks before his Week 12 injury, including back-to-back weeks with 40-plus routes run. Higbee had zero games before Everett’s injury with 25-plus routes run and only exceeded 15 routes run once.
Higbee took full advantage of his situation and produced against bad defenses when the Rams’ starting tight end got hurt. His current FFPC ADP of 74.58 is an example of projecting a small sample size out to a full season. A healthy Everett will prevent Higbee from returning expected value at his ADP cost.