RotoWire's 2012 fantasy football busts
As promised, this week I'll take a look at some fantasy football busts to avoid this season. Keep in mind when you hear the word "bust" it doesn't necessarily mean a player will fall off the face of the earth or won't be fantasy relevant. Rather, it's reflective of players who will be drafted too high or cost too much in auctions relative to their fantasy value.
Reggie Bush, RB, MIA - The Dolphins did little of substance to improve their team in the offseason, and as a result could end up as one of the league's doormats. Brandon Marshall was traded, and the team couldn't manage to sign any of the marquee free-agent quarterbacks, leading the Dolphins to draft raw QB Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall pick. Without much to count on in the passing game, opposing defenses will look to shut down Bush at the line of scrimmage. Bush only missed one game (Week 17) in 2011, but the previous four seasons he averaged less than 11 games played. Division rivals Buffalo and New England will have improved defenses, and Miami's drafting of Lamar Miller adds another running back besides Daniel Thomas to fight Bush for touches. Considering the crowded backfield, injury risk and weakness of the team in general, I'd stay away from Bush this season.
Frank Gore, RB, SF - In 2011, Gore was finally stayed healthy for an entire season for only the second time in his seven-year career. However, prior to last season he had missed at least two games in each of his previous three campaigns. The 49ers added Brandon Jacobs in the offseason and drafted LaMichael James to join Kendall Hunter in what will be a crowded backfield. Gore has only eclipsed eight rushing touchdowns once in his career and had a reduced role in the passing game, with only 17 catches last season. He enters 2012 with a lot of mileage (1,653 carries) and his 4.3 and 4.2 yards per carry averages the last two seasons suggest he's slowing down. Pass on Gore this season.
Steve Smith, WR, CAR - For as much as Smith was undervalued last season, it's likely he'll be overvalued heading into this season. With the surprising emergence of Cam Newton, Smith exploded over the first half of 2011 with 918 receiving yards and four touchdowns, but he only managed 476 receiving yards and three touchdowns over the final eight games. Absent reports of a significant injury, this shows opponents adjusted to the chemistry that had developed between quarterback and receiver. Moreover, the 33-year-old Smith isn't a big red-zone threat due to his size, and he hasn't had more than seven touchdowns in any of the last five seasons. The potential significant drop in receiving yards plus the lack of scores will add up to Smith being a bust this season.
Baltimore Defense - RotoWire ranks the Ravens 16th among fantasy defenses this season. But fantasy owners likely will draft Baltimore higher, possibly even as a top-five defense. Last season, the Ravens gave up the third-fewest yards (4,622), the third-fewest points (16.6 pts/game), while recording the third-most sacks (48) in the league. However, there are a few red flags to note. Ray Lewis just turned 37 and missed four games last season due to injury. Ed Reed will be 34 when the season starts and hasn't given a definitive answer as to whether he's going to play this season. Meanwhile, Terrell Suggs (14 sacks and two interceptions) will miss most of the season, meaning that teams won't have to use their best pass blockers on him or double-team him on passing downs. Remember, this is 2012, not 2000, so let others overvalue the Ravens based on their past defensive dominance.
Wes Welker, WR, NE - Obviously, Welker's not likely to duplicate last year's career stats - 1,569 receiving yards, 173 targets and nine receiving touchdowns. But he's been ranked as high as the second overall wide receiver in some places, and on Mock Draft Central, he's being taken ahead of Victor Cruz. The addition of Brandon Lloyd should have a direct effect on his stats, and it doesn't appear that his contract issue will be resolved to his liking, which also could impact Welker. A decent projection for Welker appears to be something like 1,155 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. That means Welker's fantasy production will drop by 53 points for the season, or 3.3 fantasy points per week.
Beanie Wells, RB, ARI - I've bought into the Wells hype in the past, and a quick start last season sucked in many other owners. Fact is, outside of the first three games of the season and one advantageous matchup against St. Louis, Wells had a disappointing season. Aside from those four games, Wells had 159 carries for 498 yards for a 3.1 YPC average. His knee issues have hampered him dating to college, and the offseason surgery he had revealed more damage than originally thought. Moreover, he has little explosive ability, which limits his big-play potential. The two runs of 40-plus yards for his career (in which he has accumulated 537 carries) both occurred in the aforementioned favorable matchup against St. Louis. His career mark of only 10 runs of 20-plus yards further indicates the lack of burst at the second level. Ryan Williams was drafted early in the second round of the 2011 draft, and though he was injured last year, he should be healthy enough to factor in this season. Wells is coming off the boards at an average of 54th overall according to Mock Draft Central, way too high in my opinion.
C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF - This is another case in which the acquisition cost won't equal the production. What's beyond mystifying to me is that Spiller is being drafted ahead of running backs like Shonn Greene and Ben Tate. Tate is the interesting comparison, given that he's in a similar situation being the backup in Houston, as Spiller is in Buffalo. Fred Jackson, while coming off an injury, has suffered no setbacks and is the clear-cut starter for the Bills. Spiller has never been viewed as a workhorse, and that was clear after Jackson was hurt last season. Over the final six games while Jackson was out, Spiller never had more than 19 carries and only averaged 14.3 carries during that span. Now with Jackson back, that number should drop even more. Spiller will have some extra value in PPR formats as the Bills like to get him to the perimeter for short passes, but his ADP of 67 seems inflated.
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