First things first: this list rules out players injured for more than half of the season such as: Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Rob Gronkowski and Sammy Watkins. They are not busts -- they got injured -- which is an assumed, if not expected, football risk.
Also keep in mind, NFL players hear constantly on Twitter and on the sidelines that they’re ruining your fantasy football season. Don’t do that. Fantasy football is a game and the players are part of the marketplace with opportunities often subject to circumstances out of their control. That said, here are the top 12 guys that you would have been much better off passing on back in late August.
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Ryan Fitzpatrick (New York Jets, QB)
If you drafted Fitzpatrick as your QB1, you probably should let autodraft decide your team next year. But folks in deeper leagues, two-quarterback formats or those who tapped Fitzmagic as a backup had to overcome three disasters in the first four weeks, including that six-interception debacle at Kansas City, which may have put some owners in the negative depending on the scoring format. Eventually, mercifully, he became the Jets backup.
Brock Osweiler (Houston Texans, QB)
Like Fitzpatrick, Osweiler was not on the QB1 radar but he was drafted at the fringe of quarterbacks expected to serve as a backup that wouldn’t destroy your season and/or serve as a non-traumatic bye-week fill-in. Well we learned in Week 15 that not even $37 million guaranteed could secure Osweiler’s gig after a horrific season in which he averaged fewer than 200 yards passing per game (193), threw just 14 TDs against 16 interceptions despite solid weapons at his disposal, and registered league lows in passer rating (71.4) and yards per pass attempt (5.75).
Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams, RB)
Blame Jeff Fisher’s “middle school offense” -- Gurley’s description of the Rams’ elementary offense that may have closed the last bit of space between Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s index finger and the eject button for Fisher. The Rams’ offensive line isn’t very good either and much of Gurley’s yardage has come after contact, yet it’s amounted to 30 fewer yards per game rushing(55.6) compared to 2015 with zero 100-yard rushing days. It’s hard to sit a first-round pick who’s still getting about 20 touches per week so many owners have marched toward death with TGIII in what's obviously been a frustrating season for him too.
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Chris Ivory (Jacksonville Jaguars, RB)
Ivory landed a $32 million deal ($10M guaranteed) after three productive seasons with the Jets and was expected to become the Jaguars' workhorse. For a variety of reasons, including a lackluster offensive line, Blake Bortles, a hamstring injury and the Jaguars’ tendency to fall behind in games, it hasn’t happened for Ivory. In 10 games played he’s averaged only 10.3 carries and 51 rushing and receiving yards per game.
Jeremy Langford (Chicago Bears, RB)
There were red flags here (only 3.6 yards per carry in 2015) but largely due to some splash plays receiving and the assumption that he’d inherit the workhorse role after Matt Forte’s departure, Langford came off the board at about 60th overall (or auction value about $20). By the time he returned in mid-November from an underwhelming performance in September, a more talented Bears rusher, rookie Jordan Howard, had run away with the job and has since passed the 1,000 yard mark while Langford is only getting the occasional carry to give Howard a breather.
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Matt Jones (Washington Redskins, RB)
Like Langford, Jones is a cautionary tale against drafting a player with an assumed role rather than based on pure talent. After an unspectacular rookie year averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, a bout of fumble-itis (three fumbles on 99 carries), lack of production and a minor knee injury cost him the starting job in favor of hard-charging rookie “Fat” Rob Kelley. Jones has been a healthy scratch since Week 10. That’s a costly whiff for owners who took him at his ADP of about 60.
DeAndre Hopkins (Houston Texans, WR)
It’s hard to believe in a matter of one year he’s gone from rising star and upper-echelon WR1 to a player who’s no longer a must-start. His targets and big-gain opportunities are way down due to the Brock Lobster’s shortcomings. Hopkins has had to stand on his head and walk backwards for the 788 yards (zero 100-yard games) and four scores (just one since Week 6) stats he's compiled. Fortunately, backup-turned-starting Texans QB Tom Savage may have resuscitated his value just in time for a fantasy championship.
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Allen Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars, WR)
Ironically, his quarterback Blake Bortles has managed to put up passable numbers as the “King of Garbage Time.” Like Hopkins, Robinson’s quarterback plus some route-running degradation, more attention from opposing secondaries and overall lack of offensive cohesiveness has contributed to his fall from WR1 to bench candidate. Robinson’s totals may finish nearly halved from last season, when he posted 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Michael Floyd (New England Patriots, WR)
The Arizona Cardinals offense shifted from a Carson Palmer-led vertical attack to Just Feed The Ball to David Johnson as the second-year rusher has posted an NFL record 14 straight games with 100-plus rushing and receiving yards. Before a DUI got Floyd (roughly 55 ADP before the season) booted from the team, his on-field production was scant as he posted just 34 yards per game with four scores. From WR2 to adios in one season ... but perhaps the Patriots Way will work for him.
Alshon Jeffery (Chicago Bears, WR)
Jeffery hasn’t posted any goose eggs or tanked your week but in a franchise-tagged contract year, the outlook for the overall 20th-ranked player was much rosier than what it has become. After an abbreviated season that saw him reel in 90 yards per game with four scores in eight games, that’s ticked down to 72 per game with just two touchdowns in 10 contests, in some part due to turnover at the quarterback position. And of course Jeffery gets the stink eye for a PED violation that took him out of action for the fantasy playoffs stretch run from Weeks 11 to 14.
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Brandon Marshall (New York Jets, WR)
Coming off a 1,500 yard receiving campaign and a red zone target-fueled career-high 14 touchdowns in 2015, the veteran wideout is averaging just four receptions and 54 receiving yards per week with three touchdowns in 2016. Meanwhile, new Jets QB Bryce Petty is feeding the ball to fellow former reserve Robby Anderson. Marshall said he was going down with the U.S.S. Ryan Fitzpatrick, and he did.
Gary Barnidge (Cleveland Browns, TE)
Coming off a career year at age 30, the 6-foot-5 tight end meshed well with veteran quarterback Josh McCown, so when Robert Griffin III and then nearly half a dozen Browns QBs including Bernie Kosar (just kidding) started for Cleveland, Barnidge’s chances for success dimmed. Relative to his 110 ADP, the tight end has been a major bust with 45 catches, 530 receiving yards and just one score, which didn't come until Week 11.