FANTASY PLAYS: Busts just as important as sleepers in prep
FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2016, file photo, Carolina Panthers wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin, left, and Devin Funchess (17) pose for a photo inside Levi's Stadium as they gathered for a team photo in preparation for the Super Bowl 50 football game, in Santa Clara, Calif. After a solid rookie season, Funchess appears ready to take on the role of starting wide receiver opposite Benjamin.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
While many fantasy football players are searching for value plays and sleepers, it's just as important to think about the busts.
Avoiding an early round dud can help you land potential breakout players in the middle rounds. Injuries are difficult to predict, but there are signs that indicate a player will disappoint at their draft cost.
Here are a few players to be leery of in 2016:
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KELVIN BENJAMIN (WR, Panthers)
Benjamin is coming off a torn ACL and has struggled with his conditioning. Benjamin depended on volume during his rookie season and was able to get the targets because the Panthers were thin at receiver in 2014. There's more competition for targets now with second-year receiver Devin Funchess, wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and tight end Greg Olsen. Benjamin had 145 targets in 2014 and caught 73 for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, he seems like a good red zone threat, but only caught 4 of his 15 targets. Benjamin is being drafted in the third or fourth rounds of most drafts – too high a price to pay.
JULIAN EDELMAN (WR, Patriots)
Edelman missed seven games in 2015 due to a foot injury and had two procedures to fix it. Edelman is reliant on sharp cuts to get open on short routes and quarterback Tom Brady will miss the first four games due to suspension. Edelman has played 16 games one time in his career and the Patriots have more weapons in the offense and will spread the ball around more. Edelman is being drafted in rounds 3 and 4, ahead of some better options at wide receiver.
MATT FORTE (RB, Jets)
Forte has been dealing with a hamstring injury for most of training camp and the preseason. Forte has 2,522 touches in his career and turns 31 in December. Forte averaged 4.1 yards per carry last season and missed three games. He has 10 rushing touchdowns in his last 29 games and loses even more value in non point-per-reception formats.
JIMMY GRAHAM (TE, Seahawks)
Graham suffered a patellar tendon knee injury last year and it's one of the worst injuries for a football player. Giants receiver Victor Cruz hasn't returned from the same injury since 2014, in part because it led to other injuries. Graham, who turns 30 in December, had a difficult time adjusting to a new offense with Seattle last season with two touchdowns in 11 games.
MATT JONES (RB, Redskins)
Jones suffered an AC shoulder sprain in Week 2 of the preseason and is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. Jones is being drafted high due to the volume he's expected to see since there aren't great options behind him, but Jones isn't very good. He averaged 3.4 yards per carry in 2015 with eight games of double-digit carries and topped 62 yards rushing once. Jones also lost four fumbles.
DOUG MARTIN (RB, Buccaneers)
In a contract year, Martin rushed for 1,402 yards and 4.9 yards per carry in 2015. He missed 15 games the prior two seasons and didn't top 3.7 yards per carry in either. He has nine rushing touchdowns over his last 33 games and he loses some touches to Charles Sims.
BEN ROETHLISBERGER (QB, Steelers)
Roethlisberger is being drafted in most leagues as a top 5 quarterback. The absence of wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who is suspended for the year, is a big loss for the Steelers offense. Roethlisberger is very inconsistent. Roethlisberger was 15th in points per game in leagues with 6 points for a passing touchdown last season at the quarterback position. Over the last two seasons, he has passed for one touchdown or less in 14 of 28 games. In is 12-year career, he has played 16 games three times and missed four games last season.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com .