UPDATED: September 1, 2021
Bust. It’s the dirtiest four-letter word in fantasy football.
Fantasy managers who drafted players such as Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Miles Sanders, Michael Thomas and Zach Ertz last season know the term (and its consequences) all too well. Selecting a bust in the earlier rounds of your draft can be detrimental to your chances of fielding a contender, so it’s obviously something we all want to avoid.
Fantasy busts include players who don't live up to their draft position or are selected to play prominent roles on your roster who falter in the stat sheets. Someone who you pick to be your backup quarterback or tight end in the later rounds is not defined as a bust to me since a disappointing late-rounder is often replaceable on the waiver wire.
With that in mind, here’s a list of 10 players to avoid with your valuable draft capital who could be the worst of the worst when it comes to the fantasy bust class of 2021.
D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions
Swift has gone from a potential breakout candidate to a player I'm now concerned about in 2021. The Lions added Jamaal Williams, who new OC Anthony Lynn called "a classic A back," and even brought in Todd Gurley for an offseason visit. I'm not saying that Williams will be atop the team's depth chart, but he could put a bigger dent into Swift's touches than we're projecting. Oh, and don't forget the Curse of Barry Sanders.
David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
Montgomery was a league winner for countless fantasy managers last season, putting up massive totals over his final six games. Of course, his opponents in that stretch were all terrible against the run. He also ranked sixth in targets and tied for fifth in catches at his position. He won't reach either of those totals with Tarik Cohen back in the mix and don't forget the addition of Damien Williams. The regression monster is coming.
Darrell Henderson, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Henderson's stock was on the rise after the loss of Cam Akers, but I have reservations. He failed to make an impact as a rookie behind a declining Todd Gurley, finishing outside of the top 90 fantasy backs. The Rams then drafted Akers to replace Henderson atop the depth chart. Now, they made a deal with the Patriots to acquire veteran runner Sony Michel. Does that sound like a team with faith in a player? Henderson isn't a 20-touch per game back, and he's not the most durable dude (he already sprained his thumb in camp). At best, he's a risk-reward, low-end No. 2 fantasy running back.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Fournette was a disappointment in fantasy circles last regular season, rushing for 367 yards and finishing as the RB35. So, how can he be a bust in 2021? Well, he was significantly more productive in the playoffs, during which time he earned the nickname “Lombardi Lenny” as the Bucs won the Super Bowl. Don’t let that success fool you. He will still share work with Ronald Jones and lose targets to Giovani Bernard.
Kenny Golladay, WR, New York Giants
Golladay missed most of last season due to an injured hip, but he was still able to ink a four-year, $72 million contract with the Giants. However, New York has many mouths to feed in the passing game, including Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Darius Slayton and rookie Kadarius Toney. Oh, and let's not forget the return of Saquon Barkley. One also has to wonder if Daniel Jones will hurt Golladay’s value as a fantasy wideout.
Will Fuller, WR, Miami Dolphins
Fuller put up great numbers last season in Houston, averaging a career-best 17.1 fantasy points per game. He was doing that with Deshaun Watson under center, however, and he's still never finished as a top-30 fantasy wideout at the NFL level. Now in Miami, he'll have to fight DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki and others for targets from Tua Tagovailoa. That leaves Fuller as more of a No. 3 or 4 fantasy wideout.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns
Don't let the name or the motivational talk distract you, folks. Beckham Jr.'s days as one of the elite fantasy wideouts are over. Well, as long as he remains in Cleveland. He's failed to average more than 13 fantasy points a game during his time with the Browns, and coach Kevin Stefanski’s offense isn't built to produce a top-notch receiver. Coming off a major knee reconstruction, too, I wouldn't trust OBJ as more than a No. 3.
Deshaun Watson QB, Houston Texans
Watson's off-field issues have his status in limbo, and even if he is eligible, he's made it clear he doesn't want to play in Houston. A top-five fantasy quarterback under normal circumstances, he can't be picked as more than a No. 2 option in the late rounds at this point. While he has proven effective regardless of the talent around, you'd also have to think losing DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and having a porous O-line will wear on him.
Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
The biggest bust in fantasy football last season, Thomas is now going to miss the start of the 2021 season after having ankle surgery in June. My guess is that he won't be back before the team's Week 6 bye (Oct. 17). Even when he returns, will Thomas be the same player? And remember, he doesn't have Drew Brees anymore. So, even at the draft discount you'll receive due to the injury, Thomas could be a dud ... again.
Robert Tonyan, TE, Green Bay Packers
Tonyan came out of nowhere last season to score 11 touchdowns while finishing fourth in fantasy points among tight ends. Regression is coming, however, as Tonyan scored one for every 4.7 catches. He was also the only top-five fantasy tight end who didn’t have at least 101 targets (Tonyan had a modest 59). Even with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, I wouldn’t chase last season’s fantasy points as it pertains to Tonyan in 2021.
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Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for your late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!