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Fantasy Football: Busts to Avoid in 2019

Some big names are being targeted way too early this season. Here's a list to avoid during your fantasy draft.

Dr. Roto won the 2011 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Newcomer of the Year award. Since then, he’s won multiple Online Championship leagues hosted by, including his 2017 second-place overall finish, netting him over $5,000 that season. Doc has been a SiriusXM Radio host for many years and can be found on the FNTSY Radio Network five days a week.

Shawn Childs has over $300K in lifetime career earnings in high-stakes contests against the top players in the fantasy world at the Fantasy Football World Championships powered by FullTime Fantasy.

As much as fantasy football owners look for potential sleepers each season, they also try to avoid busts. Below are 10 potential busts who we promise we will have very few shares of this season. They may not totally flame out this season, but we expect they’ll produce at a level well below their ADP would suggest.


Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints(ADP:155)

It pains me to call a future Hall of Fame QB a fantasy bust, but that is exactly what I think will happen with Brees in 2019. If you watch film on him, you can see that his arm strength is waning, and he had fewer passing attempts (489) in 2018 than at any other point in his career. 

Without looking, do you know off the top of your head how many passing yards Brees had last season? The number was a shocking 3,992. In a time where 4,000-plus passing yards seems normal, Brees is falling short. In fairness to Brees (and the Saints) he is still probably one of the best “reality” quarterbacks in the game, but the game that we are playing is fantasy and not reality.

In Week 14 last year, the playoffs for many leagues, Brees threw for 201 yards and 1 TD. In Week 15 he threw for 203 yards and zero TDs. My point being, if you started Brees in your fantasy playoffs last season, you were most likely ousted.

Philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I won’t let Drew Brees repeat his 2018 performance on any of my teams this season. —Dr. Roto

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 94)

Over 11 seasons as the starting QB for the Packers, Rodgers has a 100-57-1 record with one Super Bowl title. He set career highs in completions (401) and passing attempts (610) in 2016, while delivering the second season of his career with 40 TDs or more. Only once in his career has Rodgers passed for more than 4,500 yards (4,643 in 2011). Wisconsin’s beloved has a great touchdown-to-interception ratio (338:80) in his career, however, last year he finished with a career-low 25 passing TDs over a full season, despite producing 4,442 passing yards. 

Over the previous four years, Rodgers needed to settle for too many short passes, leading to weaker results in his yards per pass attempt. From 2015 through 2018, those numbers were 6.7, 7.3, 7.0 and 7.4; from 2009 through 2014, they were 8.2, 8.3, 9.2, 7.8, 8.7, and 8.4. In 2019, Rodgers only has one receiver of value in Davante Adams. Green Bay has young talent at WR and TE, but no one stands out as a trusted asset heading into this year.

A new coaching staff should help the play calling, while Rodgers tends to make the players around him better. His floor is 4,000-plus yards and 30-plus TDs, which is still well below his drafted value. Positive reports at wide receivers in training camp may brighten his 2019 outlook. For now, it is hard to imagine him finishing as a top-5 quarterback this coming season. —Shawn Childs

Running Backs

Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears (ADP: 65)

I need to be very clear about the reasons why I think Tarik Cohen is a fantasy bust. I do like him in Best Ball formats where fantasy owners use the highest scores from all their players each week to come up with their total. However, in seasonal formats I have huge trepidations about drafting him.

Cohen was misused practically the entire season by Bears head coach Matt Nagy. He had five games where he had six receptions or more, but then he also had four games where he only had one reception. Moreover, Cohen only had one week where he had more than 10 rushing attempts. The thing that I look for the most in my fantasy players is their predictability. In my mind, Cohen might be the least predictable running back in all of football—and perhaps that’s just how Matt Nagy likes it.

What compounds this even further is that the Bears solidified their running game by bringing over Mike Davis in free agency from the Seahawks and then by drafting Iowa State’s David Montgomery in the third round. Montgomery is a bruising runner who excels after contact, so it is expected that he will see a significant number of carries even as a rookie.

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The main reason I won’t be drafting Cohen is that he will cost me a late fifth round/early sixth round pick. The Bears are too deep an offense for me to use a pick on a player who might have five or six good games all season. Consistency is a very underrated statistic in fantasy football, and I want to find players who will produce consistently week to week for my team. Cohen is the opposite. —Dr. Roto

Jordan Howard, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP 91)

Often, fantasy football players draft based on name and less on talent. Jordan Howard is a name that most fantasy owners know, and I expect that he will be drafted much higher than he should. Howard usually goes in the seventh round in most drafts and I would much rather take other players on the board at that spot.

I have tried to figure out where Howard fits into the Eagles offense and the only thing that makes sense to me is as a short yardage runner. He is an awful pass catcher (despite recent reports to the contrary), and rookie Miles Sanders is much more elusive in the open field as a runner. I can see a pathway to Howard getting eight or nine touchdowns, which gives him some value in standard league formats, but I think he will be a huge disappointment in PPR formats. —Dr. Roto

Dion Lewis, Tennessee Titans (ADP 119)

Tennessee had visions of Lewis being an impact change-of-pace back, but he struggled to make big plays in 2018. He finished with 917 combined yards, most of which came through the passing game.  He produced 59 receptions out of his 214 touches and managed to find the end zone just twice during his campaign with Tennessee. Lewis gained 3.3 yards per rush and 6.8 yards per reception. Over the first nine games of the 2018 season, Lewis was fed the ball at least 15 times in six different games, highlighted by two strong performances: 110  total yards, five receptions and a TD for 22 PPR points in Week 1 and 122 total yards, four receptions and a score for 22.2 PPR points in Week 9. Lewis’s final stats ranked him 27th in RB scoring in PPR leagues. 

Game flow is the key to his value from week-to-week. A fantasy owner should expect around eight touches per game from the elusive back. I’ll set the bar at 150 touches for the season, with one-third of his chances coming in the passing game. He is more of an RB4 due to his wide range of outcomes over the long NFL season. Consistency is far too important to rely on Lewis throughout the fantasy football season. —Shawn Childs

Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders (ADP 17)

Over the past six seasons, Brown caught 686 of his 1,026 targets for 9,145 yards and 67 receiving TDs, while missing four games. His success breaks down to 21.8 fantasy points per game. Brown caught over 100 passes in six straight seasons and surpassed 1,100 yards receiving seven years in a row. He scored a career-high 15 TDs in 2018. That said, his catch rate has been declining and fell below his career average (65.6%) in each of the last two years (62.0% and 61.9%). 

Brown’s move to Oakland leaves fantasy owners questioning his value going forward. In 2018, the Raiders completed 183-of-267 passes to the WR position for 2,116 yards and nine touchdowns. Brown is a great wide receiver, and I expect him to improve the Raiders’ passing game, however, it’s hard to imagine him impacting the game the way he did when he was teamed up with Ben Roethlisberger in the Steel City. While Brown shouldn’t be avoided entirely, don’t be the guy to draft him in the second round over some of the top running backs and similarly talented receivers. —Shawn Childs

Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams (ADP 39)

After missing four games in 2017 following a successful year in 2016 (56/781/5), Woods proved to be much more than a fluke. He caught 86 of his 130 targets (66.2%) for 1,219 yards and six TDs. His best three games (10/104/2, 5/101/1, and 7/109) came over the first six weeks of the season. The former Buffalo Bill had four games with double-digit targets and 12 games with five catches or more. 

Helping Woods’s cause is the fact that the Rams deploy three-WR sets frequently with Brandin Cooks playing opposite of Woods and Cooper Kupp lining up in the slot. However, Kupp is a target machine and missed 8-plus games last season due to a concussion and a season-ending MCL injury in Week 10. The Rams expect Kupp to be back by Week 1, which should reduce the number of looks Woods gets from Jared Goff. It is also worth noting that Woods failed to reach 100 yards receiving in his last 10 games of the regular season and only amassed three touchdowns from Week 5 through Week 17.

Since he finished as the 11th WR in PPR leagues, owners are overpricing him as a late third to early fourth-round pick. Los Angeles will use all three stud wide receivers similarly and while one might think Woods should be used more in the red zone, his six touchdowns were the most he has produced over his six-year career. Fantasy football owners should expect a downtick in production heading into 2019.  —Shawn Childs

Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions (ADP 81)

For some reason, fantasy owners can’t seem to shake their love for Marvin Jones. Admittedly, Jones had a terrific season in 2017 (over 1,000 receiving yards and nine TDs), but his injury filled 2019 campaign saw him finish with 508 yards and five TDs.

What hurts Jones the most is the Lions offensive scheme. Under second-year head coach Matt Patricia, the Lions want to be a run-first, ball control type offense which plays tough defense. QB Matt Stafford threw for under 4,000 yards last season as the Lions tried to control the clock for the better part of the game with Kerryon Johnson and their other running backs.

Jones is clearly the WR2 in Detroit. Kenny Golladay is the number one target and someone who dominated target share in 2018. Additionally, the Lions added rookie TE T.J. Hockenson, who will be a big part of their offense, as well as Patriots cast-off Danny Amendola, who was brought into town to play the slot. Any which way you look at it, it seems that Jones is a 60-catch receiver at best and should not be taken at his current ADP. —Dr. Roto

N’Keal Harry, New England Patriots (ADP 100)

Rookies are kryptonite to fantasy football owners. Everyone loves to select a rookie on draft day to stake the claim, “I had him first.” With the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and the departure of Danny Amendola, the Patriots are in dire need of good receivers. Thus, fantasy owners were licking their chops when they saw Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry get selected by the Patriots in the end of the first round in this year’s draft.

There’s little doubt that Harry is a talented wideout. The question is more of when will he be ready to produce at the NFL level? Harry needs to get better separation at the line of scrimmage and work on his route running. Moreover, he needs to work on creating trust with Tom Brady. The Patriots obviously like Harry, but they have also shown that they are still not thrilled with their receiving corps by adding Demaryius Thomas, Cameron Meredith and Dontrelle Inman in the off-season.

Harry might end up making some noise as a rookie, but I think the greater chance is that the team works him in as the WR4 until he feels more comfortable. Thus making him more bust than boom in 2019. —Dr. Roto

Tight Ends

Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (ADP 182)

Father time catches up to all of us, even future Hall of Fame tight ends like Greg Olsen. Olsen has had a wonderful career, but his last two seasons have been marred with injuries (he’s played only 16 games in the past two seasons). Olsen was once Cam Newton’s most trusted receiver. Now he has become more of a mentor and someone who has lost his every-down role.

The Panthers’ offense is primed to make a pivot in 2019. I foresee Newton using Christian McCaffrey and his two starting receivers, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, on shorter pass routes, giving them a lot of room to work in open space. Olsen is a reliable target, but his speed is practically gone, and he is more of a red zone threat than anything.

Also getting in Olsen’s way in the presence of second-year tight end Ian Thomas. Thomas is the heir apparent to the starting position and there are certain experts who think that Thomas is good enough to take the job from Olsen as soon as this season.

All these things add up to the fact that Olsen is way more “name than game” and fantasy owners should look elsewhere when drafting a tight end. —Dr. Roto

David Njoku, Cleveland Browns (ADP 102)

Even with a ninth-place finish among tight ends in 2018, Njoku gave fantasy owners a losing feeling. He finished with career highs in catches (56), receiving yards (639) and targets (88). After a quiet start to the year over the first three games (9/69 on 16 targets), Njoku played well over a four-game stretch (22 catches for 228 yards and two TDs on 35 targets). 

After putting up a bagel in Week 8, Njoku seemed to struggle moving forward. Over the second half of the season, he produced 25 catches for 342 yards and two TDs on 37 targets. In the end, his stats were only playable in six games. 

Last year, Njoku had the opportunity of a lifetime with so few receiving options in Cleveland, but with the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. and the return of Jarvis Landry, Njoku is the third option at best for QB Baker Mayfield. The former first-round pick entering his third season in the NFL will only escape the fantasy football bust tag if he is able to find value in the red zone. Finishing with four touchdowns at Njoku’s size is unacceptable. Until we see a more-developed rapport with Mayfield, it is difficult to imagine Njoku finishing among the top 10 tight ends in 2019. —Shawn Childs