As is too often the case, fantasy football draft boards are littered with “busts.” Every year there’s a high number of fantasy players who fail to meet even average expectations either due to injuries or just poor play. The best examples from last year include Green Bay Packers wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, now-former Philadelphia Eagles running back DeMarco Murray, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, and many, many more.
Obviously, it was impossible to predict the injuries to Luck and Nelson, but the writing was on the wall for Murray’s slide as well as Bell’s, given he suffered a knee injury in 2014. Thus the only vaccine capable of fighting off “busts” is loads of research into a player’s injury history as well as what his team’s front office has or hasn't done to improve the roster.
Luckily, we’ve done some of the work for you ahead of 2016’s upcoming season. Based off FantasyPros.com’s average draft position (ADP) calculations, here’s 10 players who owners should avoid drafting for the 2016 fantasy season.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
There’s no denying Bell’s talent and that he’s one of the best dual-threat backs in the NFL, when healthy. Bell appeared in only six games last season due to a serious right knee injury that required surgery, with one report suggesting there were multiple ligament tears. That injury came after Bell’s 2014 ended abruptly with a hyperextended knee in Week 17. Normally, a player of Bell’s caliber would certainly be worthy of a No. 1 overall selection, especially given he’s entering a contract year. However, taking Arizona’s David Johnson or Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson appear to be safer bets.
ADP: No. 2
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
McCoy’s only the 12th back off the board according to FantasyPros, but even that seems too high for a player coming off an injury-checkered season that was also one of his worst as pro. McCoy took only 203 snaps over 12 games in 2015, the second lowest of number of carries in a single season for his career. It doesn’t help that in 2013 and 2014 combined, McCoy took 626 attempts and now the miles have caught up to him. And the Bills have already stated they’ve been holding the 28-year-old back during mini-camps and are likely to do so in training camp as well.
ADP: No. 27
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills
The 26-year-old former Raven became a darling of the league in 2015, tossing 20 touchdowns to six interceptions and totaling 3,035 passing yards for a 99.4 passer rating, which tied Taylor with MVP Cam Newton. Taylor also chipped in 568 rushing yards and four more scores, but injuries to his knee, shoulder, ankle, and chest are very worrisome and it’s possible the injury fears will keep Taylor in the pocket even more in 2016. It’s more than fair to say that Taylor’s success in the pocket went hand-in-hand with his ability to run. Like Bell, Taylor’s playing for a new contract and if the Bills believed he was truly the quarterback of the future he’d be making far more than the $3 million he’s scheduled to pull down in 2016.
ADP: No. 146
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
As the 18th quarterback selected, Mariota would seem like a steal given his abilities to pass and run. But the Titans offensive line allowed a league-worst 54 sacks last season, 38 of which Mariota took, and the front office only added four-year center Ben Jones for $17.5 million from Houston in free agency. They did select tackle Jack Conklin out of Michigan State at No. 8 overall in the draft, but relying on a rookie to rebuild your frontline is quite risky. It’s possible running back DeMarco Murray decreases the pressure on Mariota, but again the offensive line is shaky. And other than tight end Delanie Walker, the Titans don’t have the requisite receivers to help Mariota develop his passing game.
ADP: No. 142
Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
Since his incredible rookie season in 2013, injuries have piled up and Allen’s production has dipped every year since. Last year he appeared in only eight games and totaled 67 receptions for 725 yards and four scores. The talent is there but Allen has yet to prove his durability.
ADP: No. 30
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
It’s difficult to bank on Thomas recording his fifth-straight 1,000-yard season with Mark Sanchez now under center rather than Peyton Manning. Throw in the fact that Denver’s experienced some turnover on the offensive line, and it’s even harder to think Sanchez will have enough time to even find Thomas downfield. Instead, look to receivers like T.Y. Hilton, Kelvin Benjamin, and Julian Edelman, who are all being taken after Thomas.
ADP: No. 32
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Reed was an absolute maniac last season with 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns while also seeing some time at wide receiver. And it’s because he actually stayed on the field, appearing in a career-high 14 games and making nine starts. It also helped that quarterback Kirk Cousins reached another level, but we’ve yet to see if that was just a flash in the pan. A player with Reed’s injury history paired with a quarterback like Cousins should be avoided.
ADP: No. 39
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Witten hasn’t missed a start since 2006, nor a game since his rookie season in 2003. Clearly he’s a reliable fantasy starter since you know you can plug him in no matter the injury. But Witten hasn’t posted a 1,000-yard season since 2012 and it seems unlikely he’ll snap that drought in 2016. In PPR leagues Witten may be valuable as he’s averaged 80.6 receptions the last five years, but there are better options like Martellus Bennett in New England and Jared Cook in Green Bay to select over Witten.
ADP: No. 154
Von Miller’s contract situation, Aqib Talib’s nightlife, the fact that Mark Sanchez’s mistakes could put even more pressure on the defense to perform, DeMarcus Ware aging, and Super Bowl malaise are all reasons to pass on the Broncos in 2016.
ADP: No. 92
Losing Josh Norman to Washington, on top of four rookies along the defensive backfield’s depth chart are all red flags that suggest the Panthers won’t be as dominant a fantasy defense this coming season.
ADP: No. 102