What categorizes an individual as being a labeled a bust? Given the title of this article, that’s a fair question to ask. There are numerous factors that contribute to a skill position player earning such a designation, which include failing to deliver on ADP or anticipated production. Of course, a poor supporting cast could also contribute to a player experiencing an unprecedented decline in overall output. With the idea of busts in mind, I have made a case for three names below that could fall suspect to disappointing fantasy owners in 2017.
Sure, Tennessee’s head coach Mike Mularkey has recently stated that DeMarco Murray will remain the team’s starting running in back 2017. This needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as a franchise rarely communicates its true personnel intentions with the public. At the same time, it is fair to expect Murray to receive more volume than that of Derrick Henry. However, the gap in value between the two running backs could inch closer than anticipated next season for a variety of reasons.
First, let’s begin with the fact that Murray has accumulated 1,034 total touches over the past three seasons combined. Even more, his 293 rushing attempts in 2016 alone represented the third most at his position. That’s quite a workload, especially for a running back that is entering his seventh professional season at 29-years-old. In 2016, Murray’s production faltered as the season wore on. He was responsible for producing five 100-yard rushing performances, but each came before Week 11. A torn plantar plate in Murray’s foot was the primary reason for a rapid decline in output, as he averaged a pedestrian 3.5 yards per carry from Weeks 11 – 17. Despite his struggles, Murray managed to finish as the RB5 in both half and full-point PPR scoring formats.
As 2017 ADP populates and rankings formulate, it is difficult to value Murray as an asset that can surpass the 1,287 rushing yards and nine touchdowns he delivered a season ago. It’s often overlooked, but the Oklahoma product also contributed 53 receptions for 377 yards and three scores in Tennessee’s aerial attack in 2016. Given the presence of Derrick Henry, it is far from a guarantee that Murray will produce at a similar level next season. Remember, Henry impressed as a rookie in limited action with 490 rushing yards and a 4.45 yard per carry average.
All that being said, Murray stands as the favorite to earn featured back duties for Tennessee in the imminent future. The issue is, he will have a former second-round pick with a 6’ 3” / 247-pound body frame in Derrick Henry breathing down his neck for an expanded role as a sophomore. If the end of Murray’s 2016 season truly was a red flag, then it is possible that he could be a bust in 2017 based on his current ADP. For those that are risk averse, it is best to value Murray as a back-end RB1 moving forward as opposed to a sure-fire option at his position.
Despite leading all wide receivers with nine dropped passes, Michael Crabtree managed to set a career-high in receptions (89) this past season. As a result of his recent success, the wide receiver is in a position to be overvalued in 2017 drafts. Expectations should also be tempered, as he is set to turn 30-years-old this September.
Since becoming a member of the Oakland Raiders in 2015, Crabtree has experienced a resurgence in value. Over the past two seasons he has finished as the WR17 (2015) and WR12 (2016) in PPR formats. Before his tenure in Oakland, Crabtree’s best finish in fantasy was the WR15 in 2012 with the San Francisco 49ers. This demonstrates that the Texas Tech product is a consistent and reliable asset with a proven track record. Conversely, it also indicates that Crabtree could have reached his statistical ceiling in 2016 as he approaches the back-end of his career. Keep in mind, last season represented the only instance in which Crabtree finished as a WR1 for fantasy purposes in twelve-team leagues across his eight campaigns in the NFL.
Given Oakland’s ascension on offense, it is reasonable to expect WR2 production from Crabtree in 2017. However, his standing as a WR1 in fantasy could be short lived due to Amari Cooper’s presence. In PPR formats last season, Cooper and Crabtree both scored more points than one another on eight different occasions. In other words, each wide receiver delivered near equal fantasy output across Oakland’s sixteen regular season contests. For a closer look into the performance of Cooper and Crabtree, reference the table below:
|Player||Receptions||Receiving Yards||Touchdowns||Targets||PPR Finish|
Even though Cooper received an ample amount of criticism after his sophomore campaign, he and Crabtree produced nearly identical receiving totals. In fact, three trips to the end zone highlights the largest statistical discrepancy in favor of Crabtree in 2016. Heading into next season, Cooper should be valued as the alpha wide receiver in Oakland’s aerial attack. Crabtree will remain an integral piece of the team’s offense, but has bust potential coming off of a career season in the fantasy landscape.
Out of all the players listed in this article, Tyreek Hill is arguably the most popular selection to be a bust in 2017. His real-life talent and big-play ability are undeniable, but volume indicates that his emergence in 2016 could be difficult to sustain.
As a fifth-round pick out of West Alabama, Hill exceeded all expectations as a rookie in the NFL. He served as a catalyst to Kansas City’s offense and special teams unit, in addition to being a league-winning asset in fantasy football. On limited touches, Hill turned in 61 receptions for 593 yards and six touchdowns, while adding 267 rushing yards and three scores on the ground. Remarkably, this translated to Hill scoring a total of nine offensive touchdowns on only 85 touches. Regardless of his role in 2017, regression to the mean in the touchdown department appears inevitable for Hill.
Albeit early in the offseason, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has already discussed the idea of Hill doubling his snap count this upcoming season. In 2016, the rookie wide receiver averaged 26 snaps during regular season contests. Reid’s comments very well could be coach speak, but it is sure to result in Hill being overvalued in fantasy drafts moving forward.
From a pure roster evaluation perspective, Hill could face competition this offseason at the wide receiver position. Jeremy Maclin will turn 29-years-old in May and is under contract in Kansas City until 2020, but has clearly lost a step since his breakout campaign in 2014. As a result, the Chiefs could allocate an early pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to a prototypical WR1 in order to complement Travis Kelce and Chris Conley in the passing game. The franchise currently holds the 27th overall selection in this year’s draft, where plenty of receiver talent is expected to be available. Personnel additions will be important to monitor this offseason in Kansas City, as rookies or free agent acquisitions could pose a threat to Hill’s workload. For now, his value appears secure in leagues that reward individual points for production on special teams. Otherwise, Hill figures to be a polarizing player to evaluate with serious bust potential as 2017 drafts approach.