The 2016 fantasy football playoffs are here. If any of these players are on your team, the only way you’re in the playoffs is if you came up with a couple of draft steals to counteract the wasted roster space that these early-round picks have occupied.
The 10 biggest fantasy football busts of 2016 are arranged by their average draft position in FOX Sports standard leagues and the scoring in those leagues also is used.
Players whose seasons were wiped out by injuries, like Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, are immune from the bust label here because fantasy football owners are such a sympathetic bunch. They know fantasy football is not as reliable as Luck Free Slot Machines. None of these players can use injuries as an excuse for ruining their owners’ fantasy seasons.
Todd Gurley (3.7)
The 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year fell flat on his face in 2016.
Todd Gurley’s ADP was third-highest overall. Fantasy owners didn’t anticipate eight men in the box. But without much offense around Gurley, Rams opponents have been able to load up near the line of scrimmage and Gurley has gone from No. 5 on the running back scoring list last season to No. 20 this season.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall last year when four of Gurley’s five 100-yard rushing games came consecutively in weeks 4 through 7. Then again, four of his 10 touchdowns came in the last three weeks.
This season, Gurley has just four touchdowns and hasn’t run for more than 85 yards in a game. Perhaps in the future, a sophomore slump will be known as a “Gurley.”
In 2015, 45.9 percent of Todd Gurley's rushing yardage came on breakaway runs (15+ yards).
In 2016, that number is at just 15.8%. pic.twitter.com/Glwrx4F8VK
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 5, 2016
DeAndre Hopkins (7.0)
The Texans’ $72 million investment in Brock Osweiler doesn’t look too wise right now, and the fantasy owners who invested a first-round pick in DeAndre Hopkins are suffering the collateral damage.
According to his ADP, Hopkins was generally the first wide receiver taken after the Big Three of Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr., but he’s 39th at the position with 94.1 fantasy points. Hopkins has caught 60 passes with just four touchdowns.
DeAndre Hopkins weekly fantasy finishes among WRs this season: 21 6 46 108 15 42 57 56 49 41 45 14 48
Is that good?
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) December 12, 2016
Last year, Hopkins was the No. 5 wide receiver with 220.1 fantasy points, catching 11 touchdowns among his 111 receptions. He’s 12th in the league with 117 targets in 2016, but has caught just 51.3 percent of those passes. Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, meanwhile, has turned out to be a steal. He’s second on the team in receptions (48) and receiving touchdowns (three).
The lesson here is that a mediocre (at best) quarterback will lean on a tight end security blanket, but can hurt an elite receiver’s fantasy value.
Dez Bryant (11.6)
As long as he stayed healthy, Dez Bryant was supposed to return to the elite fantasy ranks this season.
Bryant’s missed only three games. The problem is Tony Romo has missed all the games this season and in Dak Prescott’s offense it’s Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley and Jason Witten who are carrying the load.
Bryant and Witten both have been targeted 80 times this season and Beasley has been targeted 84 times. Beasley and Witten have done more with the passes thrown their way. Beasley has a team-high 64 catches and five touchdowns, both career highs. The 34-year-old Witten is second on the team with 56 catches. Bryant has just 38.
Not counting last season when he missed seven games, Bryant’s career low is 45 receptions in his rookie year. His 98.4 fantasy points are 33rd among receivers.
It’s a safe bet that not every fantasy team Bryant is on was able to absorb his lackluster season the way the Cowboys have.
Allen Robinson (14.9)
It’s hard to believe that Allen Robinson scored more fantasy points last season than Odell Beckham Jr.
Robinson caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards and a league-high 14 touchdowns. He was going to be part of an offensive nucleus that helped the Jaguars finally contend for a playoff spot this year.
It hasn’t quite happened. The Jaguars are 2-11 and Robinson has just 57 catches, six for touchdowns. He hasn’t had more than three catches in the last four weeks and has caught just 47.9 percent of his targets. On average, Robinson was the seventh receiver off the board in fantasy drafts but is just 27th in wide receiver scoring.
Fantasy owners fortunate enough to be in the playoffs despite having Robinson on their roster might want to sit him this week against the Texans, who have allowed the fifth-fewest points to wide receivers. It’ll be the closest to the playoffs, real or fantasy, the Robinson will get.
Cam Newton (19.8)
Cam Newton’s fantasy numbers are almost as hard to look at as his outlandish outfits.
The Panthers quarterback and last season’s MVP was the consensus No. 1 quarterback taken in fantasy drafts.
This is one situation where fantasy football mirrors real-life football.
As the Panthers have fallen from 15-1 to 5-8 this season, Newton has gone from the top fantasy quarterback to the No. 15 fantasy quarterback. He’s thrown 15 touchdown passes and nine interceptions, and the rushing yardage that normally drives his fantasy value hasn’t quite materialized this year. He’s tied for second in the league among quarterbacks with five rushing touchdowns, but he’s only fifth with 317 rushing yards. Blake Bortles has run for more yards than Newton.
Newton has scored less than 15 fantasy points in four of the last seven games, likely killing the playoff hopes of fantasy owners who took him in the second round.
Brandon Marshall (21.4)
It’s been a disappointing year for the Jets and for Brandon Marshall fantasy owners.
Marshall was tied for the NFL lead with 14 touchdown catches last year and was fifth with 109 receptions. That translated to the third-best fantasy season among wide receivers. Only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones scored more fantasy points than Marshall.
This year, Adam Thielen and Kenny Stills are among the wide receivers who have been more productive than Marshall from a fantasy standpoint. The 32-year-old Marshall has just 56 receptions and three touchdowns this season. Two of those TDs came in consecutive weeks, when Marshall scored 14.9 fantasy points in Week 4 against the Seahawks and 17.4 in Week 5 at Pittsburgh. Since then, he’s scored more than seven fantasy points just once.
David Johnson currently has 745 yards receiving, which is more than that of Brandon Marshall, DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson.
— Cory Evans (@CoryEvansNFL) December 15, 2016
Part of the problem is the Jets’ quarterback situation. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been benched, and Marshall has undoubtedly been benched in plenty of fantasy matchups this season.
Mark Ingram (24.5)
Mark Ingram has had a couple of monster fantasy games this season. His 158 rushing yards and a touchdown earned him 29.1 points in Week 8 at San Francisco. His 146 yards and a touchdown earned him 28.7 points in Week 12 against the Rams.
The problem is, Ingram was probably riding a lot of fantasy benches during those performances because those were his only two 100-yard games and he had just one touchdown in the first eight weeks of the season. The week before he went off against the 49ers, Ingram scored minus-1.5 fantasy points when he lost a fumble against the Seahawks. Earl Thomas returned that first-quarter fumble for a touchdown and Ingram didn’t carry the ball again that day.
Ingram hasn’t been providing much goal-line bang for the buck. He had 24 carries inside the 10-yard line in 13 games in 2014, scoring seven touchdowns. In 12 games last season, he carried the ball 13 times inside the 10 for five touchdowns. In 13 games this season Ingram has had eight carries inside the 10 and scored one touchdown. Fullback John Kuhn has vultured the goal-line work and leads the team with four rushing touchdowns.
What did Mark Ingram do to Sean Payton?
— Taylor Pate (@taylorlpate) December 11, 2016
Russell Wilson (41.7)
In 2015, Russell Wilson threw 19 touchdown passes and no interceptions in a five-week stretch that began in Week 10. He finished the season as the third highest-scoring quarterback behind Cam Newton and Tom Brady.
Wilson appeared on the cusp of a similar hot streak this season. He threw six touchdown passes and no interceptions in three games starting in Week 9. Over the last three weeks, however, Wilson has thrown just two touchdown passes and eight interceptions. He uncorked a career-high five interceptions in Sunday’s 38-10 loss at Green Bay.
With 13 touchdown passes this season, Wilson is in danger of falling short of his career-low 20. He’s thrown 10 interceptions, one more and he’ll have a career high in that category.
Wilson and the Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win Thursday night against the Rams, even if Wilson couldn’t get many fantasy teams into the playoffs.
Kelvin Benjamin (46.9)
Kelvin Benjamin missed the 2015 season with a torn ACL. Those who drafted him this year probably figured he’d be a sneaky pick who could ride the wave of Cam Newton after being out-of-sight, out-of-mind for a year.
In the first two weeks of the season, Benjamin looked like fantasy gold. He caught 13 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns.
It turns out those were his best two games.
Benjamin ran into the brick wall that is the Vikings defense in Week 3 and didn’t catch a pass.
Over the last four weeks, Benjamin has faded into irrelevance. He caught three passes for 56 yards in Week 11, two for 53 with a touchdown in Week 12, two for 18 in Week 13 and one for 11 last week.
Kelvin Benjamin hasn't ranked higher than WR31 in weekly PPR scoring at WR since Week 6 against New Orleans.
— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) December 12, 2016
It doesn’t figure to get any easier for Benjamin Monday if he’s covered by Josh Norman.
Jeremy Maclin (52.3)
Jeremy Maclin wasn’t drafted to be a WR1. Going into the 2016 season, not a whole lot was expected of Chiefs wide receivers.
But Maclin wasn’t expected to be this much of a dud, catching just 31 passes for 392 yards and two touchdowns. He saved his best for first, scoring 12.2 fantasy points with five catches for 63 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. The closest he’s come to that output since then was the 10.3 he scored on three receptions for 43 yards and a TD in Week 8 at Indianapolis.
Maclin missed four games with a groin injury, and returned to catch one pass for 16 yards in Week 14 against the Raiders. Travis Kelce and rookie Tyreek Hill have been the fantasy studs for the Chiefs, and even Chris Conley has five more receptions than Maclin.
The good news for the Chiefs is that Maclin figures to be a nice veteran to have in the playoffs if he stays healthy, although that doesn’t help fantasy owners.