The Biggest Fantasy Busts: 2020 Edition

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Patrick Yen

Just a guy trying to make a living doing what he loves, writing about sports. Eagles and 76er's fan, but currently live in Ohio so I have a soft spot for those teams. The Ohio State University graduate, Go Bucks! Come chat, always willing to talk sport, video games or my current love, Masterchef Australia!

It’s week 15 in fantasy, or in other words the second week of the playoffs in most leagues. Unfortunately for many of us this means our fantasy season is over. Many of us even failed to make it out of the regular season. So it’s time for retrospection. What caused our inglorious downfall? Why are we sitting at home crying instead of…well, still sitting at home but happy? It’s probably because we drafted no small amount of busts. Players that simply did not live up to their draft position and dragged our team down with the weight of their failures.

Today, we are going to look at a couple of the biggest regular season fantasy busts of 2020, and more importantly how likely it is to happen again. Who’s a permanent member of Suck Town, and who’s primed for a bounce back? Let’s find out.

(If you know someone that’s drafted multiple people on this list, it may be a good idea to take a look at some creative Fantasy Football Punishments.)

Quarterback

Lamar Jackson: ADP 21, QB 2. Actual Position QB 10. Points per Game QB 8.

(7 games played to qualify on a per game basis)

After a league winning MVP performance last year, people expected much of the same. After all, even a slight regression would’ve put Jackson firmly in top five QB status. However it turns out NFL defenses adapt faster than we thought. Jackson has taken a few steps back as a thrower. His passing numbers fell off a cliff. He played 12 regular season fantasy games in 2019 and 11 in 2020. He passed for 500 yards and eight touchdowns less. Surprisingly, Jackson’s rushing is also down from 2019. He also rushed for 300 less yards and three less touchdowns in just one less regular season game.

His overall regular season scoring went down 100 points, and he’s averaging seven less point per game. Regression was expected, but he went from a record breaking year to middling starter and certainly not worth the second round premium.

How will Jackson fare in 2021?

Despite Jackson’s down rushing numbers he’s still a force to be reckoned with on the ground. His yards per game only went down 14 from 2019 to 2020. The rushing numbers will always be there as a safety net. The passing is harder to quantify, but one thing that is almost guaranteed to never happen is the number of passing touchdowns in 2019. His attempts will always be fairly low, hovering around 26 per game. But in 2019 his touchdown percentage was an absurd nine percent. Only two players in the Super Bowl era have had higher. It is simply not realistic to expect him to have another season like that passing the ball. In fact, QB eight season to season sounds about right for Lamar. Just make sure you draft him like that.

(Dis)-Honorable Mention: Matt Ryan. ADP 82, QB 8. Actual QB 15. PPG QB 21.

Running Back

Miles Sanders. ADP 11, RB 9. Actual RB 29. PPG RB 23.

Even as an Eagles fan I’ve always thought Sanders over-rated. However it’s hard to blame his lack of production solely on talent. His yards per attempt was actually a great 5.35, but he only received 13 carries per game. Adding insult to injury, his receiving efficiency dramatically dipped (78% catch rate to 48.7% and 11.22 yards per reception to 6.47). Sanders was expected to have a largely increased workload and possibly goal line touches with Jordan Howard out of the way, but that didn’t really happen. Three more rushes per game and less catches equals a disappointing fantasy season.

How will Sanders fare in 2021?

Hard to say. A brand new offense one way or another is coming for the Eagles. Whether it’s a shakeup in the coaching staff (a new head coach, or possibly getting an offensive coordinator) or a new QB, the offense is going to look different. That actually bodes well for Sanders, as whatever offense the Eagles tried this year clearly didn’t work. What often did work was the run game, and logic would dictate the Eagles will lean on that more. In the one game with Hurts starting so far, he had 8.21 yards per carry, two touchdowns and tied his season high in receptions. Granted, 82 of those were on one run and without that run he averaged 2.5 YPC but I prefer to look at the glass half-full.

The Eagles may never fully commit to Sanders as a workhorse back, so his volume will never be what you want. But his continued efficiency and what will hopefully a much better offense bode well for Sanders to bounce back from bust status in a big way.

Le’Veon Bell. ADP 37. RB 18. Actual RB 66. PPG RB 54.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Le’Veon fooled us again so I guess we only have ourselves to blame. A dismal 2019 saw Bell finish RB 13 still, propped up almost entirely by his decently high passing game volume. It certainly wasn’t his value on the ground that got him drafted in the first four rounds, as he averaged just 3.22 yards per carry and had three rushing scores in 2019. But you figured his volume would leave him something of a floor in 2020.

Well the floor has collapsed and a giant crater is all that is left of Bell’s fantasy career. A dismal start saw Bell sharing carries with the corpse of Frank Gore, and Gore even outrushed him. In fact, getting traded to Kansas City to spell Edwards-Helaire was seen as a possible uptick in value. I mean, at least KC scores. Turns out it didn’t matter. His touches went from eleven on the Jets to eight with the Chiefs, and his efficiency was just as poor.

How will Bell fare in 2021?

He probably won’t be on the Chiefs anymore as Bell is already disgruntled by his usage. But no matter where he goes it’s difficult to see Bell carving out any fantasy value. Even going back to his last season at Pittsburgh he hasn’t been over four yards per carry in four years. He had been propped up by extreme usage in 2017 and 2019 to make him a fantasy asset, but Bell has shown nothing that warrants the amount of touches he would need to be effective. Don’t be fooled a third time.

(Dis)-Honorable Mention: Leonard Fournette. ADP 48. RB 22. Actual RB 42. PPG RB 39.

Wide Receiver

D.J. Chark Jr. ADP 54. WR 23. Actual WR 37. PPG WR 34.

There were a lot of receivers that had bigger discrepancies between their draft position and their actual results. But Chark was drafted to be a starter, a consistent WR 2. Instead he was barely flirting with a flex spot this year. Inconsistent QB play has often sunk Chark, and he hasn’t been the picture of health. To his credit he has still managed two 30 point games, but he probably wasn’t showing you enough to use him either game. Besides those two big outings, he was single digits in more than half his appearances.

The targets were still there, as he averaged just one less target per contest from 2019 to 2020. However his yards per reception, catch percentage and most significantly touchdowns were all down. Touchdowns always have a great degree of variance, but if continues to get a seven targets a game a better QB situation can significantly help his efficiency numbers. A better QB will also help Chark with the deep ball, one of Chark’s specialties. Chark’s had 1.1 20+ yards catches in 2019. This year, it’s at .7. To be clear, he’s getting opportunities, as he is one of six receivers to average over 100 air yards per game. The other five are Ridley, Hill, Metcalf, Adams and Diggs. Pretty good company.

How will Chark fare in 2021?

A new QB will definitely help Chark, as the combination of Minshew, Luton and Glennon doesn’t inspire confidence in anyone. The Jaguars are currently in line to select talented but inexperienced Ohio State QB Justin Fields. It’s hard to say how much of an upgrade a rookie QB will be over the aforementioned trio, but it probably can’t be much worse. Chark is still the Jaguars leader in targets per game by a wide margin when he’s in, so a bounce-back is very much on the cards for Chark in 2021.

A.J. Green. ADP 69. WR 29. Actual WR 80. PPG WR 86.

Time remains undefeated. After missing the entire 2019 season, hopes were high for a resurgence by Green. Even in his shortened 2018 he averaged 77 yards per game and scored six times which equaled out to WR 18 on a PPG basis. Unfortunately shaking off the rust took some time, and he never found full chemistry with Burrow. In their ten games together Green had a 45.5% catch rate. Not ideal.

There were a couple of games here or there that gave you hope. His massive target share the first few weeks was encouraging, and then he had a tragic 1 target game against Baltimore where everyone gave up on him. And then he followed that with his two best games of the season and you started to believe again. Your belief resulted in a two catch and zero catch game the following two weeks. Soon after Burrow would get hurt and the passing game lost all semblance of functionality.

How will Green fare in 2021?

It’s probably too optimistic on my part, but I don’t think Green’s goose is totally cooked. There were enough good games in there to make you think he can be a serviceable flex next year. Even with a few disaster games he still garnered nearly seven targets per game. The catch rate may be a sign of declining play but it’s 10% lower than his career average, which seems too much . He’s not dropping the ball more often than before, he just has a a lot of uncatchable balls thrown his way.

Don’t draft him high of course. But I think he will be worth drafting. A new team could serve him very well as he is an unrestricted free agent in 2021. Having to compete for targets with Boyd and Higgins did not help his consistency at all. A team hurting for receiver talent like the Ravens, Colts or Raiders to name a few could see Green spring back into fantasy relevancy.

(Dis)-Honorable Mention: T.Y. Hilton. ADP 57. WR 24. Actual WR 50. PPG WR 56

Tight End

Zach Ertz. ADP 39. TE 3. Actual TE 34. PPG TE 21

The total collapse of the Eagles offense hasn’t helped anyone, least of all Zach Ertz. Once a reliable bastion at a position marred by awfulness, Zach Ertz has fallen off the map completely. To be fair, Ertz has been hurt, but even when he has played it’s been…not great. Before he missed a large six games Ertz maintained a solid target share, averaging 7.5 targets per game. The problem was the terrible efficiency, with 7.42 yards per reception and a dismal 3.96 yards per target. To make matters worse, ever since coming back, he hasn’t even kept up target share.

Perhaps we should’ve seen this coming, with Ertz in a contract dispute and the emergence of Dallas Goedert. At the same time Ertz was solid last year, tied for TE 3 in PPG in the regular season. But he’s clearly been supplanted by Goedert in this offense and will almost certainly not be retained next year. There were other players that played more games and were probably more consistently poor game to game, but the fact that you most likely blew a 4th rounder on Ertz is absolutely brutal.

How will Ertz fare in 2021?

There’s a lot of reason to think Ertz will have a comeback year in 2021. A year to get fully healthy, a new team and a new contract will have him motivated and ready to play. He will never be a YAC monster, but he’s still shown flashes of ability this year. He is past 30 however, and we’ve seen tight ends fall of cliffs swiftly and suddenly (Jimmy Graham) but Ertz was the victim of some of the worst quarterbacking play in the league. Ertz will most likely go quite late next year, and could be a big sleeper pick up for 2021, especially if he goes to a high pass volume team.

(Dis)-Honorable Mention: Jared Cook. ADP 94. TE 10. Actual TE 20. PPG TE 22

(Ranking data taken from FantasyPros.com, using their composite ADP rankings and PPR scoring.)

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