There are plenty of reasons to dislike writing bust articles, chief among them being that you're forced to take the negative side on really good players. After all, someone can only be a bust if they fail to meet expectations, and that matters most when the expectations are highest. Another reason specific to this time of year is that we don't have reliable redraft ADP yet, so it's not certain who is being drafted with the highest expectations.
So I'm looking at the expectations of Fantasy analysts instead. All but one of the busts in this article are currently ranked inside the top 61 in Fantasy Pros consensus rankings. That means the analyst consensus is that these players should be drafted in the first five rounds of a PPR redraft league. The one exception is Trevor Lawrence, who is the only QB in consensus rankings ranked more than one spot higher than I have him in my rankings, and I wanted to include a quarterback.
Before we get to the names, please remember, I'm calling these players busts based on current expectations, not because I think they're bad football players. Most of them are awesome. Otherwise, the consensus wouldn't have them ranked in the top 61.
Aging RBs with uncertain futures
The one thing I found through this process is that I am lower on the running backs right now than the consensus. I don't know how I feel about that, but I feel pretty good about being lower on Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, and Alvin Kamara. They aren't just running backs, they're running backs on the wrong side of 26 who may not even be with their current teams by Week 1.
The Bengals have made no commitment to keeping Mixon on the roster and could save $10 million on the 2023 salary cap if they cut him post-June 1. They may very well show us in the NFL Draft whether or not they intend on doing that.
Mixon has been below 4 yards per carry and below 6 yards per target in two of his past three seasons. Samaje Perine looked like the better back last year, which may be why Mixon played just 35% of the snaps in the Bengals AFC Championship Game loss to the Chiefs. He'll turn 27 in July, which isn't too old for a running back but may prevent any team from committing to him long-term.
Mixon has had a couple of off-field incidents and has criminal charges pending in one of them. That significantly increases his risk, because if the Bengals cut him another team may want to see his legal issues resolved before signing him.
I wouldn't draft Mixon before Round 5, and even that feels too early.
If you were wondering why I extended the cut-off to pick 61 instead of the round number of 60, now you know. It's not lost on me how disorienting it is to see Kamara with a Round 6 ranking and for me to still say that's too high.
Kamara's legal troubles seem far more serious than Mixon's, and even if he's able to continue postponing his trial, I don't see how he avoids a suspension after video of his 2022 assault in Las Vegas was released. The fact that the Saints went out and signed Jamaal Williams probably indicates they're expecting a suspension as well.
A four-game suspension, if Kamara is who he used to be, would not guarantee Kamara is a bust. But he'll turn 28 in July, which scares me to death. And he wasn't exactly his old self last year. Kamara was below his career average in yards per carry, yards per reception, yards per target, catches per game, and total yards per game last year.
Kamara also scored just four touchdowns on 280 touches in 2022. While that screams regression, the Williams signing muffles those screams. I expect Kamara to have a smaller role in 2022 even when he's on the field and I'm factoring in a very real chance he's suspended for half the season. I wouldn't draft Kamara before Round 7.
Cook doesn't have the legal troubles hanging over his head, which is probably why he has the highest consensus ranking in this group. I'm not sure that makes him much safer.
Cook will turn 28 in August and is coming off career-lows in yards per carry, carries per game, and receptions per game. The Vikings re-signed Alexander Mattison, were apparently bidding for the services of Jamaal Williams, and could save $9 million on this year's cap by designating Cook a post-June 1 cut.
In fact, the Vikings might not be waiting for June 1. Cook had shoulder surgery and cannot currently pass a physical. It will be cheaper for the Vikings to cut him once he has cleared that medical hurdle. In other words, it could be that Cook's shoulder is the only thing keeping him on a roster.
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You may think Cook or Mixon would easily find a job as soon as they are cut. Or that they'll get traded first. I would remind you that Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, and Kareem Hunt are all still free agents. While Cook has been more efficient than those backs, at his age there's no guarantee he'd find another feature role. And with his injury history, there's no guarantee he'll be able to stay on the field if he does.
I'd prefer to wait until late in Round 4 to draft Cook, which likely means I won't be getting him.
Here are eight more who I believe the industry consensus is too high on right now:
Eight more bust candidates
JAC Jacksonville • #16
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
This is the bust case for Lawrence, and I am lower than consensus on him, but my heart isn't in it. He's the closest thing I have to a bust QB based on consensus rankings. I'm sure drafters will give me a better option once we get better ADP. Lawrence finished last year QB11 per-game on the season, scoring exactly 20 FPPG. He was QB6 in the second half, when he upped his average to 22.4. His team added Calvin Ridley in the offseason and Lawrence doesn't even turn 24 until October, so he should keep improving. So what's the problem? It's not about Lawrence; it's about the landscape of the position. There are too many stars with more upside than Lawrence. I do expect he has some regression coming in the area of rush TDs. He scored five last year on 62 rush attempts after scoring two on 73 as a rookie. I'm not certain Calvin Ridley is going to look like Calvin Ridley after what we saw from Deshaun Watson last year. And it's worth noting that last year was the second time in nine years that Doug Pederson had an offense that was top 10 in points and yards. The last time it happened it was followed by a below-average offensive season. If you miss on Lawrence, maybe you miss on a guy who finishes QB6 on a QB8 price tag. It's not that big of a risk.
NE New England • #38
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
We're going to bet on a Bill Belichick running back early in Round 2? I'm going to run away as fast as I can. Remember, Damien Harris was drafted before Stevenson last year. Stevenson was awesome in the passing game because of catches, but his yards per catch (6.1) and yards per target (4.8) were both below average for a running back. The Patriots already added James Robinson, and they'll probably draft someone as well. I do not believe Stevenson is locked into the same role he had last year. He may earn it again, but I'm not willing to bet more than a third-round pick on it.
Breece Hall RB
NYJ N.Y. Jets • #20
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
I'll revise my feelings on Hall once he's a full-go at camp. Until then, I'm going to expect that he'll get off to a slow start and share more than his current Round 2 ADP suggests. While the expected arrival of Aaron Rodgers is going to get people excited about this offense, I'm a little bit concerned about a 39-year-old QB who was mediocre last year and said he was 90% retired after the season. I expect something around league average for the Jets with Rodgers having an inordinate say in the offense. I also expect Hall to share far more than we'd like.
Najee Harris RB
PIT Pittsburgh • #22
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Harris was on this last year and I hope you avoided him. His value in his rookie year was based almost entirely on volume and staying healthy for 17 games. Last year he pulled off the 17-game trick again, but he lost work to Jaylen Warren, and remained well below average in the passing game. We don't have much reason to expect he'll get that passing game work back this year and there's even less reason to believe the Steelers offense will be considerably better. Harris finished last year as RB19 per-game at 13.2 FPPG. I don't see any reason to expect him to be substantially better, and that's not worth a Round 3 pick.
MIN Minnesota • #87
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
We've done this before with T.J. Hockenson, propping him up because of what he could be. I think he's shown us what he is: A good starting Fantasy tight end, but he's not elite. He is elite at producing monster games; he had two with more than 35 PPR Fantasy points last year, but he balances that out with a lot of mediocrity. He was held below 50 receiving yards in six of his 10 games after joining the Vikings last year. He scored single-digit Fantasy points in four of those games. Hockenson is my TE3, just like he is for consensus. But he's closer in projection to TE16 than he is to TE1. Don't take a tight end not named Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews before Round 5.
Chris Godwin WR
TB Tampa Bay • #14
Age: 27 • Experience: 7 yrs.
The Buccaneers have thrown more than 700 passes each of the last two years. I think that's mostly because they had Tom Brady. This year they'll start Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask. I'm not sure coach Todd Bowles is going to allow more than 550 pass attempts. That's a monster volume decrease for Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. I would expect nearly as big of an efficiency dropoff with the quarterback change. I don't plan on drafting much of this Tampa Bay pass game.
Cam Akers RB
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Akers was impressive at the end of 2022, but he's an early-down back on an offense that could be terrible and playing from behind most of the time. He's entering Year 4 in the NFL and he's never had more than 188 carries or 18 targets in a season. The ceiling is pretty low for a back who doesn't catch passes on an offense that isn't going to score a lot of touchdowns. I'd rather draft a QB, WR, or TE over a low-upside, low-floor back in Round 5.