As promised, this week I'll take a look at some fantasy football busts I'll be avoiding this season. Keep in mind when you hear the word 'bust' it doesn't necessarily mean that they'll fall off the face of the earth or won't be fantasy relevant. Rather, it's reflective of players who I think will be drafted too high or cost too much in auctions in the coming weeks and months.
Reggie Bush, RB, MIA 'The Dolphins did little of substance to improve their team in the offseason and as a result could end up as one of the league's doormats. Brandon Marshall was traded away and the team couldn't manage to sign any of the marquee free agent quarterbacks, leading the Dolphins to pick raw QB Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall pick. Without much to count on in the passing game, opposing defenses will be looking to shut down Bush at the line of scrimmage. Bush only missed one game (Week 17) in 2011, but over the previous four seasons, he averaged less than 11 played. Division rivals Buffalo and New England will both have improved defenses and Miami's drafting of Lamar Miller adds another running back besides Daniel Thomas to fight Bush for touches. Considering the crowded backfield, injury risk and weakness of the team in general, I'd stay away from Bush this season.
Frank Gore, RB, SF ' In 2011, Gore was finally able to stay healthy for an entire season for only the second time in his seven-year career. However, prior to last season he had missed at least two games in each of his previous three campaigns. The 49ers added Brandon Jacobs in the offseason and then drafted LaMichael James to join Kendall Hunter in what will be a crowded backfield. Gore has only eclipsed eight rushing touchdowns once in his career and had a reduced role in the passing game, with only 17 catches last season. He enters 2012 with a lot of mileage (1,653 carries) and his 4.3 and 4.2 yards per carry averages over the last two seasons suggest that he's slowing down. I'll pass on Gore this season.
Steve Smith, WR, CAR ' For as much as Smith was undervalued last season, it's likely he'll be overvalued heading into this season. With the surprising emergence of Cam Newton, Smith exploded over the first half of the 2011 season with 918 receiving yards and four touchdowns, but only managed 476 receiving yards and three touchdowns over the final eight games. With no reports of a significant injury, this shows that opponents were able to adjust to the chemistry that had developed between the two. Moreover, the 33-year-old Smith isn't a big red zone threat due to his size and he hasn't had more than seven touchdowns in any of the last five seasons. The potential significant drop in receiving yards plus the lack of scores will add up to Smith being a bust this season.
Baltimore Defense ' We have the Ravens ranked as having the 16th-best fantasy defense for the upcoming season. However, I still get the sense that people are going to draft them higher, possibly even as a top-five defense. Last season, the Ravens gave up the third-fewest yards (4,622), the third-fewest points (16.6 pts/game), while recording the third-most sacks (48) in the league. However, there are a few red flags to take note of here. Ray Lewis just turned 37 and missed four games last season due to injury. Ed Reed will be 34 when the season starts and hasn't given a definitive answer as to whether or not he's going to play this season. Meanwhile, Terrell Suggs (14 sacks and two interceptions) will miss most of the season, meaning that other teams won't have to use their best pass blockers on him or double-team him on passing downs. Remember this is 2012, not 2000, so let others overvalue the Ravens based on their past defensive dominance.
Wes Welker, WR, NE ' I know it's wearing the Captain Obvious hat to point out that Welker won't duplicate last year's career stats ' 1,569 receiving yards, 173 targets and nine receiving touchdowns. But I've seen him ranked as high as the second overall wide receiver in some places and on MockDraftCentral.com, he's being taken ahead of Victor Cruz. The addition of Brandon Lloyd should have a direct effect on his stats and it doesn't appear that his contract issue will be resolved to his liking, which also could affect Welker. I think the numbers we have projected for him ' 1,155 receiving yards, seven touchdowns ' are pretty good estimates as to what you should expect from him. That means Welker's fantasy production will drop by 53 points for the entire season, or 3.3 fantasy points per week.
Beanie Wells, RB, ARI ' I've bought into the Wells hype in the past and a quick start last season sucked in many other owners. The fact is, outside of the first three games of the season and one advantageous matchup against St. Louis, Wells had a disappointing season. Aside from those four games, Wells had 159 carries for 498 yards for a 3.1 YPC average. His knee issues have hampered him, dating back to college and the offseason surgery he had revealed more damage than originally thought. Moreover, he has little explosive ability, which limits his big-play potential. The two runs of 40+ yards for his career (in which he has accumulated 537 carries) both occurred in the aforementioned favorable matchup against St. Louis. His career mark of only 10 runs of 20+ yards further indicates the lack of burst at the second level. Ryan Williams was drafted early in the second round of the 2011 draft and though he was injured last year, he should be healthy enough to factor in this season. Wells is coming off the boards an average of 54th overall according to MockDraftCentral.com, way too high in my opinion.
C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF ' This is another case where the acquisition cost won't equal the production. What's beyond mystifying to me is that Spiller is being drafted ahead of running backs like Shonn Greene and Ben Tate. Tate is the interesting comparison, given that he's in a similar situation being the backup in Houston, as Spiller is in Buffalo. Fred Jackson, while coming off an injury, has suffered no setbacks and is the clear-cut starter for the Bills. Spiller has never been viewed as a workhorse and that was clear after Jackson was hurt last season. Over the final six games while Jackson was out, Spiller never had over 19 carries and only averaged 14.3 carries during that span. Now with Jackson back, that number should drop even more. Spiller will have some extra value in PPR formats as the Bills like to get him to the perimeter for short passes, but his current ADP of 67 seems inflated.