Fantasy Football

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Busts: The Curious Case of Benjamin Bustin’


2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Busts

Credit: Keith Allison

As stated in my wide receiver position preview, the NFL is undergoing a massive change, as teams move towards more pass-heavy offenses. As a result, wide receivers have become the safest and most productive fantasy players. Due to the nature of the position, it is easier to find consistent week-to-week production in receivers.

Due to this consistency and relative ease of forecasting a receiver’s role in their offense, the chance of “busting” is often built into a receivers ADP. Drafting a bust at receiver often means you drafted someone that got injured.

The busts listed below are players who I believe will under-perform relative to their FantasyPros ADP. I won’t write about Doug Baldwin for a third time. If you want to see why I think he’ll bust, read my thoughts here and here.

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Busts

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers (FantasyPros ADP: 36.3, WR18)

I spoke about Benjamin in the position preview, but he’s been a very polarizing figure and worth discussing further.

In his rookie year, Benjamin took advantage of a good situation and finished with 1008 yards and nine touchdowns. Before the 2015 season, he suffered an ACL tear in camp and would miss the entire year.

This season, he’ll return to a very different Panthers team. He won’t be the only big play receiver on the team. Ted Ginn emerged as a viable deep threat, while Devin Funchess established himself as a solid receiver and red-zone threat.

The Panthers are also a much better team, and Benjamin will no longer be able to feast in garbage time as he did in 2014. In his rookie year, Benjamin caught five of his nine touchdowns (56%) and scored 29% of his standard fantasy points in garbage time.

Benjamin’s garbage time production seemed to be a result of the coverage he faced. In the first three quarters, Benjamin’s 45% catch rate was the worst in the NFL. His garbage time catch rate jumped to 69% against softer coverage. With the Panthers being a much better team in 2016, it’s doubtful that Benjamin will see much garbage time to pad his stats.

While Cam Newton has improved as a passer, it won’t matter if Benjamin can’t improve on his 6.9% drop rate as his 10 dropped passes were most in the NFL in 2014.

Recent reports expect the Panthers to use more of a committee approach in the passing game. With fewer targets and less garbage time to feast on, Benjamin will need to significantly improve as a receiver to even match his rookie year and provide profit at his ADP.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (FantasyPros ADP: 31.8, WR16)

Thomas is coming off a season where he was targeted fourth most among receivers with a total of 169. However, the targets did not turn into production, as he was 13th in standard points scored in 2015.

This offseason, Denver traded Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler for Mark Sanchez. With this change there is a very good chance that Gary Kubiak decides to play it safe and go run heavy. Reports have already surfaced that the Broncos will run a “true Gary Kubiak offense” which could make them one of the most run-heavy offenses in the league.

The belief seems to be that Sanchez will not represent a huge drop off from Manning or Osweiler. However, even in a “down year” the Broncos managed to pass for 4216 yards, 742 yards better than Sanchez’s best year.

A revamped offense emphasizing the run and a severe dip in QB talent will cause a decrease in opportunities and overall offensive efficiency from Thomas. He is still the WR1 for the Broncos, but a drastic change in the Broncos offense could leave him as a mid-to-low WR2.


Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars (FantasyPros ADP: 67.7, WR29)

Hurns was one of Fantasy Football’s biggest steals last season, putting up 1031 yards and 10 TD on 64 catches.

This season, Hurns’ fantasy situation has gotten worse as the Jaguars have gotten better. First, the Jags have added RB Chris Ivory in an attempt to improve their running game and red-zone efficiency. With another starting caliber running back in the mix, the amount of touches to go around will be decreased.

The Jags have also committed a lot of resources to improving their defense. If the defense can keep scores lower, it means the Jags won’t be airing out the ball in garbage time.

Owners should also expect Hurns’ TD total to drop from the 10 he amassed last season. A quick look at the Jags depth chart shows that Allen Robinson, Julius Thomas and Ivory are ahead of Hurns for red-zone looks.

Hurns ranked 45th among receivers last season with 64 catches. With the changes in the Jags offense, Hurns will continue to be a low volume WR2. Any regression in his TD total leaves very little opportunity for profit at his ADP.


Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills (FantasyPros ADP: 26.3, WR13)

Watkins isn’t here because I think he’ll fail to put up numbers. In fact, Watkins is one of the most explosive receivers in the league when he is healthy. His mere presence makes the Bills offense run, as Watkins accounted for nearly 40% of Tyrod Taylor‘s passing yards and 44% of his passing touchdowns.

I’m listing Watkins here because of the massive health risk that comes with drafting him. In his two year career, Watkins has dealt with rib, calf, ankle, foot and hip injuries. The latter two injuries required major surgery. Coming off offseason surgery for a stress fracture in his foot, it isn’t clear if Watkins will be able to participate in training camp.

Another concern surrounding Watkins is his usage. Last season, Watkins only drew six targets in the red zone. For his career, he has only drawn seven targets inside the 10 yard line. In 2015, Watkins ranked 37th among receivers in targets but still managed to put up a top 20 season.

Reports from OTA’s are saying that the Bills are moving towards a more diverse passing offense than before. If the Bills spread the ball a little more, Watkins will need to be even more efficient with his targets to have the huge season everyone expects.

If he can stay healthy, Watkins has the chance to put up a top 10 season. However, injury concerns and an alleged change in offensive philosophy makes Watkins a very risky pick at the end of the second round.

About Jonathan Chan

Winning fantasy leagues since 2004. Losing them for much longer. Follow Jonathan on twitter @jchan_811 and he'll be ready for all your questions!

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