Fantasy Football Bust: How to Spot One

by Jonathan Chan
2021 Fantasy Football NFL Draft Winners

It's June. The Fantasy Football machine is just starting to rev up and the team at Fantasy Six Pack has you covered as you prepare for your 2022 drafts. This time,  we're here to help you spot a Fantasy Football Bust.

There are no sure-fire ways to predict a bust. Most teams will inevitably draft a bust or two, it's part of the game. The key to winning leagues is to minimize your draft risk by avoiding the busts as best you can. Speculating what players will be given the opportunity and volume to be a consistent contributors can give you a leg up on the rest of the draft room.

A bust isn't necessarily someone who won't be a useful fantasy player, but a player who won't live up to their pre-season expectations. Outside of predicting freak injuries, there are a few signs that Fantasy owners can look out for when trying to spot those early-round busts.

How to Spot a Fantasy Football Bust

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Limited Track Record of Success

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One sign to look out for when trying to identify a possible bust is their track record of success. When drafting a Fantasy team, consistency is one of the first things you should look for in the early rounds. There have been many players who have been absolute studs for partial seasons but have failed to live up to expectations the following season.

Whether it be an easy schedule, coaching change, or an injury to their competition for touches, some players were put into positions where production of the same level would be difficult to replicate. This isn't to say that all players with recent success won't be able to repeat it. However, there is a risk in drafting someone whose output is based on half a season of success. Warning signs in this category include:

  1. A difficult strength of schedule compared to the previous year.
  2. A returning teammate, new acquisition, or rookie who can cut into the player's touches
  3. A completely unexpected breakout year that was not supported by their career performance to that point
  4. A relative unknown or rookie bursting onto the scene with early success.

Injury Concerns

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When drafting to avoid a bust due to injury, there are two types of risks you'll want to consider avoiding:

1) Players who are always dealing with minor injuries.
2) Players who are coming back from major injuries.

The Chronic Cases

These players always seem to be dealing with some type of injury.  Not to say these players will be busts, but there's an increased risk that those minor ailments can turn into multi-week injuries that can really hurt your team.

Lengthy Layoffs

The second category deals with players who are coming off a major injury with no indication as to how they'll perform post-recovery. All we can gauge from these situations is how the players handle OTA's and practices, but getting back into game shape and producing Fantasy value can take time.

This is especially true for players returning to a team with new coaches and new weapons to play alongside. For some players, the transition back is seamless but that's not the case for everyone. If there are any indications that a player suffered a setback in rehab, it might be best to drop them on your draft board to avoid early-season headaches.

Situational Factors

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Uncertain Situations

So many things can change the fantasy situation in which a player finds himself. A player could change teams, coaches can get fired, and teammates can change. Unless we have a first-hand look at how a new offense utilizes its weapons, there's no way to know for sure how players will perform. Not jumping to conclusions about players in certain situations (e.g. "Player X is the new WR1 for his team after being the WR3 for two years! He's gonna go OFF!") is one of the best ways to avoid a bust.

Poor Team Situations

We've seen it a lot over the years. Players can be very talented, but it can be tough to produce within a poor offense. Running backs are more susceptible to this, as a poor overall offense can allow a defense to zero in on the backfield threat. Good receivers with a bad QB or poor offensive schemes tend to have issues as well. If you're not confident in the offense as a whole, or at least one facet of it, it may best to avoid situations where one player can be the main focus of the defense.

The Impact of Quarterbacks

One of the most important factors in a wide receiver's success is the person throwing them the ball. Even the best receivers in the world can have their numbers affected by poor QB play. No WR is QB-proof.

A new QB can also affect the existing members of the offense they move into. QB's alter the number of targets a receiver gets, the type of routes they'll run and the types of passes they'll expect to catch. Even an established receiver may not get the same kind of love from his new QB if they haven't developed a solid rapport.

Time Share Concerns

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The key to Fantasy Football production is volume. If a player isn't getting consistent touches, it will be difficult to count on production week-in and week-out. That's why workhorse running backs like Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, and Jonathan Taylor are so valuable.

A backfield partner can limit the production of all players involved. Backfield timeshares are incredibly frustrating to deal with and can result in huge week-to-week swings in value. Someone's running back is bound to get vultured at the goal line, leading to endless complaints from those on the wrong side of the committee.

Throughout the off-season, keep an eye on camp reports for teams who opt for the dreaded running back by committee (RBBC) and drop those players down your draft boards accordingly.


Everyone loves to jump on the rookie hype train. Everyone wants to be the genius who predicted the breakout of the next big star. It's important to remember that most players coming out of college have the talent necessary to succeed in the NFL. However, the transition from the NCAA to the NFL is tough, and it can take a season or two before players reach their full potential.

Even the most highly regarded receivers can struggle to adapt to the speed and nuances of the NFL. That's not to say that rookies can't make a fantasy impact, but it might be best to temper expectations.

Of course, these are all guidelines and there's no sure-fire way to determine if someone is going to be a bust. The only thing you can do is be diligent in your research and trust your gut. Good luck.

Visit the F6P Fantasy Football section for more off-season and dynasty content.

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