Top 9 fantasy football busts in 2021 include Russell Wilson and Miles Sanders

Many say your first few draft picks in fantasy football can’t win you the championship, but they certainly can lose it. Whether it’s for lack of production or simply not living up to their ADP, there are various reasons to avoid players in fantasy drafts. While we all see players and think of their potential upside, some players receive the dubious bust distinction — fair or not. Let’s look at a few fantasy football bust candidates who may fit that bill in 2021.

Top 9 fantasy football busts in 2021 | Quarterbacks

We’ll start with a player that is undoubtedly one of the better NFL quarterbacks but could prove inconsistent for your fantasy team.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

For as good as Russell Wilson is, there is always the inescapable fact that at any moment, the Seahawks will inevitably take the ball out of his hands. We saw this again last season.

From Weeks 1-9, Wilson was the QB3 in fantasy football. Over that span (eight games), Wilson averaged 317.6 passing yards, 3.5 passing touchdowns, and 26.9 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, he led the league with 28 touchdowns. The Seahawks were sixth in the NFL in passing frequency at 62%. Then, the proverbial anchor was tossed overboard.

From Week 10 and on, Wilson was the QB12 as the Seahawks slowed their passing rate to 57% (22nd in the NFL). Wilson regressed in every category, averaging 208.9 yards, 1.5 TDs, and 17.1 points per game. 

While the Seahawks did bring in Shane Waldron as the new offensive coordinator, HC Pete Carroll’s comments about wanting to run the ball more effectively plus the re-signing of Chris Carson are…troubling. 

I’ll say this once, and it goes for every player on here. I do not hate players; I hate ADPs. Hence, Wilson going as the QB5 in redraft is at the peak of his potential 2021 value. If there is a QB going high in fantasy drafts that could bust, Wilson would be on the shortlist.

Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

What Justin Herbert did last season was the stuff of legends. So naturally, the player who has been anointed the next Andrew Luck will obviously top that in his rookie season. But, in the words of the American icon Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Since 2010, eight quarterbacks have been selected with the first overall pick. Of those eight quarterbacks, only three finished their rookie season inside the top 12 in fantasy points. Those players were Kyler Murray in 2019 (QB8), Andrew Luck in 2012 (QB9), and Cam Newton in 2010 (QB3). 

On average, No. 1 overall QBs have finished their rookie season as QB16.

There is a reason the Jaguars had the No. 1 overall pick in the first place. Throw in the fact they have a brand new head coach who is making the leap from college to the pros, and the deck is stacked against Trevor Lawrence

Could he have a breakout fantasy season as a rookie? Of course. But his current ADP of QB9 is far too high for a player that has never taken a professional snap.

Top 9 fantasy football busts in 2021 | Running backs

Which running backs are leading candidates to finish 2021 as fantasy football busts?

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

In 15 games, David Montgomery was fourth in rushes (247), fifth in rushing yards (1,070), and scored 8 rushing touchdowns. Coupled with 54 receptions for 438 yards and 2 more scores, his 1,508 scrimmage yards were fifth in the NFL.

Raising his ppg by seven points from the year prior, Montgomery’s 17.7 PPR was sixth amongst RBs in 2020 (minimum 60 rushes). As the undisputed lead back, Montgomery’s snap share jumped to 74% (up 17% from 2019) while accounting for an astonishing 91.4% of the RB carries.

Over the first 10 games, Montgomery rushed 131 times for 472 yards (3.6 avg) with 1 TD, adding 30 receptions for 212 yards and another score. During this span, he was the RB17 (12.3 ppg). From Week 12 on, Montgomery was the RB1 in fantasy, averaging 25.7 points thanks to 116 rushes for 598 yards (5.2 avg) with 7 touchdowns. He also caught 24 of 27 targets for 226 yards and another score.

So, what changed? His level of competition. 

Here are Montgomery’s opponents for the last six games and where they ranked in fantasy points allowed to RBs:

Week 12: Packers (28th and 26.93 ppg)
Week 13: Lions (32nd and 32.47 ppg)
Week 14: Texans (31st and 32.28 ppg)
Week 15: Vikings (27th and 26.46 ppg)
Week 16: Jaguars (30th and 26.93)
Week 17: Packers

Now, we enter 2021 with the Bears adding Damien Williams. They also get back Tarik Cohen, one of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL. I can’t knock Montgomery for excelling, but use this as context for his rise in value. 

In 2020, Montgomery recorded 109.8 of his fantasy points from the receiving game. Fourth amongst RBs in receiving yards, this accounted for 41% of his season total.

Throw in the inevitable transition to the dual-threat of Justin Fields, and Montgomery loses out on even more rushing opportunities. Some have him pegged as a high-end RB2 based on volume. However, if those are your expectations, Montgomery is as likely of a fantasy bust as any other RB in 2021.

Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

really want to buy in and love Miles Sanders as some, but everything the Eagles have done screams timeshare. 

Sanders has averaged just 15 total touches per game in a relatively low volume role through two seasons. He averaged 3.1 receptions per game in 2019, but that number fell to just 2.3 per game in 2020. Due to this, Sanders has been a somewhat inconsistent fantasy scorer — producing RB2 or better numbers in just 14 of 28 games. 

From Weeks 14 through 16, while Jalen Hurts was the starter, Sanders carried the ball 46 times. Hurts, meanwhile, had 38 rushes. Sanders will never be a three-down back, and missing games for three separate injuries makes a case for the Eagles to rely on him even harder.

The Eagles now have Kerryon Johnson, Jordan Howard, and drafted arguably the best pass catcher in Kenneth Gainwell. Throw in Hurts’ prolific rushing ability, and even as the “leading” back, Sanders’ touches are drastically reduced. Sanders going anywhere inside the second round has him firmly inside bust territory for fantasy in 2021.

Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

I get it. Josh Jacobs eclipsed 1,300 scrimmage yards in each of his last two seasons while scoring 19 total touchdowns on 587 opportunities (21 per game). He is the definition of a workhorse with finishes as the RB21 (14.7 ppg) and RB8 (15.4 ppg). And yet, the Raiders go out and bring in Kenyan Drake while simultaneously blowing up the offensive line.

Say what you want about Drake, but he is by far a better player than guys like DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. The only reason Jacobs had the season that he did was because of a league-leading 64 red-zone carries, which resulted in 11 of his 12 TDs. Yet, Drake is going to cut into that more than some might think.

The Raiders traded center Rodney Hudson and lost Gabe Jackson and Trent Brown during the offseason. As a result, what was once the strength of the team is now a question. The Raiders open their season against the Ravens, Steelers, Dolphins, Chargers, Bears, Broncos, and Eagles. All but the Chargers (16th) and Broncos (18th) ranked inside the top 12 in fantasy points allowed to RBs last season. Those will be stout defenses again in 2021.

Jacobs is going ahead of guys like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chris Carson, Kareem Hunt, and even Myles Gaskin. All of whom I would rather roster in fantasy over Jacobs as he is on my early bust list for 2021.

Top 9 fantasy football busts in 2021 | Wide receivers

Which wide receivers in fantasy football could be busts for 2021?

Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns

Year after year, I buy into Odell Beckham Jr. and believe this will be the year. That this is when we will see prime Beckham return.

On the contrary, in 2021, I am out on him, which means he will undoubtedly have a career year.

Beckham Jr. started his career with three straight seasons of 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns with Eli Manning. Contrarily, in his past four years, he’s missed 25 games, scored 6 touchdowns only once, and has just as many seasons with 1,000 yards as he does 300. Since joining the Browns in 2019, he has cleared 100 yards a total of three times.

Can he be a WR1 based on talent? Of course. But how long are we going to keep using that same rationale when drafting him as a locked-in WR2?

While Beckham was a focal point of the offense, averaging 7 targets a game in the six weeks he was healthy, how will he fare coming off a torn ACL? 

I want Beckham to succeed. The NFL is more fun when he does. But as a WR2, I am out on him for 2021. I feel there is just as likely a chance he busts for fantasy as he returns value.

Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

For as good as Tyler Lockett is, he was horribly inconsistent in fantasy last season. At a certain point, he was bench-worthy, which should never happen to a guy being considered as a top-20 WR.

Lockett ended the season as the WR8 in PPR. But ask anyone who rostered him how they felt last season. In 16 games, Lockett was a WR2 just six times and outside the top 48 seven times. Of his fantasy production, 144.7 points and 9 of his 10 touchdowns came in four games (54.5%). On a fun note, all of these games took place in Dallas. 

I get that he saw 132 targets, but has there ever been a worse top-10 season? From Weeks 12 to 16 (when your championship was on the line), Lockett rattled off WR72, WR44, WR41, WR64, and WR60 finishes.

As previously mentioned, Pete Carroll has already stated how he wants to run the ball more in 2021 and doubled down on that notion by re-signing Chris Carson. Lockett is being drafted as a surefire WR2. Sure, he’ll have a blowup week here or there, but when the dust settles, Lockett could very well be one of the many fantasy busts in 2021.

Will Fuller, Miami Dolphins

I get Will Fuller was one of the big names in the offseason. Nevertheless, this move was better for the Dolphins than it ever will be for your fantasy team.

In 20 games without Deshaun Watson, Fuller has averaged 6 targets, 3.1 receptions, 38.7 yards, and 0.10 touchdowns compared to 6.5 targets, 4.5 receptions, 70.6 yards, and 0.67 touchdowns per game.

Fuller’s success will depend on Tua Tagovailoa becoming more aggressive and willing to take shots down the field, something we did not see as often in 2020 (7.2 average throw depth – 42nd in NFL). Only 10% of Tua’s throws were beyond 20+ yards downfield (23rd). On those throws, he recorded a 76.7 passer rating (25th).

We can’t even rely on Fuller to stay on the field as he has averaged 5.5 games missed each season. He goes from a wide-open WR room to one of the more talented collections of pass catchers in the league with Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, and Mike Gesicki. 

While I believe Tua takes that step forward, I am out on Fuller’s consistently inconsistent nature and reliability.

Top 9 fantasy football busts in 2021 | Tight ends

Which players at the most scarce position in fantasy football should be viewed as potential busts for 2021?

Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers

In 2020, Robert Tonyan played at a level of efficiency that is unheard of in fantasy. He tied for the league lead in TDs with Travis Kelce despite finishing 24th at the position in targets. In addition, Tonyan had more touchdowns (11) than incomplete targets (7) and averaged a score on every 5.3 targets for an absurd 18.64 TD percentage.

That is not sustainable. Sure, Tonyan was the TE3, but 37% of his points came off of touchdowns. In games where Tonyan failed to score (seven), he had an average weekly finish as the TE39. Throw in the massive black cloud over Green Bay that is the Aaron Rodgers’ standoff, and Tonyan is primed for a down season, and thus, likely busts in 2021 for fantasy. 

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

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