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2017 Fantasy Football: The spectrum of quarterback busts

Not all busts are created equal.

NFL: Oakland Raiders-Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I like to think of “busts” as a spectrum. Every year you get a few traditional busts, in the sense that they went into the season with a ton of hype and went high in all of your drafts, only to let you down by doing absolutely nothing that season. You can look no further than Todd Gurley and Cam Newton last year. Gurley was being taking second overall (per Fantasy Football Calculator and per my fantasy league in which I did just that) and Newton was the number one quarterback taken in fantasy. Both failed miserably in the attempt at living up to their draft positions. Clearly busts.

But I would also consider Russell Wilson a bust last year based on his ADP and final point count. Wilson was the third quarterback being taken in drafts last year (taken in the fourth round, 47th overall), yet finished QB11 with 268.1 total fantasy points. Derek Carr, taken in the ninth round (101 overall), finished with 268.4 points and Marcus Mariota, who you coulda had in the 11th (130 overall), averaged almost a whole fantasy point per game above Wilson.

I figure since there’s a spectrum of busts, I should give a spectrum of answers to address all the different levels of busts you can have. To give you that spectrum, I’ve created various “levels” of bust with very descriptive titles and picked a quarterback for this year I could see falling into that category.

Let’s begin.

The epic collapse that shakes the fantasy world: Andrew Luck

I thought about this one long and hard because I really wanted to see if I could craft an argument for either Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers to come crashing down to Earth. Instead, I discovered that Brees, since playing for the Saints in 2006, hasn’t had a season where he’s finished anything less than QB6. And Aaron Rodgers is just not human.

So instead, I went with the oft-injured quarterback out of Stanford. Luck is currently the fourth quarterback coming off boards with an ADP of 5.10 (per FFC). He finished QB4 last year, scoring 307.6 total points.

I’m sorry all you Luck fans out there, but I just am not feeling a good fantasy season from Luck this year. Firstly, he’s coming back from shoulder surgery and hasn’t even thrown a football yet. Call me crazy but I don’t know if it’s a great idea to spend a fifth rounder on a quarterback who still can’t throw a football. Second, he’s still playing behind a rather poor offensive line. Luck was the second most sacked quarterback in the league last year and the Colts didn’t do much to improve his protection. But I’m not putting Luck here because I think he’ll get injured (though he probably will). That’s cheating and no fun.

I’ve got Luck here because I think he won’t do enough to keep up with the young bloods of the NFL. I could see Luck putting together a statically alright season—4,000 yards, 25 touchdowns, 13 interceptions—but one that’ll fall short of his surrounding colleagues. I could see him falling victim to the same thing Carson Palmer did this past season: putting up good numbers but not enough fantasy points to compete with all the QBs in a pass happy league. (For the record, Palmer finished 19th in total points after having an ADP of 7.05 last year—QB8.)

The hypetrain I’m not buying: Derek Carr

Many have Carr as a potential fantasy star and are expecting him to build upon last season which he finished QB10. He’s currently the sixth quarterback coming off the boards with an ADP of 6.11.

My worry with Carr is that his fantasy success relied too heavily on his red zone usage. His 92 red zone attempts last year ranked fifth in the NFL, but that number is sure to go down with the addition of Marshawn Lynch. Carr doesn’t chuck the ball downfield—as evidenced by his meager yards per attempt numbers last year (7 YPA), falling behind Alex Smith, Sam Bradford and Trevor Siemian—which means he’s not scoring his touchdowns off big plays downfield. Lower red zone usage means less chances for passing touchdowns, means less fantasy points.

Plus, added bonus, Carr is that he’s coming off of a broken leg. I feel like that’s being overlooked. A broken leg is no easy thing to come back from. Quickly jumping to basketball, it took Paul George a full year and some change to fully be himself after breaking his leg. Now, clearly quarterbacks aren’t making their living running around but I think the injury is going to be on the back of Carr’s mind to start the season and could lead to him being skittish with the football. There are also other hypetrains that I’m buying into more, especially surrounding quarterbacks being drafted in later rounds.

The “primed for a bounce back season” disappointment: Cam Newton

I wrote about this at length (re: above) back in March and the feeling is still the same. Here’s the cliffsnotes version of my article:

  • Cam is a very, very average quarterback
  • His biggest asset in both real and fantasy football is ability to run with the football
  • Ron Rivera wants to limit Cam’s running this season
  • Limited running = limited fantasy points

If you’d like to read a more indepth take and more complete sentences, I again direct your attention to the article at the top of this section.

The guy I’m just not drafting: Ben Roethlisberger

Personally, I think Roethlisberger is heading towards the downward part of the roller coaster and that roller coaster goes into the ground and back out through the other side of the Earth. That is to say, I think he’s about to head down and head down fast.

I don’t know if it’s because of name recognition or if everyone just thinks because Antonio Brown is amazing in fantasy that Ben is as well or what, but Ben year in and year out gets overrated in QB rankings and ADPs and I don’t why. He’s currently going above guys like Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Philip Rivers, all of whom I’d rather have.

There have been only three times in Roethlisberger’s career that he has finished above QB10 and he hasn’t played a complete season since 2014. He plays jump rope with the QB15 spot (that is, jumps between QB17 and QB13 every other year) and always seems to miss time right at the end of the season—i.e. fantasy playoff time.

I’ve always had the feeling that Ben is heading towards the decline but I will admit that this complete ignoring of him is more recent as I did have him decently high in our top 200 players. Clearly I’ve changed my mind.

The second year guy who’s not going to make the leap, who’s also not named Jared Goff because he gets a mulligan for last year: Carson Wentz

Raise your hand if you thought I was gonna put Dak here. I wasn’t

My biggest thought with Wentz is if we’re even sure he’s good. While he started off his rookie season just as red hot as his hair, he very quickly cooled off and finished the season looking rather awful at times. In the final 10 games of the season, Wentz threw eight touchdowns to 11 interceptions and had putrid 5.8 yards per attempt. Remember when I said Carr’s 7 YPA was bad? Barf.

Yes adding weapons like Alshon Jeffery will certainly help Wentz but I have yet to see any reason he’s going to take a cataclysmic leap forward in his second year.

Who do you think will be the biggest quarterback bust this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments.