Every year, we compile lists of fantasy football sleepers at every position and for every NFL team. We dive deep into statistics and attack variables from all angles to pinpoint potential breakouts. That’s on top of all our rankings for every position, which inevitably highlight potential draft values. While it’s always more fun to focus on undervalued sleepers, this article will be looking at players you might want to avoid. That’s right — it’s time to try to identify a bust candidate from all 32 NFL teams.
Many associate the term “bust” with players who have epic fails of a season, but it can also mean a guy who simply fails to live up to his average draft position (ADP). A second-round or third-round pick who ultimately produces seventh-round value most definitely qualifies as a bust. A wideout who moves to a new team and sees his targets drop by 40 percent, even by no fault of his own, is a bust.
2022 PPR RANKINGS:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Kickers | Top 200 | Superflex
How do we find bust candidates? Sometimes it’s a player who seems primed for touchdown regression (looking at you, James Conner and Damien Harris); sometimes it’s a back coming off a career high in passing targets but just welcomed an All-Pro receiver to town (Josh Jacobs, anyone?); still other times, it’s a wideout who goes from catching passes from a future Hall-of-Fame QB to a fringe NFL starter (it’ll be OK, Tyreek Hill — at least Tua is a good guy, right?).
2022 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs
Of course, we’ll highlight guys who have aged and/or been bit by the injury bug. We’re not ageists here — yours truly is aging in dog years — but football is a very difficult career to grow old within. And there’s always plenty of rookies looking to take a guy’s spot (welcome to the show, Breece Hall and James Cook!).
2022 STANDARD RANKINGS:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Kickers | Top 200 | Superflex
Let’s stop talking about general misfortunes and start talking about who we think will be the most unfortunate. Our goal today is to help you maximize fantasy value at all times and to steer you away from potential mistakes on draft day. So, without further ado, here are the top bust candidates for all 32 teams.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2022 fantasy cheat sheet
Fantasy Busts 2022: One bust candidate from every team
Arizona Cardinals: James Conner, RB
We have perhaps never seen a running back more destined for touchdown regression. Conner averaged a career-low 3.7 yards per carry in his first year as a Cardinal and posted just 50.1 rush yards per game. However, his whopping 18 touchdowns helped him finish fifth among RBs in standard fantasy points! Even more wild, the former Steeler hauled in 37 of his 39 targets. His catch rate before last season was just 81 percent. All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins’ six-game suspension hurts Conner, as Nuk’s absence will mean plenty of attention on new wideout Marquise Brown and maybe some stacked boxes for Conner. Franchise QB Kyler Murray will likely face constant pressure behind his shoddy offensive line, which PFF ranks 25th in the NFL. Don’t chase the points from Conner’s deceiving 2021 season — he belongs nowhere near the top tier of RBs in any format.
2022 AUCTION VALUES (Standard & PPR):
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Kickers | Overall
Atlanta Falcons: Cordarrelle Patterson, RB
The former wideout and return specialist enjoyed an explosive breakout with Atlanta last season, scoring 11 touchdowns and netting 1,166 scrimmage yards. We just don’t see him duplicating that miracle season, especially now that he shares a backfield with rookie Tyler Allgeier (one of our RB sleeepers). From top to bottom, this Falcons team stinks. Marcus Mariota is at QB behind one of the worst offensive lines in football, and Patterson will easily be the focal point of every defense when he’s on the field. At 31, he can’t be the hero for the ATL.
2022 RANKINGS TIERS & DRAFT STRATEGY:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs
Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, WR
Bateman was widely labeled a sleeper wide receiver last year, and he let us all down. He played just 12 games, producing a measly 46 catches for 515 yards and a touchdown. Now, he’s the main man on Baltimore’s WR depth chart with Hollywood Brown in Arizona. Even if he can stay on the field, don’t hold your breath for a massive bounce-back. Bateman’s ADP is 91 (ninth round) — he should be avoided before Round 11.
Buffalo Bills: Devin Singletary, RB
We listed Bills rookie James Cook as a sleeper running back, and now we’re throwing Singletary out there as a potential bust. On the surface, the soon-to-be 25-year-old had a solid third-year campaign. He totaled nearly 1,100 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns. That’s all good and all, but if you dive deeper you see the warning signs. He managed just six TDs out of 38 red-zone carries. He also averaged just 1.5 yards inside the 10-yard-line, and he averaged just 11.1 carries and 51.2 rushing yards per game. Beware of the new Cook in town — the talented rookie could take over the lead-back role at some point relatively early.
Carolina Panthers: D.J. Moore, WR
We could go with Christian McCaffrey here, as the stud RB has played just 10 games total over the past two seasons, but it’s quite obvious at this point that if CMC plays, he dominates — especially with below-average QBs with poor accuracy. Both Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold struggled with completion percentage last season, ranking 29th and 30th at 60.5 percent and 59.9 percent, repsectively. Talk about a perfect landing spot for both these potential Panthers starting signal-callers to fit into my narrative! Moore, meanwhile, finished tied for second in the NFL with 10 drops last season. Don’t expect Moore to improve upon his 57-percent catch rate from 2021 with these guys under center.
Chicago Bears: Darnell Mooney, WR
Mooney had a solid 2021 considering the QB situation in Chicago. His sophomore season saw him haul in 81 catches for 1,055 yards. However, he caught just four TDs and 57.9-percent of his targets. Good grief! Now that Allen Robinson has taken his talents to Malibu Beach, more defensive back attention will be on the Bears’ new WR1. He’s arguably the worst WR1 in the NFL. I’ll take the third-best on a good offense over the leading receiver of a dumpster fire.
Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Boyd, WR
Gone are the days of Boyd being a mid-round draft asset. In fact, he might not even belong in the sixth and seventh tier of wide receivers where most analysts are ranking him. He’s entering his age-28 season, his per-game receiving averages have decreased in each of the past three years, and he hasn’t eclipsed five TDs since 2018. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins run the wideout show in Cincy now. Here are a few names to consider ahead of Boyd at his early ADP of 124: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, and Mecole Hardman (KC), Michael Gallup (DAL), DeVante Parker (NE), DJ Chark (DET), Jameson Williams (DET), Christian Watson (GB), and Jamison Crowder (BUF).
Cleveland Browns: Nick Chubb, RB
A three-time Pro Bowler with a 5.3 career yards-per-carry average, Chubb could be a victim of circumstance for part of the upcoming season. The Browns went all-in on Deshaun Watson at QB despite a massive amount of sexual misconduct allegations swirling around him, and amidst the madness, they traded Baker Mayfield to the Panthers. Now Chubb could be without a true QB1 under center, which means all sorts of trouble for the talented young back. In the two games Chubb played without Mayfield under center last season, the three-time Pro Bowler put up single-digit fantasy points. Monitor this situation closely, as Chubb already has to contend with Kareem Hunt for touches. He doesn’t need the added handicap of minimal scoring opportunities.
Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott, RB
Many will shun this bust pick, but Elliott has seen less volume and production than he’s used to over the past couple seasons. The three-time Pro Bowler’s 13.9 carries per game in 2021 easily ranked as the fewest in his six-year career, as were his 58.9 rushing yards per game and 6.1 yards per reception. Tony Pollard, meanwhile, ranked second in the league with 5.5 yards per carry and saw his attempts go from 101 in ’20 to 130 in ‘21. What saved Zeke from fantasy bustville last season was 10 TDs on 35 red-zone carries (seven TDs came on 17 carries inside the 10-yard line). Expect some regression from last season’s No. 6 fantasy back, especially with a schedule that should be much easier on the passing game than it will be for rushers.
Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy, WR
Many analysts and mocks have Jeudy going in Round 4 or 5, which just seems silly. He has failed to average 10 PPR points per game in each of his first two seasons, and he failed to eclipse 10 total games in 2021. We understand recognizing his ceiling — he was an absolute stud during his college career at Alabama — and Russell Wilson always makes receivers better, but spending a fifth-round pick on an injury-prone underachiever with three total TDs in 26 career games? Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Detroit Lions: T.J. Hockenson, TE
Like Jeudy, Hockenson mostly gets ranked based on upside. And like Jeudy, Hockenson has been plagued by injury since he came into the NFL. The burly tight end played just 12 games in 2019 and ’21, and has career per-game averages are just four catches and 41.8 yards. He’s always going to be a strong red-zone target when he’s on the field, but he’s off the field a lot and Detroit seldom visits the red zone.
Green Bay Packers: Robert Tonyan, TE
We could have easily listed Aaron Rodgers here, as the reigning MVP of the past two seasons will be without All-Pro Davante Adams, but Rodgers is being drafted relatively low anyway! Thus, we’ll go with Tonyan at tight end, who arguably doesn’t deserve to go before the last couple rounds. He’s 28 and has enjoyed just one high-quality season, his 52-catch and 11-touchdown 2020 campaign. In Tonyan’s three other seasons, he combined for 32 catches and four TDs. Even worse, he managed just a 62-percent catch rate in ‘21, and he no longer has Adams to free him up over the middle. Avoid him like gas-station sushi.
Houston Texans: Marlon Mack, RB
You may view Mack’s mid-career signing with Houston as an opportunity for success, but we regard it as an inevitable failure. Sure, he’s just 26, but Mack has been a shell of his past self since tearing his Achilles in 2020. He’s barely seen the field the past two season, and he now plays for an offense and offensive line that are both massive downgrades from his situation in Indy.
Indianapolis Colts D/ST
Michael Pittman Jr. almost got listed here, but we opted instead for one of the more overrated defenses going into 2022. Many project the Colts as the fourth-best D/ST, but I’m out on them anywhere before the penultimate round of the draft. Sure, they have the ‘Linebacker Formerly Known as Darius Leonard’ and stud cornerback Stephon Gilmore, but elite linebackers and corners don’t always translate to D/ST success. Indy seems destined for turnover regression — this unit ranked first in fumble recoveries and third in interceptions last season despite having the second-worst pressure rate (18 percent).
Jacksonville Jaguars: James Robinson, RB
Robinson lives just outside our top 50 RB rankings this season, and that’s based solely on track record. He has 18 career TDs and a 1,400-plus scrimmage yard season on his resume, but he’s recovering from a December Achilles tear — a brutal injury for anyone, never mind a running back — and Travis Etienne remains ahead of schedule on his recovery from a left foot injury. It’s unclear how much, if at all, Robinson will actually play this year.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes, QB
A bust by Mahomes’ standards is probably a great year for most other QBs, but it bears mentioning anyway. He’s being drafted 31st overall according to ADP despite the fact he just lost Tyreek Hill, his most dynamic, explosive receiver. He still has Travis Kelce at tight end, but defenses will also have him circled in red under double-cover candidates. Marquez Valdes-Scantling will be decent for Kansas City, but it will still be tough for Mahomes to finish as a top-five QB with the Chiefs’ tough schedule. A second RB or WR would be much more valuable in the third round.
Las Vegas Raiders: Josh Jacobs, RB
Jacobs seems like a prime candidate for regression both in the TD and PPR departments. There’s a new Sheriff in Vegas in former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The Raiders offense will more than likely be passing-focused, with Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, and tight end Darren Waller leading the charge for veteran QB Derek Carr. Jacobs won’t likely repeat his 54-catch/64-target 2021 season. Kenyan Drake and Zamir White are also in town, so there’s just too many mouths to feed with too little food.
Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, WR
Williams lit the world on fire early into the 2021 season, but he trailed off considerably once defenses started taking notice. In his first five games, the 6-4, 220-pound wideout hauled in 31 catches for 471 yards and six TDs. Over the course of the following 10 games — the remainder of the fantasy season and playoffs — he managed just 36 catches for 556 yards and two TDs. Let’s break down that sharp decline in per-game impact in table form:
|1-5||6.2||94.2||1.2||23.2 (2)||17 (1)|
|6-17||3.6||55.6||0.2||10.4 (38)||6.8 (39)|
The biggest issue, besides secondaries taking the deep-ball away from Williams, was QB Justin Herbert’s rapport with veteran wideout Keenan Allen and hybrid back Austin Ekeler. Williams also had six drops and maintained just a 58.9-percent catch rate. Swim at your own risk in murky Williams waters.
Los Angeles Rams: Tyler Higbee, TE
Some would feature Allen Robinson here, but we think the new Ram wideout will work very well with Matthew Stafford and the reigning champs. Instead, we’ll go with a perennial underachiever who always seems to wriggle his way onto fantasy teams. Why!? Why in the world do people draft this bum in the 100-150 range? Higbee finished TE20 in standard leagues (4.4 ppg) last season, and TE18 in PPRs (8.8 ppg). That makes him an injury or bye-week replacement, at best. Don’t be foolish enough to think a starter on a Super Bowl-winning squad is a must-own. RB/WR depth is way more important than a tight end who has hit double-digits in standard leagues just four times over the past two seasons.
Miami Dolphins: Tyreek Hill, WR
Just like Mahomes won’t perform to his established level of expectation without Hill, the speedy wideout won’t put up the gaudy stats we’re used to seeing from him without Mahomes. Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa just flat-out stinks throwing the deep ball. His worst QB rating is between his own 10-yard-line and the red zone. According to PFF, Tagovailoa had the second-worst turnover-worthy play rate on deep passes in ‘21. Hill will make Tua better, but Tua won’t make Hill better like Mahomes did for so many years. Hill’s ADP is at 20 on the dot, well ahead of fellow receivers A.J. Brown (PHI), Tee Higgins (CIN), and Keenan Allen (LAC). I would take any of those other three — or a back like Leonard Fournette (TB) or Cam Akers (LAR) — ahead of TyFreak in a heartbeat.
2021 big-time throw rate vs. turnover-worthy play rate (PFF)
Further to the right represents a higher big-time throw rate (good!), higher up shows quarterbacks with biggest turnover-worthy play rates (bad!).
Best case: bottom right
Worst case: top left pic.twitter.com/o5ayMkf3K9
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 27, 2021
Minnesota Vikings: Adam Thielen, WR
Betting against Thielen might seem risky — the man has 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons — but it’s tough to buy him in the Round 4-6 range in which he’s typically being drafted. Of course, the elephant in the room is teammate Justin Jefferson, who understandably gobbles up more targets every year because he’s top five dead or alive (sorry, went into a Jadakiss trance there — where was I?) Oh yeah, Thielen. According to PFF, Thielen’s 1.63 yards per route run in 2021 ranked 48th among wideouts with 50-plus targets. The red-zone targets continue to carry him, but how sustainable does that feel in his age-32 season? Don’t buy into TD-dependent receivers at that age.
New England Patriots: Damien Harris, RB
Another thing we typically warn people against buying into: New England RBs. We never quite know what to expect in a Bill Belichick offense, but one thing we certainly can’t expect is another 15 touchdowns for Harris. Fellow Patriot running back Rhamondre Stevenson looks more than capable to slice into some of Harris’s abundant red-zone usage (44 attempts in ‘21), and “fast and furious” rookie Pierre Strong seems like a great deep sleeper. I’ll still draft Harris — but only in standard leagues if he’s still on the board in the sixth round.
New Orleans Saints: Alvin Kamara, RB
Typically, this dude is “Lights, Kamara, Action,” but this year, we gotta yell “CUT!” Kamara is facing what feels like an imminent suspension for battery after he and Chiefs cornerback Chris Tammons allegedly beat up a male at a rooftop casino bar during Pro Bowl weekend. No, thank you. Even if the NFL grants Kamara leniency on the suspension front (it sounds like he didn’t throw a punch or land a kick), we don’t want the smoke. Character problems don’t usually just pop up and then disappear forever, and the Saints offense has some question marks with Jameis Winston at QB and a new head coach. You want — and need — a sure thing in the first couple rounds. Kamara’s not the one.
New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB
Saquon will just never live up to his incredible 2018 rookie season in which he exceeded 2,000 scrimmage yards and scored 15 touchdowns. The 25-year-old has battled injuries throughout the past three years, appearing in just 15 games over the past two seasons. His yards-per-carry average during that 15-year span? An uninspiring 3.5. His TD count in ‘21 was just four on 203 touches. He also hauled in just 41 catches last season, exactly 50 fewer grabs than his Rookie of the Year campaign three years prior. The strong addition of former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as head coach will undoubtedly help Giants QB Daniel Jones and his receiving corps — but it’s unclear if anything can salvage Barkley’s role as a pass-catcher at this point. His rushing efficiency should improve behind an enhanced offensive line, but it’s hard to justify spending a second-round or third-round pick on him. The value just doesn’t seem to be there.
New York Jets: Michael Carter, RB
Breece Hall is my 2022 ‘Ryde-or-Die’ (another Jadakiss reference — who is this guy!?), and Hall could be brushing Carter off his shoulders by Week 4. Carter wasn’t terrible last season, but he also wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring. He turned 147 carries into 639 yards and four total TDs. The 4.3 yards per carry is pretty good, but the 65-percent catch rate, the four TDs in 25 red-zone carries, and the injury history (right ankle, left wrist, concussion) make him a fade candidate. Hall’s the three-down back of destiny for Gang Green.
Philadelphia Eagles: Miles Sanders, RB
Even some Philly fans have Sanders as a bust candidate. After a strong rookie campaign in 2019, the Penn State product has underwhelmed in each of the past two seasons. His yards-per-carry average is great — 5.3 in ‘20 and 5.5 in ‘21 — but he hasn’t exceeded 12 games in each of the past two seasons. That’s not all — in ‘20, he caught just 28 of his 52 targets and had four fumbles in 192 touches. Last season, he couldn’t find the end zone once despite 20 red-zone totes and 163 touches. His red-zone yards-per-carry average was just 1.4. His yards-per-carry average inside opponents’ 10-yard-lines was even worse at 0.4. It’s not all Sanders’ fault — Philly signal-caller Jalen Hurts loves himself a QB sneak — but this dude has given us very little evidence that he’s even an RB2.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Diontae Johnson, WR
Two words: Mitchell Trubisky. The former Bear and Bill gives us plenty of cool fantasy team names (Risk it for Trubisky, The Big Trubisky, Karma is a Mitch), but he’s Trubisky—I mean, risky—business in fantasy. No hyperbole, the dude decimates the fantasy value of his receiver corps. Just ask Allen Robinson, one of the best wide receivers to never play with a good quarterback. Johnson is a beast, but his odds of returning top-40 fantasy value like he’s being drafted seem slim. It wouldn’t be a shock if Johnson finished well below the following wideouts being selected after him in drafts: Courtland Sutton (DEN), Jaylen Waddle (MIA), Marquise Brown (ARI), and Allen Robinson II (LAR).
San Francisco 49ers: Elijah Mitchell, RB
It’s never a good sign when a running back finishes his rookie season with the same amount of injuries as rushing touchdowns (five). But that’s facts, as my hipper friends have been known to say. Sure, Mitchell averaged 18.8 rushing attempts, 4.7 yards per carry, and exactly 100 scrimmage yards per game in 2021, but he missed six games! San Francisco also just spent a third-round draft pick on RB Tyrion Davis-Price. Tread very lightly with this guy — we’ve seen him picked as early as Round 3, which is just lunacy. Look at this DraftSharks injury report from just his first four months as a pro:
|Date||Body Part||Injury||Games Missed|
|9/19/21||Shoulder||AC Joint Sprain||2|
|12/5/21||Head||Concussion (G1)||see below|
Consider Mitchell in the fifth, but no earlier. You can’t have your RB2 or flex back missing more than a third of the season, especially with plenty of able bodies behind him on his squad’s depth chart.
Seattle Seahawks: Tyler Lockett, WR
Bye-bye, Russ…bye-bye PPR bliss. Hello empty red-zone trips, I think I’m gonna cry! What, a guy can’t reference Jadakiss and the Everly Brothers in the same column? It’s called culture! Anyway, my Everly Brothers remix was in honor of Lockett’s impending fate as a deep-ball threat now that Russell Wilson has departed for Mile High City. Look, I’m sure Geno Smith and Drew Lock will have quite the battle for top signal-caller duties in Seattle, but you know who loses either way? Lockett. Smith and Lock are not accurate deep-ball passers — they don’t even like throwing it deeper than 10-20 yards. That’s great news for big-bodied receiver DK Metcalf and tight end Noah Fant but terrible news for Lockett. Draft him in the top 50 or 60 and regret may be in your future.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chris Godwin, WR
Godwin is great when he’s healthy, but the man just had surgery on a torn right ACL/MCL in January. Now, Tampa has Russell Gage and Julio Jones to add to its crowded WR room. The Bucs also have fellow stud Mike Evans and solid pass-catching RBs Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White. That’s plenty of mouths to feed, and plenty of reasons to not rush Godwin back from his rehab. Don’t gamble on Godwin early unless we get clear word that he’s 100-percent recovered and ready to rock in Week 1. Even then, cross your fingers.
Tennessee Titans: Robert Woods, WR
Woods has a lengthy injury history and has been recovering from a torn right ACL since becoming a Titan. He’s always been a solid receiver when healthy, but age and injuries have reared their ugly head this past season. He’s averaged just 10.1 yards per touch over his past two campaigns, and he failed to net 62 receiving yards per game in each of those two stints. That can’t all be Cooper Kupp’s fault. Tennessee’s offense belongs to Derrick Henry — Bobby Trees will be happy to carve out WR3 season. Don’t get lost in the Woods and draft him too early.
Washington Commanders: Terry McLaurin, WR
Scary Terry can actually be pretty terrifying when you rely on him to be your WR1. Sure, he’s blazing fast and has incredible athleticism, but he also caught just 59.2 percent of his 130 targets last season and broke paydirt just five times in 78 touches. Carson Wentz’s arm will help McLaurin out a bit, but it’s tough to go all-in on a return to his seven-TD rookie season or 87-catch, 1,148-yard sophomore campaign. People fall all over themselves to grab him early, but he hasn’t had a complete season yet. You’re always, always better off with a solid running back early than a volatile wideout.