It’s said that you can’t win your fantasy draft in the first couple of rounds, but you can absolutely lose it. Sure, receivers like Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. are nice to have and seem like surefire guarantees. But what about the wideouts below that tier who should be avoided in those early rounds?
Below, I have gathered a couple of players who I think have high bust potential based on where they’re currently being drafted (ADP - average draft position).
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
I’ll start this off by saying that I think Thomas will have a nice season in 2017. Again, this is more of a won’t-live-up-to-ADP pick and not a this-guy-is-going-to-be-garbage pick.
Thomas’ current ADP is 16th (2.04 in a 12-team standard draft) according to Fantasy Football Calculator. That’s just behind Jordy Nelson and ahead of T.Y. Hilton, Dez Bryant and Doug Baldwin to name a few.
With Brandin Cooks now in New England, Thomas becomes the focal point of Brees’ group of passing targets that includes Ted Ginn and Willie Snead. Cooks and Thomas had eerily similar seasons in 2016 — Cooks finished with 78 receptions on 117 targets for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns while Thomas hauled in 92 of 121 targets for 1,137 yards and nine scores. Certainly Cooks’ departure means Thomas’ production from his rookie season can go up, right?
To quote Lee Corso, "not so fast, my friend!"
During the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era, the Saints’ No. 1 WR averages 119.5 targets per year. Only one wideout (Marques Colston, 143 targets in 2007) has seen more than 131 targets. Only three times in Brees’ 11 years as a Saint has his target leader reached the 140-target mark. His volume, in all likelihood, won’t grow as much as you think.
Brees has always run a well-spread-out offense, and I just think Thomas’ ceiling was shown last year, as crazy as that may sound. High floor? Certainly. But if I’m drafting him, it’s as a WR2. And if I’m taking a WR in the second round as opposed to the first, I expect him to be a WR1.
Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles
Jeffery is being taken 35th overall (third round, 11th pick). Let me rephrase that: A wide receiver who has played only 21 games over the last two seasons and just joined a new offense with a young quarterback has an ADP of 35.
The talent is undeniable, but the injuries are enough to turn me away that early in the draft.
Let’s not forget: The Eagles sport one of the league’s best offensive lines and have a shiny new running back in LeGarrette Blount that they’ll be putting to good use.
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Again, sticking with the injury trend here, which you all know about.
Allen is 25 years old and returning to a crowded offense that includes Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, and Melvin Gordon all vying for targets from Philip Rivers, who recently said Allen looks "just as good as he did before he got hurt," which is hard to pinpoint exactly considering ever since his final year at Cal, he’s suffered a torn ACL, torn PCL, broken collarbone, and lacerated kidney in addition to some other nagging injuries (hip, groin and ankle).
Of course, Rivers meant Allen looks just as good as he did in 2013 and 2014 when he played 29 games while hauling in 148 catches for 1,829 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Allen’s ADP currently sits at 44 (4.09 in standard 12-team drafts), but he’ll be going up against the defenses of the AFC West and NFC East — including teams that have strong secondaries like the Broncos, Chiefs, Giants, and Washington.
Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills
See: Jeffery, Alshon. Replace "young quarterback" with Tyrod Taylor and you’ve got the same player. Roughly the same ADP. Same number of games played over the last two seasons. Learning a new offense, et cetera. Yeah, in the fourth round, no thanks.
Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders
There are a few reasons behind why I don’t think Cooper lives up to his 22nd (2.10) ADP hype. Namely, two major reasons.
Last season, it was a tale of two halves for both receivers. Cooper finished the season with 83 receptions (132 targets) for 1,153 yards and five touchdowns. Over the first eight games of the regular season, Cooper had 52 catches on 80 targets with 787 yards and a pair of touchdown grabs. That’s 62 percent of his catches, 61 percent of targets, and 68 percent of his yards coming in the first half of the season.
That means that over the final half of the season, he had 31 receptions, 52 targets, 366 yards, and three touchdowns. His best game in the second half of the season came in Week 16, championship Sunday, against the Colts — five catches for 76 yards.
Aside from Derek Carr’s slight obsession with Michael Crabtree, Cooper’s red-zone numbers don’t exactly help his cause. In 33 career games, he has eight snags and two touchdowns inside the red zone. He also has zero catches on snaps inside the 10-yard line.