When it comes to fantasy busts, there can be a fine line on its definition due to circumstances. Some may argue injured players shouldn’t be included as a bust, but if you spent high draft capital on someone who barely played, that pick is a bust.
In my view, any player who did not return the value of where you drafted him in fantasy football drafts can and should be considered a bust. Whether it’s due to injury, poor performance, or other players stepping up and stealing the spotlight, it’s frustrating when someone you drafted doesn’t provide the production you expected.
In this article, I’ll highlight players that were some of the biggest busts of the 2021 fantasy football season. I realize reliving some of our biggest mistakes isn’t fun, but there are plenty of things we can learn and take into consideration next season.
Let’s rip off this band-aid together and begin the healing process of facing our pain points from the 2021 season.
2021 Fantasy Football All-Busts: Quarterback
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson was drafted as a top-4 fantasy football quarterback this past season. He ended the year as the QB16.
On top of playing just 12 games due to an ankle injury, Jackson missed all of the fantasy playoffs. Spending a top-4 quarterback pick on someone you couldn’t play during the most important time of the year can’t be a good feeling.
It wasn’t just the injury that made Jackson a bust. In the 12 games he played, Jackson had under 20 fantasy points in eight of 12 games. This is certainly not the production you were looking for from a quarterback that rushed for over 1,000 yards in his two previous seasons.
To make matters worse, Jackson struggled with turnovers, throwing a career-high 13 interceptions and losing three fumbles as well. Jackson also had issues finding the end zone, throwing just 16 touchdown passes and running in for two more (both in the same game).
At the end of the day, Jackson did not live up to expectations. Whether he was on the field or not, he underperformed far more than he produced and that’s why he is a bust for the 2021 season.
- Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
- Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
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2021 Fantasy Football All-Busts: Running Back
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
After finishing as a top-2 running back in 2018 and 2019, Christian McCaffrey was the No. 1 overall fantasy football pick in 2020 and 2021. As good as he is, I will be very surprised if he is the first overall pick again in 2022 fantasy drafts.
Injuries have limited McCaffrey to just 10 games over the past two seasons combined, making him a risky fantasy pick. His talent is undeniable, but there are only so many times you can spend an early first-round pick on a player that can’t stay on the field.
One scenario that could play out in 2022 would be McCaffrey falling enough in drafts where he becomes a major value pick. Fantasy managers have a right to be reluctant to draft CMC early, but a player labeled as “injury-prone" can often lead to an overcorrection.
If that happens, take advantage and pounce at the opportunity to get McCaffrey with your second or third pick.
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
The fantasy community had high hopes of a bounce-back season for Saquon Barkley, who played just two games in 2020. Unfortunately, Barkley was underwhelming in 2021 and dealt with injuries once again, causing him to miss a total of four games.
Barkley was drafted as a top-10 running back in 2021 fantasy drafts but finished the season as the RB30. He did get the volume when he was healthy enough to play, but it did not result in productive games most of the time. In the 13 games Barkley played, he failed to reach 10 PPR fantasy points in seven of them.
It’s safe to assume Barkley will fall in 2022 drafts. Unlike McCaffrey, Barkley will be much harder to trust due to his lackluster performance in 2021.
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Another top pick that did not perform when it mattered most was Dalvin Cook, who was drafted first or second overall in the majority of fantasy football drafts. He also dealt with injuries throughout the season which led to inconsistent fantasy production and left fantasy managers second-guessing their decisions to play him or not.
Cook was up and down all season, which made him difficult to trust on a week-to-week basis. He also missed four games with injuries, including Week 16 during fantasy playoffs. Players who survived his absence were rewarded with a measly 13 total yards in Week 17, which likely cost them their fantasy championships.
While Cook’s overall numbers were good, he failed fantasy gamers when they needed him the most. He’s yet to play more than 14 games in any of his five seasons, making him a somewhat volatile fantasy option.
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs
- Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
2021 Fantasy Football All-Busts: Wide Receiver
DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
DK Metcalf had very high expectations after finishing 2020 as the WR7. He seemed to pick up where he left off at first, then Week 10 hit.
From Weeks 10-16, Metcalf scored fewer than 13 PPR fantasy points in every game, finishing in single digits four times. While he rebounded with a monster game during Week 17, many fantasy players had lost trust in him and benched him by that point.
Although he came through in the championship week, his limited production in the second half of the year may have already caused many teams to be eliminated from the playoffs. Metcalf was drafted as the WR4 and finished the year as the WR14.
A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans
Despite earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC, it was a difficult year for many Tennessee Titans from a fantasy football perspective. A.J. Brown was no exception.
Brown was drafted as the WR5 in the majority of fantasy drafts but did not live up to his third-year hype. In addition to missing four games, his production was often underwhelming. While he erupted for a handful of big games, he scored fewer than 10 PPR points in seven of the 13 games he played.
Similar to Metcalf, Brown would disappoint fantasy managers leading up to the fantasy playoffs, scoring a combined 22.3 fantasy points from Weeks 9-15 en route to a WR32 finish.
Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
I put some feelers out on Twitter asking who everyone believed to be their biggest bust of 2021, and the overwhelming response was Allen Robinson.
I originally thought to myself “how could the man drafted as the WR13 in fantasy drafts be the biggest bust of 2021?" Then I looked at where Robinson finished the season. He was the WR81 on the year!
There’s no way around it; Robinson had a terrible year. He was droppable in fantasy football pretty early on. Most held on to him due to his name, but if you strip that away, he was a non-factor.
Robinson played just 12 games, only two of which generated double-digit fantasy points (barely). Robinson never had more than 68 receiving yards in a single game and was held under 50 receiving yards in nine of 12 games. He also rarely found the end zone, scoring just one touchdown and one two-point conversion all year.
On the plus side, Robinson will fall late in drafts and could still be a potential value pick for 2022. My only advice would be to cut your losses sooner rather than later with him.
- DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
- Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team
Check out more of our 2021 Fantasy Football Awards
- 2021 Fantasy Football All-Pro Team
- 2021 Fantasy Football All-Sleepers Team
- 2021 Fantasy Football Best Waiver-Wire Pickups
2021 Fantasy Football All-Busts: Tight End
Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders
It’s very difficult for a tight end to bust in fantasy football because the bar is already set so low for the majority at the position. Unless you’re one of the elite options, of course. That was the case with Darren Waller.
Waller was drafted as a top-2 tight end in 2021 fantasy drafts. After finishing as the TE2 in 2020, why not? Waller tied Travis Kelce with 145 targets and led all tight ends with 107 receptions in 2020, but that was not the case in 2021.
While he was a great option early on in the season, Waller didn’t offer much fantasy production down the stretch. He missed six games in all, including the crucial stretch from Weeks 13-17 that decided the fates of many fantasy teams.
He also wasn’t much of a threat in the red zone, scoring just two touchdowns all season and none after Week 4. Between the missed time and lack of scoring, Waller finished the season as the TE17.
- T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
- Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers
2021 Fantasy Football All-Busts: Defense
Washington Football Team D/ST
One of the biggest busts this season was the Washington Football Team’s defense/special teams.
Washington’s unit appeared to be one of the best defenses heading into the 2021 season and was drafted as a top-4 option in fantasy. They finished as the 21st-ranked D/ST in fantasy, however, after surrendering the ninth-most points in the NFL. Their 38 sacks ranked 17th in the NFL, while their 11 interceptions were 22nd.
Washington’s defense was expected to be their strength after carrying them to a postseason berth in 2020, but it ended up being a weakness and ruined their playoff hopes. Washington’s D/ST ended the season rostered in just 26% of fantasy leagues.
- Los Angeles Ram D/ST
- Baltimore Ravens D/ST