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Week 16 Fantasy Football Busts

Last Updated: Dec 21, 2023

In the second round of your fantasy playoffs, you need to know which stars may not produce as hoped so they can be complemented with upside plays. Also, I provide the streaming types who should be reserved when you are faced with close lineup calls.

If you have one of our listed Busts on your team, take a look at our Fantasy Football Week 16 Sleepers for a potential replacement option.

Fantasy Football QB Busts for Week 16

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens @ San Francisco 49ers

It’s hard to bench Jackson, but this will be his biggest test against the most formidable opponent on the schedule, and there shouldn’t be expectations for an upside performance. Jackson’s lack of true standout punch from his supporting cast may be exposed this week.

The 49ers rank fifth in Fantasy Points Per Game allowed to QBs, and the Ravens rank 28th in pass blocking grade on Pro Football Focus for Week 16. The Niners’ defense will be ready to limit Jackson as much as possible as a scrambler, and he might not have much success as a passer.

Jared Goff, Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings

Goff is coming off a five-TD game against Denver, but you can’t lock him into lineups based on last week’s performance. He gets a tough draw against a familiar divisional opponent this week.

Minnesota’s defense has allowed only three TD passes over its last four games, with the unit having noticeably tightened up in recent weeks. Goff also usually does his better work in home games, as he has only nine TD passes on the road.

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Fantasy Football RB Busts for Week 16

Ty Chandler, Minnesota Vikings vs Detroit Lions

Chandler seized the starting opportunity in Week 15 and might have locked up the job in Minnesota for the remainder of the season. He rushed for 132 yards and a TD against Chicago.

The Lions, however, rank first in Fantasy Points Per Game allowed to RBs. If this matchup is lower scoring, Chandler won’t be rolling up big yardage numbers, and if Detroit does jump out to a sizable lead, I don’t expect him to be a major part of the catch-up script since the Vikings have so many other preferred targets.

See where Chandler places in our Week 16 fantasy football rankings.

Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers @ Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have a run-funnel defense that ranks 29th in Fantasy Points Per Game allowed to RBs. However, I don’t believe that Jones can take full advantage of the matchup.

Injuries have derailed Jones for much of the season and he hasn’t looked much like his former self when available. He averages 3.8 yards per carry and has one TD run since the season opener.

You may get a decent day from Jones, but don’t start him expecting statistical upside.

Fantasy Football WR Busts for Week 16

Joshua Palmer, Los Angeles Chargers vs Buffalo Bills

In his second game since coming off injured reserve, Palmer will be a top target for Easton Stick. But Buffalo represents a tough matchup, and he might not be able to pad his numbers in catch-up mode like he did against Las Vegas in Week 15.

In Week 16, Palmer has a 20.6 WR/CB matchup grade against the Bills’ CBs, which is regarded as “poor” on Pro Football Focus. If you’re mulling over a tight decision between Palmer and another WR, lean to the alternative.

Zay Flowers, Baltimore Ravens @ San Francisco 49ers

Flowers isn’t ready to handle being a prime target in a major matchup against a top-level defense. He’ll be better served in the future by operating as a WR2 complement to more of an alpha type.

The rookie’s WR/CB matchup grade for Week 16 against San Francisco is 31.9, which registers as “below average.” Other teams with standout playmakers can win against the 49ers secondary, but Flowers won’t be up to the task of delivering quality fantasy football production this week.

Fantasy Football TE Bust for Week 16

Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals

Yes, the Bengals allow the second-most FFPG to tight ends, but that doesn’t mean you should start Freiermuth based on a matchup. Those looking for a TE streaming option can find a better alternative.

Mason Rudolph is the potential starter for the Steelers in Week 16, and the only Pittsburgh pass-catcher I would consider starting is Diontae Johnson.

Fantasy Football Draft Busts

Our staff’s favorite fantasy football preseason bust targets for 2023 leagues:

StaffQBRBWRTE
Frank AmmiranteAaron RodgersIsiah PachecoTee HigginsEvan Engram
Jeff HicksAaron RodgersNajee HarrisDeebo SamuelDavid Njoku
Lance PattonTua TagovailoaJames ConnerDeebo SamuelEvan Engram
Matt De LimaDeshaun WatsonJosh JacobsTreylon BurksKyle Pitts
Pat PickensJustin FieldsRhamondre StevensonDavante AdamsT.J. Hockenson
Sam WagmanTua TagovailoaTravis EtienneDeebo SamuelGeorge Kittle
Scott EngelAaron RodgersJames ConnerMike WilliamsEvan Engram

Fantasy QB Busts 2023

Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets

Let’s not confuse the Jets’ “all in to win” hype with renewed heavy Fantasy appeal for Rodgers. While his supporters submit that he won the MVP award as recently as 2021, we may not see the one-time Fantasy superstar return to such great heights.

Rodgers’ receiving crew is better than last season, with the trade to New York giving him an upgrade at the WR1 spot with Garrett Wilson. But the rest of the group is shaky, lacking a true No. 2 WR or a better-than-mediocre pass-catching tight end.

While we wait for Fantasy draft season, peek at our top NFL futures odds, then continue reading:

At age 39, Rodgers can still be a good NFL QB, but he did not look great last year, even before he fractured his thumb. He is not quite as mobile as he once was and does not make big throws with the same frequency he used to.

The future Hall of Famer may not be terrible, but he will likely be a top-15 Fantasy QB at best. — SCOTT ENGEL

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

Tua had an up-and-down 2022 season finishing outside the top-15 of quarterbacks in seven of 13 starts. He did manage to finish 15th in season-long scoring – despite playing in just 13 games – due to four top-5 finishes.

Although it’s not fair – or practical – to take out his four top-5 fantasy finishes from last season, it is worth noting that nearly all of those performances came against susceptible defensive units – including the Lions’ defense, which finished last against quarterbacks in standard scoring formats.

The real concern for myself here is the injury concerns, considering he hasn’t played a full NFL season, suffered two major concussions last season, and has stated that he even considered retirement this off-season.

If I’m not getting a true dual-threat option at your QB1 – and Tua will almost certainly run even less this season – I prefer health and consistency over the occasional breakout.

Even with some of the best playmakers in the NFL, I think Tua – as the #12th quarterback being drafted in Underdog drafts – is too inconsistent and injury-prone to consider over players in the same or a similar tier. — LANCE PATTON

Fantasy RB Busts 2023

Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Fantasy Football community sees the running back drafted in the first round and immediately anoints them as unquestionable RB1.

Unfortunately, the front office that drafted Etienne is no longer employed in Jacksonville, and head coach Doug Pederson has never believed in a workhorse approach to the position. He prefers committees and enforced that by the team drafting Tank Bigsby on Day 2 of the NFL Draft this year.

Etienne was very streaky last season, with only three games of over 20 PPR Fantasy points and six games outside the Top 36 running backs in Fantasy scoring. He also has not developed into the pass-catching weapon many pegged him as coming out of Clemson, and with the arrival of Calvin Ridley in town, that’s fewer targets for Etienne to soak up.

With an average draft position of a top-15 running back but the projection of a back more slated to be a middling RB2, I am avoiding Etienne in Fantasy leagues this season. — SAM WAGMAN

Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

The concern with Harris has nothing to do with opportunity; he finished last season with four straight 20-plus touch performances and touched the ball on 41.7% of snaps played. The issue is his inability to outproduce his backup consistently.

Harris ended up with a nearly 3:1 touch ratio over Jaylen Warren, but Warren outscored Harris on a per-touch basis in standard and PPR formats. Warren only scored .04 points per touch more in standard leagues, but the difference jumped to .18 points per touch in full PPR.

Warren’s ability to catch the ball in space and create positive production threatens Harris’s Fantasy workload. If Harris can eliminate usage concerns on passing downs, he deserves to be drafted as a potential top 7-10 running back.

If not, there are enough RBs going around him in drafts that I’d rather have. — JEFF HICKS

Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots

This is less of a commentary on Stevenson and more of one on the Patriots this season. New England is coming off only its second sub-.500 season since 2000, may further regress this season in arguably the most difficult division in football, which would put a dent into Stevenson’s role.

Stevenson is coming off a breakout season where he had 1,040 yards and five touchdowns, which is why he’s being drafted on average in the second to third round this season.

But Bill Belichick-coached teams tend to spread the wealth around, backfield-wise. With competition, mainly that of Ezekiel Elliott but also potentially Ty Montgomery and Kevin Harris, Stevenson could end up being less-featured than last season despite being drafted as a top-10 back.

It’ll be interesting to see how a productive season would affect Stevenson’s fantasy football dynasty rankings. — PAT PICKENS

Fantasy WR Busts 2023

Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals

Choosing Tee Higgins as a bust isn’t about him as a player but his current situation. I’m high on Ja’Marr Chase, projecting the third-year star to take another leap in production in 2023. This would mean that Higgins could see a decreased target share.

It’s important to note that this is no longer a 1A/1B situation in Cincinnati. Chase is clearly the alpha in this offense right now. When both players were on the field together in 2022, Chase had a 27% target share compared to Higgins’ 21%. I expect that to continue moving forward.

Higgins is currently being drafted as the 14th wide receiver off the board with a 23.8 ADP in Underdog Best Ball formats. If we look at other players available at that pick, we see receivers for larger target shares (DeVonta Smith and DK Metcalf) and stud running backs (Derrick Henry and Josh Jacobs).

I’d rather look elsewhere at Higgins’ current cost, making him a clear fade. — FRANK AMMIRANTE

Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans

A healthy Ryan Tannehill should help Burks, a second-year receiver out of Arkansas, find his footing after an inconsistent rookie campaign. Speaking of feet, he missed a handful of games last year on injured reserve due to turf toe.

The problem for Burks boils down to his team. The Titans, ranked 30th in our NFL power rankings, are a team lacking firepower. Burks is surrounded by no other pass-catching weapons of note for defenses to worry about.

Look for him to climb the fantasy football rankings through the preseason as managers overestimate his potential in what is an underwhelming offense. He will be the quintessential overvalued option by average draft position this summer.

Tannehill has been wildly efficient in his career; however, that’s not enough as even A.J. Brown only posted 63/869/5 in 2021. The target volume will never be there in Tennessee and the Titans remain a ball control offense that will spread passes around inconsistently. — MATT DE LIMA

Fantasy TE Busts 2023

Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars

Evan Engram had a terrific debut season in Jacksonville, but I’m avoiding him at his current price as the eighth-ranked tight end at 92.8 ADP in Underdog Best Ball formats. This is because there are now too many mouths to feed with Calvin Ridley in the fold.

Ridley has proven that he can earn targets at a high rate, putting up a 26.5% target share in 2021 and a 25.1% rate in 2020. Add that to Christian Kirk (24.6%) and Zay Jones (23.1%); you have a crowded situation.

While I still think Engram will be the third option in this offense, it’s tough to trust him at this current price, given the change in team context. You can take players like Elijah Moore, who now has Deshaun Watson at quarterback, or David Montgomery, who is in an improved offense, at this cost.

While Engram is in a pass-heavy scheme in a high-scoring offense, I can’t pay this price given the packed crowd of pass-catchers. FRANK AMMIRANTE

What is a Fantasy Football Bust Player?

A Fantasy Football bust is typically a player who does not live up to expectations for that Fantasy Football season. It could be a player who was drafted highly and failed to produce relative to that draft slot, or it could also mean a player who was expected to have a strong role in their offense/defense, yet had a smaller role.

It’s important not to live in absolutes in Fantasy Football. Just because a player might be a bust, does not mean they are a bad player, but maybe they just did not measure up to the expectations we as Fantasy Football players put on them to have that season.

What Are the Signs That a Fantasy Football Player Will Bust?

There aren’t any concrete signs usually that a player will have a down year, but you can look for context clues around. Such examples could include a new offensive/defensive scheme that doesn’t quite suit that player, a new coach or coordinator that calls plays differently, or even some bad news from training camp or preseason about the player that makes you wonder whether they can sustain that projected role.

You have to be fluid with your draft strategy if a player you like has negative vibes around him.

Author

Scott Engel

Scott Engel is a Senior Sports Writer at The Game Day. Previously he was at SportsLine.com and The Athletic. His work is also featured at RotoBaller and on Seahawks.com. Scott is a host on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. He is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. Scott is a four-time FSWA award winner and a 13-time finalist. He was an Associate Editor and featured writer at ESPN.com. and his career began at CBS SportsLine, where he was a Senior Writer and Managing Editor. Scott was the Managing Director at RotoExperts.

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