2011 Fantasy Football: First-Round Bust History

There will be many more 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings and features in the late spring and summer, including tons of 2011 Fantasy Football Mock Drafts and Player Rankings. I’ll also have an extensive 2011 NFL Fantasy Football Preseason Stock Report. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

2011 Fantasy Football – First-Round Bust History (July 10):

If you’ve played fantasy football for a while, you know that whiffing on your first-round pick can prove to be pretty costly. Despite this, there are several first-round consensus players who bust each year.

In this article, I’m going to look at my top 12 rankings over the previous five years to see if we can establish some sort of trend for finding potential fantasy busts.

2010 Fantasy Football Top 12:

  1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings.
  2. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans.
  3. Ray Rice, RB, Ravens.
  4. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars.
  5. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers. (BUST)
  6. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons.
  7. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans.
  8. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers.
  9. Randy Moss, WR, Patriots. (BUST)
  10. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions.
  11. Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers. (BUST)
  12. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers.

Frank Gore (Injury): Frank Gore was a bust because he played in only 11 games, and was limited in several others. You usually can’t project injuries, but Gore is a player who always seems to be hurt, even dating back to his college days.

Randy Moss (Age): The Randy Moss thing befuddled me. Tom Brady and Moss showed good chemistry in the preseason, so Moss’ rapid decline came from out of nowhere. Or did it? Moss turned 33 seven months prior to the start of the 2010 season. One of my rules is that you should never pick a non-quarterback 32 years or older early in your fantasy draft. Non-quarterbacks tend to decline at 32 or 33. That’s not always the case – see Derrick Mason – but it usually is. I don’t know why I didn’t listen to my own advice with Moss. I guess I just figured that Brady would be able to carry him. Whoops.

Ryan Mathews (Injury): Ryan Mathews had a decent Week 1 performance against the Chiefs, considering the sloppy conditions at Arrowhead. However, after generating 55 yards on just seven touches against the Jaguars in Week 2, he suffered a high ankle sprain during that contest and was never the same until late in the year. As I said, you usually can’t project injuries. This one came out of nowhere.

2009 Fantasy Football Top 12:

  1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings.
  2. Matt Forte, RB, Bears. (BUST)
  3. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars.
  4. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers. (BUST)
  5. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans.
  6. Steve Slaton, RB, Texans. (BUST)
  7. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers.
  8. Randy Moss, WR, Patriots.
  9. Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins. (BUST)
  10. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons. (BUST)
  11. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams.
  12. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans.

Matt Forte (Inexplicable Regression): Matt Forte had an incredible rookie year and was also very good in 2010 despite the fact that Mike Martz didn’t give him 250 carries for the first time in his career. So, what happened in 2009? Forte admitted that he didn’t put enough effort into his workouts the preceding offseason and was consequently out of shape.

LaDainian Tomlinson (Age): LaDainian Tomlinson had 12 touchdowns in 2009, but really struggled overall. He rushed for just 730 yards and caught only 20 balls. Tomlinson was only 29 heading into the 2009 campaign, but already had 2,100 carries under his belt. That’s the red flag number for running backs.

By the way, for those concerned about Steven Jackson wearing down, he’s only at 1,878 carries, so he should still have one really good year left in the tank.

Steve Slaton (Inexplicable Regression): It’s hard to believe that Steve Slaton had 1,282 rushing yards, 377 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie in 2008. In 2009, however, Slaton averaged 3.3 yards per carry and lost five fumbles, prompting Gary Kubiak to bench him. I’ll never understand what happened to Slaton. He definitely had the talent, but perhaps he just didn’t love football enough to put in the necessary offseason work to be a great player.

Clinton Portis (Age): As with LaDainian Tomlinson, Clinton Portis was over the 2,100-carry mark. Avoiding players who hit this plateau is a valuable lesson I learned during the 2009 season.

Michael Turner (Overuse): I don’t know why I had Michael Turner so high because I wrote the following in the 2009 fantasy rankings:

If you take [Turner’s] 376 attempts and add on 18 from the playoff loss to Arizona, you get 394 carries. Why is this important? Check out this fantasy football article chronicling the history of running backs with high carry totals and how they performed the following year. It’s not pretty.

2008 Fantasy Football Top 12:

  1. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers
  2. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams
  3. Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles
  4. Joseph Addai, RB, Colts (BUST)
  5. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers
  6. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
  7. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (BUST)
  8. Randy Moss, WR, Patriots
  9. Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins
  10. Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys
  11. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills
  12. Ryan Grant, RB, Packers

Joseph Addai (Injury): Joseph Addai rushed for 1,072 yards and scored 15 touchdowns in 2007, but couldn’t follow that up because of health issues. Addai has been banged up ever since.

Tom Brady (Injury): There was only one first-round quarterback bust in the past five years. That was Tom Brady, who suffered that nasty knee injury in the season opener against the Chiefs. Obviously, no one could have predicted that.

2007 Fantasy Football Top 12:

  1. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers
  2. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams
  3. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers
  4. Joseph Addai, RB, Colts
  5. Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs (BUST)
  6. Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots (BUST)
  7. Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles
  8. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars (BUST)
  9. Travis Henry, RB, Broncos (BUST)
  10. Willie Parker, RB, Steelers
  11. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers
  12. Terrell Owens, WR, Cowboys

Larry Johnson (Overuse): Like Michael Turner in 2009, Larry Johnson’s 2007 campaign was doomed because he carried the football 416 times in 2006. Everyone say thank you to Herm Edwards for ruining Johnson’s career. And I’m not being facetious here – Johnson is a douche, so Herm did the right thing.

Laurence Maroney (Overrated): Bill Belichick spent a first-round pick on Laurence Maroney, so I figured he was good. Not quite. Maroney did average 4.5 yards per carry in 2007, generating 835 rushing yards in the process. However, he never became a big part of the passing game; he caught just four balls that year. Ultimately, Maroney just sucked, and because Belichick overrated him, I made the same mistake.

Maurice Jones-Drew (Veteran Presence): We’ve seen it many times recently. DeAngelo Williams with Jonathan Stewart. Joseph Addai with Donald Brown. Thomas Jones with Cedric Benson and Shonn Greene. Veteran running backs tend to get more motivated when their team spends an early pick on a running back. That was the case with the Jaguars in 2007. I thought Jones-Drew would get the bulk of the workload in his second season, but Fred Taylor had other ideas. Taylor rushed for 1,200 yards that year.

Travis Henry (Injury): Before Travis Henry took up getting arrested as a hobby, he was a pretty good NFL running back. He rushed for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns with the Titans in 2006, so I thought he could have a huge season in Mike Shanahan’s offense the following year. Unfortunately, Henry had a lingering knee injury all season that caused him to miss four games.

2006 Fantasy Football Top 12:

  1. Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs
  2. Shaun Alexander, RB, Seahawks (BUST)
  3. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers
  4. Tiki Barber, RB, Giants
  5. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers
  6. Terrell Owens, WR, Cowboys
  7. Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins
  8. Marvin Harrison, WR, Colts
  9. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts
  10. Torry Holt, WR, Rams
  11. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams
  12. Randy Moss, WR, Raiders (BUST)

Shaun Alexander (Overuse): Yet another running back to lead the NFL in carries (370).

Randy Moss (A-Hole): Randy Moss completely quit on the 2006 Raiders. A year later, he caught 23 touchdown passes.

Fantasy Football First-Round Bust History Summary:

Some interesting things:

1. Of the 16 first-round busts over the past five years, only two have been receivers – and both were Randy Moss. So, if you’re taking a receiver in the first round, it’s almost a lock that you’ll get a reliable fantasy stud. Thus, taking the sure bet receiver over the risky running back is the wiser move.

2. Only five of the 16 first-round busts were due to injury, and just one was predictable (Frank Gore, 2010). That surprised me. I thought that number would be much higher. I guess it’s not that easy to predict injuries.

3. Three of the 16 first-round busts were age-related. If you spend an early pick on a non-quarterback, make sure he’s A) younger than 32 and B) not about to hit the 2,100-carry mark that season.

4. Three other first-round busts were running backs who led the NFL in carries the previous year. Avoid these guys as well.

2011 Fantasy Football Potential Early Busts:

Looking at some of the players chosen in or near the first round of 2011 Fantasy Football Drafts (or mock drafts), here are the riskiest early selections in 2011 Fantasy Football:

Steven Jackson, RB, Rams. Risk Level: 5/10.
Steven Jackson has the most career carries of any of the top-ranked running backs. As mentioned though, he has 1,878 carrer carries, so he should have at least one really good year left in the tank. I’m not too concerned about Jackson, but he’s worth noting.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders. Risk Level: 6/10.
Darren McFadden is injury prone because of the way he runs. He missed three games last year and four games in 2009. He could be like Frank Gore – awesome when he’s healthy, but bound to miss several contests each year.

Frank Gore, RB, 49ers. Risk Level: 7/10.
Owning Frank Gore is really frustrating. If you have him on your team, prepare for many weeks of checking the injury report.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars. Risk Level: 7/10.
Maurice Jones-Drew had knee surgery and was told not to run until May. There was only one projected first-round injury bust the past five years, but that’s probably because I haven’t listed too many injured players that high. Jones-Drew’s knee bothers me, and if the Jaguars aren’t any good this season, they could sit him down at the end of the year.

Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts. Risk Level: 7/10.
Reggie Wayne has shown no signs of slowing down, but neither did Randy Moss last year. Wayne will be 33 in November. He’s past the age of regression, so he could easily just lose it in 2011. Maybe he won’t, but are you willing to take that risk with one of your first two selections?

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns. Risk Level: 8/10.
Peyton Hillis is a candidate for inexplicable regression. However, since I owned Hillis in nearly all of my fantasy leagues last year, it won’t be so inexplicable to me. Hillis really wore down the stretch. He’s not an every-down back. Not even close. He’ll share the workload with Montario Hardesty.

Michael Turner, RB, Falcons. Risk Level: 9/10.
Michael Turner is not in my top 30, but he’s being selected that early in many leagues and mock drafts. Do not make the same mistake – there is a dubious history of running backs failing after leading the league in carries. Turner is due for a heavy decline.


More 2011 Fantasy Football Articles:
2011 Fantasy Football: Home

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings:
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks - 9/8 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs - 9/8 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers - 9/8 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends - 9/8 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defenses - 9/1 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers - 6/26 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Downloadable Spreadsheets - 9/8 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Dynasty Rookie Rankings - 8/27 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Auction Values - 8/27 (Walt)

2011 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets:
2011 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 150 Traditional - 9/8 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 150 PPR - 9/8 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 150 Touchdown - 9/8 (Walt)

2011 Fantasy Football Mock Drafts:
2011 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Real League Draft - 8/31 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Fake Mock - 8/25 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Experts Draft - 8/25 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Forum 2-QB Mock - 7/21 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Mock Draft Scenarios - 7/17 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Auction: Mock PPR Auction - 7/14 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Forum PPR Mock - 7/7 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Forum Mock - 7/3 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Four-Man PPR Draft - 6/19 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Draft: Fox Sports - 5/5 (Walt)

2011 Fantasy Football Articles:
2011 Fantasy Football Injury Reports: Week 2 - 9/18 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Weekly Rankings: Week 2 - 9/18 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Week 2 Add/Drop - 9/13 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Training Camp Stock - 9/8 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Start Em, Sit Em - 9/6 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Preseason Stock - 9/3 (Walt)
2011 Preseason Recap and Fantasy Football Notes - 9/3 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Preseason Targets - 9/3 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Late-Round Sleepers - 9/1 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Round-by-Round Strategy - 9/1 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Value Comparison - 9/1
2011 Fantasy Football: Must-Have Players - 8/24 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Busts, Players to Avoid - 7/25 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Mailbag - 7/24 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Sleepers - 7/23 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Various League Strategy - 7/18 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Three-Dimensional Running Backs - 7/16 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: ADP Analysis - 7/15 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: First-Round Bust History - 7/10 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Mailbag - 7/9 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Mailbag - 7/4 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Mock Draft Analysis - 7/1 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Mailbag - 6/18 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Mailbag - 6/12 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football Mailbag - 6/5 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Stock Up (Draft) - 5/6 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Stock Down (Draft) - 5/6 (Walt)
2010 Fantasy Football: Buy Low - 4/8 (Walt)
2011 Fantasy Football: Defense Strategy - 4/8 (Walt)
Running Backs with Most Carries - 4/8 (Walt)

Fantasy Football Rankings - May 23

2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 21

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

NFL Picks - Feb. 12