Madden NFL 16 Primer: Why 'Draft Champions' Matters

Revisiting Tom Brady and Other Fantasy Busts (Pt.1)

Tom Brady isn't the only player that let down his fantasy team last season.
Tom Brady isn't the only player that let down his fantasy team last season.

It can’t be stated enough that fantasy football is fundamentally a game of finding and acquiring value. And one of the easiest ways of seeking out value in fantasy football drafts every year is looking at players who for one reason or another were busts in drafts the previous season.

While it’s not always, often times those disappointing seasons from premier players are not a true representation of the player in question, leaving an opportunity to jump on them at a discounted price. But who are those discounts this season?

We’re going to go back and go through all the high profile busts from last season and see if there are any players being knocked too far down draft boards. We’ll do this for every position in two segments, beginning with quarterbacks and running backs below.

Quarterback Busts in Review

Tom Brady

2013 ADP: QB4
2013 Finish: QB15
2014 ADP: QB8

Many people noted the offensive weapon deficiencies on the Patriots before last year, but common thinking was that Tom Brady was Superman and nothing could him back. Well, not quite. The receivers he started out with weren’t very good and due to injuries the ones he ended with were even worse. Brady admirably performed given the situation, but that isn’t any consolation for the owners who spent a high pick on him in fantasy football leagues.

The bright side for 2014 is that while his receivers will largely consist of the same players, they will be a year more experienced and, more important, healthier. When Rob Gronkowski was healthy Brady averaged 18.41 points a game and when both Gronk and Shane Vereen were healthy Brady averaged 20.38. Both of those paces over 16 games would have landed Brady in the top 4. Without either of them he averaged just 13.48 points. Brady is no longer a candidate to be the #1 QB, but at QB8 ADP he does have some upside left while the downside of Gronk getting hurt again is priced in. It’s fair.

Running Back Busts in Review

Doug Martin

2013 ADP: RB2
2013 Finish: RB56
2014 ADP: RB13

Doug Martin was a rookie sensation in 2012 when he finished #2 among all running backs in fantasy. That was the highest finish by a rookie RB since Edgerrin James finished second to Marshall Faulk in 1999. Naturally, Martin was expected to do big things in his sophomore season but ineffective play and a season-ending injury derailed all the hope and hype.

With a lack of elite playmakers at the position, many are forgiving 2013 and pinning Martin to be a RB1 or close to it for their fantasy teams here in 2014. We’ve gone over Martin more in-depth before and aren’t convinced of that. He’s still a talented young man entrenched as the lead back for his team, but questionable coaching and potential committee concerns make him a dicey pick in fantasy football leagues at his high current ADP.

C.J. Spiller

2013 ADP: RB5
2013 Finish: RB27
2014 ADP: RB15

Coming off a season where he was the #7 RB and averaged 6 yards a carry on just 207 totes, many were excited to see what C.J. Spiller could do when given the ball until he puked. It was Spiller’s ankle and not his stomach that gave out before then though, causing him to become one of 2013’s biggest busts.

Spiller only missed a single game to his recurring ankle sprains, though he was visibly hobbled at points and frequently spent time on the sidelines watching Fred Jackson play. He still managed 4.6 YPC and 201 carries on the season which is reason to get back on board for 2014. He’s probably never going to become a true workhorse or get back to his Jamaal Charles-like efficiency of 2012, but if he makes progress in both areas he can become a fantasy asset again. Spiller won’t be as good as he was in 2012, nor will he be as bad as he was in 2013. Something in between seems to be the most likely scenario. His current ADP looks appropriate for fantasy football leagues.

Trent Richardson

2013 ADP: RB8
2013 Finish: RB34
2014 ADP: RB25

Trent Richardson’s highly anticipated rookie season was something of a mixed bag in 2012. He compiled a lot of yards and touchdowns but didn’t impress as a runner, finishing with a 3.6 YPC average. Fantasy owners were willing to overlook that part though, making Richardson a staple RB1 in 2013 drafts. Some even took bold stances proclaiming Richardson as the top RB to target. He wound up being perhaps fantasy’s biggest bust instead, highly ineffective for the Browns before being traded to Colts, where he was possibly even more disappointing after renewed faith. He averaged 2.99 YPC and scored only 4 times on the year.

Personally I was never on board with Richardson’s hype coming out of college, but people who get paid millions of dollars to evaluate talent, from two separate teams, both decided he was worth a 1st round pick in today’s RB-depreciated NFL and pulled the trigger – one of them the third overall pick. Media analysts called him the best prospect at the position since Adrian Peterson. I’m not saying I agree, just that I’m in the minority and there’s a chance I’m wrong even though the results so far have supported my take.

For as bad as Richardson was as a runner, he still had ample opportunity in terms of overall touches (223) and receptions (35) even though he was pulled for Donald Brown late in the year. He actually averaged 9 yards a catch, showing some signs of life. With Brown gone, Richardson is going to get another chance to carry the load and to be honest, it’s hard to imagine him being worse than he was last year. It’s interesting that Le’Veon Bell is going at RB14 considering he fits a similar profile as Richardson – low YPC, high volume back with excellent receiving ability and a good surrounding offense. I wouldn’t go out of my way to acquire Richardson, but even if he doesn’t play well he could be a value in fantasy football leagues at RB25 ADP. Could be.

Ray Rice

2013 ADP: RB9
2013 Finish: RB29
2014 ADP: RB28

For much of the 2013 season, Spiller, Richardson, and Ray Rice were in a heated battle to be the worst fantasy bust at running back. Just comparing where they were drafted and where they finished it would be Richardson, but you can make a case it was Rice because he was viewed as one of the safest picks out there after many years of consistent RB1 production. He let many people down who didn’t see the fall coming, including myself.

It’s hard to say for sure what went wrong for Rice in 2013. He was injured early on in the year and was reportedly dealing with that injury all season, but he was playing just as poorly before the injury, even as a receiver. But then there was the horrific performance of the offensive line and the fact that talented upstart back Bernard Pierce vastly under-performed expectations too. You also have to consider that Rice had been one of the most overworked backs in the league when you include the playoffs.

With no clear cause for Rice’s lost 2013 season, it’s difficult to assess his prospects going forward into 2014. On one hand Rice is still fairly young at 27, is now fully healthy and has reportedly made an effort to drop weight to regain explosiveness. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has made a living off designing effective rushing attacks. But on the other hand Rice is facing a possible lengthy suspension for domestic abuse, could be fading physically due to overuse, and has arguably a more talented runner in Pierce behind him who will get a chance to open the season as the starter. Rice could come back and be a top 10 RB again after the suspension or he could end up being a complementary piece to Pierce. His hedging RB28 ADP makes sense for fantasy football leagues.

Steven Jackson

2013 ADP: RB12
2013 Finish: RB32
2014 ADP: RB30

After a career of playing for bad Rams offenses, Steven Jackson finally moved on in free agency and went to one of the best landing spots anyone could hope for in Atlanta. A fading run-only Michael Turner strung together many years of high-end RB1 performances, so even though Jackson was aging himself he was a popular RB1 pick in fantasy drafts last year. Injuries crippled the Falcons’ offense though, including Jackson, so a great season never materialized.

It has to be concerning that a hamstring strain cost Jackson so much playing time given his history of leg strains early in his career, but when he was back on the field SJax put up fantasy points. Over the final 6 weeks he averaged 13.5 points which would have rewarded his owners handsomely if maintained over a full season. Keep in mind this was without Julio Jones, Roddy White just finally getting healthy, and one of the league’s worst offensive lines. The Falcons upgraded that line in several spots this offseason and will have Julio and Roddy returning to 100%. The team did draft RB Devonta Freeman in the 4th round of the draft but that isn’t much of a worry for 2014. At RB30 current ADP, Jackson’s 2013 season is making him quite the bargain this year in fantasy football leagues.

David Wilson

2013 ADP: RB14
2013 Finish: RB99
2014 ADP: RB51

A former 1st round pick with rare explosion in his legs, Wilson was already generating a lot of interest last year when he was only expected to split carries for the Giants. Then backfield mate Andre Brown broke his leg and Wilson’s ADP and hype skyrocketed beyond control. A player with only 71 carries as a pro was a borderline RB1 in drafts. Unfortunately what happened afterward was almost a perfect storm of bad news that not only destroyed many fantasy seasons, it nearly ended Wilson’s career.

Wilson opened the 2013 season in almost the worst possible way. Playing for a hard-nosed old school coach, Wilson fumbled the ball away twice in the season opener and essentially handed the game to their division rivals. This landed Wilson in the coach’s doghouse, limiting playing time severely, and when Wilson was allowed on the field, his confidence was shaken and it clearly impacted his performance. His season was already lost at that point, and then he hurt his neck only to find out he had a season-ending and career-threatening condition.

After undergoing surgery just in hopes of getting cleared to play football again (which is expected to happen), the Giants went out and signed Rashad Jennings to be their lead back after Brown departed in free agency. The team also drafted power back Andre Williams in the 4th round. With his medical status, it seems at best Wilson can carve out a change of pace role and may never live up to what some of us had hoped he would become. His RB51 ADP makes him a cheap addition, but even if everyone in front of him gets hurt he may not get clearance for the workload necessary to matter for fantasy football leagues.

Stevan Ridley

2013 ADP: RB15
2013 Finish: RB30
2014 ADP: RB29

A top 10 fantasy finisher in 2012, there was little reason to believe Stevan Ridley couldn’t duplicate his success as the early-down and goal-line runner for the Patriots’ offense that produces double-digit touchdown seasons nearly every year. Like Wilson though, fumbles and an old fashioned coach sent Ridley to the bench at times and LeGarrette Blount stepped in to fill the void.

Ridley still got 178 carries and 7 touchdowns, but for a player that is not involved whatsoever in the passing game, that’s not enough for him to be more than the flex option he was in 2013. Thankfully, Blount is gone and the Patriots’ only addition at running back was rookie receiving specialist James White. If Ridley limits his fumbles and stays out of the doghouse in his contract year, he’ll have every opportunity to return fantasy RB1 value. Giving Ridley just half of Blount’s totals from last year would have left him with 255 carries, 1,159 yards, and 11 touchdowns. His current RB29 ADP is almost assuming Ridley is going to get benched for an extended period or heavily split carries. If that doesn’t happen he’ll be a steal in fantasy football leagues.

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  • EagleDomiKnation

    Too bad about David Wilson… I really liked his upside for fantasy.

  • ravenman1

    Are you crazy Im never touching Ridley again after what happened last year. I want my fantasy players to actually be on the field.

  • woodson21hof

    SJax aint dead yet. He is gonna put up some good points in that offense with all the weapons they got.