If you were to ask me right now which player is mostly like to be a bust for Fantasy Football in 2022, I already have an obvious answer: Chris Godwin. A lot can happen between now and the start of the season, but at this point, I don't think I'm going to have Godwin on my draft board for the upcoming season.
That's based on the two most recent mock drafts we've done with the Fantasy Football Today crew, where he's been taken in the third round in both. It's not that I don't think Godwin is a great player – he was WR6 in points per game in PPR last season, he's clearly awesome! – but I just don't see how he can justify that cost in 2022. Godwin is coming off a torn ACL, and while we're at the point where you basically just assume players will eventually be themselves from that injury, it's asking an awful lot for Godwin to do that in time to justify a near WR1 price for 2022.
The average return to play timeline for torn ACLs among NFL players is 11.6 months, though one study found that was 10.9 months for wide receivers. Godwin suffered his injury on Dec. 19, 2021, so assuming an average return to play timetable would put him back on the field sometime in mid-November – midway through the season. Remember, Odell Beckham wasn't ready for the start of last season coming off a torn ACL in October of the previous season, and it took him a while to get back to full speed even after that; Godwin's injury came nearly two months later in the NFL calendar than Beckham's.
I think Godwin is likely to make an impact in the 2022 Fantasy season, and if his price drops enough, I'll be willing to snag him with the expectation he'll be stashed on my bench for a while. But, if it's going to cost a third-round pick, there's no way I'll be the person taking a chance on him. Because cost is ultimately the most important factor in my eyes when determining who is likely to be a bust for Fantasy. I can talk myself into basically any player if the price is right, so if I'm avoiding someone like Godwin, it'll likely be because I just can't justify what they cost to acquire.
We went over the FFT team's early sleeper and breakout picks earlier this week, and we talked about our bust candidates on Thursday's episode of the podcast, so let's do the same in today's newsletter. We've got bust picks from myself, Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings here to let you know who we're not looking forward to drafting. As always at this time of year, these names can and will change between now and when draft season officially kicks off, and those changes will be based on whether we can talk you out of drafting them early.
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I'm just trying this one on for size, to see how it fits. I'm not writing it in pen or chiseling it into stone just yet. But it's worth considering that, with the loss of Tyreek Hill, Mahomes may not be quite worth the premium we're used to paying for him. We saw last season that he was at least mortal as he averaged 7.1 yards per attempt from Week 7 on as opposing defenses schemed to take away the deep ball. He found his footing down the stretch – and ended up with 11 touchdowns in three playoff games, to boot – so I don't want to overreact. However, losing Hill is a big blow for any offense, and with Travis Kelce entering his age-33 season, Mahomes' skill player complements suddenly look a lot more questionable than ever before. Maybe JuJu Smith-Schuster will be healthy and turn back into a stud playmaker, or maybe Kelce can keep outrunning father time. But for the first time since he became a starter, it's worth wondering if Mahomes is worth the early-round pick we've penciled him in for.
- Jamey's pick: Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- "I've written off Rodgers enough times over the past few years to know this posting can come back to haunt me. But this season feels different. You need playmakers to succeed, and Rodgers lost two of his top receivers this offseason in Adams and Valdes-Scantling. Without Adams, Rodgers might not finish as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback this year ..."
- Heath's pick: Joe Burrow, Bengals -- "Let's say that we've decided Burrow is already the third or fourth-best quarterback in the NFL. We'll project him at 7.9 yards per attempt and 6.0% touchdown rate. He would need more than 36 pass attempts per game just to match last year's per-game numbers. In 2021 he averaged 32.5 attempts per game. Is a 10% increase in pass volume possible? Sure. In fact, if Burrow's efficiency regresses as expected you would expect an increase in pass attempts ..."
This might be the player I'm most interested to see where the value ends up come draft season. When he initially made his comeback late last season, it seemed like Akers might end up a first-round pick, given the hype around him. However, he ended up rushing for just 2.6 yards per attempt with eight catches in four playoff games, and the hype evaporated. I don't want to hold the lack of efficiency against him too much – after all, he was coming back way earlier than expected from a ruptured Achilles and faced a bunch of tough defenses along the way. But the passing game role is consistent with what he had as a rookie, and that makes it very hard for Akers to have a path to top-12 upside even if he's right. If you add this year's postseason to the games where he played 50% of the snaps or more in his rookie season, Akers has averaged just 12.8 PPR points per game in 10 games; even if you doubled his touchdowns from three to six, it only gets you to 14.4 PPG, or roughly RB18 in 2021. In our post-free agency mock draft (a PPR league), Akers was the 11th pick in the third round, at 35th overall (RB16), and that's probably around where I'd start to consider him. At this point, I probably wouldn't take Akers at that cost, but I wouldn't be too strongly opposed to the idea of it, at least. If he starts to climb toward the second round, that's when I'll be out.
- Jamey's pick: Elijah Mitchell, 49ers -- "Mitchell was great as the lead running back for the 49ers as a rookie in 2021, but history isn't on his side heading into his sophomore season. Kyle Shanahan has been the 49ers coach since 2017, and he's had a different leading rusher in every year (Carlos Hyde in 2017, Matt Breida in 2018, Raheem Mostert in 2019 and Jeff Wilson in 2020). We'll see if Mitchell can break that trend, but he should have some competition for the lead role from Trey Sermon, Wilson and do-it-all receiver Deebo Samuel …"
- Dave's pick: Cam Akers, Rams -- "Give Akers all the props for coming back from a torn Achilles and working as the Rams' lead running back during their Super Bowl run. But even Rams fans have to admit he didn't pass the eyeball test. At 2.6 yards per carry, Akers didn't show much explosiveness (two runs of 12-plus yards over 67 carries) nor agility to avoid tackles. Akers had as many fumbles lost (two) as he had goal-to-go carries from 4 yards or closer. Even uglier, he had 20 carries for zero or negative yards. Point is, Akers did nothing to secure the luxurious role Rams lead backs have enjoyed for years …"
- Heath's pick: Dalvin Cook, Vikings – "Cook will be 27 at the start of the season and has serious injury concerns (he's never played more than 14 games in a season). He's also coming off his worst year as a pass catcher and there are rumors that Minnesota's new leadership would like to start fresh by trading some of their more expensive pieces, maybe even Cook himself. All that uncertainty and risk makes it hard for me to draft Cook as the No. 5 back off the board, or even in Round 1 at all. I'd rather have younger backs like Javonte Williams or D'Andre Swift and I'd strongly prefer my top-five wide receivers in PPR …"
Cooper has been a top-15 WR in two mock drafts since the trade to Cleveland, so clearly, we're excited about what the combination of Cooper and Deshaun Watson may mean in 2022. And that combo could be very productive, obviously. But I do feel the need to remind everyone that, while Watson's criminal trial is behind him, it seems exceedingly likely he is still facing some kind of suspension in 2022, and I would be surprised if it was lighter than the six-game suspension we saw for Ezekiel Elliott a few years back. Cooper may be a borderline WR1 when Watson is out there, but I'm not sure you're going to want to start Jacoby Brissett's WR1 in a run-first offense.
- Jamey's pick: Tyreek Hill, Dolphins -- "Hill will remain a top-tier Fantasy receiver following his move from the Chiefs to the Dolphins, but you don't go from Mahomes to Tua Tagovailoa and get better. Are the Dolphins going to give Hill 135-plus targets, which is what he's had in three of the past four years? Maybe, but we know Tagovailoa also has to feed Jaylen Waddle and to a lesser extent Mike Gesicki, Ced Wilson and the running backs. Can Tagovailoa consistently help Hill make plays down the field …"
- Dave's pick: Tyler Lockett/DK Metcalf, Seahawks -- "Talent-wise, both are excellent. But the only quarterback either receiver has experienced good numbers with is now in Denver. Seattle figures to scrape and claw its way to a solution at quarterback, but they're basically down to Drew Lock or a rookie. Neither one will be as good for them as Wilson has been. Furthermore, the Seahawks' decision to deal Wilson has only further empowered coach Pete Carroll's belief to run the ball to shorten games, rest his defense and cling to leads. The passing volume won't be high and the quality of throws won't be as good -- and both receivers will have to start building rapport with the new quarterback from the ground up. I wouldn't feel good trusting either receiver in a regular starting role with the Seahawks unless the passer was someone with an established track record of not only being accurate, but accurate on longer throws …"
- Heath's pick: DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals – "Hopkins came out as a low-end No. 3 wide receiver in my initial projections. I bumped him up to a borderline No. 2 just because of his track record, but last year was concerning. His target share fell to the 20% range after a career closer to 30%. He was essentially in a three-way tie with Christian Kirk and A.J. Green for the portion of the season that they were all healthy. Also, like Cook, there's his age and recent injuries. He will turn 30 in June and had two significant injuries last year. There is at least some risk that we've seen his last elite season. Volume, age, and injury concerns mean I can't draft Hopkins at WR15, which is his current consensus ranking …"
Here's the part of the 49ers offense I'm really worried about. Mitchell figures to be the lead back, so he'll have plenty of value, and Deebo Samuel's combination of rushing and pass-catching skills should help keep his Fantasy value high. However, if the pass volume is going to take the hit we expect with Lance at QB, I'm just not sure how Kittle is going to keep pace with the other high-end tight ends. I think he's arguably the best tight end in the league, but the 49ers could be one of the least pass-happy teams in the league, and Kittle is in a receiving group that still features Brandon Aiyuk in addition to Samuel. Kittle will still be a must-start tight end, but I'm not sure you'll be able to count on him for consistent elite production, so he ends up in the second or third tier at the position for me at this point.
- Jamey's pick: George Kittle, 49ers – "At the NFL Combine in early March, nearly every incoming rookie tight end I interviewed said they wanted to model their game after Kittle, which makes sense. He's the most complete tight end in the NFL with his receiving and blocking ability, and he's a star. And he's still going to be a great Fantasy asset this season. But he continues to struggle with injuries, and he missed 13 games over the past three years with various ailments. And now you have to deal with Lance taking over at quarterback, which could be a problem for Kittle ..."
- Dave's pick: Mike Gesicki, Dolphins -- "There's a clear downgrade in target volume heading Gesicki's way now that Tyreek Hill has joined the Dolphins. Certainly he'll still be leaned on to some degree because of his unique size/speed combo, but the utilization figures to drop. Last year he started off red-hot but then failed to notch even 10 PPR points in all but one of his final 10 games. It will be harder for him to amass 10 PPR points without scoring now that the Dolphins offense has added some serious firepower. Fantasy managers should be able to find a more reliable tight end to begin the season with ..."
- Heath's pick: Dawson Knox, Bills – "Dawson Knox looks way too much like 2020 Robert Tonyan, and we pretty much all agreed Tonyan couldn't repeat his 2019. Knox only had 71 targets in 15 games and somehow scored nine touchdowns anyway. He ranked 18th at the position in receptions, 15th in yards, and tied for first in touchdowns. His numbers are remarkably similar to Hunter Henry's from last year as well. Henry is TE16 in the consensus rankings while Knox comes in at TE8. And now Knox may have his Jonnu Smith in Buffalo with the addition of O.J. Howard. …"