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An ancient fantasy proverb states, "One can't win their league in Round 1, but one can lose it."
Getting a bust with your first pick hurts on a couple of levels:
- You miss out on first-round level production
- You are slow to bench your first pick because, my gosh, he's your first-round pick
So let's take a crack at avoiding getting a first-round bust. Here's what our staff has to say.
Let's take a look at all of their thoughts.
Looking over the first round, I like every player and don't see much bust potential. I will say that there may be some problems for Jonathan Taylor, but the problems are not with him; they are with the Colts. Quarterback and offensive line injury issues could cause problems. Taylor has the talent, but if the Colts are bad, it will negatively affect him. Think back to Todd Gurley's second year, when the whole world knew he was getting the ball on every play. He ended with 220 fewer rushing yards and four fewer touchdowns on more carries. I still like Taylor, but more as a fantasy RB2.
First-round busts are much more common from the running back position, so I'll focus on that area. The first-round running back that I am fading is Saquon Barkley. He may pull an Adrian Peterson, and everything is rainbows and roses a year after ACL reconstruction. In reality, however, that's not how the majority of ACL cases go.
Most recently, Dalvin Cook finished RB31 the year after his ACL injury. It takes time to fully heal and gain confidence in how structurally sound your knee is. Barkley is a true workhorse on the field and off, and he is approaching this the absolute correct way, but I am skeptical that it will take time to regain his form even with top rehabilitation. Plus, there is also the possibility of other injuries that could arise that we often see with players treating an injury. Outside of his health, there is also the uncertainty of the Giants offense, Daniel Jones, and Jason Garrett's play-calling that gives me some pause. My window for Barkley, if I even pull the trigger, is later in the second round. Based on previous running back ACL histories, I will be surprised if he finishes as top 10 back this year.
Heading into 2020, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley were the safest picks you could make. They combined for five starts all season. Bust potential is everywhere in the first round, but as Jeff mentioned, it tends to plague running backs more than other positions. The two guys that jump out to me as potential busts are Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor, and their lack of usage in the passing game really pushes me away from drafting them in PPR leagues. Since I expect Taylor's stock to drop in the wake of injuries to Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson, I'll focus on Henry.
I get it; Henry has defied the odds stacked against him and showed progression every year in the league. But with a top-five price tag, I'm out this year. Last season, Henry became the seventh running back in NFL history to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark. When looking at the other backs to hit that historic feat, they averaged just 1,072 yards and 7.8 touchdowns in their follow-up seasons.
That is skewed a bit by injuries to Jamal Lewis and Terrell Davis, but no running back was able to even reach 1,500 yards after rushing for 2,000. And of the backs to reach the 2k Club, only Barry Sanders did it at an older age than Henry. Over the last two years, Henry has seen a whopping 782 carries (including postseason), and no other running back has even seen 600 carries over that stretch.
The team’s offseason moves show that we could see a new-look Titans squad in 2021. They lost an elite run-blocker in Jonnu Smith and committed over $15M to Julio Jones. The Titans also lost their offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith. Before Smith took over as OC, Henry averaged 167 carries per season. Once Smith took the reins, Henry's usage jumped to 351 carries per season. It isn't crazy to deduce that this team could look to ease Henry's workload as Ryan Tannehill has proven to be more than capable as a high-end quarterback. Henry could again cause his naysayers to eat crow in 2021, but I'd prefer the upside of a pass-catching back like Aaron Jones or Austin Ekeler to Henry in PPR leagues.
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