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Going into the 2017 season, I implored fantasy strategists in a long article to give up on waiting for quarterback, and instead pick one of the top-five guys in place of a standard third or fourth-round selection. Years of fantasy football statistics and results had pointed to the fact that only a handful of quarterbacks had ranked highly each and every season, and their guaranteed points would be the consistency that would reward fantasy lineups each and every week.

Only problem? It's really silly to use words like "guarantee" and "top-five" with any sense of confidence in regards to a game that revolves around injury and happenstance.

Sure, there are some guys who were fantasy champions yet again. You can probably build lineups around Russell Wilson for years to come, while guys like Tom Brady started to show a little rust and were ranked accordingly. But those guys weren't anywhere close to a bust. No, the busts were the guys who we all thought would jump to the next level, and didn't get anywhere close (and not the poor guys who got injured, sorry Aaron Rodgers owners). Let's fondly remember the guys who cost many of us a shot at a decent fantasy football season, and carve their names in our arm to remember who to stay away from as long as you can withstand the hype.

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Quarterback Busts

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

It's hard to start this list without singling out the former 2017 MVP, isn't it? Matt Ryan may have not been a bust as much as simply regressing back to his normal career statistics, but he was ranked so high in the preseason by most everyone that you had to at least assume that he'd be a top-10 QB. Take out last year, and it all kind of looks the same; about 12-14 INT, about a 70 QBR, and about 27-28 touchdowns.

This year certainly was one of Ryan's worst years, as the regression of a deep-ball target in Julio Jones and an all-around more conservative defense saw Ryan go for nearly 850 less yards through the air this season than he did last year, with eighteen (!!!) less touchdowns to boot. Ryan is a prime example of a guy you get when waiting on quarterback, and given the lack of coaching changes in Atlanta as of this writing, probably remains the same next year.

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

For Marcus Mariota, you saw a guy not only improve from his rookie to his sophomore season in terms of touchdown and interception numbers, but you saw a talented player who was throwing the ball more confidently and improving his overall numbers. With the addition of Corey Davis, the first top-five WR in some memory who didn't produce in fantasy in basically... ever, Mariota simply had to improve.

Across the board, Mariota was stagnant: less yards, less touchdowns, more interceptions. His confidence, to the eye test, simply seemed to wane. As the man responsible for a 13.1 point average in standard PPR leagues, you couldn't have much confidence in him either. Mariota's postseason play does hint at a potential glimmer of hope for his 2018 season; not because of any improved metric by itself, but because Mariota reportedly called his own plays in the Wild Card matchup that saw the team upset the Chiefs. If the play-calling changes in Tennessee, specifically at a coordinator level, you could see Mariota have more input on strategy and produce a killer bounce-back year.


Jameis Winston, Tampa Buy Buccaneers

Jameis Winston will forever be linked to Mariota because of their NFL draft positions, but they were drafted very similarly in fantasy this year as well, about the seventh round in standard PPR leagues. Winston, while still a turnover machine who was erratic in the pocket, gave fantasy owners hope for easy touchdowns and big gain plays in nearly every game. Unlike Mariota, you could argue that some of Winston's most important stats quietly improved in a disastrous season; he threw the ball much less than in previous years, which resulted in him not breaking 20 touchdowns for the first time in his career, but also saw a dramatically improved interception percentage, from 3.2 down to 2.5.

Winston also improved in Pro Football Focus quarterback rating to it's highest career rate while, strangely, also registering his lowest QBR (ESPN's metric). All of this means that there is hope for a better Jameis Winston, but basic things have to change; let Jameis throw the ball more, let him find his guys in the end zone, and let him start taking chances again. While the improvement is encouraging, Winston simply isn't in the fantasy conversation if he isn't throwing the ball at least 500 times a season.


Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

Anyone who owned Derek Carr thought they were getting a pretty good situation this year; talented passer, with two big wide receivers, and an offensive line that would allow him to succeed. Unfortunately, in what can only be explained as a classic 90's movie body swap, that team you were thinking of actually became the Minnesota Vikings, and the Raiders fell by the wayside in a very winnable AFC West. After being largely responsible for getting the Raiders to 12-3 last season, Carr was averaging as the sixth quarterback picked off the board this year. The problem was that unless the Raiders functioned in the exact same way, with the exact same success, Carr's 28-6 TD/INT numbers just weren't sustainable.

It happened pretty much exactly in that way, as Carr's overall numbers weren't indicative of a bigger problem, he just saw much more erratic numbers swings week to week. How do you trust a guy to face a Kansas City defense on Thursday night, his biggest game of the year where he leaned on Amari Cooper to get the job done, less than a week after he got manhandled by the San Diego Chargers? Derek Carr is the QB on this list who may have the most radical offseason, as the Raiders seem deadset on bringing in Jon Gruden to coach, while also already tipping their hand to the rumors that they are likely to let Michael Crabtree walk in the offseason. Carr should be a guy you can get at the tail end of the 2018 QB section of the draft, and it's the only place I feel remotely comfortable taking him.


Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Though I won't penalize Andrew Luck for not playing, I think it's important to at least discuss the fact that Luck is going to be a name next year, the same way he was discussed and drafted in 2017 (ahead of Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, no less.) And it's always worth noting that Andrew Luck is a talented QB, who with a better coach and his once-standard 570 to 600 attempts, should be a monster in fantasy. If you decide to draft him in 2018, I beg of you just two things; watch him throw, and follow what the Colts do in the offseason.

If they use their first or second round pick on a quarterback and suddenly the dreaded words "QB competition" start popping up, adjust your rankings accordingly. If you haven't seen him throw, or he hasn't thrown, adjust your rankings accordingly. And if he's just not sure or healthy or quite ready yet by your draft, you probably need to stay away or, at best, use your last pick on him. He only qualifies as a bust in that so many people did not follow these rules going into the 2017 season, assumed that he would be back, and gave him the benefit of the doubt that eventually, probably, he'd come back and lead his team. Don't make the same mistake again.


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