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Biggest Busts of 2019: Wide Receivers


After a very interesting season of fantasy football action, many owners were left with a bitter taste in their mouth from a few of the “elite” NFL wide receivers.

While Michael Thomas dominated and Julio Jones was his usual reliable self, not all was good if you played it safe by taking a receiver early. Who would’ve thought that guys like D.J. Chark, Devante Parker, and Chris Godwin would finish ahead of studs like Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, and JuJu Smith-Schuster?

Either way, after a very fun and interesting season of fantasy football, here are some of the biggest names who busted this year at the wide receiver position.

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Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns

After heading to Cleveland in one of the biggest transactions of this past offseason, hopes were extremely high for Odell Beckham and the entire Cleveland Browns offense. After being selected as a WR1 in fantasy drafts, Beckham ended the season as the WR25 in PPR scoring leagues and as the WR31 in standard-scoring leagues. Baker Mayfield and that entire Browns offense ended up disappointing fantasy owners, and while Beckham did have a few nice games here and there, he was overall a bust.

After scoring in Week 2 against the Jets, Beckham didn’t find the end zone until Week 12 against the Dolphins and he finished the season with just two games of 100+ receiving yards. It got to the point at the end of the season where fantasy owners were questioning whether Beckham should even be started, or if he should just be left on the bench. The excuse for Beckham can’t even be contributed to an injury to him or his quarterback, but Beckham staying healthy all season long makes him even more of a bust. A new head coach could improve the team's discipline but it remains to be seen whether we should really trust any Cleveland players outside of Nick Chubb.

 

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

After a breakout season in 2018 where he finished as the WR8 in PPR scoring leagues, expectations were extremely high for JuJu Smith-Schuster this year. Not only were fantasy owners expecting big things out of Smith-Schuster, but some owners legitimately had him as a candidate for the No. 1 wide receiver in all of fantasy football this year. Unfortunately for Smith-Schuster, an elbow injury to Ben Roethlisberger ended the quarterback’s season, and ultimately put a major damper on the entire Steelers offense.

Smith-Schuster ended the season as the WR65 in PPR scoring leagues, after being drafted as a high-end WR1. The disappointing season can be chalked up largely to the injury to Roethlisberger, but overall Smith-Schuster was simply not good and even teammates James Washington and rookie Diontae Johnson showed some signs of promise at times throughout the season. Not only did the injury to Roethlisberger hurt Smith-Schuster, but it brought the entire Pittsburgh offense down.

 

Antonio Brown, Free Agent

After an extremely weird year all around from Antonio Brown (Ed. note: this was written even before AB's latest Instagram outburtst), he ended up with just 56 receiving yards and one touchdown. Between the odd off-field storylines and spending the season watching the NFL from the couch, Brown finished as the WR151 in PPR scoring. If you were one of the unfortunate owners who ended up drafting Brown on your fantasy teams, there’s a chance you stuck with him on your bench, hoping he ended up getting signed.

When it comes to ‘busts’ in fantasy football, it typically means the player was underwhelming or just did not live up to expectations. Brown, however, was really just a waste of a pick in fantasy leagues, appearing in just one game all year with the New England Patriots. It will be fun to watch what happens with Brown during this offseason. Depending on if he plays in the 2020 season, we’ll see if he returns to fantasy relevance.

 

Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams

The Rams offense has recently been one of the more high-powered passing offenses in the league. Between Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods, it’s hard to deny the fantasy upside that this offense brings. Since 2014, Cooks has been the WR13, WR10, WR15, and WR13 in PPR scoring since 2014. This year, Cooks was basically irrelevant in fantasy football, finishing as the WR61 in PPR and finishing the year with just two receiving touchdowns and one game over 100 receiving yards.

Cooks is likely going to be someone that doesn’t get much respect going into 2020, considering the fact that he gets overlooked year-in and year-out. For that reason, look for Cooks to be someone who is a value next year in fantasy football and bounces back. The speed and talent that Cooks brings to an offense cannot be ignored, and despite a poor season this year I’d look for Cooks to be someone that will be sneaky good for fantasy purposes with a bounce-back season. Cooks is signed with the Rams through 2024, but with the money that he is owed and the direction that offense is going, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if he ends up getting traded over this offseason. Even if he does end up back in Los Angeles, I’d definitely expect the Rams to get him going. As someone who is clearly an offensive weapon and has been heavily utilized in the past, I’d expect Cooks to return to fantasy-relevance in 2020.

 

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

Heading into the 2019 season, the entire Colts offense saw a major drop in value thanks to Andrew Luck's sudden retirement. T.Y. Hilton has been a fairly underrated wide receiver for fantasy purposes in recent years and once again was drafted as a low-end WR1 or high-end WR2 even with Jacoby Brissett taking over. After dealing with some injuries throughout the season and not seeing the field for his normal workload since Week 8 against the Broncos, Hilton ended up missing six total games this year and finished as the WR57 in PPR scoring.

After his first three games of the season, it looked like Hilton was going to be productive once again, scoring four times over that span. It was later revealed that Hilton had been apparently playing through a calf injury all season, which ended up being a nasty injury where he actually had a two-centimeter tear in his calf. After starting off the season with five touchdowns in the first five weeks, it’s clear that Hilton just wasn’t himself after his injury. Heading into 2020, Hilton will likely be undervalued. Regardless of who is at quarterback, I’d expect Hilton to be the top receiving option for the Colts, and despite being 30 years old, he’ll look to bounce back strong.

 

Honorable Mention

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

Will Fuller, Houston Texans

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