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Top 10 Fantasy Football Busts for Week 15

If you're still reading this column for matchup advice, congratulations are in store! Pat yourself on the back, relax and take the edge off for a moment, and then get ready to relive the stressful experience of the fantasy playoffs all over again.

Last week saw unexpectedly strong performances from struggling players in difficult matchups. Miles Sanders was likely seated on many fantasy benches as managers watched him rack up points. It is moments such as those that GMs have to keep faith in the mantra of process-over-results in such an unpredictable sport. If you did survive in spite of a costly lineup error, it is hopefully due to the excellent advice of our RotoBaller team. Each week, we break down every fantasy football matchup and keep you up to date on the top waiver-wire pickups.

If you want to set a lineup next week, you need to set the right lineup this week. Fortunately, we now have nearly a full season of data to work with when evaluating matchups. If you want to reach the pinnacle of fantasy excellence, which is of course crushing your friends' lineups into submission, then heed the advice below. Now go book those tickets to the big dance!

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Deshaun Watson vs. Indianapolis Colts

Deshaun Watson is coming off back-to-back disappointing efforts. One of those games was against the same Colts’ defense that he faces in this week’s fantasy semi-finals. Watson was held to a QB14 performance in that matchup before following up with a QB18 showing last time out. He was the top-scoring quarterback two weeks in a row prior to this recent run of mediocrity, but he has since lost his top weapon in Will Fuller V. Brandin Cooks and David Johnson are expected back this week and that will surely help. Nonetheless, managers cannot be supremely confident plugging in the quarterback for a team that scored just seven points last week. Granted, that was against a ferocious Bears’ defense, but this Colts’ unit is no joke, either.

Indianapolis ranks seventh against fantasy signal-callers and the sample size is large enough at this point to not over-emphasize last week’s QB5 performance from Derek Carr. That game featured only the second example of a quarterback landing inside the top-five against the Colts and just the fourth time that one has ended up inside the top-twelve performers all year. Indianapolis has surrendered seventeen passing scores on the season, good enough for fifth in the NFL in that category and only three more than the league-leading Rams. The odds of a high-scoring aerial assault appear low, meaning Watson will have to accumulate fantasy production through yardage, whether on the ground or through the air. Avoiding turnovers will be key as well, with the Colts having forced fifteen interceptions, ranking third in the league. Three of the last four quarterbacks to have faced the Colts have finished in the top-twelve, so there is certainly potential for success in this matchup. The one who failed to do so, however, was Watson and he’ll be more of a risky back-end QB1 in this game instead of the elite option he normally represents.

 

Tyler Lockett vs. Washington Football Team

I’m not sure how you sit Tyler Lockett. I’m just also not sure how you start him. If you’re looking for upside, this is a player with two WR1 finishes, two games with three receiving touchdowns, and a 200-yard receiving game on his 2020 resume. If you’re worried about downside, this is a player who is the WR37 since Week 8. That may surprise some, as Lockett is the WR11 on the season. Having a WR1 perform as a borderline WR3 paves a rocky road for fantasy managers. Lockett has not finished above WR47 the past three weeks and has finished below that mark in five of his last seven games.

This week, the Seahawks take on a Washington defense that allows the second-fewest points to fantasy receivers, at just 26.3 per game. Most of that offense-stymying production came in the first half of the season, however, as Washington’s unit has been below average against wide receivers over the past five weeks, providing a level of optimism for Lockett to get right in this one. There has been less passing volume to work with, though, as Russell Wilson’s yardage totals have diminished significantly over the second half of the season. Averaging 318 passing yards per game over his first eight contests, Wilson has settled for just 229 per game over his last five. With nearly 100 yards in the difference, you can see why Lockett has struggled to maintain his elite form. It doesn’t help his case that DK Metcalf has transformed into an alpha during his sophomore season, leaving Lockett to play second fiddle rather than operating as the 1A-1B combo that fantasy managers expected. Washington is top-eight in receptions, passing yards, and passing scores allowed, and have surrendered the second-fewest completions of 20-plus yards, limiting the explosion potential for a player whose tantalizing upside is what normally keeps him locked into fantasy lineups. It is hard to blame you for riding with Lockett, just remember the definition of insanity when taking your lumps for the fourth week in a row.

 

Terry McLaurin vs. Seattle Seahawks

Times are tough for managers of Terry McLaurin. Since Alex Smith took over as the starting quarterback for Washington in Week 9, McLaurin’s production has gone down. Over the last four weeks specifically, “Scary Terry” hasn’t finished above WR26. Things have spiraled even more the last two games, with McLaurin entering the fantasy semi-finals fresh off performances of WR82 and WR90. Those numbers do not inspire confidence for managers who have survived despite those clunkers. Smith is questionable to suit up this week and with Kyle Allen on injured reserve, it would mean Dwayne Haskins time once again. McLaurin has chemistry with Haskins, but the low-end of his range of outcomes would be disastrous in such circumstance.

Another obstacle facing McLaurin this week is the improved play of the Seahawks’ defense. Routinely torched throughout the year, Seattle currently ranks dead last against the wide receiver position in terms of fantasy points given up, surrendering an average of 37 points. That sounds promising when taken at face value. Upon closer inspection, it is clear the Seahawks have tightened things up in a major way. Over the past five weeks, Seattle has allowed only 18.4 points per game to receivers, nearly five points less than the season-long mark posted by the number-one-rated Rams. Looking at the most recent three-game sample, that number shrinks to 12.4 points per game. That number is quite scary for Terry, indeed.

 

James Conner vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The workload has all but disappeared for James Conner, culminating in a season-worst performance of ten carries for eighteen scoreless yards in last week’s game in which he received zero passing targets. He was the RB66 in that game, following a stretch in which he had finished as the RB55, RB34, and RB19. He’s averaged just 5.5 fantasy points per game over his last four contests and simply cannot be trusted in fantasy lineups right now. Pittsburgh is passing the ball at one of the highest rates in the league, at a clip of just under 64%, and Conner played only 39% of the snaps last week. To top things off, he still can’t seem to shake the injury bug, missing practice this week with a quad issue. Conner being active on game day isn’t a given and he should be given a seat on your bench even if he is.

Cincinnati is so-so against running backs, allowing 20.6 points per game, good enough for seventeenth in the NFL. That trend has held steady in recent weeks, with the Bengals coughing up 18.2 per game to the running back position over their past three games. Ezekiel Elliott could only manage an RB32 performance against the Bengals last week, but Miles Gaskin was the RB17 a week prior and Wayne Gallman Jr. the RB11 a week before that. The Bengals have allowed 4.9 yards per carry to running backs but have held them to just seven rushing scores. Since Conner hasn’t found pay dirt in his last four games, he’ll need the rushing yardage, especially with minimal involvement in the passing game. His workload won’t gift the yardage necessary to deliver a championship-worthy fantasy performance. Start him if you must, but managers who have made it this far should have better options.

 

Dalton Schultz vs. San Francisco 49ers

We’re running out of tight ends who could even be considered “busts” at this point, since if you don’t roster Travis Kelce or Darren Waller you are essentially choosing from a large pool of touchdown-or-bust candidates. If anything, Dalton Schultz has been the opposite of touchdown-or-bust. He has been consistent, scoring exactly 4.9 fantasy points in two of his last three games, but has not shown much of a ceiling. Schultz never lays an egg but has only found the end zone three times on the season. Still, any tight end receiving nearly six targets per game, such as Schultz, is going to find himself started in a large percentage of fantasy leagues. Schultz has somewhat earned that consideration, having averaged 4.3 receptions and 7.0 fantasy points per game over his last six contests, making him the TE14 over that span.

Schultz should not be in streaming consideration for even desperate managers this week, however. Lurking around the corner is a 49ers Defense that abuses tight ends. The position has generated a paltry 6.6 fantasy points per game against San Francisco, which is the lowest figure in the league. Only two tight ends have finished inside the top-12 against this defense and only three have found the end zone. Tight ends have accumulated fewer yards per reception against the 49ers than any other defense and have caught just 3.6 passes per game versus them. Schultz’s normally-safe floor makes him a usable but low-end option most weeks, but this is not one of those weeks. Turn to one of the many other tight ends who fall into a similar category.

 

Cam Newton vs. Miami Dolphins

Cam Newton is broken as a passer and his fantasy floor has become more akin to quicksand at this point, having finished as the QB30 in two of his past three weeks. Fortunately, his legs function at a higher level than his arm, as evident by his seven top-twelve finishes despite a truly dreadful 5:10 passing touchdown-to-interception ratio. His eleven rushing scores are notably impressive, but it is impossible to overlook the fact that he has averaged just 91 passing yards per game over his last three. Patrick Mahomes averages nearly that much yardage per quarter. Making matters worse for Newton is a looming encounter with the team that picked Mahomes three times last week, which is more than he had been intercepted all season to that point.

Miami is currently the eighth-toughest matchup for fantasy quarterbacks on the season and had not allowed a passer to finish above QB22 for three weeks prior to Mahomes persevering as the QB9. The Dolphins are the only team in the NFL to have as many interceptions as passing touchdowns allowed, ranking second in both categories with sixteen apiece. Miami also ranks third in quarterback rating against and seventh in completion percentage, imposing further on Newton’s fantasy potential. After being benched late last week for Jarrett Stidham, managers are forced to account for the possibility of that repeating itself. Newton’s fantasy stock is in free-fall at the wrong time and GMs should enlist their trust elsewhere.

 

Jamison Crowder vs. Los Angeles Rams

Jamison Crowder’s season has been a mixed bag, with high points, low points, and injuries to boot. That fact has been exemplified in his last two games, with Crowder most recently delivering performances of WR7 and WR107. Crowder stands as a favorite target of quarterback Sam Darnold, but the lack of firepower in the Jets’ offense, dismal play-calling and all-around coaching ability of Adam Gase, and a lingering calf injury have combined forces to make Crowder extremely hit-or-miss. He has four times finished as a top-20 option, with three of those being in the top-eight but has backed that up with five finishes of WR38 or lower. His above-noted WR7 finish was his first inside the top-38 since Week 5, however, and he has averaged just 6.9 fantasy points per game over his last four outings.

Of course, the quality of Crowder’s recent play would potentially be moot even if it were of high-caliber, due to the imposing matchup that awaits him in the fantasy semi-finals. The Los Angeles Rams continue giving opposing offenses nightmares, with wide receivers specifically losing sleep over facing Jalen Ramsey and company. The Rams concede only 23.3 points per game to the wide receiver position on the year, easily best in the NFL. It’s not as if they have cooled down, either. Wide receivers have mustered only 21.4 points per game over the last two weeks against Los Angeles. This is also a spooky matchup for a quarterback with a history of seeing ghosts, as the Rams bequeath the fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks. Those ghosts could turn into poltergeists in this one, as the Rams are third in the NFL in sacks, third in completion percentage allowed, first in yards per attempt surrendered, first in passing yards given up, and first in passing touchdowns conceded, with a 14:13 touchdown-to-interception ratio. This game could be as rough for Jets’ fantasy managers as it is likely to be for Jets’ players and fans. You’d have to be braver than I to start Crowder this week.

 

Giovani Bernard vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Joe Mixon-managers enjoyed a nice run with Giovani Bernard as their fill-in from Weeks 6 – 8 but that train has quickly come to a screeching halt. After finishing as the RB2 in Week 8, Bernard has failed to place inside the top-30 since. Things have only gotten worse lately, as he has delivered RB45 and RB67 performances in his latest attempts. Adding to the frustration, Bernard’s workload drastically decreased last week as he was benched after an early fumble and the Bengals resorted to a three-way backfield split. Bernard received just six opportunities last week after averaging fourteen touches per game for his seven prior contests.

Pittsburgh is a matchup to avoid for fantasy rushers as they permit the second-fewest points per game to the position. In the most recent demonstration of this, the Buffalo Bills’ backfield combined for a meager 8.2 points against the Steelers. Pittsburgh has allowed 15.4 points per game on the season to running backs, but that number has dwindled to 14.0 over the past six weeks, which would be the top mark in the league if sustained over the course of the season. That is a minuscule number to divide three ways, as the Bengals seem likely to do considering the involvement of Samaje Perine and Trayveon Williams last week, both of whom out-touched Bernard. No Bengals running back has scored a touchdown since Joe Burrow went down and no Bengals running back should be in your lineup during your fantasy playoff run.

 

Diontae Johnson vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense has been quietly sputtering, having failed to hit the 20-point threshold in any of their last three games. That has affected the production of Pittsburgh’s trio of fantasy-relevant wide receivers and a case could be made to replace Johnson with Chase Claypool or JuJu Smith-Schuster in this section. In terms of Johnson’s outlook, he has been the WR35 or worse in two of his past three games, showing that he is not immune to struggling when the offense stalls. Things were exacerbated by Johnson’s benching last week at the hands of him being benched for essentially having no hands. Johnson rode the pine due to dropping three passes from Big Ben, cementing his season-lead in that infamous category with thirteen. Look, Johnson is a talented receiver capable of making big plays once the ball is in his hands. The problem is securing it in those hands initially. It is unlikely that Johnson’s benching expands further, but the possibility of getting yanked in favor of James Washington now looms as a possibility if Johnson were to drop an early one against the Bengals, and he is likely to be pressing more than ever at this point.

As for the matchup with Cincinnati, the Bengals are not an intimidating opponent but are not the cakewalk that many assume. Cincinnati ranks middle-of-the-pack against receivers, allowing 30.1 points per game for the year, but have yielded only 21 per game over their past four. There is plenty of competition for targets in Pittsburgh and someone is going to be left out of the mix each time if this offense continues to dink and dunk without reaching the end zone. Prior to last week, Johnson had been a target-machine, but those targets had not consistently delivered high-end fantasy production. Johnson is far from a must-bench, but he is more of a risky flex option than a surefire starter at a time that managers need dependability.

 

Jonnu Smith vs. Detroit Lions

Jonnu Smith went gangbusters to start the season, ranking as the TE2 after five weeks and seemingly fulfilling his breakout potential as predicted by many fantasy analysts. That victory lap has hit a dead-end, with Smith ranking as the TE24 since that time. Averaging 15.3 points per game over his first four contests, Smith has averaged 4.9 points per game over his last eight. The fantasy success that he does have is predicated on touchdowns, as he has scored three times in those eight games but has averaged just 1.8 receptions on 3 targets for 17.1 receiving yards. Illustrating the dire state of the tight end position, Smith has actually managed to post three top-twelve fantasy finishes during that timeframe, despite those dismal numbers. His other five games saw him finish anywhere from TE25 – TE64.

The Lions present a challenge to the tight end position, permitting the seventh-fewest fantasy points to them at 8.7 per game. Six tight ends have finished inside the top-twelve against Detroit, with Robert Tonyan and Cole Kmet doing so in consecutive weeks leading into this matchup. Tight ends have averaged 10.9 points per game against Detroit over the past seven weeks, so the Lions’ formidability has decreased. Still, Smith has failed to surpass 32 receiving yards in any of his last six games and has caught more than two passes just once in that span. The Titans have attempted the sixth-fewest passes in the NFL and have hitched their wagon to workhorse Derrick Henry as the temperature has cooled. Ryan Tannehill threw only 24 times last week compared to 40 rushing attempts. Expect more of the same, resulting in minimal usage for Smith, as he cedes whatever passing volume is in store to the likes of A.J. Brown and Corey Davis.



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Tyjae Spears - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Fantasy Football Running Backs Rankings (Tiers 4-8)- 2024 Best Ball Leagues

We are now rapidly approaching the process of free agency, which will soon provide pathways for some running backs to seize significant roles in their new landing spots. Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry, Tony Pollard, Austin Ekeler, and D'Andre Swift are among the collection of backs who could resurface in new environments. The player movement that will eventually... Read More


Anthony Richardson - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL News

Early 2024 Quarterback Sleepers And Draft Targets For Fantasy Football

The quarterback landscape in fantasy has changed in recent years with more and more managers selecting one early. Last year, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Jalen Hurts all went in the first three rounds. That shouldn't change either in 2024 fantasy drafts, but the order of those quarterbacks might.  After another QB1 finish, Allen should... Read More


Geno Smith - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL DFS Picks

2024 Free Agency Preview: Biggest Positional Needs For The Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks, for the first time since 2009, will have a new head coach. The front office opted to move on from Pete Carroll. Over the past three years, he has fallen further and further behind Sean McVay (Rams) and Kyle Shanahan (49ers). Instead of selecting a strong offensive mind to score with these two... Read More


2024 Free Agency Preview: Biggest Positional Needs For The San Francisco 49ers

Despite a roster that is loaded from top to bottom, the 49ers just cannot seem to win the final game of the season. There are few teams as talented as San Francisco's. In years past, it was easy to point at the quarterback position as the reason why, but Brock Purdy has solidified the position... Read More


Caleb Williams - Fantasy Football Rankings, College FB, NFL Rookies, Draft Sleepers

Top Five QB Prospects Of The 2024 NFL Draft: Scouting Reports And Analysis

Ah, NFL Draft season -- when the beacons of hope renew as we're all experiencing the post-Super Bowl blues. As the confetti settles and the echo of the final whistle fades, fans everywhere start dreaming again. It's that magical time when every team is undefeated in the offseason, and the future looks brighter than it... Read More


Javon Baker - Fantasy Football Rankings, College FB, WR, NFL Draft Sleepers

Finding Middle-Round Wide Receiver Prospects For Fantasy Football Based On Yards Per Route Run

It's tricky to find sleepers these days since the dynasty and devy community have proven to be sharp minds for NFL Draft prospects. Two metrics to look at for receivers as a starting point involve yards per route run and targets. There's somewhat of a strong correlation between yards per route run and targets per... Read More