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Top 10 Fantasy Football Busts for Week 17

While the majority of fantasy leagues have concluded, we here at RotoBaller know that some of you still have the most important matchup of the season coming up this week. Therefore, we’ll keep the train rolling as we continue to break down every fantasy football matchup and keep you up to date on the top waiver-wire pickups.

With your opponent distracted by holiday festivities, now is the time to make the subtle tweaks that seal your championship fate. Many playoff-bound NFL teams will be resting star players while others will be shut down to nurse lingering injuries. A whirlwind of notifications is likely cascading your phone at this moment. Fortunately, our RotoBaller team is here to dissect that information for your benefit.

After watching many celebrate their championships over the past few days, managers with trophies on the line are licking their chops at potential Week 17 winners. Equally important are Week 17 fades. Below you’ll find my final top-10 busts for the 2020 season. Good luck, RotoBallers!

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Jalen Hurts vs. Washington Football Team

Jalen Hurts disappointed in a cake matchup against the Dallas Cowboys last week and faces a much tougher opponent this time out in the tenacious defensive unit of the rival Washington Football Team. Hurts was picked off twice by a Cowboys’ defense that entered the game with only seven interceptions all season. Washington has double that amount while also ranking sixth in quarterback sacks with 44 on the year. Additionally, with the Football Team’s playoff hopes in limbo, the already-eliminated Eagles will be facing a hungry and motivated squad.

Washington is third against fantasy quarterbacks and has been menacing over the past three weeks. Signal callers have finished 30th, 28th, and 27th in recent outings against this defense and no quarterback has finished inside the top-17 against Washington in the past six weeks, with only Matthew Stafford having done so over the past ten weeks. Clearly, this is a matchup to avoid, if possible. That is unwelcome news for GMs who snagged Hurts off the waiver wire late in the season only to enjoy the high-end production that comes with a mobile quarterback. Nonetheless, with the season on the line, it is time to thank Hurts for his services and look elsewhere for your Week 17 hero.

 

Leonard Fournette vs. Atlanta Falcons

Leonard Fournette has been a surprising must-start option during the fantasy playoffs, having finished as the RB11 and RB18 over the past two weeks. That was thanks to the absence of Ronald Jones II, however, and with Jones expected back this week, Fournette’s window of fantasy relevance may have expired. At the very least, there are more questions than answers for fantasy managers heading into their finals. We do not know the precise role of either runner and must factor in the potential of the Buccaneers resting starters in preparation for the NFL playoffs.

To the surprise of many, the Atlanta Falcons rank seventh against fantasy running backs this season, conceding only 17.9 points per game to the position. That number drops to 14.4 when you look at the Falcons’ past ten games. That is a sample size large enough to genuinely worry about this matchup, as 14.4 points would serve as the best mark in the league if sustained over the full season. Fournette was the RB11 against Atlanta two weeks ago, but that was when he had the backfield to himself. Managers will have to watch the reports out of Tampa Bay this week to garner a better idea of who will play and how much, but there is plenty of reason to be cautious with this backfield in your fantasy championship.

 

Marvin Jones Jr. vs. Minnesota Vikings

Marvin Jones Jr. has been his typical boom-or-bust self this season, having supplied four top-twelve fantasy finishes but also ten of WR36 or lower. Over the past five weeks, Jones has been the WR42, WR5, WR56, WR4, and WR85, illustrating his extreme range of outcomes on any given week. You can always throw Jones into your lineup knowing the upside he possesses, but the risk is higher than usual this week. Ironman Matthew Stafford is dealing with ankle, rib, and thumb injuries and is in serious danger of missing this game. Considering this is a player who plays through almost anything, Stafford failing to return to last week’s game is a truly harrowing sign for his chances of suiting up this week. Even if he does, he will be at far less than 100%.

Minnesota ranks 27th against fantasy receivers this year but has shown better over recent weeks. Over the Vikings’ past five games, receivers have averaged only 26.6 points, compared to 33.5 for the season. Detroit is averaging less than nineteen points per game over the past six weeks and is simply limping to the finish line at this point. With little to play for, it would make sense for the Lions to get a look at some younger receiving options, although Jones did play 95% of snaps last week. Jones’s ceiling remains high in any matchup, but his always sketchy floor completely craters if Chase Daniel is under center. He is not a must-bench, but if you’ve come this far you likely have better options than this risky WR3.

 

Austin Hooper vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Austin Hooper has rebounded from a disappointing season to post TE9 and TE10 performances over his past two games. Prior to that, Hooper had only once finished inside the top-fourteen at his position. Those recent games were against the Jets and Giants, however, two teams that combine to allow an average of 12.4 points to tight ends. This week, Hooper takes on a Steelers’ defense that surrenders roughly half of that, at 6.7 per game. Only two tight ends have finished inside the top-twelve against Pittsburgh and Hooper managed only 7.7 points against the Steelers earlier this year, which placed him at TE15 on the week. That actually serves as an improvement over the 6.6 points that Hooper averages on the year, which has him at TE24 for the season in points per game.

The highly paid tight end was held onto by fantasy managers when Odell Beckham Jr. went down with the hope that his targets would be elevated, but that has not come to fruition. In six games with Odell, Hooper has 33 targets. In six games without Odell, Hooper has 32 targets. Granted, nearly half of those came last week, as Hooper’s fifteen targets represented 23% of his season total. Prior to that, he had only once surpassed seven targets in any game. The Browns were missing the entirety of their receiving corps last week due to COVID-19 complications and Hooper’s enormous target spike can be attributed directly to that development. Expect his target share to return to normal and don’t bank on double digits, which will be needed against a defense as elite as this one against tight ends. Noah Fant and Logan Thomas are the only tight ends to have reached the end zone against Pittsburgh and Hooper has only hit pay dirt three times on the year, so the odds of a fantasy-salvaging score seem low, at best. The state of the position leaves Hooper in play, but he is best viewed as a low-end TE1/high-end TE2 in this one.

 

Drew Brees vs. Carolina Panthers

The decline of Drew Brees has been apparent in his age-41 season, as he has only finished as a top-twelve quarterback four times in eleven attempts. Concerningly, his ceiling has all but disappeared, as three of those top performances resulted in QB10 finishes and his strongest output of the season was a QB8 showing in Week 8. Overlooking the big name, this is no longer an elite fantasy quarterback. Further, while he missed time due to injury, Brees has not been inside the top-twelve at his position in any of his last four matchups.

Carolina is a middle-of-the-road matchup, allowing the sixteenth most points to the quarterback position at nineteen per game. The Panthers have surrendered 18.3 points per game over their past five, so there has been slight improvement defensively. Notably, Carolina held the red-hot Aaron Rodgers to a QB16 finish just two weeks ago. Brees had a disastrous outing last week that produced only 10.1 points for fantasy managers and GMs can’t risk a repeat of such performance at this critical stage. With Brees potentially set to retire at the conclusion of the Saints’ playoff run, we may have seen the last of the formerly elite #9 in fantasy lineups.

 

Le'Veon Bell vs. Los Angeles Chargers

For anyone wondering if Le’Veon Bell still has it, last week served as a pretty good indicator that those days are in the rearview mirror. With Clyde Edwards-Helaire inactive, Bell managed a meager RB51 performance, supplying fantasy managers with a dismal 4.4 points. He took a backseat to expected-backup Darrel Williams, playing 30% of snaps to Williams’ 69% and handling just eight touches compared to fourteen for Williams. Making matters worse, Bell is now dealing with a knee injury and will be forced to play without Patrick Mahomes, as the superstar quarterback is expected to sit out the regular-season finale due to the Chiefs’ having clinched the number one seed.

The Chargers represent a middling matchup for fantasy rushers but have upgraded defensively over the second half of the season. Los Angeles has yielded just 16.4 fantasy points per game to running backs over the past five weeks, compared to 20.2 for the season. That difference of nearly four points per game would actually vault the Chargers to second in the NFL against opposing running backs if held over a full schedule, just 0.1 behind the top-rated New Orleans Saints. With the Chiefs unlikely to supply the same firepower as usual without Mahomes, it would be wise for GMs to avoid testing the Chargers with a running back who appears to be on the back-nine of his career. Bell has won fantasy titles for many managers in the past but is unlikely to deliver a vintage performance in this one.

 

Chase Claypool vs. Cleveland Browns

Rookie sensation Chase Claypool’s hype train has hit a wall lately. Over his past five games, “Mapletron” hasn’t finished above WR38. As a fellow Canadian, logic would dictate Claypool improving as the weather gets colder. Unfortunately, his WR46 showing last week was his best since Week 12. The sledding will only get tougher in Week 17, as Claypool will have to navigate a motivated Browns’ defense without the services of his starting quarterback.

Cleveland has been friendly to opposing wide receivers this season, giving up the tenth-most fantasy points to the position at 32.1 per game. The majority of that production came early in the season, however. Through the first seven weeks, the Browns conceded 40.6 points per game to receivers. Since then, that number has dropped to 24.7, which places them near the best defenses in the league. The Browns are playing for their playoff lives and are no doubt eager to make the Steelers regret their decision to sit starters in such an important game between division rivals. You should be just as eager to sit Claypool.

 

Jimmy Graham vs. Green Bay Packers

Jimmy Graham turned back the clock last week, finishing as the TE1 overall on the back of two touchdowns. The touchdowns have kept Graham’s fantasy value alive this year, as he has eight of them on just 48 receptions. When he doesn’t find the end zone, he does very little for fantasy managers. The same can be said for the majority of tight ends, but Graham is nonetheless a matchup-dependent streamer who has been vying for targets with rookie second-rounder Cole Kmet more and more as the weeks progress. In fact, Kmet has out-targeted Graham 22-13 over the past four weeks. Those games have seen Graham finish as the TE35, TE10, and TE87 prior to his explosion last week.

The Packers rank fourth against tight ends and await Graham in Week 17. Green Bay allows just 8.2 fantasy points per game to the position but has been slightly more friendly in allowing 10.8 points per game over the past four weeks. There have only been five touchdown receptions by tight ends against this defense, however, and Graham’s value is tied solely to visiting the end zone. The last time these two teams met, Graham was held to three catches for 32 scoreless yards, finishing as the TE22. You don’t want a repeat of that in your title game. Stream someone like Noah Fant, instead.

 

Zack Moss/Devin Singletary vs. Miami Dolphins

Zack Moss has supplanted Devin Singletary as the lead rusher in Buffalo over the past three weeks, albeit ever-so-slightly. Over the past three games, Moss has out-touched Singletary 39-31 while both hover around the 50% snap mark. That hasn’t resulted in much fantasy success for either runner, as Moss has been the RB22, RB35, and RB47 over that span, compared to Singletary’s showings of RB43, RB17, and RB52. Moss managed to score last week and essentially depends on falling into the end zone in order to not bust for his fantasy managers, as he has just two catches for five yards over his past four games combined. Singletary, meanwhile, has scored only twice all season and offers almost zero upside.

Miami is top-ten against fantasy rushers and has been fantastic over the past five weeks, giving up a measly 12.2 points per game to the position. Josh Jacobs, the RB9 on the year, was a crushing RB38 last week with only 6.9 points versus Miami. Buffalo has clinched its division and Miami is playing to earn a trip to the playoffs, ensuring a stellar effort on the part of this emerging defense. The Bills’ rushing duo have been risky fantasy starts all season and that isn’t changing in the concluding week of the season. Don’t let a dud from either of these runners drown your hopes of fantasy glory.

 

Christian Kirk vs. Los Angeles Rams

UPDATE: Christian Kirk (COVID-19) has been ruled out for Week 17.

Christian Kirk is coming off a nice performance against the 49ers, finishing as the WR29 and commanding ten targets in the process. He had only eleven targets in his three previous games combined, though, and is unlikely to find the same success against an intimidating Rams’ defense.

The Rams have steadily been the best defense against wide receivers all season long. While Los Angeles’s NFL-best mark of 22.7 points against per game is mighty impressive in its own right, this defense has actually improved in that regard over the final stretch of the season. Over the past four weeks, the Rams have surrendered fewer than 20 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. With DeAndre Hopkins commanding an eye-popping 29% of Kyler Murray’s targets, it leaves very little meat on the bone for Kirk and other Arizona pass-catchers. While Kirk possesses enticing big-play ability that usually keeps him on the flex radar, his usage is too inconsistent to trust in difficult matchups, as evident by the fact that he hasn’t finished above WR50 in six of his past seven games. This matchup is as difficult as they come, making any Cardinals’ player risky, and Kirk unplayable.



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