It’s finally time for fantasy owners to compete for a fantasy title, but as you know by now, injuries and COVID complications might knock out our fantasy stars without warning. When you’re on the hunt for a replacement, it can be easy to have too much confidence in a player who has high “bust” potential in Week 17. We know there are cases where you don’t have enough options to avoid risky players, but you should at least be aware of the screaming possibility. Guys like Lamar Jackson (or Tyler Huntley) and James Conner are some of the most concerning plays this week thanks to difficult matchups and injury worries. There are also players, such as Marquise Brown and Mike Gesicki, who aren’t trustworthy any longer based on recent production.
As always, even perennial stars can bust in favorable matchups, but it’s tough to call superstars “busts” unless they’re less than 100 percent, they’ve really been trending downward, or they have a particularly brutal matchup. We mostly stick to naming guys on the start-or-sit bubble, not guys who are simply going to have a good-but-not-great week or guys who are on over 90 percent of waiver wires. Sometimes you don’t have the depth to reasonably bench these players (or you might just totally disagree with our assessments), but you’ll at least know who is at risk this week. Nothing is worse than being taken off guard by a fantasy dud.
In Week 16, we had the right process in labeling Jeff Wilson Jr. a bust, but he ultimately avoided a dud with a one-yard touchdown set up by Deebo Samuel. We completely missed the mark on Chase Edmonds because we initially thought James Conner would be active. When he wasn’t, Edmonds was clearly a must-start. That’s a good example of why you need to stay up to date on the latest news until kickoff. Cam Newton, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Gesicki, Cole Kmet, and the Cardinals’ and Panthers’ defenses delivered on their “bust” potential, though, so we had a fairly decent week.
Week 17 Fantasy Busts: Running backs
Dare Ogunbowale, Jaguars @ Patriots (Jackson Sparks). James Robinson is out for the year with a torn Achilles’. That makes Ogunbowale somewhat attractive as the lead back in Jacksonville, but against New England, we’re passing on playing him. More likely than not, Jacksonville will score fewer than 14 points, so unless Ogunbowale gets a cheap or garbage-time TD, it’s tough to see his path to even 10 fantasy points even though New England is a natural matchup for RBs on paper.
D’Onta Foreman, Titans vs. Dolphins (Vinnie Iyer). Just when you thought he was standing ahead of a committee, they went three-headed again vs. the 49ers. That doesn’t bode well against a Dolphins’ run defense that’s done a 180 from its early struggles.
James Conner, Cardinals @ Cowboys (Matt Lutovsky). Conner figures to be at least a little slowed by the ankle injury that kept him out last week, and against a Cowboys defense that’s bottled up RBs this year – most notably in regards to rushing TDs (0.5 per game) – Conner has a lower ceiling than usual. This game could be a shootout, but Chase Edmonds likely has the upper hand in the Arizona backfield, at least in half-point/full-point PPR leagues.
Week 17 Fantasy Football Busts: Quarterbacks
Taysom Hill, Saints vs. Panthers (Sparks). Hill could obviously reach QB1 status with a rushing TD or two, but the Panthers’ defense has played well in favorable matchups and this New Orleans offense is just about lifeless. We don’t expect the Saints to be in the red zone often, which is precisely where Hill does his damage in fantasy.
Kyler Murray, Cardinals @ Cowboys (Iyer). He’s not running. He’s not passing the ball all that well. He’s turning it over. Arizona is slumping in general, and Dallas isn’t exactly a get-well scenario on the road.
Lamar Jackson/Tyler Huntley, Ravens vs. Rams (Lutovsky). It’s unclear if Jackson (ankle) or Huntley (reserve/COVID) will start, but whichever does has a tough matchup against a Rams defense allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points to QBs. Lamar figures to be less mobile than usual, and Huntley is still inexperienced and will likely struggle with a top defense like L.A.’s.
Week 17 Fantasy Football Busts: Wide receivers
Russell Gage, Falcons @ Bills (Sparks). Gage could be a decent PPR option thanks to volume, but even in a blowout and garbage-time scenario, it’s tough to think he’ll have any success in this spot in a matchup with the No. 1 defense against fantasy WRs.
D.J. Moore, Panthers @ Saints. (Iyer). He will get Marshon Lattimore, who is on fire with some massive shutdown games.
Marquise Brown, Ravens vs. Rams (Lutovsky). This almost feels like a trap considering how mediocre Brown has been lately. He’s probably due for a big play or a garbage-time TD, and wouldn’t it just be a classic fantasy situation to have it happen against Jalen Ramsey? Still, it’s tough to trust Hollywood now that he’s basically just a short-yardage possession receiver. He has a decent floor in PPR, but his ceiling seems capped, especially in standard leagues.
Week 17 Fantasy Football Busts: Tight ends
Mike Gesicki, Saints @ Titans (Sparks). Gesicki has only passed 10 PPR fantasy points in one of his past eight games, and since the Titans boast a top-five unit against fantasy TEs, we don’t see a path to success here. In matchups with Travis Kelce, Dawson Knox, and George Kittle, Tennessee allowed a combined 12 receptions, 111 yards, and zero touchdowns. If those guys failed to produce in this matchup, Gesicki should, too.
Tyler Conklin, Vikings @ Packers (Iyer). If you like low upside in a bad matchup, he would be your guy. Can Irv Smith Jr help us again in 2022, please?
Dalton Schultz, Cowboys vs. Cardinals (Lutovsky). Schultz can produce in any matchup, but he can just as easily disappear. The Cowboys’ offense is inconsistent, and even when it’s rolling, it has plenty of viable options. The Cardinals allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points to TEs, so tread carefully, especially in standard leagues.
Week 17 Fantasy Busts: Defenses
Arizona Cardinals @ Cowboys (Sparks). Arizona might be able to have a nice offensive day in this one, but its defense has completely unraveled over its three-game losing skid, allowing 27.3 PPG. Dallas’ offense is red hot and leading the league in PPG (30.5), so expect another bust from the Cardinals’ D/ST that once looked elite.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Bengals (Iyer). They’ve been very good against most QBs, but this is a red-hot Joe Burrow on the road.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Browns (Lutovsky). After watching Baker Mayfield throw pick after pick on Christmas, you’re probably excited about playing the Steelers against him. The only problem is Pittsburgh has an awful run defense, and that’s what Cleveland does best. The opportunities for big plays from the Steelers D will be limited, which means this will likely be a disappointing fantasy day