As my counterpart Alex Gelhar mentioned in his "Way Too Early" (WTE) 2015 sleepers piece last week, you probably think we're a bunch of crazies over here, making predictions for next season in December. But the fact remains that it's never too early to start looking ahead when it comes to fantasy football. So now, I present to you some "Way Too Early" 2015 bust candidates. Because, why not?
You might be expecting to see me elaborate on why I think Marshawn Lynch is a prime bust candidate for next season and that's understandable. He is on three of the four other lists below. And to be completely honest with you, I had a whole piece written about how the insane number of hits that he has absorbed over the years are finally starting to take a toll on his body. He's dealt with discomfort in his back for weeks now which hasn't been hugely publicized but if you've followed weekly practice reports on Lynch this season you're probably aware of this already. But I have decided that I just can't bring myself to call him a bust for 2015.
Beast Mode is a monster. He will continue to be a monster. There's just no stopping this guy.
He has a career-high four touchdowns catches this season on top of his nine rushing scores (so far) and over 1,300 total yards. Those numbers will only go up before the season ends, and I just don't see him slowing down at all next year. He'll be 29-years-old when the 2015 season begins, but so what? He hasn't shown any signs of slowing down and he seems like the kind of guy who will quit if he thinks he doesn't have enough left to be at the top. You know, go out like "Seinfeld" did. So don't let the inevitable negative offseason hype deter you. Lynch will be good to go next year for fantasy, whatever team he's with as long as he doesn't retire.
Alright, time for the busts part of this.
Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens: First of all, congratulations are in order for the career-best season Forsett has put together with the Ravens. He went from being a waiver-wire pickup in fantasy after Week 1 to a top-10 player at his position heading into the fantasy playoffs. But he will be 30 next October and is clearly past his prime from a physical standpoint. Just one year ago, Forsett was a third-string running back playing behind Maurice Jones-Drew and Jordan Todman in Jacksonville. There were a lot of factors this season that led to Forsett's successful emergence in fantasy including his understanding of Gary Kubiak's offensive scheme from their time together in Houston and the overall running back situation in Baltimore. If you check our "WTE" 2015 sleeper candidates piece, you'll notice that Lorenzo Taliaferro is on a couple of lists. Taliaferro is the future of the Ravens' running game and part of the reason Baltimore signed Forsett was to teach the younger talent in Baltimore the West Coast offense that Kubiak runs. I just don't see the veteran repeating.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Indianapolis Colts: Like Forsett, Bradshaw is another late-round pick at running back who was on track for a top-10 fantasy campaign until a leg injury cut his 2014 season short in Week 11. Bradshaw has a laundry list of ailments that have led to a significant amount of missed playing time including a serious neck injury that he suffered in early 2013 that kept him out the entire year. He'll be a weathered 29-year-old free agent heading into next season and it's hard to imagine that the Colts or any other team for that matter will give him an opportunity to play a featured role in 2015.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals: Last spring, Cardinals' coach Bruce Ariansmade it very clear that he wanted Ellington to be Arizona's workhorse back and wanted to give him a huge workload. Given Ellington's slight frame (compared to bruising featured backs like Lynch and Eddie Lacy), he seems more suited as a passing-down back rather than a guy who can rack up yards plowing through the middle. But he proved this season that he could handle 15 to 20 carries a game and hold up for the most part. But remember all the way back to Week 1 when Ellington's status was murky following a foot injury in a preseason practice session? He ended up playing that week, and in every game up until Week 13. It was still an unwelcome scare for his fantasy owners right out of the gate and it only seemed a matter of time until he broke down. Well that time has come as he's been placed on season-ending injured reserve with a hip injury. I just don't see him being placed in the same kind of featured role again next season which would be a huge hit to his fantasy value. Despite his fragility, he'll likely be drafted early because of his name value and big-play potential.
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns: Part of the reason why Gordon is on my busts list for 2015 has to do with the quarterback situation in Cleveland -- we just don't know yet how this whole Johnny Manziel thing is going to play out in the long term. The other part has to do with Gordon's history of getting into trouble off the field. I'm not saying that he isn't talented or that he can't have another top-five fantasy wideout season. But keep in mind that Gordon's breakout 2013 campaign had a lot to do with the fact that Norv Turner was running the offense in Cleveland. Turner isn't there anymore. Plus, Gordon has admitted that he's not completely up to speed on the Browns' playbook after missing 12 games this year. There have also been reports of Gordon being out of shape in his three games back (so far), which is somewhat inexcusable seeing as he was allowed to work out at the team's facility during his suspension. For me it's more a matter of Gordon's attitude and if his actions early in his career are any indicator, fantasy managers should tread lightly when it comes to using a top pick on Gordon in 2015..
Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills: Watkins was the first rookie receiver to come off 2014 draft boards in many leagues due to ridiculous amounts of preseason hype. The guy was making incredible plays in training camp and definitely has some freakish athletic ability. But he's been out performed in terms of total fantasy points by other rookies like Mike Evans and Odell Beckham, the latter of which didn't even play the first four weeks of the season. Watkins hit a mid-season slump and only caught 13 balls for 105 yards in the month of November (four games combined), while guys like Beckham and Evans only got better as the season wore on. It will be interesting to see if Watkins suffers from a sophomore slump (ahem, Cordarrelle Patterson). Much of Watkins' 2015 fantasy value also depends on the Bills' quarterback situation which is not good, at least for now.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears: I really hate to put Marshall on this list because I love to watch him play, but his inconsistent production in 2014 made it apparent that there's a new No. 1 wideout in Chicago. I'm not saying Marshall will disappear into the abyss next season but it's likely that he will still be drafted in the first few rounds based on his brand name and I don't think he can live up to that value any longer with guys like Alshon Jeffery and Marquess Wilson (we'll see) emerging in the Bears' passing game. Plus, Marshall will be 31-years-old when the 2015 season gets underway. Now the age threshold for receivers is a few years later than running backs, but he's still getting up there in age. He simply won't have the same kind of speed that separates elite fantasy wideouts from the rest of the pack.
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers: Many thought that 2014 would be the year that Gates would no longer be a viable fantasy option. So much so that he wasn't even drafted in many leagues. It was widely thought that Ladarius Green would emerge as Philip Rivers' top tight end target, yet Gates once again proved his dominance in the Chargers' passing attack. But the veteran will be 35-years-old next season and although he's collected nine touchdown passes so far this year, three of them came in one game and the rest came during a mid-season hot streak between Week 5 and Week 8. Since then, Gates has fallen off -- perhaps a sign of what's to come in 2015.
Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints: Not one Saints' wideout ranked among the top 30 in terms of total fantasy points through 14 weeks of the 2014 season. That's because Drew Brees spreads the ball around too much for any one New Orleans receiver to be a solid WR1 for fantasy owners in any given week. I'm not saying that Cooks doesn't have the potential to be a superstar in the NFL. But as long as he's a Saint, his fantasy production will remain too inconsistent to rely on from week to week. Plus Jimmy Graham continues to hog the majority of receiving touchdowns on the team and that isn't changing any time soon.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions: On average, Stafford was the fifth signal-caller taken off draft boards in 2014. He's got Calvin Johnson to throw to, the Lions added Golden Tate to their receiving corps and have established a decent run game with Joique Bell. And Stafford came out of the gate hot with a 30.04 fantasy performance in Week 1. But then he sort of fell off with a few disappointing games and has been spotty ever since. If you take a look at his game log from this season, you'll notice that he's a very matchup-based fantasy quarterback. He performed well against soft defenses like the Jets, Giants and Bears but struggled against better pass-defending units like the Cardinals, Patriots and Vikings. Stafford simply isn't worth an early draft pick in fantasy next season due to his consistency issues
Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor at NFL.com. If you don't like his list of 2015 busts, let him have it on Twitter @m_franciscovich.