Top 4 Fantasy WR Busts for 2012

Which receivers are going to kill your roster? Stay away from these four!
Want to get the numberFire edge? Check out these numbers and more in our Fantasy Draft Kit.

Wide receivers are typically the most volatile position in fantasy football. One year, Santana Moss will put up 147 fantasy points, and the next year, he'll only put up double digits. It's the lay of the land in Wide Receiver Land. (I imagine Wide Receiver Land as an odd cross between Kirby's Dream Land with ultimate jumping ability and the inside of T.O.'s former New Jersey mansion with models as far as the eye can see. But I digress.) Since numbers can change so dramatically, it stands to reason that consistency is such a key component of drafting receivers. Hines Ward wasn't a top-five rounds draft pick all those seasons in Pittsburgh just for his dancing skills (although that made him about ten times more fun to own). And on the flip side, people are avoiding Randy "Moon Man" Moss for a reason, even though he's probably one of the top five receivers of all-time. Finding that balance can be tricky.

There are some players that numberFire isn't as high on as a lot of the other fantasy sports nuts out there, and in the end it comes down to that consistency. We're not saying to not draft these players - we're just saying to be careful where you take them. If Victor Cruz is available in the fifth or sixth round, I don't have a problem with him. If it's at the third round, I do.

Note: Average draft positions are found here. The draft positions here were accurate as of 8/22/12.

Top Four Fantasy WR Busts

4. Steve Smith - Carolina Panthers
numberFire Rank: #61 (#20 WR in our Fantasy Draft Kit)
Average Draft Position: #41 (#13 WR)
Projected Points: 137.69

Steve Smith was seemingly on the downswing, with his receiving yardage decreasing from 1421 in 2008 to 982 in 2009 to 554 in 2010. But then the Newtonicane came to town, and suddenly Smith was right back up to 1394 yards and 7 touchdowns. I'm pretty sure more people were hurt trying to scramble back on the Smith bandwagon than actual panthers hurt all last year. But I wouldn't forget how to make that dismount quite yet; Smith could be trending right back downward. Brandon LaFell (#43 WR on our fantasy draft kit) is projected to have a much bigger impact in Carolina this season; we have him making a 30 point fantasy leap to break the 100 mark for the first time. Greg Olsen is still in town and projected to have another solid season at tight end, similar to the 84-point (more than a 5 point per game average) mark he put up in Carolina last season. Don't forget about the pass catchers out of the backfield either; Jonathan Stewart put up 400 yards receiving last year in limited time, and he's a good bet to get even more playing time this season. Still not convinced? I wouldn't be doing my due diligence if I didn't bring up that whole business of being in the league since before North Carolina was a state. Can he put up the numbers entering his twelfth season that he did in the past? I still say he puts up some, but it would be smart to tone down expectations somewhat.

3. A.J. Green - Cincinnati Bengals
numberFire Rank: #47 (#12 WR in our Fantasy Draft Kit)
Average Draft Position: #22 (#4 WR)
Projected Points: 148.33

Before I get the entire comment section up in arms about A.J. Green, let me point out that I've expressed my undying adoration for him before on this very board as a spectacular high-upside pick. But check out what round that was in: the fifth. As a high third-round pick and the fourth receiver overall off the board, as he's now being selected in many mock drafts? I don't like him nearly as much. For one, he needs to work on his simple pass catching ability: his 56.52% catching rate doesn't look as solid when compared to the roughly 60% average for all NFL receivers. Second, there just isn't much else in Cincinnati to take the pressure off of him. One his opposite side, he has Mohamed Sanu, numberFire's 65th best receiver. Over the middle, there's tight end Jermaine Gresham, a serviceable but ultimately unspectacular option. In the backfield, the Law Firm has never had more than 12 catches in a season. If teams decide to triple-cover Green, there's not much Cincinnati can do. And finally, he's still young. He'll grow with Andy Dalton over the next couple of seasons, but as a tandem, they're not to Palmer-Ochocinco levels of chemistry quite yet. He could very well get to #4 overall receiver status. But this isn't the year.

2. Victor Cruz - New York Giants
numberFire Rank: #64 (#22 WR in our Fantasy Draft Kit)
Average Draft Position: #33 (#10 WR)
Projected Points: 137.425

On the numberFire questions board, Michael Bultman asked whether Victor Cruz should be taken before Hakeem Nicks. Many other fantasy GMs sure think so, as Cruz's average draft position is #33 as compared to Nicks's #38. But the general consensus on the nF boards was a resounding "Not a chance": if you can take Nicks, then you have to do so in a heartbeat. The logic makes sense. Nicks was slowed by injuries last season and still approached Cruz's production. Even so, will there be enough balls to go around so that both Nicks and Cruz can be top ten receivers, as ESPN projects? I wouldn't count on that one either. While Cruz was able to fly under the radar last season, defenses will key on him this year, especially with Mario Manningham's departure. Of Cruz's nine touchdowns last season, five came on receptions that were 68 yards or longer. More than any other stat, that indicates the two main strengths of his game: sneaking behind safeties for long passes, and breaking tackles. Neither one of those will come as easily this season; if he has more than three touchdown receptions over 60 yards this season, I'll give you a refund on this free article, all on numberFire's dime. Team Vic might not have as much to work with this season as well: Dallas (who they play twice) dramatically improved their secondary, and AFC North secondaries (who the Giants play one a piece) are historically solid. If he's there in the mid-fifth round then I'm thinking about him, but not before.

1. Vincent Jackson - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
numberFire Rank: #81 (#28 WR in our Fantasy Draft Kit)
Average Draft Position: #68 (#27 WR)
Projected Points: 123.73

It worked out perfect for V-Jax, right? He got the new team that he wanted, with a young quarterback in Freeman who can sling the ball, and a chance to maintain his streak of 1000+ yard seasons (discounting 2010 when he only started five games). If he wants to maintain that innocence, though, he probably shouldn't look at how other receivers did last year in the Tampa system. Mike Williams was the leading receiver last year for the Bucs, when he finished with a fantasy team-crippling 771 yards and 3 touchdowns a season after busting out. The Bucs' offense meanwhile was entirely carried by the running game. That trend that isn't likely to change with Blount now being joined by Doug Martin (who we have as the best fantasy option on the team, which is almost like saying "The most erotic retirement home in Tampa"). The Bucs often won't be getting the ball with good field position either, as nF has their defense ranked dead last in the entire league. If you're going to draft Jackson, I sure wouldn't trust him with a starting spot in your lineup.