Every once in a while, a breakout fantasy football star falls into your lap on draft day and gives you success at that position for years to come.
This list does not include that player.
We’re examining 10 players who have enough red flags to give you hesitation as you painstakingly build your dynasty. In most cases, these red flags concern age and health — a player who could put up decent numbers this season but is on the obvious decline.
Like our potential bust list, though, this advice comes with a disclaimer: Don’t completely take these guys off your radar. If Peyton Manning still is on the board in the middle to late rounds, you’d better get him on your team.
That said, here are 10 players who you’d be better off not keeping around in the long term.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos (Bye Week: 7)
Sorry, Peyton. With a strong running game and a new offensive coordinator in 2015, Denver won’t need you to throw 40 times per game to win. Which is good, because the 39-year-old appears to be on his last legs.
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers (Bye Week: 10)
Gates proved the doubters wrong with a resurgent 12-touchdown season in 2014, and Philip Rivers still trusts him as a goal-line target. But the talented Ladarius Green is waiting in the wings, meaning San Diego could move the 35-year-old Gates to a more part-time role, especially since he’ll start the season on a four-game suspension for PEDs.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills (Bye Week: 8)
McCoy is a stud, and a change of scenery could result in a bounce-back year. But just remember: The Bills have plenty of depth behind Shady at running back and traditionally haven’t been afraid to divvy up carries. After back-to-back seasons of 300-plus carries, McCoy also could be an injury risk.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (Bye Week: 11)
Like Manning, Brees is an extremely talented quarterback who is nearing the end of his career. He still could be good for one or two more productive seasons, but with so many good young quarterbacks on the board, he’s not the guy you want to build your fantasy squad around.
Steve Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens (Bye Week: 9)
It’s very tempting to target Smith as a mid-round value add, especially after his renaissance with the Ravens last season. But at 36, he’s literally the oldest wide receiver in the NFL, and it’s a pretty big gamble to expect he’ll continue to put out 1,000-yard seasons.
Percy Harvin, WR, Bills (Bye Week: 8)
We don’t like writing players off completely, but it’s been two full seasons since Harvin had any fantasy relevance. The Bills have plenty of offensive weapons (McCoy, Sammy Watkins, etc.), and Harvin even recently admitted he’d be open to trying out at cornerback. In the world of fantasy football, that’s not what you want to hear.
Denard Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (Bye Week: 8)
Robinson broke out with four consecutive big fantasy weeks in 2014, and he’s just 24. What’s not to like? Well, that he tapered off at the end of the season before suffering a season-ending foot injury, and that the Jaguars took running back T.J. Yeldon in the second round of this year’s draft. Proceed with caution.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers (Bye Week: 10)
The Niners lost three top offensive weapons and an All-Pro guard and replaced Jim Harbaugh with a former defensive line coach. All that doesn’t bode well for Kaepernick, who’s coming off his worst NFL season as a starter.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Cleveland Browns (Bye Week: 11)
You’d think getting out of the touchdown black hole that is Kansas City would be good for Bowe. Except now his quarterback options are Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel, and he’ll play second fiddle to stud wideout Josh Gordon in Cleveland. Bowe also will turn 31 in September, hinting that his days of being fantasy relevant soon might be over.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys (Bye Week: 6)
Few tight ends have been more reliable in fantasy football than Witten. But he’s 33 now, and backup Gavin Escobar hauled in four touchdown passes last season. Witten still is among the best at his position, but that’s changing quickly, making it difficult to bet on him in the long term.
Have a fantasy/NFL question for Darren? Send it to him via Twitter at @darren_hartwell
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