If there’s one thing we’ve learned in fantasy football, it’s that the order in which players are drafted in August are never exactly the order in which you’d take them again at the end of the season.
Some players, like DeAndre Hopkins, Todd Gurley and Gary Barnidge, are total busts. Others, like Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray, are pleasant surprises.
In that spirit, we took a look back at 32 of the biggest busts and pleasant surprises of the 2016 fantasy football season.
1. Marcus Mariota, QB: Surprise
The Tennessee Titans signal caller probably made a roster in your league as a fringe starter or a backup, but it wouldn’t be surprising if you dropped him after a miserable first few weeks. From Weeks 3-12, Mariota actually was the highest-scoring quarterback in fantasy, and he’s currently fourth overall.
2. DeAndre Hopkins, WR: Bust
If Hopkins can put up ludicrous fantasy numbers with T.J. Yates, Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum and Brian Hoyer throwing him passes, he’ll certainly be a stud with a great young quarterback like Brock Osweiler throwing to him in Bill O’Brien’s system, right? Sigh.
3-4. DeMarco Murray and Melvin Gordon: Surprise
Murray looks like the DeMarco of old, when he was running behind the best offensive line in football with the Dallas Cowboys. We actually predicted a subpar year for Murray, but to our surprise, he’s stayed healthy and extremely productive in a run-heavy Titans offense. Gordon has gone from 600-plus yards and zero touchdowns to nearly 1,000 yards and 12 TDs through Week 14.
5-8. Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Arian Foster, RB: Bust
We had visions of Gurley running our teams all the way to that championship trophy, which he did for many of squads last season. His 2016 campaign of 679 rushing yards and four touchdowns has been a letdown, at best, compared to his 2015 numbers: 1,106 yards and 10 TDs. Peterson’s incredible injury history finally caught up to him at age 31 and for once came early in the season instead of late, Charles’ second ACL tear caught up to him in his age 29 season, and Foster’s body just gave up and forced him to retire not even midway through Year 1 in Miami.
9-10. Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson, RB: Surprise
If you looked at Zeke and DJ in August and thought there were safer options for a first-round pick, you weren’t alone. We didn’t quite know what Johnson was — a kick returner with RB2 upside? A flash-in-the-pan that wouldn’t live up to the hype? –and we’d seen his type go in the first round and fail before (looking at you, C.J. Anderson). And Elliott, well, he’s a rookie, and the Cowboys might’ve split carries between him and Alfred Morris. Johnson has over 1,700 rushing and receiving yards and 15 total touchdowns, while Elliott has roughly 1,600 total yards and 13 TDs. Whoops.
11-14. Will Fuller, Tyler Boyd, Corey Coleman, Laquon Treadwell and any other rookie WR not named Michael Thomas: Bust
For all the preseason hype, Fuller had two good weeks, Boyd had been buried behind A.J. Green and others in the Bengals’ offense until Green’s recent injury, Coleman broke his hand, and does Treadwell even play in the NFL?
15. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints: Surprise
He somehow flew under the radar for a while but is currently the ninth-ranked wide receiver in PPR formats, catching 69 passes for 831 yards and seven touchdowns so far.
16. Davante Adams, WR, Packers: Surprise
True story: I dropped Adams after a two-catch, 34-yard performance in Week 6 in which he was concussed. The Green Bay Packers were playing on Thursday in Week 7 and Aaron Rodgers hadn’t looked very good. Adams was a surprise active hours after I dropped him, he put up 13 catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns against the Chicago Bears and I lost that week. Adams has been pretty good ever since, averaging 18.4 points per game in PPR formats.
17-19. Rob Gronkowski, Gary Barnidge and Coby Fleener, TE: Bust
Gronk probably went in the first two rounds of your draft, Barnidge was drafted as a starter, and someone definitely took Fleener as their starter expecting him to be the next Jimmy Graham in New Orleans. Whoops.
20-23. Jay Ajayi, Spencer Ware, Tim Hightower and other handcuffs, RB: Surprise
Call it the year of the handcuff. With so many injuries, guys like Ajayi, Ware and Hightower have shined, as did D’Angelo Williams for three weeks while Le’Veon Bell was suspended.
24-27. Jaguars pass catchers: Bust
We should’ve known better than to trust the Jaguars. Blake Bortles has regressed and isn’t really close to the top-five fantasy quarterback he was last season, rendering Allen Hurns, Julius Thomas and Chris Ivory fairly useless. Allen Robinson, who was drafted as a WR1, has been relegated to fringe-flex duty for most of the season.
28-32. Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and other late QB picks: Surprise
Everyone always tells you to wait on a QB, but it’s just so damn tempting to pick up Cam Newton in the second round. Meanwhile, Ryan (third), Kirk Cousins (fifth), Derek Carr (seventh), Prescott (eighth) and Stafford (ninth) all are top 10 fantasy QBs this season.
Thumbnail photos via USA TODAY Sports Images