1) Maurice Jones-Drew. RB. Jacksonville Jaguars. My distaste for MJD is largely personal. When he condemned Bears quarterback for not being tough for sitting out the second half of the NFC Championship game two years ago despite Cutler's knee later being revealed to be badly torn, and despite pulling up lame himself late in the Jaguars' season, what he needed to do was apologize immediately. This year MJD is already creeping up as far as number 4 overall on many ratings, but I think you'll suffer if you use a high first rounder for him. He's grousing about his contract and has a history of pulling up on his team in non-competitive season. As no one believes Jacksonville will be competitive this year, let someone else waste a top five pick on this aging mighty might and take someone safer.
2) Rob Gronkowski. TE. New England Patriots. A lot of winning in fantasy football has to do with predicting which players will outperform their ranking and draft position for that year, not reacting to what they did last year. Gronkowski helped a lot of people win cash last year, and I think a lot of people will use a super valuable second round pick to grab him this year. Let 'em. Keep piling up top tier running backs in those rounds and come back for a Tight End later. This guy is kind of a strange duck. If you do a Google image search on Gronk you see him doing a lot of things besides football, and I have a growing feeling it's going to catch up with him. The Evil genius who runs the Patriots has no compunction about tossing any player (besides Tom Brady) under the bus and bringing in the next man up. I think Gronkowski is too risky for a lot of reasons to take as high as he will be going.
3) Matt Stafford. QB. Detroit Lions. How quickly they forget. Matt Stafford has a great fantasy season last year. he may have another great fantasy season this year. Or they may scrape him up off the turf week one and everyone who drafted him as high as he's set to go will be playing Josh Freeman against you when you meet head to head. If that's a chance you're comfortable taking this is your guy. Of course, any NFL quarterback can be injured any week, and statistics say most of them will be, but Stafford has a permanent meniscus injury that can't be operated on or healed with rest. The next time that knee pops out he may be done for good. Or he could throw for 5,000 yard and 40 touchdowns. But my opinion is if you want to go QB this early just go the extra mile and get one without a history of injury.
4) Jermichael Finley. TE. Green Bay Packers. Somebody in Green Bay, or several somebody's, don't really like Jermichael Finley. Which would be alright if some of those somebody's weren't throwing him the ball. There was a lot of grousing about Finley at the end of last season that didn't hit the national media very hard, but he's not respected by his teammates. And Aaron Rodgers is not hurting for targets, especially with Jordy Nelson virtually replacing Jennings and Finley in a lot of games. If you didn't have to take Finley with a fifth round pick he might be worth taking a chance on as there will be literally dozens of touchdown catches to go around in Green Bay this year. I just don't think Finley will be getting many of them. There's a rich crop of Tight Ends this year. Avoid this bum.
5) Andre Johnson. WR. Houston Texans. WR1 is an essential position to fill on your roster, and if you look at the top of the WR rankings this year it's a little hinky. After Calvin Johnson you can't convince me Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Greg Jennings, and Roddy White all aren't facing the potential of having bust seasons for different reasons. I don't like any of them with a first or second round pick, so I'd advise skipping a wide receiver in rounds one or two and take running backs, or a stud quarterback if you want to go that route, then jump in in round three with someone like Brandon Marshall or AJ Green to anchor your wide receivers. I think they have equal, if not better chances of having a better year than the four I mentioned. In particular I think Andre Johnson is just too hampered by injuries and the Texans too reliant on Arian Foster to consider him worth the second round pick you'll need to give up to get him. Pass.
6) Frank Gore. RB. San Francisco 49ers. Sure, this guy is probably going to make everyone's potential bust list. With good reason. He's old. He got a huge contract. The 49ers acquired vulture supreme Brandon Jacobs. They have drafted a running back to replace him three years in a row. And after all that Gore just keeps putting up numbers. Because of that he should get the benefit of the doubt, but this is the NFL. When you go, you're gone, and this could be the year Gore is gone. he's dropping in the rankings and in mocks and should fall some more, but fantasy players have a habit of drafting older running backs like Gore out of habit. If you want to do that make sure he's fallen to at least the fourth round. That's right, fourth.
7) Roy Helu. Running Back. Washington Redskins. I actually like Helu a lot. But Mike Shanahan is nuts. he has that nuts face. Avoid this nut. Fantasy players have been operating on the past record of him picking out a running back and running him until his wheels fell off for too many years now. Apparently coach twitchy doesn't do that anymore. And it's likely he's going to screw with Helu, too. If he doesn't, I think Helu is a great fantasy option. But let me repeat the operative word here... insane. You can't afford to wake up on Sunday and not find out until after the game begins that your number 2 running back isn't even playing. That's what Shanahan will do to you. Don't let him. Let someone else fall into the Redskin/Patriot running back black hole. And speaking of finding your running back isn't playing after the game begins...
8) Marshawn Lynch. RB. Seattle Seahawks. Marshawn Lynch was a good story last year. It was hard not to root for him. Even if you were one of the teams fighting for a playoff spot who found out five minutes into week 7's game that his stat line wasn't moving. Even if you were hesitant to start him for a couple of weeks after that and continued to get burned when he went off. Lynch could could crazy go nuts this entire year. But that's not what his history says he will do. He got paid, so keep that in mind when you're trying to decide if you want to make him your number one running back. He plays for the Seahawks, so keep that in mind. And he's going in the first round, so it's up to you if you feel confident that Lynch has finally become the player he was always meant to be, but remember he's a career 4.0/yard ball carrier. There's some beast mode upside, and a lost of bust mode history of downside.
9) Steve Smith. WR. Carolina Panthers. Remember when Steve Smith was a fantasy stud? Then remember when Steve Smith became the other Steve Smith? Then remember when Steve Smith became a fantasy stud again? Well, I wouldn't take last year all that seriously in this case. Steve Smith had an awesome comeback season last year, and was Cam Newton's favorite target, but he slowed down considerably the second half of the year and if you played him he didn't help your fantasy team very much at all. I think that trend continues to start the 2012 season. I like Brandon Lafell as a sleeper and to take over as the Panthers' number one receiver. I also like NFL defenses to have solved a lot of the Cam Newton riddle in terms of giving up huge pass plays down the field. None of this bodes well for a 33 year old wide receiver on a team that might be in games enough to not be winging passes down the field the entire second half without concern.
10) Antonio Gates. TE. San Diego Chargers. On occasion you'll see or hear a report that Antonio Gates is healthy and looking good, but the truth is even when healthy Gates appears heavier, slower, and less determined to go up and get the ball than he did when in his prime. It happens to everyone. Gates doesn't look good even when he's not dragging a lame foot behind him. Could he show no symptoms of an injury that is notoriously slow to heal, and in many cases never heals? Sure. But the point is even if he is fine he's no bargain when you'll have to take him, especially with nearly a dozen Tight Ends who might have crazy good seasons this year. May I suggest letting someone else venturing a fifth rounder for gates and waiting a few more rounds for someone like Fred Davis in Washington.
So, if you look at this list you might say "These are all great fantasy players," to which I would say "Yes, they are," but each one of them has the inherent risk for a myriad of reasons of being a bust. Either this may be their last season of significance in the NFL, or they are injury prone, or don't fit into the system, or may be replaced by a younger player, or even though they may have a good or even great season they just aren't worth the pick you'll have to give up to obtain them. Sometimes it's more fun to speculate than go with the obvious choice. There's one player on this list, Roy Helu, who walks that fine line between being a bust and a bust out player. But many of these players just are heartbreaks waiting to happen. Let someone else take them.