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LET'S BE CLEAR: THE PLAYERS ON THIS LIST DO NOT SUCK. Heck, they have made it to the NFL, so they have at least a modicum of talent. But sometimes durability and opportunity are just as important. So what you see on this list of the top 15 busts for 2009 are players (or DEF/STs) who, for one reason or another, are those most likely not to meet fantasy owners' expectations this season. The biggest projected underachievers are at the top. Proceed with caution.
1 Thomas JONES
ALTOGETHER NOW: B! U! S! T! Bust! Bust! Bust! The No. 1 bust must be someone for whom fantasy owners will have high expectations, and that certainly fits Jones, who in 2008 rushed for an AFC-best 1,312 yards and a career-high 13 touchdowns.
Though coach Rex Ryan says this year's offense will "ground and pound," the Jets don't have an experienced quarterback to stop teams from playing eight in the box. And the odds are against Jones matching his rushing scores from '08 (his previous best was nine), especially with 227-pound rookie Shonn Greene on the roster. (And we're not even addressing Jones's skipping OTAs.) Stay away.
2 Derrick WARD
HE'S THE popular choice to be This Year's Michael Turner. And why not? Like Turner, Ward left a team for which he was the top backup running back—and one of the best reserves in the league—to be the leading man elsewhere. The expectation is that Ward will blow up much, if not exactly, the way Turner did last year.
If it were only that simple. Remember, Ward left a Giants team that had arguably the NFL's best offensive line. (Even No. 3 back Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 355 yards on just 67 carries last year.) And New York had the threat of a passing game. The Fighting Leftwiches have neither. Beware.
3 Matt CASSEL
HE WAS A New England revelation in 2008 while subbing for the injured Mr. Bündchen, passing for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns in his first starting experience since high school. The effort earned him a $14.65 million franchise tag and, after a trade, his own starting gig with the Chiefs.
But how things are different in K.C. He has only one difference-maker at receiver, Dwayne Bowe; he lost his security blanket when Tony Gonzalez was traded; and he can no longer lean on Josh McDaniels, who played a large role in Cassel's success. Oh, and backup Tyler Thigpen showed last year that he can ball a little too. Bad, bad, bad.