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Five potential fantasy football busts to avoid in your league's 2019 draft

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USATSI/NBC Sports Bay Area

Five potential fantasy football busts to avoid in your league's 2019 draft

Fantasy football is no joke these days. Money is on the line, and more importantly, so are bragging rights. 

There are traps you must avoid, though. We're here to help. 

Not every star will produce huge numbers. One big season doesn't always translate to the next. Sometimes competition is too much. And sometimes, change isn't so good. 

Here are five potential busts to avoid in your fantasy football drafts. 

Antonio Brown, WR, Raiders

Here comes Raider Nation for my head. 

There's no doubt Brown is one of the best -- if not the best -- receivers in the NFL. But there's a recipe for disaster here. 

After nine seasons starring for the Steelers, Brown is in a new offense with a new coach and a new quarterback. All of which haven't come close to the kind of success that Brown's former team, the Steelers, have enjoyed in recent seasons. 

Since Brown was traded to the Raiders this offseason, he's been away from the team more than on the field. The four-time All-Pro has dealt with extreme frostbite to his feet, a helmet grievance and off-field issues in recent weeks. 

That's a whole lot of drama. 

If his feet allow him to cut and run, Brown surely will put up big numbers. But they might not be as godly as past years.

Sony Michel, RB, Patriots 

Michel, the Patriots' top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, put up solid numbers as a rookie. He rushed for 931 yards and six touchdowns and should be New England's lead back this season. 

But Patriots coach Bill Belichick loves to rotate ball-carriers and one down game can put you to the bottom of the depth chart. New England has a plethora of options to choose from and former Alabama running back Damien Harris could easily see touches right away as a rookie.

Michel will be productive for the Pats, just don't make him a top priority for your draft.

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Broncos 

Lindsay was one of the best stories in football last season. The Broncos running back went from undrafted to the Pro Bowl.

The reason Lindsay could see his numbers drop in Year 2 is due to the running back Denver actually drafted last year. Royce Freeman was a big disappointment as a third-round draft pick out Oregon last season, rushing for just 521 yards. 

But that could change this season. All reports have Freeman looking great this offseason, and there could be a backfield by committee in Denver. 

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers

As Brown could struggle without Roethlisberger, the QB could falter without his top target. 

Roethlisberger is coming off a career-high 5,129 yards passing last season. He's also 37 years old and the Steelers could be turning into more of a running team with a trio of James Conner, Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell. 

Quarterbacks can defy time much easier in today's NFL, but there are good reasons to believe Roethlisberger's stats could take a step back.

Drew Brees, QB, Saints

Speaking of Father Time, it looks to finally be catching up to Brees. The 40-year-old signal-caller put up solid numbers last season, but many of those don't seem sustainable. 

Brees completed 74.4 percent of his passes last season. That's bound to come down. He rushed for a career-high four touchdowns last year, too. That's not happening again. 

In Brees' final four games of the season, he threw three touchdowns and three of his five interceptions on the year. Brees has put together a historic career, but his numbers will take a tumble this season.

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Raiders contract extension allows Darren Waller to reflect on how far he's come

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AP

Raiders contract extension allows Darren Waller to reflect on how far he's come

ALAMEDA – Darren Waller had one great Wednesday. The breakout tight end practiced with a Raiders team reliant on him to consistently produce in the run and pass game, and then signed a contract extension that will keep him with the Raiders through 2023 season.

He got a fat raise and financial stability for life, a surefire sign the Raiders believe he can be a top-tier tight end for years to come.

His celebration, however, was subdued.

“I’m not really into spending money on a lot of things,” Waller said Thursday. "I did go to Walgreen’s and buy some Perrier. That’s what I like. That’s my go-to beverage right now.”

Don’t take to mean the moment wasn’t meaningful. It was a powerful one for someone who nearly threw his career away over substances of abuse, which got him suspended by the NFL twice while in Baltimore. The second ban without pay lasted a full year and forced him to work at a grocery store to make ends meet.

Now he’s recognized as one of the NFL’s best tight ends, in the midst of a breakout season. He was set for restricted free agency next year, where the Raiders essentially controlled his rights. The Silver and Black chose to pay him anyway and commit to him long term.

That, considering all Waller has been through, meant more than money.

“I feel like it shows I can contribute to a team and be reliable, someone who can be counted on,” Waller said. “That wasn’t the case before. I just try to be a good teammate and be part of this family. That’s what it’s all about for me.”

The Raiders have helped him integrate into the recovery community after signing him off Baltimore’s practice squad later last season. He signed his first Raiders contract in 2018, in the exact same room he signed a major extension less than a year later. It was a powerful moment that made him reflect on just how far he has come during more than two years clean and sober.

“There was a big wave of that yesterday,” Waller said. “ I usually reflect a ton in my life because I’m so grateful for where I am. I was talking to my family and friends and my trainer, who helped me get back into shape, and it was pretty overwhelming for sure. But it’s in the best possible way.”

Waller’s all about stacking good days, an effort he’s getting good at. It’s paying real dividends here in Oakland, where he has a powerful support system. It’s hard for him to think so far into the future, where his contract lasts four full years into the team’s Las Vegas relocation.

“It’s incredible for me,” Waller said. “It’s hard for me to think about what I’ll be like in 2024. I just try to let the days stack up, but it means a lot to me that they would do that. This whole thing is still surreal to me, because last year I was sitting in that same room coming over from Baltimore, and I just didn’t want to mess this up. Now to have something in place for a longer term in incredible. I’m really looking forward to what’s next.”

Waller looks forward to being recognized among the tight ends he watches every week. He goes over every game Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz play. He likes watching Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen and Cameron Brate. He wants to be recognized in that class of tight ends and known has someone who performed at an elite level for a long time.

“I spend time on the off day watching other guys in the league just looking at their game and what from that I can apply to mine,” Waller said. “I can compare myself to guys who have been doing it a long time. I’m kind of new to this, but I want to be in the conversation, and I think it’s realistic for me. I know there are a lot of people here who will help me accomplish that.”

Raiders' Paul Guenther calls Vontaze Burfict suspension 'witch hunt'

Raiders' Paul Guenther calls Vontaze Burfict suspension 'witch hunt'

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders were seething over Vontaze Burfict’s season-long suspension over his illegal hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle, yet confident the unprecedented punishment for an on-field act would lessen upon appeal.

Jon Gruden and Derek Carr spoke on Burfict’s behalf. The middle linebacker himself pleaded for leniency on a suspension that was more about past acts and a dirty reputation than the hit itself. Such logic fell on deaf ears, and independent arbitrator Derrick Brooks upheld the original suspension.

Gruden bit his tongue when asked about on Wednesday, only saying he was upset over the decision.

Paul Guenther did not take the same tact.

The Raiders defensive coordinator, who has known and worked with Burfict for years in Cincinnati and helped the linebacker establish himself in the NFL, voiced his displeasure in no uncertain terms.

“It was a witch hunt from the beginning, quite honestly. Somebody from the league didn’t want him playing, and they got what they wanted. The Raiders are going to keep a close eye, and make sure everyone is being held to the same standard that Vontaze was. We had no idea that this guy – does it make any sense to sign a guy where, after one infraction, he’s going to get thrown out of the league for the year? No, it doesn’t.

“I think it’s unfair. I think it’s unfair to our team. It’s unfair to Vontaze. But we have resilient guys, and they’re going to fill in for him and they’re going to play for him.”

Guenther said the Raiders did not know another infraction for an illegal hit would end Burfict’s season. They never would’ve made him such a vital part of their defense had that been the case. At the very least, they would’ve added a durable safety net underneath him.

“Nobody knew that the next time he dropped the helmet a little bit and hit a guy that he was going to be done for the year. Absolutely not,” Guenther said. “To sign a guy like that and know that was going to happen makes no sense.”

Guenther took umbrage with the fact that, unlike penalties for violating policies on personal conduct, performance-enhancing drugs or substances of abuse, there’s no clear line of punishment laid out in writing for all to see and follow. That’s another reason why the Raiders feel Burfict’s suspension was excessive and clearly targeted at one specific individual.

“There’s no standard. That’s the issue I have,” Guenther said. “There’s no [protocol] that says, the next time you do this, you’re done for the year and maybe your career. I think it’s unfair. You can warn a guy, but you should put in writing that the next time this happens, you’re done. That’s where I have a problem. It’s unfair to the kid. It’s unfair to all the players around the league to not know what will happen. You give this guy a whole year suspension? I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think that’s fair at all.

“Now they’ve opened up a whole can of worms for the next guy that does this. We have to make sure that if we’re going to do this to this one guy for going 38 mph in a 35-mph zone with the cop looking for one guy doing it, that all the players are held to the same standard. To me, that’s where I have the issue.”

[RELATED: Gruden still not happy with Burfict's suspension]

Guenther is close to Burfict and was asked how the veteran linebacker is dealing with this massive setback and prolonged suspension without pay. In short: not well.

“How would you do deal with it if you basically got your career taken away like that, and not really know that was going to happen?” Guenther said. “He may never play football again. That’s a tough thing. He’s 28 years old, and all of a sudden, it’s done. Now that they know with the next infraction you’re done for the year, that’s a tough pill to swallow without knowing that was going to be the consequence. To me, that’s not right.”