Everyone has been burned by an early pick at some point in their fantasy careers.
Maybe you’re a person who spent a high pick on Chad Johnson only to see him record his first sub-1,000 yard season since his first year in the league, or maybe you picked Willis McGahee in the top two rounds because his 1,200-yard fluke in 2007 suckered you into it.
So what potential early-rounders should you avoid in 2009 to prevent banging your head against a wall mid-season? Here’s a look at my top fantasy headaches at each position to avoid in the coming year.
Quarterback: Matt Cassel*, Kurt Warner*
I’ve got two players prepared for this spot, because both are in unique situations that, depending on which direction they turn, could impact their fantasy values greatly.
Kurt Warner is a free agent this offseason, and if Arizona chooses to let him walk for whatever reason, his potential for next season takes a huge shot. His monster numbers from this season could lure his 2008 owners into drafting him high in 2009, but they would be ill-advised to do so.
Warner thrives on great protection and a pass-happy attack with the Cardinals, and any other system would only hurt his production.
Matt Cassel is set to hit the market this off-season as well, but the Patriots have stated that they intend to franchise him. However, assuming Tom Brady’s knee is on track to heal before the season starts, it’s very likely Cassel will be traded.
If he is, fantasy owners beware: Cassel is nothing more than a system product. If he had not had Randy Moss and Wes Welker to work with this season, his numbers would be nothing more than mediocre. If and when he is traded, his numbers will be reduced to mediocre in 2009.
Running Back: Clinton Portis
This pick will undoubtedly shock some readers, and that is to be expected. But Clinton Portis is going to be a very high-risk pick next year.
So, how could the NFL’s fourth leading rusher be a risky pick? Well, taking a look at Portis’ stats, the second half of his season was very disheartening.
In his last eight games, Portis totaled just 543 yards rushing, topping the century mark in only one contest. He also notched just two touchdowns over those games.
This was Portis’ second straight season with at least 300 carries, his fourth in the last five seasons, and the wear and tear is starting to show. Look for Washington to use Ladell Betts more in 2009 and possibly bring another running back into the fold via the late rounds of the draft.
Wide Receiver: Antonio Bryant
Be very wary of Antonio Bryant. Sure, he played well in his contract year. A lot of players do. But what evidence has he given that he’ll keep that kind of production up once he gets a new deal?
Bryant has two 1,000-yard seasons in his career, both in contract years (Browns 2005, Bucs 2008). If he does in fact find himself a good deal this offseason, beware. There’s a good chance that once he gets his money, he’ll go right back to the inconsistent, effort-lacking receiver he is so well known for being.
Tight End: Owen Daniels*
There’s an asterisk here because Daniels should only be avoided if he heads to a new team.
Daniels is a free agent this offseason, and if he lands with a new team, he should be avoided. Tight ends that went to new teams this past off-season showed that they were slow to pick up their new offenses:
Alge Crumpler (Falcons to Titans):
2007 (Falcons) – 42 catches, 444 yards, 5 TDs
2008 (Titans) – 24 catches, 257 yards, 1 TD
Ben Utecht (Colts to Bengals):
2007 (Colts) – 31 catches, 364 yards, 1 TD
2008 (Bengals) – 16 catches, 123 yards, 0 TD
Jeremy Shockey (Giants to Saints):
2007 (Giants) – 57 catches, 619 yards, 3 TDs
2008 (Saints) – 50 catches, 483 yards, 0 TD
Anthony Fasano was the exception that proved the rule, but I wouldn’t count on Daniels pulling a Fasano next season if he goes to a new team. If he stays in Houston, however, don’t hesitate to make him your top TE.
Kickers: Don’t draft one, period.
A kicker won’t make or break your team if you have good enough players at the positions that matter. Trust me.
Oh god, he’s gone crazy. How could I possibly put the ever-amazing Ravens defense on this list?
Look, I’m not saying they’ll be bad, just that they won’t be as good as everyone expects them to be.
With their top sack artist (Terrell Suggs) and their two top tacklers (Ray Lewis, Bart Scott) all set to become unrestricted free agents, the odds that all three stay with the Ravens are very slim.
Replacing players of their caliber will be no easy task, seeing as Lewis and Suggs were both Pro Bowlers this year, and Suggs especially will demand a monster contract.
Don’t worry about having them as your defense, but don’t be “that guy” who takes a defense in the fourth round. And if for some unholy reason you are, don’t take the Ravens.
So there are my players to avoid. Draft day for 2009 is still a LONG ways away, but keep this article in mind when it does roll around.