2012 NFL Fantasy Power Rankings: 10 Studs Whose Production Will Drop in 2012

Bruce ChenAnalyst IJune 9, 2012

2012 NFL Fantasy Power Rankings: 10 Studs Whose Production Will Drop in 2012

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    The dearth of fantasy players reading too much into and blindly trusting last year's production is what makes smarter players champions. Yes, there are sure things in an NFL Fantasy Football draft. But every year, there are guys who have career seasons and end up killing their fantasy owners the year after.

    It's not even just one-year wonders. We're talking about guys who were in the right situation or right time. Or maybe we have guys who are going to fall off a cliff, but not everyone sees it.

    Here are 10 guys I've been able to trust in the past, but I'm wary of in 2012.

LeSean McCoy

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    Wow. Shady McCoy was fantasy's No.2 back last year behind Ray Rice. I'm not saying the Philadelphia Eagles' workhorse isn't a top-10, or even a top-five pick. He is most certainly worthy of a first-rounder, though I could think of five guys I'd take ahead of him.

    So why do I project McCoy's stats to go down? Well, this is a guy who's never scored more than seven rushing touchdowns in a year and, all of a sudden, has 10 more last year. More to the point, this is a team that has Michael Vick running the show.

    I love what Vick does for opening running lanes for McCoy by keeping defenses honest, which allows McCoy to break some big plays.

    Here's the problem, though. Vick only had one rushing touchdown last season. You never know with running quarterbacks what their rushing TD totals will be. But for a guy who's as dangerous and runs as often as Vick does? For Vick to, in 2012, again finish with one-third the rushing touchdowns that Tom Brady has?

    I think Vick does take some of the TDs back from McCoy. Maybe McCoy makes up for it with a little more yardage. It still makes McCoy a productive player, but I project a more realistic nine-to-10 trips to pay-dirt for him next year.  

Michael Turner

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    Turner had a solid season in 2011. He was the fifth-ranked running back and has been among the top 10 every year he's been a starter. He had the second most amount of carries and third in the league in rushing. But he's at that time where he's just got too many warning signs for me to take him.

    He's turning 30, the age where running backs usually start to decline. Atlanta keeps maintaining they want to reduce his carries, and Turner's value mainly comes from his volume of carries he gets because he doesn't catch the ball.

    Down the stretch last year (Week 12 onwards, and when fantasy playoffs are), other than the Week 17 game against Tampa (which never counts in a fantasy league), Turner averaged an awful 3.2 yards-per-carry, showing the wear and tear that comes with years of being a workhorse back.

    He's had 1189 carries in the last four years, meaning he's averaged twenty carries a game for the last 59 games of his career. The man is being overused and will break down sooner or later.

Rob Gronkowski

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    Like McCoy, the young Patriots did the Gronk spike in the end zone an astonishing 17 times last season. By now, you should know I'm not an advocate for chasing touchdowns.

    Do I think Tom Brady trusts Gronk religiously in the red zone? Yeah. Do I think the TD totals drop in 2012? By virtue of increased attention on defense? Yup.

    Early mocks have Gronkowski as a first- or second-rounder. That is a little bit high, although I'd definitely pick Gronk in the top 25.

    Last year's Patriot offense was a dink-and-dunk offense; there were no deep threats, so the Patriots spent a lot of time in the red zone. This led to a lot of "basketball plays" for Gronk, where Brady would simply count on Gronk to box out a smaller safety or linebacker and get a touchdown.

    Now the Patriots have completely revamped their receiving corps. They went out and got Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Lloyd and Donte Stallworth, the latter two of which are most definitely deep threats. We know Brady loves going to Gronk, but we know Tom Terrific likes going deep as well. Just ask Randy Moss if that's true.

    Like Shady, I think Gronk will still be an awesome player. But I think he'll be closer to 10-12 touchdowns than the 17 he had last season. 

Victor Cruz

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    I feel bad for doing this because I don't think Victor Cruz is a one-year wonder. He's got sweet skills. But there was too much that went right for him last season. 

    If you watched the tape, a lot, and I mean a lot, of Cruz's yards came after the catch. The most notable example was his 99-yard TD against the New York Jets.

    Five of his TDs came on huge, huge plays 68 to 99 yards, and they sure weren't from him going deep. They were from him catching short passes then picking up a couple missed blocks and missed tackles.

    Now I'm not taking that away from him. Those yards count all the same. I just don't know that they can be repeated. I still think Cruz is a decent player. He'll play tons in the slot, and Eli loves the slot receiver. He's a top-15 receiver. Not the No. 4 fantasy wide-out.   

Calvin Johnson

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    The Madden Curse is real. Even Drew Brees had an off 2010 season when he was featured on the Madden cover. Do I think Calvin is the best wide receiver in the NFL? Absolutely. 

    I hate to beat the dead horse of "don't go for high TD totals." Megatron might score fewer than 16 TDs next year, but because of situation and talent, I actually like him to be the guy who can repeat that amount of TDs. This guy is unstoppable in the red zone.

    What I am weary of is him possibly getting less receptions in general. Titus Young is no joke and, if he can his head on straight, will see lots of snaps, and Matthew Stafford would love a speedy slot weapon to rely on. Ryan Broyles was a first-round pick and should steal some looks.

    I'm not saying anyone is ever going to challenge Megatron for No.1 on this team. But as effective as the Detroit Lion's attack was last season, it was horribly, horribly unbalanced between the pass-to-run ratio, and the ratio of Calvin Johnson receptions-to-other guys catching the ball.

    I actually still like Johnson for at least 13 TDs. I'm not so sure he gets more than 80-85 receptions, or 1,200-1,300 yards. Believe it or not, that does represent a major drop off from last season.  

Darren Sproles

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    This one is a bit debatable. The basic premise of my arguments for each player is based on unrepeatable production. For my money, Darren Sproles was New Orleans' best weapon last year. He had almost as many receptions as rushes (86 and 87) and was their main return guy. He set an NFL record for all-purpose yards last season.

    Ask Drew Brees how instrumental he was in his ability to break Dan Marino's passing record. Any football die-hard who understands the technical aspects of coverages and defenses know that the modern NFL offense really relies on the "space player" to try and get the offense going.

    There are two main things that would normally deter me from any Saints back. First off, they use a three-headed attack, with Sproles, Pierre Thomas and former first-round pick Mark Ingram. Second, they lost Carl Nicks, possibly the best guard in the league and, more importantly, one of the best run blockers around.

    I don't think this affects Sproles a ton because most of his production comes from the passing game. It's not like he'll get fewer than 87 carries. What I'm worried about is the fact that he averaged almost seven yards a carry.

    Another thing is that there will be no surprises this season. Defense coordinators all around the league watched last year's NFC Divisional round and realized just how important this guy is to the Saints offense.

    Whether Drew Brees may be missing parts of training camp, or Chase Daniel is the starter, the Saints' signal-caller will be trying to rely on a safety valve. And opposing defenses will key in on it. Sproles will get less space to run, and this could be devastating to his value.

Vincent Jackson

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    Vincent Jackson is one of the best deep-threats in the league. He's 6'5", 230, runs like a gazelle and has some beautiful hands. His maturity and dedication to the team concept? Maybe a little left to be desired.

    He was given a huge contract to come in and be a big target for Josh Freeman, who desperately needs to rebound. I could look very stupid for putting Jackson on this slide if Freeman indeed rebounds, because the good Freeman we saw in 2010 has a huge arm. 

    But if things get tough in Tampa, I wouldn't be surprised if V-Jax's effort wanes a little bit. He's already a maddeningly inconsistent player; some weeks he gives you 150 yards with two TDs, some weeks he's getting you 20 yards on two receptions.

    I don't think Josh Freeman is quite there yet. And if you're a deep threat who's inconsistent and never reached double-digit touchdowns in a season with perennial Pro-Bowler Philip Rivers? You got a new quarterback, new system and a team in flux. I'm staying away.   

Jordy Nelson

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    Don't chase unrealistic touchdown totals, and opposing defenses will key in on him more. Jordy Nelson had 15 last season, and I expect some other guys to get some looks from Aaron Rodgers, like Jermichael Finley. 

    I also expect Greg Jennings to fully reestablish himself as the alpha male in Green Bay. 

    Jordy Nelson is good. But he's not the No. 2 fantasy receiver. Or a top-10 one, if we're being realistic. 

Reggie Bush

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    Reggie Bush certainly had a good season in 2011. He set a career-high in carries with 216, broke 1,000 yards rushing and was the 12th ranked running back despite not being the starter for the first half of the season.

    But you are what you are. I think the Dolphins' offense will be hindered by the loss of Brandon Marshall, keeping defenses a little more honest to the run. The Dolphins also didn't draft Daniel Thomas in the second round last year to be a backup.

    Thomas is 6'1", 230 and has the more prototypical NFL back skill-set. Bush has never been more than a change of pace, gadget space player who prefers to make noise by catching passes in space.

    The tape showed a bit of change down the stretch last year. But Bush has never been suited to being a between the tackle runner. 

    The Saints tried, and it resulted in Bush's game log totals being 12, 10, 14 and eight, following his rookie season. Can Bush stay healthy? Can Bush prove he's truly something different than what he's been in the NFL for his whole career?

    I'm not buying it. Thomas will take over lead back duties, and Bush's production will drop. 

Cam Newton

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    Cam Newton had 14 rushing touchdowns last season. Of all the guy's I've complained about not being able to repeat their touchdowns, Cam is certainly the most unlikely to get that done again.

    Fantasy quarterbacks make their money with their arms. Newton came out hard out of the gate, passing for two 400-plus yard games. He didn't pass the 200-yard mark for the last three games, or the 300-yard mark after Week 4. 

    We see rushing QBs post high rushing TD totals and coming back to earth, all the time. Heck, we just saw Michael Vick light the world on fire with nine in 2010, then only have one in 2011. 

    Carolina also didn't do all that much to help their receiving corps this summer, either, beyond drafting Joe Adams out of Arkansas in the fourth round of the draft.

    Cam will be a polarizing topic in fantasy circles, just as Vick was last year. Some will be entrenched in the camp that believes a full offseason will make him even better than last year. Some won't buy the smoke and stick with what doesn't lie, and that's historical context of like players.

    I tend to stick in the second camp and don't think Cam will be as good in his sophomore season.