Every year, fantasy football owners watch players who were high-round locks before the season play like 20th-round selections during the season. In some cases, we even see football stars go from the first round to the waiver wire within a year or two.
This season, temper your expectations for the following five stars.
Peyton Manning is no longer a Colt, as we all know. Manning now wears the blue and orange of another team named after a horse, the Broncos, whom you may have heard of. While he'll be their starter, he'll fail to produce Colt-like numbers. Peyton has long been a top quality fantasy QB, but you'd be wise to move him down your board, or draft him with a lot of caution.
For starters, the Broncos are a running team. They may no longer have Tim Tebow, but you have to believe that they'll still run a lot this year, which will hurt Manning's numbers. If he's only throwing the ball 30-35 times per game, and to receivers of significantly less quality than he had in Indy, there's no way he can put up 4,700 yards and 33 touchdowns as he did in his last full season.
To add on to why Manning won’t live up to the expectations, I just don't trust that he'll be healthy, and I think there's a good chance he gets injured this season. He has admitted that he's still rehabbing and isn't 100 percent. He also hasn't taken a hit in almost 18 months.
How will his body react when a 250-pound linebacker hits him at full speed on his blind side? It's impossible to know, and that amount of uncertainty regarding the health of a 36-year-old quarterback is too much risk for me.
For Darren McFadden owners last season, McFadden was nothing but a big giant headache. Despite missing the last 10 games of the year with a Lisfranc injury, McFadden was frequently listed as questionable week in and week out, agonizing his owners. They never knew if he would play until the last minute, which handcuffed owners.
To be quite honest, I don't think I would ever draft McFadden, unless he fell to me way down in the draft. Through four seasons, he's played 13 games twice, 12 games once and only seven last season. He's an injury waiting to happen, and although according to CBS Sports he's looked great so far this offseason, it just isn't worth the risk. You can't go into the season with one of your top running backs almost guaranteed to get injured; it's a recipe for fantasy disaster.
One final note on McFadden. Despite his immense talents, he's only rushed for 2627 yards and 16 touchdowns in his four-year career. At this point, he's more fanfare than fantasy star, although due to his skills set when healthy, he's (rightfully) regarded as being in the latter category.
If you choose to take McFadden high, just know you're rolling the dice.
Frank Gore is another guy with a lot of talent, but he's going to get a lot of restriction in touches this year and isn't going to live up to what some people expect when they hear his name. Sure, he'll have a decent year, but he won't be the stud that he's been in the past, those days are long gone.
The reason Gore won't have the big numbers that he's usually associated with are mostly for two reasons. The first is that he'll have to split carries with Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James, who was just recently drafted by San Francisco. You've got to assume that Jacobs will be used in a lot of goal-line and short-yardage situations, and James will get a lot of screen passes and swing passes thrown his way, which further limits the chances for Gore to produce.
This is coupled with the fact that they'll want to keep him as healthy as possible. If you have three quality running backs, why wear them down? It's better for San Francisco as a team to split up the carries and keep everyone fresh, especially because Jacobs is a soon to be a very old 30 and Gore is 29. They aren't spring chickens, and can't carry the load alone.
Simply put, Gore is a great RB2 or flex option, but you can't expect him to put up big numbers like he used to.
In years past, Gates has basically been another star WR for his fantasy owners, playing almost every game from 2003-2009, and putting up elite numbers week in and week out over that span. However, he's slowed down a lot in the past two years, as he's missed nine games over the past two seasons, and been hampered most of the time due to lingering injuries.
Gates has struggled with plantar fascists over the past couple years, there are reports via San Diego News that he's trying to alleviate his foot pain by losing weight. While this is encouraging to an extent, it's hard to envision Gates suddenly curing an injury that has been bothering him for years on end. And since he's soon to be 32, he's getting old enough where injuries begin to take a long time to heal.
He's still a very capable tight end, and last season showed a lot of toughness in playing through severe pain for a lot of the season, but I think that his days as an elite fantasy player are coming to an end. He's still a terrific flex option, but expect him to either miss or be severely hampered in at least three to five games.
Gates is a good player, but his days of greatness are likely behind him at this point in his career.
Please, please do not draft Peyton Hillis high in your draft. He fell victim to the Madden curse, averaging just 3.6 YPC last season, scoring only three touchdowns on the ground. While he was great in 2010, you can't draft a player high in the draft just because he had a stellar season two years ago. Last year, Hillis was picked in the third round in a lot of drafts, and his owners sorely regretted it. Those expecting him to bounce back and have a great year this year severely need to temper their expectations.
Hillis is a strong runner and he makes for some killer highlights, but he can't be trusted to be a RB1 or even a RB2 this year for your fantasy team. He'll have to play second fiddle to Jamaal Charles who will be looking to rebound strongly from last year's knee injury. His extra motivation will only hurt Hillis' chances of regaining his 2010 Madden cover-caliber form.
Hillis might give you a couple of really good games here and there, but don't look to him to produce for you on a consistent basis this season. It'd be a big mistake to pick him anywhere in the top half of the draft, in my mind at least.
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