All fantasy football owners have made some draft picks they regret.
If you are a longtime fantasy owner, you have made picks you wish you could have back. Did you take Peyton Manning in the early rounds last year thinking his neck injury would only cost him a couple games and not the season? Did you select Shonn Greene when Marshawn Lynch was available? Did you pass over David Akers and watch him lead your league champion to victory behind his NFL-best 44 field goals?
We all make mistakes, and that won’t change in 2012. Here are four picks fantasy football owners will regret sooner rather than later:
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (RB)
Forte used to be the first and only offensive option for Chicago for several years. The Bears had no wide receivers worth a grain of salt and no backup running backs that could ever force Forte off the field, so he was one of the busiest workhorses around and a fantasy football darling because of all the touches he received via runs and receptions.
But now Chicago signed Michael Bush, a 900-yard RB in his own right, to a multi-million-dollar deal. Bush will not be collecting checks with tons of zeroes on them just to sharpen Forte’s cleats. As a result, Forte will not play as much as he has in the past.
Plus, quarterback Jay Cutler FINALLY has an above-average receiver to throw to now that his old friend Brandon Marshall is in town. And let’s not forget that Forte could pull what Chris Johnson did last year and skip most of training camp while he holds out for a new contract. Remember how well that worked out for Johnson and his fantasy owners?
This all adds up to Forte’s production dropping in 2012. He will still be one of the top 15 RBs to own in fantasy, but between his playing time and carries being cut into and his lack of touchdowns, he cannot be considered a first-round stud.
DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers (RB)
There once was a time when Williams was revered by fantasy owners. He racked up 1,515 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns in 2008 and was the most dangerous breakaway threat in the league. It feels like that was decades ago, though.
Williams has seemingly been a victim of Carolina’s share-the-carries committee longer than Rex Ryan has been overweight. His rushing attempts have dried up in recent years thanks to the carries backup RB Jonathan Stewart has been given, not to mention all the quarterback draws, sweeps and sneaks Cam Newton had last season. Williams only had 155 rushing attempts in 16 contests in 2011, not even an average of 10 per game.
Williams was signed to a long-term deal last offseason that made him one of the highest-paid RBs in the sport, so you would have thought the ball would be put in his hands more often. Wrong. And for fantasy owners who falsely believe that things will be different this upcoming season, you are more sadly mistaken than the folks who thought green-lighting Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a good idea.
Not only does Williams have to contend with Stewart and Newton stealing his carries, but now former San Diego Chargers RB Mike Tolbert has also joined the fun. Tolbert was a great inside runner for the Chargers and scored 21 touchdowns over the past two years. Williams may average five carries a game this year.
Mark Sanchez, New York Jets (QB)
I know Sanchez had a career year of sorts for fantasy owners last season. Even though his accuracy, ball security and yards per pass did not get any better, he set career highs with 26 touchdown passes, six touchdown rushes and 3,474 passing yards. You can make a very valid argument that he had a better fantasy season than many more-heralded quarterbacks, including San Diego’s Philip Rivers, because of all the touchdowns he produced.
But the Jets' offense did not remind people of Bill Walsh’s West Coast offenses during the San Francisco 49ers’ glory years. Sanchez passed more and put up more numbers, but that did not translate into wins (or sanity for Santonio Holmes), so Tim Tebow was brought in to give the Jets religion and a running attack.
At best, Tebow will be on the field five-to-10 snaps per game, which means five-to-10 fewer chances for Sanchez to throw the ball. Tebow will also probably be inserted down by the goal line, so don’t bet on Sanchez running for another half-dozen scores this season.
At worst, Sanchez has a four-interception fiasco against New England at some point, gets benched in favor of Tebow and watches as Tebow leads the Jets to a month full of 10-7, 7-6 and 3-2 victories.
The Jets will also be more committed to running the ball with Tony Sparano as offensive coordinator. The ground-and-pound will be in full effect, so even if Sanchez starts the whole season he will be hard-pressed to throw for the yards and touchdowns he did last year.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers (WR)
San Fran threw the ball fewer than every team in the NFL except for the Denver Broncos last season, and the only reason the Niners were not last in pass attempts was because Tim Tebow was Denver’s QB.
The 49ers appear like they will be passing more in 2012, since they signed Super Bowl stalwart Mario Manningham and lock Hall of Famer Randy Moss in the offseason, and drafted WR A.J. Jenkins in the first round. Yet they have 500 running backs on their roster, too. Was the Jacobs signing really necessary? Why not bring back Garrison Hearst, too?
I haven’t even mentioned Vernon Davis yet, so how does Crabtree fit into San Francisco’s offensive equation?
It is hard to see Crabtree taking a step closer to his first career 1,000-yard season when he is on a run-first team loaded with pass-catchers arguably better than he is. He will need to step his game up another level or else the fantasy owners who draft him will be sorely disappointed.