Fantasy Football 2012: First-Round Stars Set to Disappoint This Season
For fantasy football owners nothing can be more maddening than watching a season come off the rails as their very first draft pick fails to meet expectations, whether that's due to an injury, poor performance or just plain old bad luck.
Sometimes this frustration is unavoidable. However, as fantasy draft season kicks into high gear the proverbial writing is on the wall for some players, including this trio of fantasy studs that possess the sort of red flags that make them a risky selection in the first round of fantasy football drafts.
Average draft positions (ADP) courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 1.07)
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew was the National Football League's leading rusher in 2011, racking up 1,606 yards and scoring eight touchdowns on the ground. The seventh-year veteran also chipped in nearly 400 receiving yards and three more scores through the air, finishing the season as fantasy football's fourth-ranked running back.
Last year marked the third straight season that Jones-Drew has eclipsed 1,300 rushing yards, and he apparently believes that production merits a pay raise even though two years remain on the five-year, $31 million contract that Jones-Drew signed in 2009.
Not surprisingly the Jaguars don't seem inclined to redo Jones-Drew's deal, raising the very real possibility of a holdout that could stretch into training camp or even the preseason.
A similar situation involving Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson last year ended in a disappointing campaign for the Titans speedster. It's still possible that this situation could be resolved sooner rather than later, but the spectre of a holdout combined with the presence of a capable plan B for the Jaguars in Rashad Jennings makes Maurice Jones-Drew a very risky selection in the middle of the first round as things stand right now.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers (ADP: 1.09)
No player was a bigger or more pleasant surprise in fantasy football last year than Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. The rookie took both the NFL and fantasy football by storm in 2011, throwing for over 4,000 yards, setting an NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 14 and finishing as the fourth-ranked quarterback in fantasy football.
Simply put, any time you see the words "NFL record" next to a player's performance in the previous season, what seems like a good thing is actually something of a concern. Record-setting performances just don't come along every year, which makes a statistical regression a very real possibility, especially as far as gaudy touchdown totals are concerned.
Granted, Newton has a ways to grow as a passer, and it's certainly possible that he could improve on last year's 21 touchdown passes. However, the arrival of fullback Mike Tolbert in Charlotte also likely means Newton won't be making nearly as many goal-line plunges in 2012, which sets the stage for something of a letdown fantasy season for "Ace Boogie."
Don't look at me, according to Yahoo! Sports, Newton gave himself that nickname in a recent ESPN Radio interview. While referring to himself in the third person no less.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots (ADP: 1.11)
Much like Cam Newton, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski exploded into fantasy prominence in 2011. The 6'6", 265-pound Frankenstein's monster of a pass-catcher (seriously, Bill Belichick has a lab in Transylvania somewhere) led all players at his position in fantasy points by a sizable margin last year after setting an NFL record for touchdown receptions by a tight end with 17.
Uh-oh. There's that pesky "NFL record" term again.
This is by no means meant as a knock on Gronkowski, who is a fantastic young player and a joy to watch as he drags opposing defenders down the field. With that said however, the fact remains that 17 touchdown catches just isn't a number that's sustainable over multiple seasons.
Also, the Patriots have another stellar tight end in Aaron Hernandez and made significant upgrades to their wide receiver corps with the additions of Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney, which could lead to fewer targets for "Gronk" this season.
This isn't to say that Gronkowski won't once again rank among the leaders at his position in fantasy points in 2012, but fantasy owners that spend a first-round pick on the third-year pro expecting a repeat of last season's dominant campaign are setting themselves up to be disappointed.
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