Predictions for the NFL's 10 Most Disappointing Players of 2012
Whether you're a huge fan of a specific NFL team, or you're into fantasy football and don't really have a favorite team, everybody is aware that a certain number of players on your team will turn in a disappointing season. If that wasn't the case, then your team would be winning the Vince Lombardi trophy every year.
So, who will be having a disappointing season in 2012?
On the surface, trying to figure out who's in line for a disappointing year seems like a rather difficult task to say the least, so we will have to look for some factors that would lead us to conclude that specific players are in for a rockier road than they had last year. In addition, trying to predict the 2012 season results for these players makes the assignment even more difficult.
The reasons for a down year in 2012 are quite varied. Overcoming a serious injury from 2011, losing some playing time to a high-draft pick, holding out from training camp, coaches' decision, just signed a big contract, a team-wide change in philosophy or joining a new team could all be valid reasons for why a player might be in for a disappointing year.
Since these nominations are highly speculative by nature, we can't tell you to take these predictions to the bank. But if you are preparing for a fantasy football draft, you might want to tuck these names away or consider dropping them a round or two lower on your cheat sheet based on the rationale we provide.
As a rookie running back in 2011, Delone Carter ran the ball 101 times for the Indianapolis Colts. Out of those 101 carries, Carter fumbled three times, and all three were recovered by the defense. Costly turnovers don't do much to win you playing time from your head coach.
Adding to concerns for Carter in 2012 is that he had surgery on his thumb and had to miss the entire offseason to date.
Head coach Chuck Pagano has been watching the results of backs like Donald Brown, Mewelde Moore and Vick Ballard, so the timing of the thumb surgery is far from ideal. Not only that, but if you have thumb surgery, it might not be the best thing for preventing more fumbles; it might encourage even more of them.
The Colts have a very crowded backfield, as noted in this article by Arthur Arkush of Pro Football Weekly. It's very conceivable that Ballard could be stealing carries from Carter down around the goal line.
The last reason for concern is due to his 2011 performance. While Brown averaged 4.8 yards per carry, Carter came in with a less than impressive 3.7 yards per carry average in 2011.
Carter's 2012 Prediction: 70 rushes for 245 yards; one touchdown, three fumbles and an average of 3.5 yards per rush.
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, things don't look overly promising for Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, based on the early returns from mini-camp. Jackson observed that Tannehill isn't adjusting well to the speed of the NFL game, and by hanging onto the ball too long, he will be taking an inordinate number of sacks.
Due to the skill level of David Garrard and Matt Moore, it might turn out to be a scenario where Tannehill sees the field about as much as Jake Locker did in his rookie season. Of course, we will have the benefit of watching episodes of Hard Knocks on HBO to see how well Tannehill is performing, and no doubt, he will be asked to play in some preseason games to get a better idea of his progress, or lack of progress.
Finally, you factor in the limited starting quarterback experience from his college career, and all signs, right now, are pointing to Tannehill spending the vast majority of his rookie season as an observer from the sidelines.
Tannehill 2012 Prediction: Appear in two games, no starts. Completing 15-of-30 passes for 165 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Average completion of 11.0 yards.
Musical Chair Quarterbacks
During the 2011 season, all of the following quarterbacks were being utilized as starters for stretches last year: Colt McCoy, Rex Grossman, Jason Campbell, Curtis Painter, Donovan McNabb, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton, Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Moore and John Skelton.
Collectively, this group was responsible for playing in 98 games during the 2011 season. It wouldn't surprise me if this group collectively fails to crack playing in 25 games total during the 2012 season.
From a personal production standpoint, the 2012 season would have to go down as a major disappointment for the vast majority of this group, especially when you consider how much playing time they received in 2011.
But, that is the nature of being a quarterback in the NFL. One minute you're the franchise savior, the next minute you are hoping to hang on to be somebody's backup.
2012 Prediction: Out of the 10 quarterbacks named in this group, they will not collectively play in more than 25 games in the 2012 season.
Most football fans expect that Matt Forte will sign his franchise-tag tender offer and play for the Bears in 2012. Whether or not Forte remains in Chicago in 2013 and beyond is a totally different question, and one that nobody can truly answer right now.
While it would seem that the cards are lined up for Forte to have a huge 2012 season, especially since he could be playing for a huge contract in free agency for the 2013 season, I envision a drop in his production for a number of reasons.
In 2011, the Bears rushed the ball for 2,015 yards, which represents 40 percent of their total overall offense of 5,026 yards. Looking at the 2011 roster compared to the 2012 version, you have to think that with the additions of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, the Bears will look to throw the ball more than they did in 2011.
Whatever percentage the Bears pass the ball more, that will cut into the personal production totals of Forte.
Secondly, you have the Michael Bush factor. Bush is a power back who's accustomed to carrying the load in the red zone and in 3rd-and-short and 4th-and-short scenarios. At 28 years of age, Bush is still in his prime, so not only will he eat into Forte's overall rushing attempts, but he will eat into Forte's touchdowns in the red zone.
Finally, you have the miscellaneous factors, such as the return to health of Forte (MCL injury), his mood (felt disrespected by the Bears when they signed Bush to long-term deal as reported on his Twitter account) and if the Bears go to a rotation scenario where both backs get an equal number of carries.
Then, there's the holdout factor and how much Forte has missed of the new offense installations. All of that has to be factored in.
2012 Forte prediction: 170 rushes, 748 yards, 4.4 average rush per carry, three rushing touchdowns. 40 receptions, 328 yards, one receiving touchdown and average of 8.2 yards per reception.
Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis
If anybody happened to watch any of the Buffalo Bills games in 2010, you would have noticed how painful it was for defensive end Chris Kelsay to try to make the transition from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. Now in 2012, the Indianapolis Colts are asking Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis to do the same exact thing.
Freeney (10 years in NFL) and Mathis (nine years in NFL) have plenty of experience rushing the quarterback at defensive end. But dropping back into pass coverage? It could be a long and painful season to watch them attempt to make the transition.
In 2011, this dynamic duo accounted for a combined 18 sacks and 62 tackles. I'm afraid that the 2012 production won't be nearly as positive. They will still get their share of sacks, but the numbers will be down, and the learning curve will be high as they attempt to master their new positions.
2012 Prediction for Freeney and Mathis combined: 12 sacks and 50 tackles
After the outstanding season that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski turned in during the 2011 season, people automatically assumed that the sky was the limit for Gronk, and he would continue to soar to new heights in 2012. I could be dead wrong, but I have the feeling that Gronk is due for a correction in expectations for the 2012 season.
To Gronk's credit, he was so good in 2011, that he's forcing teams to game plan specifically in how to slow him down. If you were paying attention in the 2012 offseason, you noticed how the rest of the AFC East was preparing for this year, especially the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.
The Bills improved their pass rush and invested their first-round draft pick in Stephon Gilmore, with the intention of blanketing Gronkowski. The Jets upgraded their secondary by adding safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell.
The next factor involved is the changes to the Patriots offensive lineup. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen will be seeing plenty of playing time in place of departed BenJarvus Green-Ellis, while new players like Joseph Addai, Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Lloyd and Donte Stallworth will all be getting their share of targets from Tom Brady.
Those new targets will probably mean less throws to Wes Welker and to Gronkowski.
Third factor is Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots began experimenting with Hernandez toward the end of the 2011 season, by having him line up in the backfield. There are a number of directions that the Patriots can go with Hernandez, but all of them would probably result in less passes to Gronkowski.
Finally, we can't overlook the health of Gronkowski. He is coming off ankle surgery, and there's no way to guarantee that he will be 100 percent as of Week 1. It's possible that he has lost half a step from last year and could need time to get back to where he was.
If you add up all of the above factors, I think Gronkowski's production comes down in 2012. Still Pro Bowl material mind you, just not the kind of numbers that people have been speculating or hoping for on their fantasy teams.
Gronkowski's 2012 Prediction: 75 receptions for 1,000 yards 13.3 average yards per reception and 12 touchdowns. For most players, that's a banner year. For Gronkowski, that would be considered a disappointment.
With no apparent progress being made on the Mike Wallace and Pittsburgh Steelers front, it looks like we could be in for a prolonged holdout.
Since Wallace is a restricted free agent, he's not dealing under the same deadlines as the franchise tag players are. Therefore, he could easily let the Steelers sweat out a deal anywhere from now until Week 10. If Pittsburgh doesn't step up with a big offer, Wallace will stay at home and wait, and then wait some more.
If we push the deal to the side for one second, is there any other issues that could prevent Wallace from having another big year?
There's the offensive philosophy change, where the front office stated that they want to return to "Steeler's football", which would be better known as running the football and pounding it down opponents throats. On the surface, that doesn't seem to be a great mesh for Wallace.
Then you have the Todd Haley factor.
The new Steelers offensive coordinator hasn't had the opportunity to work with Wallace in practice and won't until he reports. They're getting used to working with all of the rest of the receivers, except for Wallace.
If management believes that Wallace is only going to be playing a partial season in 2012, then they need to prepare for the upcoming year as if Wallace isn't going to be playing at all. Anything they get from him would then be considered gravy.
This is clearly a unique situation. Since we don't know what Wallace is thinking or what week he will report, trying to predict his season is rather difficult.
Wallace's 2012 Prediction: 60 receptions, 14.5 average yards per catch, 870 yards and six touchdown catches.
New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow will promise to be the subject of much media hype and headlines throughout the 2012 season. The real question is how much will Tebow be able to produce for the Jets offense?
When the Jets traded for Tebow, the team announced that they planned to design a 20-play package that would be crafted around Tebow's skill set. Based on watching how Tebow performed in Denver last year, you have the feeling that those 20 plays will more than likely occur in the red zone.
While the 20 plays (give or take) should result in Tebow running in for a touchdown or possibly throwing for one, there's no way that this package will be able to replace what he was able to do as the starter for the Broncos. There could be a weekly adjustment, but figure that Tebow plays about one quarter, and Sanchez gets three quarters of playing time each week.
No matter how you try to slice it, Tebow's production won't be close to what he did in 2011, and for his fans, the 2012 season will seem like a major disappointment.
Tebow's 2012 Prediction: Tebow completes 37 out of 80 passes for 236 yards, four touchdown passes and three interceptions. He will run the ball 160 times for 800 yards, averaging five yards per rush and will score nine rushing touchdowns.
According to this article by Bill Williamson of ESPN, the most likely landing place for Cedric Benson in 2012 appears to be with the Oakland Raiders. That would make Benson the backup to Darren McFadden, and Benson's 2012 production will be tied directly to the health of McFadden.
Now, it's no secret that McFadden has been prone to injuries, so it makes sense that the Raiders go out and secure a legitimate running back who's capable of carrying the load if McFadden were to go down again.
But from a production standpoint, it's very hard to count on Benson continuing his string of three straight 1,000-plus yard rushing seasons. The reality is that he can hope for a four-, five- or six-game stretch when he's the No. 1 back and hope to generate roughly 500 yards for the year.
Benson's 2012 Prediction: 128 rushes for 486 yards, averaging 3.8 yards per rush, and rushing for three touchdowns.
When Rashard Mendenhall got hurt in the season finale in 2011 against the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers had no choice but to turn to Isaac Redman, and luckily, he proved that he could be the featured back.
Since the injury to his ACL on January 1, 2012, Mendenhall hasn't had sufficient time to heal and rehab from the surgery, so he's now projected to miss at least six games in 2012, possibly more.
By the time he comes back, the Steelers will have a pretty solid idea about what Redman's capabilities are, and they might just decide that he is the better back. There's some statistical evidence that isn't very flattering about Mendenhall, which the Steelers are probably well aware of.
For example, according to this article by Jamison Hensley of ESPN, Mendenhall is not very effective in running the ball. Hensley wrote the following:
Since the start of 2010, Mendenhall averaged 3.9 yards per carry, the fifth worst among the 28 players with at least 300 rushes in the last two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Mendenhall also had the second fewest yards after contact (1.6 per carry) among running backs with at least 200 carries.
So given the questionable health, the promise of Redman and the ineffectiveness of Mendenhall when he runs with the ball, we are projecting a big year of disappointment for Mendenhall.
Mendenhall's 2012 Prediction: 125 rushes, averaging four yards per carry, total of 500 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.
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