Every year in the NFL, there are players who drop off dramatically from their consistent performances of years past. Whether it be because of injury, age, opportunity or a change in coaching scheme, drop offs in performance happen each and every year.
In 2011, it was Phillip Rivers, Brandon Lloyd and Reggie Wayne who saw huge drop offs. Who are some of the favorites to see big drop offs in 2012?
Well, let’s take a look.
Arian Foster has rushed for over 2,800 yards and 26 touchdowns in the past two years and is in his prime at age 25, so why is he on this list? Injuries, a new diet and a running back counterpart that will likely prolong his career, but hurt his overall fantasy value.
Foster battled through a strained hamstring last season, and eventually missed three games. He may start the season 100 percent, but hamstring injuries typically do not go away forever.
Foster also started a new diet this offseason. He has become a vegan. While this may be great for his overall nutrition, it likely is not good for him as a football player. Hugh Douglas had this to say on the topic on ESPN First Take:
You’re going into a football season; there’s a lot of strenuous activity. There’s a lot of dehydration. It’s gonna be hot. And, to deprive your body of that protein that it’s been used to getting, that’s going to be a tough spot to be in. I just think this is a bad time for him, and he had hamstring issues last year.
What Douglas had to say should be concerning to fantasy owners. Animal protein is what helps repair muscles after strenuous activity. It is essential to every professional athlete’s diet, so cutting that out could be damaging to his football career.
Last, Foster will be sharing the backfield with third year running back Ben Tate. Tate broke out last year by averaging 5.4 yards per carry on his 175 attempts for 942 yards and could see an increased work load this year to keep Foster fresh. It seems likely that the days of Arian Foster getting 300-plus carries are over, and I would expect his numbers to dip as a result.
A drop off from Roddy White has little to do with his ability and more to do with the players surrounding White. While Roddy racked up 100 receptions for 1,296 yards and eight touchdowns last year, he led the league in targets at 181 (ESPN).
His counterpart, Julio Jones, was targeted 96 times, literally half the amount of Roddy White.
Those numbers should be much closer this year as Julio Jones comes into his own in the NFL in year two. White will still put up big numbers, but nobody should expect another 100-catch performance from White at this point in his career.
Aside from the distribution of passes, Roddy turns 31 in November. Coming off five consecutive seasons of 80-plus catches and 1,150-plus yards, it’s likely that White’s best football is behind him at this point.
Michael Vick’s fantasy value has gone through the roof over the past two years, and he’ll still likely go extremely high in 2012 fantasy drafts due to his running and passing ability.
But fantasy owners need to beware.
Vick has missed games in each of the past three years, and both his passing efficiency and rushing numbers dipped last year as teams started to figure him out a bit more in Philadelphia (ESPN). Vick is still an elite athlete, but at age 32, his athleticism is likely going to start to decline very soon and nobody uses their athleticism more at the quarterback position than Michael Vick.
Don’t buy into the hype on Vick who is a hot name, but may not provide you with the hot results you’re looking for.
Victor Cruz had a breakout season in 2012, ending the season third in the NFL in receiving yardage, but fans should not expect him to repeat this performance. In fact, fans should expect a significant drop off from Cruz.
Cruz’s yardage totals were aided by the fact that he had five receptions go for 68 or more yards, including a 99-yard catch in Week 16 against the New York Jets. While Cruz remains a top big-play threat in the NFL, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll catch that many balls from 68-plus yards out again this year.
Also, the Giants have added more weapons around Eli Manning, which will allow Manning to spread the ball around more. Cruz’s 131 targets were only two less than Giants No. 1 receiver Hakeem Nicks (ESPN). This year, the Giants return 2011 third-round pick Jerrel Jernigan and added receiver Rueben Randle, and tight end Adrien Robinson in the 2012 draft.
Those weapons will take targets away from Cruz.
Another understated part of the offseason for the Giants was the addition of first-round running back David Wilson. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has always preferred to run the ball, but Eli Manning set a career high in pass attempts last year with 589.
Expect the Giants to run the ball a bit more in 2012, which will bring down both Eli and Cruz’s numbers this year.
Jones-Drew has been a fantasy pillar for the past five years with his ability to run between the tackles and also contribute in the passing game. But fantasy owners need to be wary, he’s currently seventh amongst active NFL players in touches and has only played six seasons in the league.
His 1,084 touches over the past three years is the most in the NFL and the shelf life of an NFL running back is incredibly short, much like Jones-Drew himself. In fact, Jones-Drew (26) leads the league in touches of any active player under the age of 28. His 1,854 touches are 294 more than second place under-28 rusher, Adrian Peterson, who has 1,560.
That type of overuse, especially in such a short amount of time has proven to wear down NFL runners. Running backs like Larry Johnson and Shaun Alexander come to mind as guys who had great five-year spans and quickly fizzled.