Fantasy Football 2012: So-Called Stars Who Will Be Exposed as Frauds

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: So-Called Stars Who Will Be Exposed as Frauds

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    Some NFL players just don’t measure up to the pre-draft hype.

    Fantasy football participants tend to overreach in hopes of snagging someone with superstar potential. Although Michael Vick and Darren McFadden could offer first-round value, injuries often derail their production and make the decision to draft them a dicey call.

    At the right price, these players are worthy of a speculative pick, but both players are still ranked besides safer studs.

    Injuries or simply a misconception of a player’s talent or current situation causes these players to obtain higher recognition than they deserve. The following players are overvalued in early rankings and should not be chosen that early on draft day.

Michael Vick

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    Vick, who some drafters selected as high as No. 1 overall last year, whiffed in a big way last year. Many fantasy owners displaying a selective memory are trying to pretend his ugly season never happened.

    In a highly improbably comeback year, Vick took the league by storm during the 2010-11 season. In addition to rushing for 676 yards with nine touchdowns, he threw 21 touchdowns and only six interceptions in 12 games. His career-high 62.6 completion percentage was uncharacteristic of a passer who often struggled with accuracy, and those problems rose back to the surface last year.

    As his touchdown total plunged from 30 to 19, including just one rushing score, his interceptions bloated to 14. He did remain consistent in one area, but unfortunately the one constant in Vick’s game has been his inability to stay on the field.

    Vick, who has participated in all 16 games in merely one of his nine seasons, missed three contests last year. Since Vick is an undersized quarterback who regularly scrambles out of the pocket where he no longer receives watchful protection from referees, he will continue to put his body in danger and risk sustaining injuries.

    While Vick certainly offers vast upside as a pick that could potentially win your league if everything falls into place, the risk hardly seems warranted since you have to draft him over accomplished studs in Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Phillip Rivers. It’s your team, so nobody is going to stop you from taking the “go big or go home” approach, but Vick will likely be more of a big headache than a reward.

Jay Cutler

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    For some reason, the folks at Yahoo!, especially Andy Behrens, like Jay Cutler a whole lot this season.

    Don’t get caught in his trap. Cutler is a solid, slightly above-average quarterback who demonstrates flashes of brilliance that never last.

    The 29-year-old passer has only exceeded 4,000 yards once during his career, and he needed 616 attempts to reach that plateau. With exception to his 4,526 yards from the 2008-09 season, Cutler’s next best total is 3,666.

    He posted an uninspiring 58.0 completion percentage in 10 games last year before a broken thumb cut his season short.

    Often scrutinized to an escalated amount, as most evident by critics bashing him for not playing while hurt during the NFC Conference Championship in 2011, Cutler has taken an unfair beating in the press. The boring truth that won’t draw in controversy and ratings is that Cutler is a good quarterback. Not bad, not elite, and probably not even Pro-Bowl caliber unless some of the more prominent names falter. Just good.

    Even though he is reunited with star wideout Brandon Marshall, Cutler is not a top-ten quarterback in fantasy football. Marshall’s presence provides Cutler with a much-welcomed target to open up Chicago’s passing attack, but there is still an array of other quarterbacks (Romo, Rivers, either Manning, Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger) worthy of a higher selection.

Darren McFadden

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    If healthy, McFadden could tear up the league and finish as a top—maybe even the best—running back in football.

    Although it’s just a tiny two-letter word, that "if" is massive and should cause drafters to approach the rusher with caution. Instead, many owners are picking him in the second round. On Mock Draft Central, McFadden is selected at an average draft position of 13.88.

    Run-DMC was well on his way to achieving another remarkable year before a Lisfranc sprain ended his season after seven weeks. McFadden topped his 5.2 yards per carry from the previous season by averaging 5.4 yards per attempt last year.

    The 24-year-old also continued to display pass-catching skills while slashing his hit-or-miss tendencies. During his breakout campaign two years ago, the young rusher still frustrated owners with some lackluster performances, including a performance with two rushing yards against the Miami Dolphins.

    And yet, despite all his talent, McFadden is still a hazardous option since he has never played more than 13 games over the course of a season. Banking on his upside might make sense if he could be obtained as your second or third back, but his stock is still soaring despite the red flags.

Trent Richardson

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    Trent Richardson is an incredibly talented rookie who will one day develop into a No. 1 fantasy running back. Let’s not rush it though.

    Yet another player bullishly adored by Yahoo’s analysts, Richardson already ranks as the No. 7 running back, ahead of Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson. That’s an awfully large prescription for a rookie to fill.

    The Cleveland Browns, seemingly unaware that the Minnesota Vikings already have a running back, gave up three extra picks to move up one slot and draft Richardson with the No. 3 selection in this year’s draft. The Browns will toss Richardson into the fire as their starting running back, but he might not do as much with those chances as everyone, or at least Yahoo!, expects.

    Some drafters look at Cleveland’s anemic passing game as an opportunity for Richardson to receive a boatload of touches. That also means that if Richardson is anywhere near as good as everyone anticipates him to be, defenses will quickly stuff the box unless Brandon Weeden can establish a respectable aerial attack.

    The lack of a supporting cast could prevent Richardson from realizing his full potential this season. With apologies to star left tackle Joe Thomas, the Browns don’t exactly possess a formidable offensive line either.

    In a dynasty league, go buck wild and spend a premium draft selection on the rookie who terrorized college defenses during his tenure in Alabama. In a re-draft league, too much uncertainty exists to trust Richardson at such a high price.

Brandon Lloyd

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    Joining forces with Tom Brady seems like a surefire path to success for a wide receiver, but Brandon Lloyd’s numbers might falter with the New England Patriots.

    Lloyd burst on the scene two years ago, accumulating 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns as a Denver Bronco. While he fell back to earth last season, Lloyd still finished with 966 yards and five scores.

    After operating as the first option for the past two years, Lloyd will serve as Brady’s third or perhaps fourth, most enticing target in Foxborough. Lloyd benefits from playing with a Hall-of-Fame quarterback and other receivers who can draw tighter coverage, but he will also receive less passes his way in a crowded passing offense.

    ESPN ranks Lloyd 17 among wideouts, which seems too high for a guy who realistically won’t contribute more than 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. Although Lloyd will show up big some weeks, he will also experience some quiet games where he is not an integral part of their game plan.

    Vincent Jackson, Miles Austin, Dwayne Bowe, Steve Johnson and Jeremy Maclin are all better choices than Lloyd, who will never match the stats he collected during the 2010-11 season.

Fred Davis

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    There are several young tight ends capable of leaping toward elite status this season. Fred Davis should not be considered one of them.

    Through 12 games, Davis caught 59 passes for 796 yards. Had he not missed the final four games while serving a suspension for a failed drug test, the 26-year-old might have surpassed 1,000 yards.

    While the Washington Redskins' upgrade from Rex Grossman and John Beck with Robert Griffin III seems like a boost to Davis’ value, this also means Washington has a quarterback capable of stretching and field and utilizing his receivers. With Pierre Garcon added to the mix, Davis is no longer the safety crutch for his quarterback to lean on.

    Davis is still a solid option who, at 6’4’’ in a more prolific offense, should see a few more red-zone targets come his way. Just don’t bank on him to duplicate his 66.3 yards per game mark and enter the top tier of tight ends.

    Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finley and Brandon Pettigrew offer more upside than Fred Davis, who should rank at the bottom of the top ten. Don’t buy into Yahoo’s placement as the No. 6 player at his position.