Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Players with More Hype Than Potential

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJuly 31, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Players with More Hype Than Potential

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    Some NFL players billed for stardom won't match the buildup in fantasy football leagues this season.

    Mark Sanchez and Michael Crabtree appeared to be destined for big things upon entering the NFL, but neither player has quite panned out. While both are still often perceived as high-upside talents, they are mediocre choices who will only play pivotal factors in deeper fantasy leagues.

    Drafters are better off picking a no-frills name like Ryan Fitzpatrick or Anquan Boldin—although they both actually possess much cooler names—in non-keeper leagues than the over-hyped disappointments.

    And then there's Robert Griffin III, whose vast potential has been spoiled by drafters setting the bar too high for the rookie to produce immediately.

    The following players are talked about too much or ranked too highly, which will cause them to dishearten their fantasy owners this year. 

Robert Griffin III

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    Be careful how far you reach for Robert Griffin III.

    While Griffin III certainly displays a bounty of potential, some rankings seem to treat his eventual ascendance to stardom as an inevitable fact.

    He can run and he can throw, but that does not automatically make him Cam Newton 2.0. Just because Newton posted phenomenal numbers during his rookie campaign does not make RGIII a shoe-in to do the same.

    While the Carolina Panthers let Newton run free from the get-go, the Washington Redskins traditionally feature an attack more reliant on the rushing game. Griffin III might not get the chance to air it out as often during his rookie season.

    This is not to say that Griffin III cannot, or will never, become a top-tier fantasy quarterback. The potential is there, but some experts seem to assume that he will deliver immediately. Rookie quarterbacks dominating is far from the norm.

    Newton only cost a late-round draft pick or free-agent add last season, but Griffin is ranked alongside elite names. On Mock Draft Central, Griffin is selected, on average, only a few spots behind Tony Romo and Matt Ryan. Yahoo!’s default rankings place him at No. 12 among quarterbacks, ahead of Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger.

    If you are going to take a chance on Griffin III in redraft leagues, make sure to pair him with an established passer.

Mark Sanchez

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    Picking that other New York Jets quarterback (no, not Greg McElroy) would have been too easy.

    Any time ESPN airs live from a team's training camp facility to address a positional battle between two players trying to become average players, the hype is massively unwarranted.

    The rap on Sanchez always falls to one side of the extreme. Fans and analysts either praise Sanchez for carrying the Jets to two straight AFC Championship Games—even though their stellar defense and rushing attack provided most of the heavy lifting—or cheered for 41-year-old Mark Brunell to take the field last season after every Sanchez interception.

    Despite what most Jets fans suggest, the young quarterback did not take a step backwards in his growth. Sanchez has increased his quarterback rating, completion percentage, passing yards total and passing touchdowns during each of his three NFL seasons, but his progress has not been incremental enough for New Yorkers.

    On the other hand, he needed to build up his completion percentage to 56.7 percent and turned the ball over 26 times last season. Every now and then, Sanchez will show why the Jets banked on him as their franchise quarterback, but those showings appear between games where he collapses and shows a lack of mental fortitude.

    Luckily, the hype no longer carries over in fantasy rankings, as Yahoo! places him toward the bottom of all NFL starting quarterbacks. Don’t bother with Sanchez on draft day.

Jonathan Stewart

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    Despite possessing all the talent of a top running back, Jonathan Stewart resides in an awful spot for his fantasy value.

    If provided a starting role, Stewart could emerge as a top running back in the NFL. The Daily Show averaged 5.4 yards per carry last year and showed signs of stardom when provided ample carries at the end of the 2009-10 season.

    But given Stewart’s current circumstances, most fantasy participants cannot depend on him.

    In addition to sharing Carolina’s backfield with DeAngelo Williams, Stewart can only watch as Newton poaches rushing touchdowns. To make matters worse, Carolina signed touchdown-vulture Mike Tolbert during the offseason.

    Yahoo! experts rank Stewart as the No. 25 running back—ahead of Williams, who scored six touchdowns in the final six games. Unless the league awards points per receptions (Stewart caught 47 passes last year), that slotting is too high for a back who will struggle mightily to find the end zone.

    In the right spot, Stewart could become a No. 1 running back, but he failed to receive 15 or more carries in a single game last season. Unless Williams gets hurt, Stewart will never live up to his potential with the Panthers.

Randy Moss

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    Here we go again.

    After Randy Moss’ career looked kaput following a tumultuous 2006-07 season with the Oakland Raiders, he bounced back to score 23 touchdowns with the 16-0 New England Patriots. That ability to go from lazy scrub to superstar forces drafters to consider another possible revival with the San Francisco 49ers after a year of inactivity.

    Two years ago, NFL teams played hot potato with Moss, as they all quickly realized that he was a major headache giving a minimal effort. Moss caught 28 passes for 393 yards with three teams during what appeared to be his last season.

    The 35-year-old will come back again in search of his first title. Does one of the greatest receivers ever have another strong year left in the tank?

    If there’s any player in the league who can produce after contributing nothing for two years, it’s Moss. However, it’s more likely that he takes most plays off and no longer possesses breakaway speed to dominate defensive backs when he feels like it.

    Only take a flier on Moss if it costs one of the final selections of the draft. Otherwise, use the pick on a younger receiver who also offers high upside. Yahoo! positions Moss ahead of Titus Young, Rueben Randle, Kendall Wright and teammate Mario Manningham. Any one of those wideouts makes a better mid-to-late round choice than Moss, who will largely serve as a decoy in San Francisco.

Michael Crabtree

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    Sorry 49ers fans, but look on the bright side: Their current receiving corps still beats playing Ted Ginn as a No. 2 receiver.

    San Francisco thought they found their star receiver when they selected Crabtree with the No. 10 pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, but the 24-year-old has underwhelmed. In what was probably his best season so far, Crabtree caught 72 passes for 874 yards and four touchdowns. Although he finished the season strong—averaging 89.7 yards during the final six regular season games—Crabtree still does not look like a star in the making.

    His 72 catches stat looks good, but he failed to capitalize much on them. Crabtree averaged 12.1 yards per catch, which ranked 159th in the NFL behind the likes of Michael Jenkins and Kevin Walter.

    Some might say adding Moss and Manningham will aid Crabtree, but it can also mean less targets and less leeway for the inconsistent wideout to falter. Also, don’t expect the 49ers to become the New Orleans Saints any time soon. They are still going to run and keep Alex Smith on a short leash.

    Playing in the NFC West saved Crabtree from obscurity. He scored three of his four touchdowns against the St. Louis Rams and earned his only 100-yard game against the Arizona Cardinals. Crabtree is nothing more than a matchup play, at best.

    Despite ESPN’s grim outlook regarding Crabtree, they rank him No. 37. Even that seems too high for a guy who is not going to help your fantasy team this season.