While the waiver wire and trades are important tools to fantasy success, leagues are generally won and lost on draft day. Each year a number of early-round picks backfire and leave fantasy owners hamstrung.
Avoiding the players with the most risk is the key, especially in the early rounds; there are always plenty of high potential, high risk picks in the mid and later rounds.
The following picks are sure to backfire at their current ADPs.
Vick was a pick that backfired last year and will again this year. He was a first-round pick in many fantasy drafts in 2011 but ended up as just the No. 11 scoring fantasy QB. While he’s not as hyped as last year, Vick is still (on average) the seventh QB being selected with a third- or fourth-round pick.
Even though he finished the fantasy season pretty strong (21, 20 and 21 fantasy points the last three weeks in standard scoring), Vick seemed to take a step back in 2010 with his accuracy and decision making and threw a career-high 14 interceptions and fumbled a career-high seven times. He also missed three games with a nagging rib injury.
Vick’s running production was limited in 2011 as well; he scored only one rushing TD. Considering Vick’s value to the team and injury history, it would not be surprising if Vick does not get many goal-line rushing attempts in 2012. Vick can still break the long one, of course, but his runs of 20-plus yards are not as frequent as they used to be—Vick had five such runs in 2011 after a season of eight in 2010.
McFadden, who has yet to play a complete season in his four-year NFL career, missed the last nine games of 2011 after a promising start. He was the league’s leading rusher before a Week 7 mid-foot sprain, later reported as a Lisfranc injury, which ended his season.
McFadden has also been sidelined in the past by hamstring issues and turf toe on both his right and left feet.
A 13-game 2010 was McFadden’s best season. He ran for 1,157 yards and added 507 through the air with 10 total TDs. Not counting Week 7, where he had just two carries before exiting the game, his 2011 stats projected out to a 16-game total of 1,627 rushing yards, 403 receiving yards and 13 TDs.
McFadden is still just 24, but his pattern of injuries is already well established. His ADP of 25 is high for a player likely to play only 10 or 11 games in 2012.
The problem is not in selecting Griffin III, it’s that he has been selected as a QB1, which is a risky proposition to make with a rookie QB. Seasons like Cam Newton’s 2011 are few and far between for rookie QBs.
There is no doubt that Griffin III has tremendous upside as a QB who could potentially throw for 3,000-plus and rush for 700-plus. The player with the next most fantasy potential after Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Newton and Stafford may be RGIII. But the QB position is deep this season and, unlike the RB position, it’s not necessary to draft on potential.
The throwing accuracy that RGIII displayed at Baylor was certainly impressive and separates him as a prospect from other run/pass QBs like Newton and Michael Vick when they entered the league. Griffin III completed 72.4 percent of his passes last season.
Unfortunately, the Redskins offensive line could be a deficiency that’s too difficult for Griffin III to overcome as a rookie. The Redskins line allowed 41 sacks last season. The Redskins have some nice receivers (Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss and Fred Davis) and solid RBs with Roy Helu and Tim Hightower, but no player stands out as someone who could elevate Griffin’s game immediately like Steve Smith did for Newton.
Johnson was a far cry from his 2009, No. 1 fantasy scoring self in 2011 because he finished as just the 16th-ranked RB. He narrowly broke the century mark in yards, finishing with 1,047 rushing yards and just four TDs. But a weak RB-class in 2012 has Johnson being selected as high as No. 4 overall.
The decline in Johnson’s fantasy production since 2009 has been most directly tied to a drop in yards per carry. Johnson’s YPC has fallen from a career-high 5.6 in 2009 to a career-low 4.0 in 2011.
Johnson also had double-digit TDs in each of his first three seasons before last season’s total of four.
So, while Johnson may trend back up a bit, placing your fantasy destinies on Johnson’s shoulders is an unnecessary gamble with steadier selections available in the first round, especially with the fourth pick. Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Mathews and even Calvin Johnson would be less likely to backfire.
Jackson is one of the most inconsistent performers from week-to-week and relies too much on the big play to be an ideal fantasy WR.
In 2009, Jackson was at his peak as the No. 4 fantasy WR, and his slide down the ranks continued in 2011 as Jackson finished as No. 27. Jackson is still a top 10 deep threat in the NFL, but he hasn’t been consistent enough as a possession receiver to remain a WR1. Jackson has been among the league leaders in passes dropped the last two seasons as well, with nine in 2011 and 12 in 2010.
Jackson may not even end up as the No. 1 receiver on his team this year as Jeremy Maclin comes into the season healthy and ready to produce at a high level after having played in 13 games last season with five TDs—Maclin had 10 TDs in 2010.
A rookie QB and a questionable O-line are not the best welcoming party for a rookie runner, but that’s the situation that Richardson will encounter in Cleveland.
Richardson’s all-around skills and immediate standing as a feature back make him an appealing selection, but the Browns offense is unlikely to have the supporting cast to make Richardson, whose current ADP is 29, a reliable fantasy starter.
Brandon Weeden, also a rookie, was named the starting QB for the Browns. WR Greg Little had a nice rookie season last year, with 61 receptions for 709 yards and will be a starter at receiver again this year opposite Mohamed Massaquoi (25) or rookie and supplemental draft pick Josh Gordon.
All of the youth on offense will mean that defenses will focus even more on stopping Richardson, the Browns’ most talented offensive playmaker.
Charles played in just two games in 2011 before a torn ACL ended his season. In 2010, Charles rushed for 1,467 on 6.4 yards per carry while adding 468 yards in receiving and eight total TDs. He was (on average) the third player selected in fantasy drafts in 2011 after that monster season.
Of course, Charles is not as high on draft boards this year, but he is still a relatively costly pick with an ADP of 26.
Since Charles’ playmaking ability is tied very closely to his ability to make cuts and turn the corner upfield, his knee injury is quite concerning. There’s no guarantee that Charles will return with the type of explosiveness that made him a dynamic runner and top fantasy commodity.
In addition, the Chiefs added veteran RB and amateur freight train Peyton Hillis, who is likely to take goal-line carries away from Charles. If owners are expecting Charles to produce as an RB1, this pick is sure to backfire.