Fantasy Football 2012: Boom or Bust Picks of 2012
Go big or go home.
You have to take some risks along the way if you want to win in fantasy football.
That does not mean you should draft a roster full of risky players, but you need to know when to pull the trigger on the players that offer high reward.
However, there are players that have inherently more risk than others without the upside; these are wasted picks.
Here are my boom and bust picks for the 2012 season.
Boom: Michael Vick, QB, Eagles
What a difference a year can make in fantasy football.
Michael Vick was a consensus first-round selection in 2011 after he almost single-handedly won fantasy-league championships in 2010.
Vick remains a risky selection because of his frequent minor injuries. He is not injury-prone, but speaks more to his playing style of going all out on every play.
Vick has an average draft position after the fourth round, and there is not much standing in his way for a return to his 2010 form.
When he is on the field, Vick has the potential to be the top quarterback scorer in any given week. His ability to accumulate massive amounts of passing and rushing yards in the Eagles' offense sets him apart from his peers.
Bust: Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
There is plenty of excitement in Chicago because of the reunion of quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Unfortunately, Marshall alone will not bring back the glory days of their time together in Denver.
Cutler is a superb quarterback talent with one of the best arms in the NFL, but that does not always equate to fantasy success. There are just not enough skill players to make Cutler a top-12 fantasy quarterback, despite the additions of rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and free-agent running back Michael Bush.
The biggest concern for Cutler remains his offensive line and its ability to keep him upright and healthy.
Boom: Steven Jackson, RB, Rams
Steven Jackson is primed for a rebound season in Jeff Fisher’s run-heavy offense.
Fisher has typically featured one runner in his time as a head coach, going back to Eddie George and then later with Chris Johnson, which bodes well for Jackson.
Jackson remains a risk because of his age (29 years old) and heavy workload the last few seasons on some bad St. Louis teams.
Since there are so few feature backs in the NFL, as long as Jackson stays healthy, he is a lock to return to the top-10 fantasy running backs. You can always hedge your bets late in your drafts by taking rookie Isaiah Pead, Jackson’s primary handcuff backup.
Bust: Michael Turner, RB, Falcons
There is no question Michael Turner is still a talented player, but there are too many warning signs coming from Atlanta to be excited about his prospects this year.
Turner clearly faded down the stretch with the exception of his Week 17 performance against Tampa Bay. He ran for 172 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns—unfortunately, the Buccaneers’ players were already checked out for the season.
Fast forward to 2012, and all indications from the coaching staff say that Turner is in for a reduced role in the Falcons' new pass-heavy attack. Jacquizz Rodgers will be used to spell Turner on passing downs.
Do not forget that Turner is 30 years old, an age when running backs see a decline in their performance. Even though he was used sparingly early in his career, he still has 635 carries over the last two regular seasons.
It will be difficult for Turner to exceed his average draft position with a reduced role.
Boom: Donald Brown, RB, Colts
Donald Brown gets a second chance to restore his career with the new regime in Indianapolis. Having rookie quarterback Andrew Luck at the helm does not hurt, either.
Brown was considered a first-round bust until he turned his career around with a strong finish last year.
The risk with Brown is that he returns to his pre-2011 form and cannot handle being the Colts’ feature back. With his lack of competition, it is his job to lose.
Brown is not without talent. We saw firsthand what Brown could do in the open field, as he took a short dump-off pass from Luck for a 63-yard touchdown in the preseason opener.
Bust: Frank Gore, RB, 49ers
Either the 49ers enjoy collecting running backs, or they were telling us with their offseason moves that they are concerned with Frank Gore’s status as their feature back.
San Francisco added Brandon Jacobs in free agency to help on the goal line and drafted LaMichael James in the second round to assist on third downs. Also, Kendall Hunter is waiting in the wings for his chance to see carries in a timeshare.
One of Gore’s best assets has been totaling three-to-four catches per game on screen plays and dump-offs. However, his reception totals trailed off dramatically in Jim Harbaugh’s new offense.
Using a mid-round pick on Gore would be unwise given his decreasing role, age and injury concerns.
Boom: Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys
If there was a definition of what a "boom" or "bust" player is in the dictionary, there would probably be a picture of Dez Bryant.
There is no question that Bryant is one of the most talented wide receivers in the league. However, he has yet to be put it together in his first two seasons despite flashing moments of brilliance.
According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, “it’s hard not to say” Dez Bryant has been the best offensive player in training camp.
By all accounts, Bryant is in top physical shape after struggling with his conditioning in the second half of games last year.
Bryant has the talent and opportunity to rival Calvin Johnson in fantasy leagues if you can stomach the risk that comes with him. He is worth the investment and primed for a breakout season.
Bust: Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers
Vincent Jackson was one of Tampa Bay’s prized free-agency acquisitions this offseason. He bid goodbye to San Diego after a longstanding feud with the front office. Unfortunately, Jackson’s outlook is not as bright as a member of the Buccaneers.
According to John Paulsen of 4for4.com, veteran wide receivers that change teams see a decrease in production the following year as they adjust to a new quarterback and new offense.
Jackson is a prime candidate to see regression from his 2011 production given the drop in talent level from Philip Rivers to Josh Freeman. He will also be moving from a vertical, downfield offense to a more run-heavy, conservative offense in Tampa Bay.
In addition, the Buccaneers have no other legitimate weapons in the passing game. So despite Jackson’s excellent camp reports, he will be looking at double-coverage often.
Boom: Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers
Antonio Gates has not been a model of health the last two seasons with his foot troubles, disappointing fantasy owners who invested high selections in him.
The good news is that Gates is reportedly back to full health and looking like the player he has been in the past.
With the departure of Vincent Jackson, quarterback Philip Rivers is going to rely on his favorite weapon often this year. Gates could see a return to 80 receptions and 1,000 yards receiving if he can play in all 16 games.
Given his talent and opportunity, Gates can finish as a top-three tight end if you can stomach his injury risk at age 32.
Bust: Jared Cook, TE, Titans
It is tough to consider Jared Cook a bust candidate given his athleticism and his mini breakout to conclude the 2011 season.
Unfortunately, Cook struggles as a blocker, and the Titans have been unwilling to give him an increase in playing time until he can become a complete player. Craig Stevens is technically the starting tight end for Tennessee because of his run-blocking prowess, leaving Cook in a "move" tight-end role from the slot.
It is worth mentioning that the Titans have plenty of adequate weapons at wide receiver with the addition of Kendall Wright in the draft. Even rookie tight end Taylor Thompson is drawing more praise from offensive coordinator Chris Palmer than Cook.
Cook is being drafted as low-end TE1, and it is too risky to assume he has turned the corner as a blocker.