3 Fantasy Football Stars Most Likely to Crash in 2012
Remove your blinders, friends. They’ll wreck your fantasy football season before it begins.
The signs are there, every summer, as the NFL’s opening day creeps closer and fantasy owners refuse to waver on player expectations. Our thinking on fantasy monsters is too often cemented in June and July, swayed by unreliable coaches’ praises and pundit blathering.
If a guy looked good last year, he’s worth a high draft pick this year, right?
Last August, after months of fantasy chatter about LeGarrette Blount being the primary running back in a run-friendly offense, Blount was drafted as a top-12 running back in fantasy drafts. Blount rushed five times for 15 yards in Week 1. It didn’t get a whole lot better from there.
Take a moment before you enter the boiling cauldron that is your draft room and adjust your thinking, your strategy, and your expectations. See what’s really there—not what you thought might have been there six weeks ago.
I’m tabbing the following players as fantasy letdowns not because their numbers will tank from 2011, but because they are being drafted way too early in fantasy drafts. Their perceived value, in other words, is far greater than their actual values. They'll be far from worthless in Fantasy Land, as long as you don't pay too high a price.
Slip off those blinders and read along.
Come to grips with it: Maurice Jones-Drew is no longer the starting running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Head coach Mike Mularkey said Aug. 27 that the Jags’ longtime offensive centerpiece would begin the season as a bench player, if he returns from his protracted holdout before the Sept. 9 opener against Minnesota.
Fantasy football is, at its core, a guessing game. Some guesses are better informed than others, sure. But when you use a first- or second-round draft pick to draft a running back holdout, you’re adding guesswork. So stop drafting Maurice Jones-Drew as a top-five running back.
His very public back-and-forth with Jaguars management is carrying on into the final week of preseason, and worse, he has a more-than-capable backup—now starter—in Rashad Jennings, who has looked quick and elusive at times this preseason against the Saints and Ravens.
Jennings, who has operated as a three-down back this summer, displaying superb vision and blitz pickup, has looked good enough for fantasy footballers to draft him as a back who will get considerable usage even when Jones-Drew finds his way out of Mularkey’s doghouse.
Jones-Drew is going 12th in fantasy drafts today. That’s at least one full round too high. I’d take Pocket Hercules in the late second or early third round, but no earlier.
There are more reliable options on your draft board, besides those consensus top-five running backs. Do your squad a favor and rank Jamaal Charles, Doug Martin, Steven Jackson, DeMarco Murray and even Ryan Mathews—who could miss the season opener—ahead of MJD.
And as long as we’re piling on, MJD doesn’t even have a Jags playbook, Mularkey said last week.
It’s hard to get down and stay down on a guy who has piled up receptions like some pass-catching hoarder, but it’s time to readjust our thinking on Wes Welker.
Welker has caught 111 passes from Tom Brady in each of the past four seasons. Just last season, he eclipsed 100 yards eight times and scored nine touchdowns, including a Week 1 99-yard score that probably single-handedly decided more fantasy death matches than any play all season.
Times, as they’re wont to do, have changed.
And now this: Greg Bedard, the Boston Globe’s Patriots beat writer, wrote this week that tight end Aaron Hernandez has ascended to Brady’s No. 1 target, with Welker dropping to second banana. Brady also has the beastly Rob Gronkowski and “mini-Moss,” receiver Brandon Lloyd.
The New England offense is stacked like pancakes this year. Brady has many mouths to feed, so it’s time to expect Welker to eat less.
Welker is being drafted near the end of the second round in fantasy drafts, a number that should drop upon news of Hernandez taking top slot in the Patriots’ wicked good offense. You should snatch Welker and never look back if he somehow falls to your league’s fourth round, but I suspect he won’t.
Your fantasy rivals are pegging Welker for those same 111 catches. Don’t make the same mistake.
The Falcons will be the givers of ample fantasy goodness in 2012, but heed Roddy White’s warnings and don’t reach for him in your draft.
“I know that sounds crazy, but we’ve got other guys out there that can play,” White told the Atlanta Journal Constitution in June. “Julio [Jones] is going to be a big part of the offense this year. Harry [Douglas] is going to do wonders in the slot. We have to maximize our talent and get the ball in everyone’s hands.”
Although Atlanta signal-caller Matt Ryan is expected to wing in the Falcons’ revamped offense, White might not be his primary target in 2012. White, who turns 31 season, understands it’s time to cede target domination to his spry friend across the formation, Jones.
Let’s look to Chad Johnson as an example of how an aging wide receiver can burn fantasy footballers. Johnson was drafted as a top-10 receiver in 2008, when he was 31, and finished the year with 540 yards and four scores.
You can see Johnson finished miles outside of fantasy’s best 10 receivers that year. It’s a cautionary tale, clearly, although I think it’s safe to project 1,000 yards for White in 2012, making him very draftable, but not as the sixth receiver off the draft board.
White is leaving draft boards at 27th today thanks to fantasy ballers still drafting White as Ryan’s lone target. Draft White in the fourth round, sure, but roll with another receiver in the third—someone like A.J. Green or Hakeem Nicks.
White will still provide fine and dandy value—just not as much as you’re banking on.
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