Fantasy Football: Introducing the NFL All-Underachiever Team

Justin Onslow@@JustinOnslowNFLContributor IIOctober 13, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers is tackled by the Oakland Raiders defense during their season opener at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 10, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

If you managed to draft Matt Stafford, Darren McFadden, Andre Johnson, Jordy Nelson and Antonio Gates in your league, your celebration was probably pretty insufferable. Your fellow owners envied you. Your team name was something ridiculous like “Clean out Urlacher, I’ve won already.”

How the tables have turned, my friend.

We’re almost six weeks through the NFL season, and it’s been a wildly entertaining, tragically heartbreaking and ridiculously amusing ride. Entertaining if you watched the replacement officials. Heartbreaking if you’re a Browns fan. Amusing if you just don’t like Mark Sanchez.

I’m no Browns fan, but I sure do love watching Sanchez play. You won’t find his name on this list of fantasy underachievers. What you will find, though, is a litany of great players you thought would actually be great this year, but have fallen well short of expectations.

Many candidates could have made the cut, but I won’t lie, I’m drawing from some personal experience here. A few of these former phenoms reside on my roster, taking up space while Alfred Morris and Brian Hartline sink my fantasy season.

If you own any of these record wreckers, just know you’re not alone. Introducing the 2012 All-Underachiever Team.


Matt Stafford

The Lions are one of the NFL’s most disappointing teams this season, and their fall from grace is highlighted by first-teamer Matt Stafford. He threw for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns last year, and showed what he could do with a full, relatively injury-free season.

This season, Stafford looks as suspect as the Lions’ special teams. The yardage totals are still there (296 yards per game), but Stafford has only thrown three touchdowns, and he’s been picked off four times through four games. It’s not a physical issue. Stafford’s problems originate between his ears.

Bad decision-making is at the root of Stafford’s inconsistency this season. If he doesn’t get it together quickly, drafting Stafford will prove to be another very bad decision.

Mike Vick

Three fumbles. Six interceptions. Five games.

Vick has been terribly disappointing this season, yet the Eagles are 3-2 and have beaten both the Ravens and the Giants. LeSean McCoy has one rushing touchdown. I repeat, the Eagles are 3-2.

Regardless of how Philadelphia is getting it done, Vick certainly is not doing much for your fantasy team. Vick’s greatest value for fantasy purposes is his rushing ability, but he’s only found the end zone once with his legs, and his turnover rate is maddening. If you own another quality quarterback, bench Vick until he proves he can once again carry your fantasy team.


Cam Newton

Newton has revolutionized sulking on the sidelines. Thanks to Newton, many of you can relate to that feeling.

Newton was picked in the first round in a lot of fantasy leagues this year, but he’s failed to live up to expectations. Newton's rushing stats may be his saving grace for fantasy purposes, but his passing stats could look a whole lot better, especially at home.

Newton has completed just 53.2 percent of his passes in Bank of America Stadium, and has thrown three picks and only one touchdown. It’s not exactly a sophomore slump, but Newton doesn’t seem to be making much progress, and he’s not winning over his fantasy owners this season.

Running Backs

Chris Johnson

Is there anything good to say about Johnson this season? At least he’s stayed healthy, I suppose.

As long as Johnson is healthy, many fantasy owners refuse to bench Johnson. He has the speed and elusiveness to break a long run at any time. It just hasn’t happened. Johnson has no runs over 20 yards this year, and he’s also failed to find the end zone.

It’s time to give up on Johnson, at least until he can prove to be a consistent option at running back. When Matt Hasselbeck attempts 87 passes in two games, it’s time to call it quits on Johnson.

Doug Martin

Martin has failed to live up to lofty expectations, and he seems to be falling out of Greg Schiano’s good graces.

Martin’s rushing attempts have fallen every week, from 24 in Week 1 to just eight in Week 4. He averaged 3.3 yards per carry against the Giants and 2.8 against the Cowboys. He’s scored one touchdown this season.

Martin was expected to be the second-best rookie running back this year (behind Trent Richardson), but doesn’t seem to be anywhere close at this point. Be cautious about how you use Martin on your fantasy team moving forward.

Darren McFadden

Run DMC has walked his way onto the All-Underachiever squad with a couple pedestrian performances this season.

McFadden is averaging just 3.5 yards per tote in 2012, and has been held under 35 yards three times in four games. For some reason, Oakland is intent on airing the ball out with Carson Palmer. McFadden hasn’t eclipsed 20 carries yet this season.

DMC’s injury-laden past was reason enough for many fantasy owners to shy away from drafting him in the first round this year. They were the lucky ones.

Steven Jackson

Let’s face it, Jackson just isn’t the same back he used to be. S-Jax is tough as nails, and battles through injuries as valiantly as any player in the league. He just isn’t producing up to the standards which fantasy owners have come to expect.

Jackson has averaged 3.5 yards per carry in 2012. He’s posted 58 rushing yards or less in all but one contest, and as in recent years, Jackson has had trouble finding the end zone. In fact, he’s failed to score once.

It’s sad to witness a perennial star fade toward retirement, but that’s what it happening with Jackson. His most productive days are behind him.

Wide Receivers

Dez Bryant

I’m not too proud to admit I was wrong about Bryant this season. I fully expected Bryant to made huge strides this year, but he’s failed to impress so far.

Bryant has been wildly inconsistent. He’s coming off his most productive game of the season (eight catches for 105 yards against the Bears), but Bryant’s yards-per-catch average has been all over the place, and hasn’t caught a touchdown pass yet.

Tony Romo has been awful at times, but Bryant hasn’t done him any favors. Nor has he helped your fantasy team much. Don’t rely on Bryant until Dallas can get its offense back on track.

Jordy Nelson

It’s hard to believe Nelson was drafted ahead of Greg Jennings in some fantasy leagues. Even harder to believe, James Jones has been far more productive than either of them.

With Jennings hobbled by a groin injury, Nelson has assumed the role of No. 1 receiver in Green Bay. He just hasn’t produced like one. Last season, Nelson posted 1,263 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. Through five games in 2012, Nelson has just 289 yards and one score.

Nelson is a very talented receiver, but Green Bay’s offense has struggled as a whole. With Aaron Rodgers’ inconsistent play and Jennings’ health in question, opponents will continue to hone in on Nelson and stifle his fantasy productivity.


Andre Johnson

The Texans may have one of the best offenses in the league, but they no longer have the best receiver.

Johnson is still incredibly gifted, and he’s remained healthy through five games. Johnson’s inconsistency has been troubling, though. He’s caught more than three passes and topped 100 yards just once this season, and with a running game as potent as Houston’s, Johnson should be far more effective in the play-action passing game.

Johnson is still a good fantasy option, but may never eclipse nine touchdowns in a season. Don’t be afraid to trade him if the value is there.

Jeremy Maclin

Maclin missed the Eagles’ game against Arizona with a hip injury, and hasn’t been full healthy since. He caught just one pass for seven yards against the Giants in Week 4, and averaged only 7.8 yards per catch in Philadelphia’s Week 5 loss to the Steelers.

Maclin was drafted before teammate DeSean Jackson in many leagues, but Jackson has been a far better fantasy option thus far.

Maclin should play a bigger role in the Eagles’ plans as he fully recovers from his nagging hip injury, but for now, Maclin remains an iffy option at best.


Tight Ends

Antonio Gates

Gates may be the most frustrating player in the NFL this season. Gates is as healthy as he’s been in some time, but his numbers are sickening.

Gates has caught 13 passes for 143 yards in four games this season, and has yet to catch a touchdown pass. In the one game Gates missed, backup Dante Rosario had three touchdowns.

The Chargers lost Vincent Jackson to free agency this offseason, and many expected Gates to fall in as San Diego’s most targeted downfield threat. Malcom Floyd has filled that vacancy, though, and Gates now fills a vacancy on the All-Underachiever Team.

Jason Witten

With Witten’s 13-catch, 112-yard performance against the Bears, he may be working his way off this list. It will take more than one game to win me over, though.

Witten suffered a lacerated spleen in the preseason, and got off to a slow start as a result. He’s a tough tight end, and one of the best in Cowboys history, but he hasn’t played up to his talent level this season.

Witten had a total of four catches for just 18 yards against the Bucs and Giants. As is the case with Dez Bryant, Witten needs to get on track if the Cowboys’ offense is to improve. His performance against the Bears was a good start, but Witten will have to post more consistent numbers to find himself back in the discussion as a consistent fantasy option.



David Akers

Akers is the perfect example of why drafting a kicker before the final round is a poor fantasy decision.

Akers set the NFL record for points in a season last year with 166. He’s one of the best in the league, but hasn’t looked like it this year.

Akers has posted a 76.9 percent field-goal success rate in 2012, and has missed three kicks of 40 yards or yards or longer. Akers has made 17 PATs this season, but in most fantasy leagues, it’s the long field goals that really count. On the bright side, he’s not Billy Cundiff.


Pittsburgh Steelers

The league no longer fears Pittsburgh’s defense, and why should they? The Steelers are allowing 4.1 yards per carry to opposing rushers and actually made Chris Johnson look serviceable on Thursday night.

Pittsburgh’s passing defense has been statistically solid this season, but the Steelers have only recorded two interceptions and 11 sacks. With James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu all having missed time due to injuries, the Steelers have become a fairly friendly fantasy matchup.


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