2012 Fantasy Football Recap: Crowning the “All-Disappointment” Team

Nick CaronAnalyst IJanuary 10, 2013

2012 Fantasy Football Recap: Crowning the “All-Disappointment” Team

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    With the 2012 fantasy football season now in the books, we can safely take a look back at what happened and analyze where we made mistakes.

    Every season we see some amazing values in drafts. The players who greatly out-produce their draft position. In 2012, it was players like Alfred Morris, Doug Martin, Eric Decker and Heath Miller made fantasy owners a lot of money by giving elite fantasy value for a minimal cost.

    Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the flip-side is always true.

    The players who are drafted high but don’t produce up to the level we expected are every bit as impacting to fantasy teams. Unfortunately they do more harm than good.

    These disappointing players are ones who---for whatever reason---just didn't put fantasy points on the board in the way that we expected them to going into the season.

    You probably have your own list of players who hung-you-out-to-dry, but this list is about the “starting lineup” who hurt us the most in 2012. Or as we will affectionately call them, “The 2012 All-Disappointment Team.”

Quarterback: Eli Manning, New York Giants

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    Average Draft Position: 32.0

    Positional Average Draft Position : 6

    Final Positional Rank: 15

    It was a tough season for the 2011-12 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, who missed the playoffs for the third time in the past four years. But for fantasy owners who were relying on the ever-improving Eli Manning, 2012-13 was particularly brutal.

    Manning played in every game for the eighth-consecutive season, but put up mediocre passing numbers through most of the season, outside of a few very good games. 

    In 2011-12, Manning threw for a career-high 4,933 yards with 29 touchdowns. In 2012, those numbers fell to 3,948 yards and 26 touchdowns. 

    Those pedestrian numbers are not what fantasy owners had hoped for going into the year, but it's a brutal reminder to all of us that just because a player wins the Super Bowl does not mean he is an elite—or even a good fantasy quarterback. 

Runningback 1: Ryan Mathews, San Diego

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    Average Draft Position: 37.0

    Positional Average Draft Position : 14

    Final Positional Rank: 31

    In his three seasons in the league, Ryan Mathews has missed a total of 10 full games, while also missing bits and pieces of other contests due to a wide variety of injuries.

    Going into 2012, we hoped that Mathews' injury woes were behind him. As it turned out, though, a broken collarbone knocked him out in the preseason and would end up costing him a few games at the start of the season. Because of this, depending on when your league drafted, Mathews may have been as high as a top-5 pick. 

    For most leagues that drafted sometime later in the preseason, Mathews was a fourth round pick as those who believed in his skills knew that he would be back sooner than later and that once he was back, he'd be an elite fantasy option.

    But were they wrong.

    Mathews rushed for a career low 3.8 yards per carry, adding just one total touchdown on the entire season. These catastrophically bad numbers made him barely start-worthy even in 12-team leagues where you start three runningbacks.

    2013-14 will bring a regime change in San Diego and it will be interesting to see how the disappointing Mathews fits into the new system, if at all.

Runningback 2: Darren McFadden, Oakland

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    Average Draft Position: 25.8

    Positional Average Draft Position: 10

    Final Positional Rank: 28

    It seems like we find ourselves justifying Darren McFadden's play after every season. At some point we need to come to the realization that the guy just isn't putting it together at this level.

    McFadden has been in the NFL for five seasons now. During that span, he has missed at least three full games every season due to injury. If that's not bad enough, the truth is that McFadden's 2012 season was a massive flop even when he was healthy. 

    The Raiders runningback averaged a career-low 3.3 yards per carry, bringing his season total to just 707 yards on the ground. Normally he is known as a pretty solid receiver out of the backfield, but his 6.1 yards per reception were a full two yards worse than any previous number he had put together in that category as he added just 258 yards as a pass-catcher.

    McFadden was was high as a late-first round pick in some leagues and even in the leagues that he fell to the third round, he was a complete bust. 

Wide Receiver 1: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

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    Average Draft Position: 13.8

    Positional Average Draft Position: 3

    Final Positional Rank: 40

    Sometimes even the best players go through struggles due to little or no fault of their own.

    For Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the entire 2012-13 season was one of those struggles.

    Fitzgerald has been an elite pass catcher throughout his entire career, having caught for at least 946 yards in seven of his eight NFL seasons coming into 2012-13. Those numbers also included four gigantic seasons where he surpassed the 1,400 yard mark.

    In 2012-13, he was lucky to even get to half of those numbers.

    Fitzgerald had his worst season since his rookie year, catching just 71 passes for 798 yards and four touchdowns. He did not score a single touchdown after week 9 and surpassed 35 yards just once during that stretch. 

    Needless to say, the quarterback situation in Arizona played a big part in Fitzgerald's lack of success, but that doesn't exactly ease the burden of fantasy owners who selected Fitzgerald as high as a late-first round pick. Finishing 40th at his position while playing in all 16 games, Fitzgerald may have been the single most disappointing fantasy player of 2012-13. 

Wide Receiver 2: Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants

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    Average Draft Position: 31.1

    Positional Average Draft Position: 10

    Final Positional Rank: 53

    After two seasons where he broke 1,000 yards, many believed that 2012-13 would be the year that New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks would finally break into the elite at his position. That didn't happen.

    Instead, Nicks struggled to put together any consistency whatsoever throughout the season after a fractured bone in his right foot caused him to miss most of training camp. The lack of reps with quarterback Eli Manning caused some obvious timing issues, and when he missed weeks three through five with a swollen knee, that certainly didn't help either.

    Nicks ended up finishing third on the Giants with 53 receptions for just 692 yards and three touchdowns. Even when you consider that he missed those three games, Nicks' 53.2 yards per game and his three touchdowns were a career-low, putting him at only half of the total he put together in his previous low-season.

    It didn't help Nicks that Manning also made it on this list, but the two of them worked together to frustrate fantasy owners this season. We do expect a bounce-back from the duo in 2013-14, but expecting them to get right back to being top fantasy options might be asking a bit much. 

Tight End: Vernon Davis, San Francisco

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    Average Draft Position: 50.0

    Positional Average Draft Position: 3

    Final Positional Rank: 15

    All offseason, fantasy experts across the board were telling us just how "deep" the tight end position was. With guys like Fred Davis, Jermichael Finley, Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates and Brandon Pettigrew on the verge of quality seasons, there was no reason to reach on the Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham-tier, right?

    Wrong.

    This was especially wrong with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis who ended up being in serious consideration for the worst fantasy bust of the 2012-13 season.

    Davis, who was the next tight end off the board behind Graham and Gronkowski on average, finished just 15th at his position in a season when both of the top-2 tight ends were hobbled by injury. 

    Davis' year was not only bad, it was horrendous. Players like Martellus Bennett, Scott Chandler, Jermaine Gresham, Dennis Pitta, Greg Olsen and Heath Miller all finished with better statistical output than the former No. 1 ranked fantasy tight end. 

    The most disappointing thing for Davis owners is what he did down the stretch. In the final six games of the regular season, Davis scored zero touchdowns, caught no more than two passes in any game and never even broke 30 yards. The "epic fail" meter is off the chart on this one. 

    With Colin Kaepernick now leading the 49ers offense, Davis has fallen behind fellow tight end Delanie Walker on the pass-catching pecking order. It'll remain to be seen whether that continues through the playoffs and into 2013-14. But one thing's for sure, Davis is a shoe-in for the most disappointing tight end of 2012-13.

Defense/Special Teams: San Francisco 49ers

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    Average Draft Position: 68.6

    Positional Average Draft Position: 1

    Final Positional Rank: 8

    Defenses are always hard to predict, but the highest scoring fantasy defense from 2011-12 was the San Francisco 49ers. Many believed---and rightfully so---that they would continue that momentum into 2012-13 where they would again be among the best-of-the-best.

    While they still finished as a quality weekly defense at eighth in the league, the 49ers defense just didn't live up to the hype in 2012-13.

    They didn't have many bad games, but the big games just weren't there this season as they put together only three games with over 13 fantasy points despite playing in one of the most notoriously bad offensive divisions in football.

    San Francisco probably wouldn't have made this list if it wasn't for the absurd position that they were being drafted. In standard ESPN leagues, the 49ers defense was being selected with an average draft position of 68.6. 

    Players who were going right around or after that include Doug Martin, Tony Gonzalez, Eric Decker, Jason Witten, Reggie Wayne and Alfred Morris—all of whom finished among the elite at their position in 2012-13.

    We say it every season and it was true again—defenses are almost impossible to predict. Stop drafting them so high and you won't get burned. 

Kicker: David Akers, San Francisco

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    Average Draft Position: 102.5

    Positional Average Draft Position: 2

    Final Positional Rank: 13

    It seems crazy that a third player on this list is from the same team—especially when you consider that the team earned a first-round bye in the playoffs—but that should go to show just how overrated the San Francisco 49ers fantasy players were going into 2012-13.

    The high value being put on the 49ers players extended all the way down to kicker David Akers who finished 2011-12 as the No. 1 fantasy kicker in football. In 2012-13 preseason fantasy drafts, owners believed that he would keep things going this season as they were taking him as the No. 2 kicker on average.

    Unfortunately, those owners were disappointed to see their kicker completely fall off the bus.

    After making over 82 percent of his field goals in his previous four seasons as a pro, Akers tumbled all the way down to making just 69 percent of his kicks in 2012-13—a number that was the worst of his 13 seasons as a team's regular place kicker. 

    Things got so bad that the 49ers even brought in Billy Cundiff to challenge him for the job prior to the playoffs beginning. We learned on Thursday that Akers will keep the team's starting kicking duties, but another bad performance could mean that the 2011-12 top-ranked kicker could find himself on the free agent market going into 2013-14.