Making an early mistake in your fantasy football draft can doom your entire season.
Think about anyone who wasted a first- or second-round pick on Ryan Mathews last year. He went on to score double digits in standard leagues only once, and owners around the league were miserable because of it.
This season, there are a number of well-known players who will struggle despite the expectation that they will be drafted early on. If you want to win a championship, it will be important to avoid these stars on draft day and move toward safer options.
Steven Jackson, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Although Steven Jackson topped 1,000 yards for the eighth season in a row in 2012, his production has gone down in each of the last four seasons. He also tied a career low with only four rushing touchdowns on the year.
At 30 years old, the running back is reaching a point where players at the position start to decline dramatically. Only six players in the past 10 years have ever topped 1,500 yards from scrimmage after reaching that milestone.
If you have a player who does not score touchdowns and expect him to be among the top 20 running backs, he better reach 1,500 yards. Unfortunately, this simply is not likely to happen.
Additionally, it will not just be Jackson's fault if he struggles to produce on the ground. Moving to the Falcons might seem like a good fit for both sides, but the truth is that the squad is simply not a good running team.
Atlanta ranked fourth-worst in the NFL last season in yards per carry. While much of this blame was placed on Michael Turner, both Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers failed to top four yards per carry as well.
Putting an old running back on a team that cannot run is not a great recipe for success.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers
After bursting onto the scene midway through last season, Colin Kaepernick was excellent in both real life and fantasy, carrying the 49ers to the Super Bowl and many proud owners to a championship.
Unfortunately, that does not necessarily make him a great pick heading into this year.
Primarily, the loss of Michael Crabtree cannot be understated. The receiver tore his Achilles and will miss at least the first six weeks. Crabtree will most likely will not be back until late in the season.
This is a problem for Kaepernick, who leaned heavily on his No. 1 receiver toward the end of last season.
It remains to be seen whether or not the third-year player will be able to trust his other targets this time around. If he can't, his numbers will greatly suffer.
Additionally, it is important to remember that he was not an elite passing option even with Crabtree in the lineup. While he was efficient, the 49ers are truly a running team who ranked 31st in the league in passing attempts last season.
This prevented Kaepernick from having a single 300-yard game until the Super Bowl, something that will not change much this year. All of this puts an over-reliance on a quarterback's running ability, which is not a safe thing in fantasy football.
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Few players are more boom-or-bust prospects than Victor Cruz. The receiver had at least 16 fantasy points (equal to a great game of 100 yards and one touchdown) in five different weeks. Unfortunately, he failed to top five points in standard leagues on six different occasions.
To make matters worse, he fell apart down the stretch for the Giants, topping 100 yards in only two of the final nine games. In each of the two games, he had a reception of at least 35 yards to keep his numbers high.
Two years ago, Cruz burst onto the scene with an incredible season of 1,536 receiving yards with nine touchdowns. While he got into the end zone one extra time last year, he barely cracked 1,000 yards due to his inconsistency.
Additionally, Hakeem Nicks will continue to take away targets as long as he is on the field. Cruz remains a better option than his teammate, but he does not compare favorably to the other top receivers available around the league.
Cruz will not sneak up on anyone this year and will likely have as many poor games as great ones. With a deep class of top receivers, it would be smart to avoid the salsa dancer.
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