If fantasy football owners had the foresight to avoid drafting the likes of Ray Rice, Trent Richardson and C.J. Spiller this past year, well, they would have been better served for sustained success. While it may be hard to pass up on drafting Chris Johnson or Arian Foster this coming year, there are certain mitigating factors that lead us to believe they may be headed toward "Bustville" this season.
Sure, the power of hindsight is 20/20 in regards to the seasons Rice, Richardson and Spiller had, but you can always look at a bevy of factors when determining whether a player might either break down or head for a reduced role.
In this slideshow will be eight players (listed alphabetically) you may want to stay clear of in 2014 because of of either injury concerns, their age or uncertainty regarding their role.
Between the tread on the tires and the injuries, especially his issues stemming from his season-ending back injury, Arian Foster will not likely ever resemble the same stud he was for fantasy purposes the last couple of years.
Prior to this year, Foster received a combined 1,115 carries and receptions in the last three years. That is a lot, and when you take into consideration his previous problems with hamstring injuries as well, Foster just doesn’t appear he will return to being the same explosive back.
Think of Foster as nothing more than a No. 2 running back (and one with a lot of risk attached to his name) when drafting next summer.
Although he has defied all the critics by continually having solid season after solid season, eventually father time will catch up to Frank Gore. That time may come next season.
After another deep run through the playoffs (third year in a row of making the NFC Championship Game), Gore will have been put through the ringer. He has now amassed 2,187 rushing attempts (not including the playoffs) in nine years. As he gets set to turn 31 in May, the 49ers have to start seriously thinking of cutting the workload Gore receives.
With last year’s fourth-round draft pick Marcus Lattimore expected to come back and challenge for carries, Gore may see his fantasy stock take a major hit this upcoming year.
Yes, Rob Gronkowski is one of the most transcendent players at his position, but when you look at the injuries he has to come back from, the uber-talented tight end is just not a wise investment to bank on in the early rounds of drafts next year.
It may take some time for Gronkowski to get back into football shape and while he is an elite force at tight end, resist the temptation and play it safe when selecting a tight end.
While unhappy with his role in Tennessee, stating that he should get more touches, the team may cut Chris Johnson to save money on the cap. The two parties have had a contentious relationship together (anyone remember his well-publicized holdout in 2011?) and a fresh start is what probably what is needed for Johnson.
But will it help?
Even if Johnson winds up on a team that will feature him as the lead back, Johnson has regressed statistically in the last couple of years. Johnson had his second worst rushing total (1,077 rushing yards) for a year this season while putting up his worst yards per carry clip (3.9) as well.
Regardless of if he finds himself in a ideal setting, Johnson is still a risk based on the declining numbers he has put up the last three years.
Depending on where he ends up, Maurice Jones-Drew (who is a free agent) might see a reduced role next year regardless. It also seems like his days with Jacksonville are over.
Jones-Drew is another running back who is approaching the wrong side of 30 (he will turn 29 in March), which is traditionally the time when running backs start to break down. In his eight years in the NFL, Jones-Drew has 1,804 carries and each year he continues to decline. This year, he posted an all-time low of 3.4 yards per carry, almost a full yard below his career average (4.5).
Maybe he’ll he end up on a good team, but Jones-Drew looks to be on the downside of his career and is nothing better than a low-end No. 2 running back heading into 2014.
Considering the uncertainty of his role in the Patriots’ backfield, you don’t want to find yourself guessing how much Stevan Ridley will be part of New England’s offense next year and reach for him too early.
Therefore, it may be a wise idea to just avoid Ridley altogether. Although Ridley is perhaps the most established back in New England (no back has received as many carries as he has in the last two years), he may find himself in more of a timeshare considering the late-season success LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen are having.
Suffice to say, it’s not a lock that Ridley will recapture his job as lead back for the Patriots.
Between the competitive depth chart and his past fumbling problems, Ridley should be persona non grata on your fantasy team.
Reggie Wayne is yet another star coming back from a significant injury, and at age 35, it is no sure thing that Wayne will get back to being an elite receiver.
With T.Y. Hilton set to take on a more active role in the passing game next year (did you see him in the playoffs?), Wayne will probably be slowly worked back into the mix, as he recovers from the torn ACL.
Wayne is not done per se, but he is probably not a top-20 receiver anymore, either. Hence, he makes for a good No. 3 WR or high-end flex player next year.
When it came to consistency at the wide receiver position, prior to this season there was perhaps no one better than Roddy White.
However, after a few nagging ankle and knee injuries this year, it’s quite possible we saw the last of White being a true superstar at wide receiver for fantasy purposes.
At 32, White might break down and as Julio Jones mends from his own injury combined with the emergence of Harry Douglas, White will find it hard to get back to his elite ways as he possibly gets squeezed out in Atlanta.
Sure, he’ll be a serviceable receiver, but given his age and the injuries that plagued him in 2013, he is bordering on being a reserve for fantasy purposes heading into next year.
Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon