In the realm of fantasy football, second-year players can be just as dangerous as rookies.
At least with rookies, owners can track throughout this portion of the preseason exactly where they stand in terms of performance and the opinions of the coaching staff. On the other hand, sophomores are not only susceptible to the dreaded sophomore slump, but their rookie performances go out the window as they are no longer a protected member of the roster.
Some make it easy. Kenny Stills in New Orleans? Money. Eddie Lacy in Green Bay? Dominant. The rest of the bunch, though, have questions about either usage or simple adaptation to the pro-level hurdles that were not answered in their debut seasons.
Below, let's examine three who stick out like sore thumbs as names to avoid on draft day. Let somebody else take the leap of faith that appears to have a rocky landing pad.
Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo Bills
The No. 41 overall pick in 2013, USC product Robert Woods actually flashed a bit last season by reeling in 40 passes for 587 yards and three scores on a rather brutal overall offense.
EJ Manuel, Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis left little room for proper evaluation when it comes to Woods, considering the three-headed nightmare could routinely be seen skipping the ball across the turf to hit him in the ankles.
Guess what? They are all back for another round in 2014.
That is not the only reason to avoid Woods, though. Sure, Stevie Johnson is gone, but the team brought on Mike Williams in free agency and added Sammy Watkins in the first round of the draft after trading up. Per ESPN's Adam Caplan, the staff loves the way the former is working out so far:
That much was obvious Sunday in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, when Williams was ahead of Woods on the depth chart. The sophomore did catch four passes for 49 yards and a score, but he did it against second-, third- and fourth-string defenses.
Even Manuel was a bit taken aback that Woods did not run with the first team.
“A little bit,” admitted EJ Manuel, per Chris Brown of the Bills' website. “It was a little surprising for Woody not to be with us with the ones, but he did great. Woody is going to be Woody with whatever he’s given. So I was still glad to see him go out there and do a great job with Jeff.”
Woods is very talented, but he is being shoved aside for a top-10 pick and a free-agent acquisition who stumbled with Tampa Bay over the course of four years but did prove to be an elite red-zone threat with touchdown totals of 11 and nine on his resume.
Add in what is sure to be a run-first approach with C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown on the roster, and it is hard to justify grabbing Woods at all.
Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams
Right now, fantasy owners are gobbling up Zac Stacy as a top-15 back with an average draft position of 3.03.
Rightfully so, as the fifth-round pick seized the starting gig in Week 5 as a rookie and never looked back, scoring in the top 20, registering double-digit production in seven contests and scoring six touchdowns from inside the 5-yard line.
The problem is that there are plenty of talented backs in St. Louis, and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has already confirmed the job is up for grabs, as captured by Nick Wagoner of ESPN:
Well right now, competition is for who’s the starter. We’re just going to let them all roll and see what happens. You saw some guys that worked with the young guys today. Zac’s obviously a really, really good player, but we’re going to create competition for all the guys. That’s a long way off, but we know we have a good stable group of backs and they all have different skill sets, which we’ll try to use throughout the course of the year.
Hey, anything to keep players motivated, right? Unfortunately for Stacy, No. 75 overall pick Tre Mason is around. The Auburn product has taken first-team reps this preseason and is viewed by Jeff Fisher as a change-of-pace back.
"Tre is a change-of-pace back," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, per James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser. "Good zone runner, obviously the numbers speak for themselves. He was a guy we just couldn't pass up at that point."
Other runners who have flashed in the past for the Rams include Benny Cunningham and Isaiah Pead. This is not to suggest that Stacy will not see the most carries next season, but there is talent in place that the coaching staff can utilize to wear down defenses and keep him fresh on a pitch count just in case the Rams slip into the postseason.
Right now, there are too many variables at play to be comfortable with Stacy, especially when backs such as Andre Ellington, Reggie Bush, C.J. Spiller and Frank Gore—to name a few—are being selected after him.
Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets
There is a certain allure to second-year quarterbacks that entice fantasy owners to sometimes, at the very least, take a late-round flier on the chance a guy pans out.
Do not waste time with Geno Smith.
Smith had no business starting as a rookie last season, but that is what happens when a head coach fears his job is on the line after years of futility.
The end result was Smith tossing 21 interceptions, completing less than 56 percent of his passes and losing four fumbles. The good news is that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, says the turnover issues are beginning to fade:
Well, except for the whole "we'll see" part. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but reports do suggest that Smith already has the job on lock down.
That's great, except the staff paid Michael Vick a total of $4 million, per Spotrac, to come to town. Guess what? Rex Ryan's job is still very much on the line, so that "we'll see" can very easily mean Smith gets demoted with a poor preseason showing.
Add in the fact the Jets also brought on Chris Johnson as a complement to Chris Ivory, and it is clear the offense is trending more toward the ground game. Steer clear of Smith at all costs.
|Tyler Eifert||TE||Cincinnati Bengals||Increase in running under Hue Jackson, still second on depth chart.|
|Tavon Austin||WR||St. Louis Rams||No guarantee he has finally learned the playbook or that staff will use him properly.|
|Christine Michael||RB||Seattle Seahawks||Rare talent, but Marshawn Lynch's backfield for one more year.|