We're talking fantasy college football today, but raise your hand if you played fantasy pro football back in the 1990s. Keep it raised if you were one of the suckers who selected the Cowboys’ Troy Aikman as your starting quarterback in one of those years. Aha! I thought so.
I began playing pro fantasy football in 1991—the beginning of Dallas’ Super Bowl run. Back then, there was no internet. Owners relied on TV, magazines, and newspapers (remember them?) for football information. Dallas was winning Super Bowls, so Troy Aikman must be a great fantasy QB option, right? Wrong. He was a Hall-of-Fame passer in the NFL, but nothing more than a reserve on the world of fantasy football. But, nonetheless, in each and every draft, Aikman was overvalued because of all those highlight touchdown passes to Michael Irvin, Jay Novacek and Alvin Harper. It was during that timeframe that my “Troy Aikman Theory” of drafting was born.
The Troy Aikman Theory is simple: The number of magazine cover appearances doesn’t equal fantasy stardom. Sound too obvious? Well, you’d be surprised how many owners fall into this trap. The real sharks know fantasy football is all about numbers. Did you know Troy Aikman only threw more than 19 touchdowns once in his career (23, in 1992)? The unheralded Saints/Falcons quarterback Bobby Hebert put up similar numbers during those years. Yet Aikman would get drafted by the suckers in the early rounds, while Hebert could be had in the final rounds (if he was drafted at all).
A prime college football example from recent years was Michigan’s Chad Henne. Henne was a good college QB from a high-profile program. He played in a bunch of big games on the national stage, and had several memorable performances. Henne’s likeness donned the preseason mags for a couple years, and every Tom, Dick, and Harry knew who he was. When your draft rolled around, some I-get-my-information-from-ESPN owner inevitably called out Henne’s name in an early round while the savvy fantasy sharks sat back in their Laz-E-Boy and snickered. Why? Because Henne’s projected stats simply didn’t justify his early round selection.
Here’s a list of players we deem overrated from a fantasy standpoint. They’re all very good football players, most of whom deserve to be selected at some point in your draft. Just don’t reach for them.
Before we get started, it’s important you understand our definition of “overrated.” These are players who will likely be drafted much higher than their value deserves. This article is directed towards those in BCS-only leagues.
Mark Sanchez (USC)
Being captain of the USC Gravytrain doesn’t always equate to fantasy glory. Sanchez is not a threat to gain valuable rushing yards. He is throwing to a set of talented, but unproven wide receivers. Somebody will reach for Sanchez in the upper-half of your draft. Don’t be that person. A healthy Sanchez makes a nice reserve QB on your roster. UPDATE: Sanchez is recovering from a dislocated knee and may drop a little further on draft boards.
Matthew Stafford (Georgia)
The Bulldogs finished strong last year and are the preseason No. 1 team in the land. The Mel Kipers of the world are saying that Stafford could be the top pick in the NFL draft. Let’s take a look at his stats from last season: 2,523 passing yards, 19 passing touchdowns, minus-18 rushing yards, two rushing scores. Those are pedestrian fantasy numbers, my friends. Even if he improves on those stats, he has a low fantasy ceiling as head coach Mark Richt loves his running backs and will be pounding the ball often with Knowshon Moreno and Co. Stafford shouldn’t be on your roster this year unless you’re in an SEC-only league.
Cullen Harper (Clemson)
The Tigers are a trendy pick to have a big year. Trendy picks get lots of publicity. Let the suckers in your league grab him early. Clemson’s offense will be great, but it’ll be too balanced. Running backs James Davis and CJ Spiller will get plenty of carries, which will eat into Harper’s production. We think he will nearly match his stats from last year, but that doesn’t warrant you having to rely on him from a fantasy standpoint. If he falls in your lap, he’d make a very strong reserve.
Colt McCoy (Texas)
Let me explain this one. Colt McCoy is a good fantasy quarterback. Thanks to two full years as the Longhorn’s starter, he’s become a household name, and household names typically get overvalued. McCoy will be working with less experienced receivers this year, and head coach Mack Brown is going to implement athletic QB Josh Chiles into the offense in some fashion. Colt is still a nice fantasy option, and the Chiles talk could be just that...talk. We think McCoy would make a great No. 2 man on your team.
James Davis & CJ Spiller (Clemson)
This backfield duo is perhaps the most talented in the nation. Let’s not forget their disappointing performance from last year. Davis rushed for 1,064 yards and 10 touchdowns while Spiller added 768 and five. They both should improve on those stats this year, but don’t overpay for their services. Let someone else take the plunge too early in the draft. Those owners that have had them in past years will tell you it’s a bit of a fantasy nightmare watching them split carries. Fantasy outlook: Davis is a decent No. 2 RB, Spiller a deep reserve.
Joe McKnight (USC)
McKnight is a tough one to figure out. If he truly is the second coming of Reggie Bush (2,200-plus yards, 18 touchdowns), then he’s a top-five overall RB. If he’s merely an important contributor among a stable of uber-talented backs, then McKnight is not even a reliable fantasy starter. We think he falls somewhere in between (1,200 total yards and 10 touchdowns). Regardless, McKnight is being hyped quite a bit on the four-letter network, and someone in your draft will likely take him too high. The gamble might pay off for that owner, but the smart money is to wait until the right time to select Mr. McKnight.
Emmanuel Moody (Florida)
Moody is the much publicized transfer from USC. At the time of his transfer, he was the surefire solution to fill Florida’s RB hole. However, things change quickly, and Moody is in a dogfight with Chris Rainey for he starting role. At this point, Moody is a slight risk and should be drafted accordingly. Odds are that some owner in your league will reach for him too early.
Arrelious Benn (Illinois)
We like Benn and think he could have a very good year as a No. 2 fantasy wide receiver. He burst on the scene as one of the Zooker’s big recruits that helped turn around the program. The Fightin’ Illini made it all the way to the Rose Bowl. “Turning around programs” and “Rose Bowls” get everyone’s attention. So does a catchy name like “Arrelious.” Put things in perspective for the talented receiver, and remember the system he plays in. Draft him as a strong No. 2 WR, not a surefire No. 1.
Patrick Turner (USC)
I think I just received a nastygram in my inbox from a certain “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Sorry, Pete, we’re not intentionally picking on your Trojans. It’s just that USC fits perfectly into the Troy Aikman Theory due to the hype the program receives. From a fantasy perspective, everyone wants to draft “the next Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush or Dwayne Jarrett.” It hasn’t happened yet, but owners still reach for the USC players hoping that they will strike gold. Patrick Turner was expected to be the next great WR at USC. Last year, he went as high as the second round in some leagues. The reward for those owners that went out on a limb: a paltry 569 yards and three touchdowns. Like with McKnight, Turner has the potential to put up monster digits. When it comes to draft day, we consider him a reserve WR with tremendous upside.