2011 Fantasy Football: 5 Disappointments from 2010 That Will Rebound in 2011
We've all been there before, stuck somewhere in the serpentine draft order. The clock is ticking and you have a decision to make: stud RB or stud WR? As the seconds tick down, you weigh the merits of points-per-perception leagues versus points-per-yardage and eventually, hating yourself with every synapse fired in the process, commit your index finger to mouse pad and select a guy who will inevitably play 300 draft spots worse than his selection spot.
Welcome to fantasy football.
Just because a player disappointed in one fantasy football season, however, doesn't mean he is utterly worthless in future seasons. A multitude of factors can affect performance, ranging from injury to coaching scheme to general malaise with a poorly-run organization. Not all of these albatrosses remain constant from season to season.
So while it may provide no true consolation to you now, considering you already spent the 20th pick in your office's 2010 fantasy football pool on Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, you can at least be open to the idea that these 10 players who laid an egg in 2010 are still worth fantasy draft consideration in 2011.
Former Carolina Panther RB DeAngelo Williams was commonly the fourth or fifth running back taken off draft boards in 2010 fantasy football drafts.
Williams struggled in 2010, playing in only six games, totaling a measly 361 rushing yards and one touchdown. This, of course, after a 2009 season that saw Williams total 1,117 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.
True fantasy football geeks should know better than to shy away from Williams in 2011, though.
Free agency might be the best thing that could happen to his fantasy value at this point. Given the contract he'll surely command on the open market, Williams will undoubtedly be the feature back on whichever team employs his services in 2011. That means less Jonathan Stewart vulturing his carries and more Williams inside of the 20s.
Free agency speculation seems to have Williams landing with the Miami Dolphins when the lockout is lifted. That would be as good a fantasy scenario for Williams as any, given Miami's wealth of blocking specialists and ability to stretch the field with Brandon Marshall.
2010 was supposed to be New York Jets RB Shonn Greene's breakout year. Seemingly every fantasy football guru this side of Nepal had Greene as a top-rated feature back, sure to get the vast majority of carries in the Jets' run-heavy offense.
That is, until LaDainian Tomlinson got more carries (219 to Greene's 185).
While Tomlinson proved good for 914 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns and 368 receiving yards, Greene only tallied 766 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and 120 receiving yards.
Though Greene didn't appear to be ready for primetime in 2010, the good news for Greene fans in fantasy football is that Tomlinson is not getting any younger. He will likely turn 32 before the lockout ends.
Greene is still the future of the Jets' backfield and, even in a tandem situation, should receive the majority of carries going forward. He'll have to put a frustrating 2010 season behind him and move on, but should eclipse the 1,000-yard mark if he does. At the very least, he'll improve upon the paltry two rushing touchdowns he produced in 2010.
Look for Greene to rebound in 2011 and claim the majority of carries in the Jets' backfield.
San Francisco 49ers WR Michael Crabtree is immensely talented and, on paper, should be an absolute fantasy football machine given his speed, length, hands and ability to prove a mismatch against smaller defensive backs.
Unfortunately for Crabtree, he has spent most of his young Niners career wondering whether he will be catching passes from Alex Smith, Troy Smith or Shaun Hill.
All Crabtree needs to truly explode in this league is some consistency at the quarterback position (consistency at the head coaching position wouldn't hurt either). Thanks to the positive relationship between Alex Smith and new 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, the stars may just align for Crabtree in 2011.
Even with a week-to-week quarterback situation in 2010, Crabtree managed 55 receptions for 741 yards and six touchdowns. Not great numbers for a wide receiver, but not terrible either.
Obviously, he was eclipsed by teammate Vernon Davis, who proved to be the favorite target of the quarterback-du-jour in 2010, but look for that dynamic to reverse in 2011 as Smith establishes himself as a constant under center and Crabtree establishes himself as a premier fantasy football target.
Houston Texans TE Owen Daniels missed five games on paper in 2010, but 12 or 13 games to anyone watching the Texans playmaker take the field at less than 100-percent.
Theoretically, the Texans' offense should have been designed to allow Daniels to thrive. Houston features one of the league's best playmakers at the wide receiver position in Andre Johnson, a bruising runner in Arian Foster and an underrated flanker in Kevin Walter. All, of course, directed by one of the AFC's best gunslingers in Matt Schaub.
Unfortunately for the Texans, Daniels could never quite get on track in 2010. Even when on the field, he seemed to be elsewhere, dropping countless "gimme" passes and not displaying any of the same explosiveness that labeled him a threat from the tight end position heading into the season. With little fanfare, reserve tight end Joel Dreessen was able to lap him.
Now that Daniels is finally healthy, though, it's hard to imagine him repeating his lackluster 2010 performance. The Texans return a strong offensive unit that, just for fun, adds 2010 rookie Ben Tate, the Auburn speedster who was injured prior to the start of the season. All these weapons should concern linebackers and defensive backs enough to give Daniels room to get open and Schaub countless opportunities to find the talented tight end over the middle in 2011.
Indianapolis Colts RB Donald Brown has been a disappointing fantasy pick for two consecutive years.
Drafted out of Connecticut in 2009, Brown was supposed to usurp the starting role from incumbent starting RB Joseph Addai, or at the very least split significant carries. However, he rushed just 78 times for 281 yards his rookie season, compared to Addai's 219 carries for 828 yards the same year.
Fast forward to 2010. Analysts project that Brown will receive more carries and become Addai's equal in the Colts' backfield. Except that didn't happen...again. Brown, who battled hamstring and ankle injuries for the majority of the season, carried just 129 times for 497 yards in 13 games.
Comparably, in just seven games, Addai carried for 495 yards on 116 carries.
Brown's problems are multi-faceted. He's oft-injured, which is certainly a strike. He doesn't block particularly well, which makes him a liability in the Colts' pass-happy offense. And his running style requires an NFL-caliber offensive line, something the Colts haven't fielded since he joined the team.
So why would anyone think his 2011 season will be any different?
Because Bill Polian actually committed to the offensive line.
I can't project health, but I can project roster talent. The addition of Boston College's Anthony Castonzo at left tackle and Villanova's Ben Ijalana at guard will surely bolster the Colts' talent-starved offensive line and re-energize a rushing attack that has lacked any punch the last two years. Brown should be the main benefactor of this commitment.
With Dallas Clark and Austin Collie healthy, and now with time to throw to them, the Peyton Manning-led passing attack will surely have linebackers and defensive backs moving backwards a bit in coverage. Look for Brown, undeniably the Colts' biggest home run threat at the RB position, to benefit the most from a re-energized offense in 2011.