Fantasy Football 2011: Players to Stay Away from in Your Fantasy Draft
Every sport has a rich history of one-hit wonders, but none can sting more than NFLers who sparkle one year only to drop off the face of the earth the next year.
Why? Because poor suckers across the country take that running back or quarterback or wide receiver way too early in their fantasy draft, and he hangs around their neck like an albatross for 12 weeks or so.
But one-hit wonders aren't the only ones to keep an eye out for. There's also eminently reliable veterans who finally start to show signs of their age or wear and tear and don't produce nearly as much as they had the previous few seasons.
Oh, and don't forget about high draft picks who you think will be instant stars, but take longer to develop than expected (And with the lockout keeping rookies from learning anything this summer, that's especially true.).
So here's a collection of the six fantasy picks (one at each fantasy position) that you should steer clear of taking...too high, at least.
Kicker: David Akers
Team: Eagles (UFA)
2010 Stats: 32-for-38 FGs, 1 50-plus yarder, 143 points
This really should be a heads-up more than anything. If the only homework you do prior to the draft is looking at last year's stats, you'll see that Akers led the NFL in scoring last year. That seems pretty unlikely this year.
Maybe the Eagles are going to re-sign Akers, but it seems unlikely since they spent a relatively high draft choice (fourth-rounder) on Alex Henery from Nebraska.
But even if Akers lands elsewhere, I don't think he's the first or second or even third kicker you want to go after. He'll turn 37 this season and he missed three of his last six attempts in 2010, including two fairly short ones in the playoff loss to Green Bay.
Defense: Atlanta Falcons
2010 Stats: 18 points-per-game, 31 turnovers, 31 sacks
Mike Smith may be the head coach and Brian VanGorder did a nice job with the unit last year, but I'd be surprised to see them come anywhere near repeating the type of stats they put up last year.
Part of it is personnel. John Abraham is another year older and as of right now they haven't done very much to address a pretty mediocre team pass rush. (That could change if they manage to sign a free agent bookend like Ray Edwards).
But it's the rest of the division that I think possesses a greater threat to the Falcons being a fantasy powerhouse.
The Panthers offense has nowhere to go but up and with either Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen that should happen. The Buccaneers offense has a chance to become very good under Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount....adding Luke Stocker to play next to Kellen Winslow II is a nice move as well.
And look for the Saints--with Mark Ingram and a healthy (?) Pierre Thomas to turn the ball over far less and be more efficient: You won't see 22 picks and nine fumbles from Drew Brees again this year.
Tight End: Antonio Gates
2010 Stats: 50 catches, 782 yards, 10 TD
I know this is borderline blasphemous and Gates is a great guy to have on your team, but not as the first overall tight end selection, the spot he's been taken in virtually every draft since 2005.
He was so banged up last year that you have to worry about those foot injuries being chronic. He certainly has taken a beating over the years as the Chargers premier receiving option.
Furthermore, no one knows what's going to happen with the rest of the Chargers receiving corps--Vincent Jackson, Legedu Naanee, Malcom Floyd could all be gone--but I think it's a safe bet that they'll be looking to Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert to carry the load a bit more.
Wide Receiver: Dwayne Bowe
2010 Stats: 72 catches, 1,162 yards, 15 TD
Bowe had a fantastic year last season and I expect him to continue to be a strong threat for the Chiefs in the future. But 15 touchdowns? Not gonna happen again this year.
He may not be the lock that the experts think Julio Jones or A.J. Green is, but I like Jonathan Baldwin to step in and make an immediate impact. He's big, strong, and fast.
He'll take catches away from Bowe, as will tight end Tony Moeaki, who should be a real threat on the goal line.
Oh, and that Jamaal Charles/Thomas Jones duo isn't bad either: it's a total anomaly that they rushed for over 2,350 yards and scored just 11 touchdowns on the ground.
In short, Bowe's a great option for you after Roddy White, Calvin and Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and a few others, but not Top Five.
Running Back: Maurice Jones-Drew
2010 Stats: 299 carries, 1,324 yards, 5 TD
It's strange to think that he's "old" at 26, but Jones-Drew does have some wear and tear after five seasons. And the knee that cost him the season's last two games is proof of that.
I'm sure he's going to come back strong and have a good season, but as far as being one of the elite FANTASY backs in the NFL, I'm not so certain.
He runs so hard and has such a low center of gravity that he takes such a pounding.
Just as important, I wonder about the rest of the Jags offense being able to take pressure off him. Will Blaine Gabbert be in there at some point? Will they re-sign Mike Sims-Walker? Can Marcedes Lewis follow up 2010 with another good year?
Besides, there are going to be new defenses in both Houston and Tennessee, so I think those two teams will be improved when they face Jacksonville a combined four times.
Quarterback: Peyton Manning
2010 Stats: 4,700 yards, 33 TD, 17 INT
A more blasphemous entry than Antonio Gates? Perhaps.
Granted, Manning has been a fantasy football staple for more than a decade, and his overall numbers last year were still spectacular.
But he showed plenty of vulnerability at the end of the 2010, recording five multi-interception efforts in an eight-game stretch.
And this year, that offensive line may be better with the selection of Anthony Castonzo, but Joseph Addai is probably gone, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, and Dallas Clark all have injuries to overcome.
And speaking of injuries, Peyton's neck is going to be something that could hamper him, at least early in the season.