Gary Kubiak makes placing your faith in Foster a toxic fantasy decision
Every year in early August, fantasy football drafts begin to get serious. For those of us who really follow the game, July is usually the month of mocks.
This year's lockout has condensed the July mocks down to a week or two of action, but most of the top draft picks have started to shape up. And every year, a number of these players do not work out, resulting in certain devastation for the owners who invested in them.
This is a brief look into the crystal ball to figure out which of the consensus top players will be fantasy busts. Obviously, all of the top players are widely considered to be solid fantasy choices, or they wouldn't be selected almost universally at the top of the draft.
Yet for a lot of these players, there are certain factors and warning signs that most fantasy owners and experts seem to be ignoring. Even if you disagree that these players will be busts, seeing the signs might help you bump these players a few notches down your list.
For every player, I'll offer a cheaper, safer option who could serve as a viable substitute.
Foster is sitting at the top of many expert drafts
Arian Foster is slowly becoming a consensus expert selection as the No. 1 overall player in the draft. Yet realistically, his bust potential is extraordinary.
Most of that can be pinned on his coach, Gary Kubiak. For more a decade, Mike Shanahan and any of his disciples have baffled fantasy owners by taking superb running backs and then inexplicably substituting in unheard of players for them by the third game of the year.
This has taught many a bold fantasy drafter the hard way. You are better off avoiding any running back in the Shanahan/Kubiak system because of the abnormal positional volatility brought on by their coaches. The only real exception to the general rule of avoiding Shanahan/Kubiak backs came last year with Foster.
Fantasy players should be asking themselves if playing the lottery 20 times and getting your money back once is favorable odds.
Foster is a very high risk player when you throw in typical injury risks associated with the position, and then consider his typical position in most drafts is in the first three selections.
For that type of investment, fantasy players would be better off looking elsewhere, to players like Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson.
CONSIDER INSTEAD: Shonn Green, RB, Jets. Many expected him to blow up last year, but LaDainian Tomlinson slowed that process. The Jets offense still produces spectacular running back production, and Green is going to be the only guy on first and second down this year.
He is going in the fourth round or later in many drafts and could potentially have top-five or top-10 running back production.
Is "The Burner" close to burning out?
Michael Turner is coming off of Pro Bowl appearances in both '08 and '10. In those seasons he touched the ball 382 and 346 times, respectively, according to ESPN, which in itself is cause for concern.
He also slowed down noticeably towards the latter portion of last season according to ESPN. Fantasy owners need to be aware that Turner is 29 this year, and it is highly unlikely he will be able to continue carrying that heavy a load without serious chances of injury.
Turner had offseason groin surgery which could help with the problem, and he also plays (favorably) for a very good Atlanta Falcons team. Unfortunately, he is being drafted in the top 10 of most expert mock drafts, really undermining a lot of his value.
While "The Burner" has become a staple of fantasy drafts since joining the Atlanta Falcons, this is probably a good year to avoid him. His draft stock and his burn out potential are both too high.
CONSIDER INSTEAD: Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins. The rookie Thomas will likely see the majority of the team's carries this year on his fresh legs.
Initial reports out of camp are very good, and Thomas can be had in the fifth round or later of virtually all fantasy drafts.
McFadden's only sin is playing for a disfunctional team.
Run DMC finally had his breakout year in 2010, which has caused his fantasy value to skyrocket. However, there are still noticeable risks with selecting him.
He was injured during a couple of games last season, but owners would do well to remember his first two fantasy seasons were a waste because of injuries. This year, Michael Bush will also be back, and he is likely to take some carries away from McFadden.
However, the primary concern with McFadden is the dysfunction of his franchise. Most fantasy owners should remember the Raiders are entirely unpredictable in literally every way because of owner Al Davis.
Until Davis is out of the picture, it is probably not a good idea to take any Raider with a top-20 fantasy pick.
There are going to be other options available, and until McFadden's situation looks more stable, making a prime investment in him is a foolish endeavor.
CONSIDER INSTEAD: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots. While his numbers shouldn't be as good as last year, the Patriots still figure to be a spectacular contender with great off season additions.
That usually leads to them getting a lead in a hurry, and then Green-Ellis seeing a lot of fantasy action. Make no mistake, "The Law Firm" is the real deal on a great team.
He isn't overworked, and he will be a consistent back. Just don't expect him to go off for any 40-point weeks but take solace in knowing he can be had in the fourth round or later.
Does winning a Super Bowl mean fantasy productivity?
Its definitely hard to knock a guy who just won the Super Bowl while overcoming a lot of problems during his regular season campaign. However, Rodgers is the first quarterback being taken in almost all fantasy drafts and will doubtlessly cost you a first-round selection.
Is he a safe bet? Almost certainly. However for that type of pick you would expect a consensus belief that he will be the best quarterback in the NFL for fantasy production this year.
While Rodgers posted 3,922 yards, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year, Brady, Manning and Brees all outperformed him in terms of fantasy numbers. So did Michael Vick when his rushing ability is considered.
It seems like Rodgers playoff run has boosted his fantasy position regardless of the stats, and owners would probably be better off taking one of the known fantasy stud quarterbacks at a cheaper price, particularly when it saves their first overall pick for a stud RB/WR.
He continues to play in a weak AFC West and was missing a number of great weapons last year. Now that he has not only Antonio Gates but also Vincent Jackson (who will be playing for a contract) expect Rivers to possibly perform even better.
He is inexplicably available in the third round of most fantasy drafts. I would recommend over drafting him by picking him up in the second round. It's a decision that you're unlikely to regret.
Michael Vick's injury risk is reason for serious concern.
While Michael Vick is spectacular for fantasy production as a dual air and ground threat, he's going as high as the No. 1 overall pick in many fantasy drafts.
Any quarterback who runs with the football is a serious injury risk, so if you're going to take Vick, it is essential that you handcuff Vince Young. However the question remains, why take that risk with your top overall pick?
Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees will all be available, and the hype surrounding the Eagles in free agency is driving Vick's stock even higher.
A safer, cheaper option at quarterback seems wiser, particularly when considering Vince Young's productive but dysfunctional history as a starter.
CONSIDER INSTEAD: Matt Schaub, QB, Texans. Schaub was a top 5 quarterback in 2009, and throws to the best receiver in the NFL. He threw for 4,370 yards last season with 24 touchdowns and can be had in the fourth round or later in most drafts.
He is probably at the end of the safe, elite quarterback choices this year.
Is Jennings worth a second round pick?
Greg Jennings is undoubtedly the number one target in Green Bay. However, he is also going towards the beginning of the second round in most fantasy drafts.
There is cause for concern when looking at the fact that he basically disappeared from fantasy relevance in 2009. Also, the Packers are a team that spreads the ball around a lot. Jennings could suffer a bit of the Marques Colston effect as a result of the style of play in Green Bay.
While I would not say Jennings is a bad selection, given his history and the style of his team, other options are going to be better. Additionally, fantasy owners should remember what happened in 2009, because Jennings is still a serious regression risk.
There are better uses of a second round selection.
CONSIDER INSTEAD: Chad Ochocinco, WR, Patriots. Now that Chad is with Tom Brady, his fantasy production should be incredible. He still is one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL, and he's now with one of the most consistent contenders in the NFL.
By the end of the year, he should have the most receptions of anyone on the Patriots. Fantasy football is noticing the absence of a premier, New England receiver from the top 20 picks this year. Chances are the guy who is going to perform at that level is Ochocinco.
He can be had pretty late in most drafts right now surprisingly, having gone in the sixth round of a recent CBS expert mock.
If the Cowboys get it together, Austin could be the best receiver in fantasy.
First, on the positive side, Austin has the potential to be the best wide receiver in fantasy football. Going into last season, I believed he would finish in the top three based on his performance in 2009.
Last year, before Tony Romo was hurt, Austin was on track for 1,555 yards and 106 catches. His upside is phenomenal, which is leading to him being an early third-round selection in most fantasy drafts. The problem with Austin is that his circumstances are uncertain.
Second year receiver Dez Bryant figures to be even more prominent in the offense this season, and Jason Witten is not going to have two bad fantasy seasons in a row. Both players will be stealing touches from Austin.
Additionally, Tony Romo's injury history should be cause for concern when considering Austin's productivity. Still, Austin remains a player worth keeping an eye on if the value is right.
Chances are someone in your league intends to overdraft him - he is probably better selected with a fourth-round pick. Especially when considering the Cowboys are under new leadership, even if the Jason Garrett era appears to be off to a good start in Dallas.
CONSIDER INSTEAD: Brandon Lloyd, WR, Broncos. Now that Kyle Orton has been dubbed the starter in Denver, Lloyd's fantasy value should be way up. He was a top-three fantasy performer in terms of points last season, and the Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is carry over from the Josh McDaniels era.
When looking at the numbers, Lloyd should receive a bit of a drop because the Broncos figure to focus more on the run with John Fox, but he still should be a third-round pick.
Instead, he is going in the late fifth/early sixth, even with the news that Kyle Orton is the quarterback in Denver. The value here is a no-brainer.