Emerging NFL Stars Who Will Prove to Be One-Year Flukes
Seemingly every year in NFL history, some player will emerge out of nowhere to lead his real team (and his fantasy team) to the playoffs, only to slip back into obscurity for the rest of his career. These one-year wonders can happen for a number of reasons, some of them circumstantial, some due to injuries, proper schemes, coaching decisions and some due to being chemically enhanced.
Whatever the reason, we have been trained over the years to look for these outliers, or one-year blips, where the performance just doesn't seem to match up with the rest of the portfolio of work. Sometimes you want to give the younger players the benefit of the doubt, as wide receivers typically don't start taking off until their third year in the league.
For example, it is safe to say that DeMarco Murray will not be able to keep up the pace he established with his first NFL start last week. That was a one-game wonder. We are talking here about one-year wonders.
Have you happened to check out the number of tackles on the season for Indianapolis Colts linebacker Pat Angerer? In seven games, Angerer has registered 80 tackles. Right now, he is on pace for 184 tackles this year.
That means that he would have come up with almost 100 tackles more than he did as a rookie. Part of this spectacular growth is due to the Colts defense being on the field so long. The Colts have to abandon the run to try to play catch up, and inevitably the Colts defense will be back out on the field, sooner than later.
Assuming that Peyton Manning is able to return to health next year, or the Colts make a move to bring in a different starter if Manning can't play, the reality is that Angerer will likely fall back to earth and have results that are more in line with the rest of the league.
For now, if you own him in a fantasy league, you are loving him. But, just enjoy it while it lasts.
We all know what kind of effect that San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh can have on opposing coaches. But what about the effect he has on his starting quarterback?
Alex Smith appears to be playing out of his mind. For the last two seasons, Smith has typically been hovering in the 19-21 range (passer rating) of quarterbacks in the NFL. All of a sudden, in comes Harbaugh, and Smith has been magically transformed into a top 10 NFL quarterback? I don't buy it.
We are talking about a guy with a career ratio of 51 TDs to 53 interceptions coming into this year. Now all of a sudden, he is eight touchdowns to two interceptions?
He is on pace for completing 63 percent of his passes, which would be a career high. For 49ers fans, I think you have to enjoy this year for however long the good fortune remains.
But in 2012, I think that Smith reverts to what he always has been, a below-average quarterback, trying to make a living in the NFL.
In 106 NFL career games coming into the 2011 season, New England Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork had never made an interception. He was designed to crash offensive lines, try to sack the quarterback or strip the ball from the running back.
But to intercept passes, or defend against passes in general? That was never his bag. Fast forward to the 2011 season. Wilfork has already come up with two picks, and if it is one thing people like to see it is a 325-pound defensive lineman trying to sprint down the field with the ball after coming up with a turnover.
Don't get me wrong, Wilfork is a talented player and is a very good defensive lineman. But right now, he is tied for No. 19 as the pass interceptions leader in the NFL. This is a once-in-a-lifetime ride, Vince, so enjoy it while you can.
Willis McGahee is ranked as the No. 10 running back right now in the NFL. What's wrong with this picture? McGahee is now 30 years old, and the wear and tear on his legs, and his knee surgeries, will mean that he will be hitting the wall soon.
For one thing, he was leading the Broncos in rushing while Kyle Orton was the quarterback. Now that Tim Tebow is running the show, the important rushes down by the goal line will start going to Tebow, not McGahee.
McGahee is used to being the TD vulture, as he scored 12 touchdowns for Baltimore in 2009 on just 109 carries. This year in 103 carries, he has just one touchdown.
That sounds to me like a perfect situation for McGahee to start griping about his situation and that he needs to go somewhere where he is appreciated. Or he will blame it on the lack of women in Denver. You have to know McGahee to appreciate that last comment.
Either way, his days of being a Top 10 runner should be ending shortly. He is not used to carrying the ball that much and I expect he will be taking on a smaller role in the offense as the season continues. But should you bank on him repeating this success in 2012? Absolutely not.
First of all, let's get one thing straight. I am a fan of DeMarco Murray. After all, we are fellow Boomer Sooner alumni. But, after watching Murray run the ball at Oklahoma for four straight years, I thought I had a pretty solid idea of what Murray was all about.
He was a dependable and reliable runner, very good receiver out of the backfield, and was very durable. In two seasons, he rushed for 700 yards and topped 1,000 yards in the other two seasons at OU.
But after what he did last week by setting an all-time Dallas Cowboys record, I just don't see how he is going to be able to sustain this level of play. Consider this; in all four years and 750 carries at OU, Murray's longest run of his collegiate career was 76 yards. He already shattered that in 50 carries with Dallas.
At O.U. he averaged 4.1 yards per carry as a junior and then 4.3 yards as a senior. Now suddenly with Dallas, Murray is averaging 6.5 yards per rush?
I really can't call him a one-year wonder, because he is a rookie after all. I expect that as the year continues along, he will gravitate to an average that is closer to what he did in college.
If I am wrong, then I will still be happy for him, but also very surprised.
Now in his fourth year with the Atlanta Falcons, safety Thomas DeCoud is currently tied for fifth place in the NFL with three interceptions. DeCoud has had chances before with the Falcons, but despite playing in all 16 games last year, he came up with one interception for the entire season.
On his current pace, DeCoud is looking at seven interceptions, which should put him in the top 10 in the league. Since this has never been a forte of his game before, we have to view this current level of thievery as a one-year exception to the rule.
The Buffalo Bills have been masquerading a long line of slugs and dressing them up as a tight end over the past five years. The latest version is Scott Chandler, who has burst onto the scene this year to be among the NFL leaders in touchdown receptions.
Through six games, Chandler has already caught four touchdown passes, which means that he is tied for No. 8 in the NFL in receiver touchdowns. He is one behind Rob Gronkowski, and tied with the likes of Tony Gonzalez and Jermichael Finley.
So where did Chandler come from? Chandler entered the NFL in 2007 with the San Diego Chargers, and then played for the Dallas Cowboys in 2009. In 10 career games, Chandler never caught a touchdown pass. The Bills acquired him in 2010 and he didn't factor in to the offense since he joined mid-season.
But in 2011, Chandler has proven to be a reliable red-zone option. Will that continue, or is this a one-time thing? That is a very good question.
Out of 13 catches this season, four have gone for touchdowns. At 6'7", Chandler is not that easy to cover in the red zone, so you have to think he will always get some looks, especially if he is open.
Wide receiver Victor Cruz played in three games with the New York Giants but failed to catch a single pass. Now all of a sudden, Cruz is on a pace that will see him gain over 1,000 yards in receptions in his second year in the league.
While there is not much evidence that Cruz was going to become such a key part of the offense this year, there is no doubt that he has shown the ability to explode for some big games.
In a three-game stretch, Cruz came up with 110 yards against Philadelphia, then had 98 yards against Arizona, and then 161 against Seattle.
Riding a three-game high, Cruz then came crashing back to earth with only 12 yards in receptions against the Buffalo Bills, who have been giving up many big yards in catches all year.
Doug Baldwin is averaging 16.5 yards per catch in the NFL. That is pretty spectacular for a guy that nobody wanted to take in the 2011 Draft.
The rookie wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks has turned in some very nice games already this year by grabbing passes that totaled 136 yards against the New York Giants, 84 yards against the Atlanta Falcons and 83 yards against the San Francisco 49ers.
Then there are the games where he gets held without a catch last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Or coming up with one catch for four yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Baldwin did lead Stanford in receiving last year, but Seattle doesn't appear to be headed for the first overall pick, which is probably what they would need to reunite Baldwin with Andrew Luck.