5 NFL Players Due for a Reality Check in 2015

Rivers McCown@riversmccownNFL AnalystJuly 21, 2015

5 NFL Players Due for a Reality Check in 2015

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Let's start with our standard practice on these types of articles: deciphering what the catchy headline actually means.

    A "reality check" does not mean a player is bad. It does not mean a guy will get hurt or is destined to be disappointing. For me, it means something simple: Circumstances and regression have dictated that what happened in 2014 is unlikely to occur again. For some of these players, that means they'll actually have bad seasons. For others, it just means they likely won't be as good as they were in 2014. 

    And for others, like the guy I'm hinting at above, it's simply a matter of all historical evidence pointing to the fact something is unsustainable. 

    Now, on with the show...

5. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers

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    David Seelig/Associated Press

    What about this player's situation has changed? Jim Harbaugh left. Frank Gore left. Michael Crabtree left. Anthony Davis left. Mike Iupati left. Justin Smith left. Patrick Willis left. Greg Roman left. Vic Fangio left. If you are reading this and were in the Bay Area in January, you've also inevitably left.

    Why does it matter? Simple: Hyde was drafted to be a sustaining power back in an offense that heavily utilized one over the first half of the decade. With Harbaugh gone and the power vacuum leaving the defense to build around NaVorro Bowman—who recently returned from a devastating ACL and MCL injury—and a pile of "maybes," that game script no longer exists.

    Hyde was excellent in his limited time last season, but with Reggie Bush there to snipe passing-down snaps, the 49ers have a back built for a 10-6 season on a team that is looking more like 6-10. That doesn't mean his career as a useful fantasy commodity is gone; it does mean it's being delayed.

4. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    What about this player's situation has changed? The Broncos parted ways with head coach John Fox and replaced him with the perhaps even more comedic game-theory stylings of Gary Kubiak. Some people have held on to the fact Manning had to be hidden down the stretch. That's all started the forecasts of the Manning outro from Denver.

    Why does it matter? Manning is the greatest quarterback of all time. (Tom Brady supporters burn down my house.) He's somebody who could be counted on to finish as a top-five quarterback in any year he was healthy. But now, we have two questions:

    1. Is Manning at the point where he'll never be fully healthy again?
    2. Will a Kubiak-led Broncos offense feature the running game of C.J. Anderson?

    The Broncos will have success either way, but for Manning's personal numbers, these two questions are land mines. Drafting Manning with an early fantasy football pick means you are counting on him to swerve around both of them. 

    I've been wrong before about Manning. I didn't think he was going to come back as a functional football player after the devastating neck injury that forced him to sit out the 2011 season. But if he pulls this one off, I'm going to start wondering if all the time in "the film room" is really spent in a cryogenic chamber that restores his powers.

3. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    What about this player's situation has changed? DeMarco Murray is gone. The running backs that are replacing him have dip-diddly in the way of success, Joseph Randle hype be damned. We're at a point where you could reasonably argue Lache Seastrunk is the second-most talented back on the roster. 

    Why does it matter? The monster year Murray had for the Cowboys created the "matured" Tony Romo who earned MVP votes. The fact the Cowboys were able to set the foundation of their offense on the run game lessened the pressure on Romo to keep them alive, and he cut his turnover rate and played with better efficiency. (He led the league in QBR.)

    Romo, though, is still the same player. And the Cowboys, while still having a sound running game, will miss Murray at some point. It'd be impossible not to when Darren McFadden is being treated as a serious contender for carries in the year of our creator 2015. 

    That means Romo will continue to be effective—barring back injury flare-ups—but he'll leave the MVP form he found in 2014...in 2014.

2. DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    What about this player's situation has changed? Instead of playing next to a capable quarterback behind the best offensive line in the league, Murray has moved to a divisional rival that cut one of its two best offensive lineman last season, Evan Mathis, because he was injury-prone and old.

    At times, the Eagles appear to be more science experiment than actual team. (What happens when we mix Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez with packaged plays? Excelsior!) Oh, right, and Murray touched the ball a total of 497 times (counting catches and the playoffs).

    Why does it matter? The only NFL running backs who have carried the ball 370 times or more in a single season are players who declined the next year and Eric Dickerson. 

    While I don't believe the "meat on the bone" comments are completely accurate, last season was ideal for Murray, and I have problems thinking he'll be quite as good in 2015. That's before we even take into account other free-agent signing Ryan Mathews is a solid running back who can sub in for him on certain series. 

    It adds up to a situation where Murray will be less than he was last season. And while I generally find that people understand this, there are still a few in every crowd who will wonder why he's still around at the end of the first round in their fantasy drafts.

1. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    What about this player's situation has changed? Honestly, not a whole lot. The Giants added a passing-down back of note in Shane Vereen, and there's hope wideout Victor Cruz can fully recover from his devastating patellar tendon injury.

    Otherwise, the New York offensive line continues to be a random number generator strapped to a machine that creates injuries, and quarterback Eli Manning should do a better overall job with offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system in his second season in it.

    Why does it matter? Look, let's not make this complex: Nobody in NFL history has done the things Odell Beckham Jr. did last season. He averaged 108.8 receiving yards per game. Only Charley Hennigan reached that number more than once (he did it twice). Beckham caught 12 touchdowns in 11 starts. He would have made the All-Pro team if there wasn't a seniority bias in the selection process. 

    That in and of itself does not mean Beckham is going to regress. Outliers are outliers for a reason. If you are a believer that Beckham can do whatever he wants to defenses again next season, with all the attention and scheming that come with being a true No. 1 wide receiver, that's a defensible position.

    It's just not the one I'd take given the course of the entire historical overview of the NFL. Seasons like this come crashing down the next year, even for special players. Adrian Peterson didn't run for 2,000 yards two seasons in a row, and he might as well be made out of cyborg parts. It's not absurd to believe Beckham can a) be the best receiver in the NFL next year and b) not do anything near what he did last season.


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