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Self-Inflicted Punishment


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Draft day is the most exciting day in fantasy football as everyone has done countless hours of research and mock drafts believing that their hard work will pay off in the form of a championship. However, as is often the case, strategies do not always go according to plan. One of the main reasons for such predicaments is fantasy “busts.” A “bust” is defined as a player who is predicted to have a poor season compared to expectations, and, as a result, could be from a player being injury-prone, having a future star behind him on the depth chart, or a player who just will not be able to live up to the hype.

The game of fantasy football is all about minimizing risk as no apparent pick is safe. Let us delve into the “busts” for the 2012 fantasy football season. The Average Draft Position (ADP) is courtesy of myfantasyleague.com

Quarterbacks  

Drew Brees (ADP = 14.73) – Getting Brees in the second round might sound like a bargain to some since he had a record-breaking year in which he threw for a record 5,476 passing yards and broke the mark of 5,084 passing yards set by Dan Marino, but the absence of coach Sean Payton will prove to be a big one to Brees and the New Orleans Saints organization. Additionally, consider the fact that regression is expected as Brees threw for 407 more yards than his previous career high of 5,069 yards, which occurred in 2008, and the fact that Brees threw for 12 more touchdowns (46) in comparison with the 34 he threw in both 2008 and 2009.

Matthew Stafford (ADP = 16.96) – Before last season, Stafford had started only 13 games in two years and there were questions about his durability over a 16-game NFL season. Be that as it may, Stafford rewarded fantasy owners who bought into the hype of the Detroit Lions’ field general being a “sleeper” candidate last season as he threw for 5,038 passing yards, 41 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. As high-powered as the Lions offense has become, an integral part of Stafford ’s success was very much predicated on the behalf of the top wide receiver, Calvin Johnson . Unfortunately, Johnson was voted onto the Madden Cover after a monster season, and the curse – as silly as it sounds – is quite frightening in its implications of players who underachieve or are injured. If Stafford ’s top target underperforms or gets injured with the curse befallen on him, the Georgia product will have a dip in numbers. Along those lines, Stafford has durability issues of his own, which make him a risky selection considering his second-round price tag.             

Running Backs

Maurice Jones-Drew (ADP = 10.71) – With 1,980 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns, Jones-Drew had himself one heck of a year considering the fact that Blaine Gabbert was just flat-out awful. However, the Jacksonville Jaguars added to their anemic offense with upgrades at the receiver position with the signing of Laurent Robinson and the fifth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Justin Blackmon . Robinson and Blackmon should help in the development of Gabbert, which will slightly hamper Jones-Drew and his production even though many believe that with the addition of the two receivers, Jones-Drew will be just as productive as he was last season. Unfortunately, Jones-Drew lead the league in carries last season, and recent history illustrates that running backs who lead the league in caries usually struggle the following year. Moreover, the former UCLA product is holding out for a new contract, and with all that is going against him, Jones-Drew is a “bust.”

Matt Forte (ADP = 17.64) – Matt Forte was having a very productive season prior to his Week 13 knee injury against the Kansas City Chiefs as he had 1,487 yards from scrimmage and four total touchdowns. Nonetheless, that did not stop the Chicago Bears from franchising the 26-year-old running back. That was the complete opposite of what Forte wanted since he was seeking another contract. Thus, the two sides stuck firm to their beliefs as the Bears were not going to give Forte a long-term deal and Forte countered with a holdout which is currently ongoing for a new contract. However, the Bears signed free  agent running back Michael Bush , Darren McFadden ’s backup in Oakland. The signing of Bush hurts Forte and his value as Bush will steal the goal line work which Forte never excelled at, but if Forte sticks to his guns a la Chris Johnson in 2011, then we may have a serious situation on our hands. If Forte indeed does decide to holdout, a second-round price tag is not justifiable.

Wide Receivers

Calvin Johnson (ADP = 4.07) – Calvin Johnson had himself one hell of a career year with a 1,681 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns as the Detroit Lions roared into the playoffs. Unfortunately for Johnson, he was chosen to be on the cover of the popular EA Sports Madden franchise video game, Madden NFL 13. For this reason, he is categorized as a “bust” since the cover carries a curse with frightening implications, which include a player being injured or underperforming. In addition, consider the fact that Johnson had a career year, meaning that regression should be expected even for an elite receiver of Johnson’s status. Likewise, last year was the first full year for Matthew Stafford as he played 16 regular season games, but the young quarterback does have some injury history, which is a concern. Therefore, Calvin Johnson is a “bust” considering his average draft position is the fourth pick overall in fantasy drafts, the implications of the Madden curse, and that regression from a career year is likely.

Hakeem Nicks – Hakeem Nicks posted a career high 1,192 receiving yards yet he only had seven touchdowns, which can be attributed to the emergence of Victor Cruz . With the departure of Mario Manningham , many in fantasy circles expect Nicks to be better than he was last season. However, Nicks fractured his foot in Organized Team Activities and was expected to miss 12 weeks, but per Adam Schefter, the timetable is likely 4-6 weeks. Still, one has to worry about a Super Bowl hangover from the New York Giants, and the fact that they face a difficult schedule does not help matters. Likewise, Nicks lives up to his surname as he is usually nicked up throughout the season. Furthermore, there is a plethora of wide receivers available, which can be had a round or two later with similar production, which makes Nicks a “bust.”

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (ADP = 14.14) – For those who drafted Gronkowski, we salute you as the New England Patriots’ tight end put up a ridiculous stat line in his second year with 90 catches, 1,327 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. Gronkowski was low on draft boards last year with an average draft position of 98.1, and in many leagues, he went undrafted. However, this fantasy season Gronkowski is flying high as his average draft position is at 14.14 warranting a second-round pick. On many cases, he is being picked up at the tail end of the first round. Truly, he is a special player on a high-powered offense, but with the addition of Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney , Gronkowski will not have a repeat season. Regression should be expected, and the fact that Gronkowski carries a second-round price tag is too hefty a price to pay.   

Jimmy Graham (ADP = 15.82) – Jimmy Graham was hyped as a “sleeper” last season and the New Orleans Saints’ tight end delivered as he hauled in 99 passes, 1,310 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Graham was a favorite target of Drew Brees , especially in the red – zone as his 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame was perfect for converting opportunities inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns. Having an average draft position of 65 last year, Graham was a great value, but his average draft position this year has skyrocketed to 15.82. It is quite the conundrum, as for the first time in fantasy football two tight ends have an average draft position in the second round, and since the NFL is a passing league it is no surprise. However, Graham and the Saints lost head coach Sean Payton to a season-long suspension, and that will have a negative effect on the offense. In the same manner, Drew Brees has not reported to Organized Team Activities as he is seeking a new contract, and even though Brees has great command of the offense, he needs to establish a rapport with Graham. As a result, Graham will be a “bust” as his average draft position is in the second round, he has lost his coach for the year, and the Saints’ field general is seeking a long-term contract and is holding out.

To sum up, Drew Brees , Matthew Stafford , Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Forte , Calvin Johnson , Hakeem Nicks , Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are all “busts,” in my opinion, for the 2012 fantasy football season. While there is no exact science to know which players will not meet expectations, it is always important to recognize and identify which players might be self-inflicted punishment.