Each season, after all is said and done, I like to bring up the draft results and see what could have been. It gives you the chance to reflect upon other owners’ home runs and compare them to your strikeouts. Perhaps you had Tony Romo picked to toss 35 touchdowns this season and skipped over Tom Brady because you though he was cooked. It happens to everyone. It even happens to the guys in the championship round.
Here are the biggest mistakes of the 2010 draft. Can any of these guys bounce back in 2011? If you choose correctly, you could get a first-rounder’s production from a fourth-round pick. Or you can end up with another terrible season from a downward spiraling talent. Here’s the 2010 “What was I thinking?” awards complete with alternative comparisons. Reader beware, this could be salt in your wounds. We’ll start in Round 5 and work our way to the first round because there is obviously more value lost the closer you get to the first pick.
Round 5 is a three-way tie between three running backs. Chris “Beanie” Wells, Jonathan Stewart and Ronnie Brown all had very high expectations heading into 2010. However none of these expectations ever became reality. For Wells, the mixture of injury and the Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback situation all but ruined 2010 for him.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong with Stewart. Though it’s easy to point your finger at the offensive line, it was actually a small upgrade over the line he ran behind the year before. Stewart had the chance to do big things once DeAngelo Williams was ruled out for the season but he, like Wells, ran hurt and without help.
Brown may have the strangest set of circumstances. The biggest knock against Brown was that he could never stay healthy and really build up huge numbers. In 2010 he actually managed to stay on the field, but his production isn’t as good as his half a season from last year.
All three of these running backs left sour tastes in owners’ mouths. They were fifth-round worthy this year and will drop significantly next season. The only one out of these three disappointments that I’d have interest in next season would be Stewart and that’s based solely on the notion of Williams perhaps not being there next season. If Williams re-signs with Carolina I’d have to say that it would need to be pretty late in the draft before I start circling their names on my draft sheet.
Jermichael Finley’s season with Green Bay was over before it even really started. Finley was the victim of an early-season injury that wiped away his entire 2010 potential. Dallas Clark was able to make it past Finley in terms of longevity but he too went down early in the season with an injury. Jahvid Best came out swinging but ran out of steam early. After two weeks Best had owners wondering if they had a running back that could break some of Barry Sanders’ scoring records with Detroit. Sadly, after those two weeks Best never returned to form.
The fourth round was also subject to the drafting of the creature known as Steve Smith from Carolina. Owners thought that they just hooked the best No. 2 fantasy receiver and were teased further when he came out with two early-season touchdowns. But his inability to establish chemistry with the Carolina quarterback carousel put a low ceiling on his stat line.
The two guys I wouldn’t shy away from next season are the two tight ends. You may be able to steal Clark and Finley away a little bit later than you normally would due to injury concerns. I’ll take Aaron Rodgers’ and Peyton Manning’s red zone targets any time. The others however, would need to drop considerably before I would even think of taking them off the board.
Two of the most coveted running backs heading into 2010 went on average in the third round. Owners were certain that they could take a big name wide receiver and quarterback first then grab one of these two running backs and still have a No. 1 option.
In terms of Pierre Thomas and Ryan Grant though, it didn’t quite work out as owners had planned. Both suffered season-opening injuries and were all but lost for the season. Thomas had been said to be coming back any week. He eventually did, but it took 13 weeks to do so. In a way, Thomas’ injury was worse for owners than Grant. With Grant, owners knew that they had lost him and it was time to make moves and continue on. With Thomas, owners read report after report of the Saints saying that Thomas will be back next week. It was as though the Saints themselves didn’t want to admit it and published the same report 13 times.
The biggest receiver bust from round three hands down was Steve Smith from the Giants. In 2009, Smith had tremendous chemistry with quarterback Eli Manning. Smith was the third down target and Manning’s most reliable receiver and posted a season with more than 100 receptions. But that did not transfer over into 2010. Manning made it clear that Hakeem Nicks is now his favorite receiver. On top of that revelation, Smith was dinged up all season with a collection of injuries. His latest and greatest injury is sending him to Injured Reserve.
All three of these players will remain big time prospects as long as their situations don’t change considerably heading into 2011. Thomas may have the most to lose with Christopher Ivory beginning to find his grove. Injuries aren’t necessarily always repetitive so these guys should have a chance to post steady numbers once again in 2011. Grant and Thomas should most likely be drafted as No. 2 running backs and owners should take another back quickly for backup duty. As long as Smith can stay on the field he should be able to comeback strong. He’ll face less coverage now thanks to Nicks and Mario Manningham seemed to fall out of favor with Manning. All of three of these players will drop next season by a round or two and could provide excellent production given their draft spot.
Tony Romo also went in Round 3 on average. Romo’s collarbone injury was it for him in 2010. And make no mistake, there is a huge difference between reality and fantasy football. In reality Romo and the Cowboys are a terrible team. They seemingly play themselves out of contention each season. However, in terms of fantasy, there are few players I’d rather have over Romo as my quarterback. His receivers are elite and he’s good enough talent-wise to find them and post good numbers. Romo will have the last half of the season and the entire offseason to heal up and come back strong in 2011. This is one case, though, where I think many owners are thinking the same thing. Take him later than the other quarterbacks and still get elite production. But with that many people targeting him, someone will pull the trigger early. Romo’s draft position will end up being roughly the same next season.
Much like Round 5, this round belongs to the running backs. Three running backs went on average in the second round that ended up with a last-round selection stat line. Ryan Mathews’ various injuries took the wind out of his sails before he could establish himself in the Chargers’ offense. DeAngelo Williams certainly did not follow suit to his 2009 season. Shonn Greene’s production in the playoffs led many owners to believe that he’d be a stud in 2010. But the arrival and utilization of LaDainian Tomlinson mixed with what at times appeared to be an inability to run was the downfall to many owners.
All three of these backs remain mysteries in 2011. There is absolutely no denying the talent of all three, but none of them used it in 2010. Williams did go down with a season-ending injury, but even before that happened he couldn’t do anything with the football. Mathews gets a pass here because he’s a rookie and needs time to learn and adjust to the pro speed. Anyone that invested a second-round pick on an unproven rookie got exactly what they deserved. There is no way you should skip over a player like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady to pick someone who hasn’t even touched an NFL football yet. That’s more on owners than it is on the rookie. The only one I’d really say to steer clear from next season would be Greene. Tomlinson is still under contract so there really isn’t a reason to expect anything different in terms of production. Williams is still very young and has a highly productive past. He’s also a free agent so his value for 2011 depends on what happens during the off season. Mathews is a rookie and his value should be based on upside. That’s not to say pick him in the second round again, but there is definitely a ton of time for him to reach his lofty expectations.
The first round is by far the worst one to miss in. It’s much easier to overcome player issues from any other round than it is from the first round. Your first pick is what you wager your entire fantasy livelihood on. Chances are, if your first rounder didn’t work out, then your team didn’t make the playoffs.
There are two particular players that jump out at me in Round 1. The first player was still productive, but not to the level that we were expecting. Ray Rice had an OK season for owners in 2010, but certainly not the production people were expecting when they used the third pick in the draft on him. Rice never really caught on as the breakaway runner and receiver that we saw last year. Some believed that he could actually post records for most total yards from scrimmage. It’s obviously not a good idea to go in with such high expectations, but what owners got out of Rice was still disappointing. Rice will slip out of the top five but not too much further than that. Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner and Arian Foster should round out the Top 5 selections. Rice is still worth the early pick, more so if Willis McGahee leaves Baltimore in the offseason.
And finally, the biggest bust of the 2010 season. It is really no surprise here. The award goes to … (drum roll please)… Randy Moss. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, saw this coming. He was drafted on average in the first round as the second wide receiver off the board within the Top 10 players overall. Here’s just another classic case of off-the-field issues ruining the on-the-field production. Moss wore three different logos in one season compared to the three that he sported in his entire career up until this season. It seems almost as if New England’s offense got better on his departure and Tennessee’s offense got worse upon his arrival. This will be the biggest fall in the 2011 draft. Moss could go from a Top 10 pick to outside of the opening three rounds. He still has the ability to play at an elite level, but his value is based on where he ends up and if he’s happy or not. Even with your third pick, depending on his new location next season, Moss could be too big of a risk that early in the draft.
Ultimate Salt in Wound: Roddy White, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Wayne were all still available. In actuality, Jabar Gaffney has more fantasy points than Randy Moss. How strange is it to say you would have been better served to select Jabar Gaffney with your first pick? Scary thought.