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Future of Fantasy Football: End of the Stud Receiver Era

As we reach the final five games of the regular season for most fantasy football leagues and with trading deadlines fast approaching, it’s important to take stock in some of the big changes that have occurred this year, and how they will affect owners going forward this season and the next.

In my last article on the ‘Future of Fantasy Football’, we talked about how the NFL has become a passing league and the surprising affect this has had on fantasy football. We mentioned how since every team is passing non-stop and there are so many great fantasy QBs to choose from, the value of QBs has somehow gone down, since nearly every owner has a decent QB now.

All of this brings us to a strange question, “If the NFL has become such a Passing League…why are so many elite fantasy wide receivers busts?” Since the NFL has become such a passing league and QB numbers are way up, why are there so few wide receivers in the Top 20 scorers this year?

In the first article of this 2-part series, I made a list of the Top 20 scorers in fantasy football this season. I was surprised to find only two receivers in the Top 10 (Wes Welker, Calvin Johnson) and only two more (Steve Smith and Mike Wallace) in the rest of the Top 20. For a league that has become so pass happy, shouldn’t there be more high scoring receivers?

I wish there was a simple answer to this. I wish I could point to some convenient rule change or some new change in strategy to account for this. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy solution to all of this. Each alleged stud receiver faces his own unique issues. Let’s take a quick look at why the ‘Stud Receiver Era’ has come to a surprisingly inappropriate end.

The Sad, Lonely list of Receiver Busts

Andre Johnson

At this late stage of the season, AJ barely even cracks the Top 40 Receiver rankings. This is what happens when you miss a month of football, five weeks if you include the game against Pittsburgh that he got injured in. Is it fair to include AJ on this list, considering he was doing fine for the month he was healthy?

I think if you asked AJ owners if he was a bust or not they would all agree that he most certainly is. If you miss a month of the season and you were drafted in the 1st round, yes, you’re a bust. The fact that this is AJ’s 9th season and he’s now 30 makes him a high-risk fantasy receiver going forward. I seriously doubt he’ll be drafted in the 1st round in 2012 like he’s been for the last couple of years. Is he still an elite, game changing talent? Maybe, but let’s see him play again this season and then we’ll be able to make a better judgment on that.

Roddy White

Roddy White of my beloved Atlanta Falcons has been one of fantasy’s biggest busts this year. Unlike Andre Johnson, he hasn’t missed any time due to injury but has been overshadowed by Julio Jones and hampered by Atlanta’s inconsistent offense. He barely cracks the Top 20 for fantasy receivers and like AJ, was drafted in the 1st round in most formats. It breaks my heart to say this, but I don’t see things improving for White any time soon. Jones is a real talent and is finally healthy again and ready to continue being a bigger part of Atlanta’s passing offense. Roddy’s days as a Top 3 fantasy receiver are over.

Larry Fitzgerald

Not as big a bust as AJ or White but still not performing to expectation as the 4th receiver off the board in most drafts. He’s ranked just outside of the Top 10 wide receivers in most scoring formats and he’s on pace for 86 catches and an incredibly bad five touchdowns, a career low for him. The reason for Fitzgerald’s dropoff has to do with his Quarterback, Kevin Kolb, who has not had a good season with Arizona. Kolb was signed to a long deal and this is only the first year in his contract. Unfortunately for Fitzgerald, this situation doesn’t look to be improving any time soon.

The Disappearing Jackson Brothers!

I wanted to dedicate this section to two fantasy receivers, who aren’t related but both have the same last name and the same tendency to disappear at crucial moments.

DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson could be the most overrated receiver in all of fantasy football. He’s been overrated for years because he shows up on SportsCenter so often with amazing highlight reel catches. The sad truth about Jackson, and maybe only his owners realize this, is that for every breakout game he has, he has another game where he completely disappears.

This season Jackson has played in seven games. Three of those games he posted incredible numbers, worthy of being considered an elite fantasy receiver. How did he do in the other four games? Ten catches for 128 yards with no touchdowns. Horrid. He is not an elite fantasy receiver and he probably never was. He’s a glorified low-end WR2, masquerading as a WR1. Playing in a crowded Philly offense doesn’t help his cause but Jackson’s been disappearing for years, even before the Eagles got a multitude of weapons.

Vincent Jackson

If DeSean Jackson is the most overrated receiver in fantasy football, Vincent Jackson’s a close second. Similar to DeSean, V-Jax has played seven games this season and in only two of them he’s posted elite numbers. In those two games, V-Jax had 13 catches for 280 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.

For the other five games though, V-Jax’s numbers have been abysmal. In those five games, VJax has caught 14 passes for 192 yards and zero touchdowns. If you’re looking for a breakdown, that’s around three catches for 40 yards a game. We’re talking about a receiver who was drafted in the 2nd/3rd round. Some of his poor play can be attributed to Rivers’ subpar season but either way, those are not elite numbers by any stretch.

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