Week 12 was easily the most entertaining so far this season. Eight games came right down to the wire including four that went into overtime. I am really looking forward to what should be a compelling close to the regular season.
There have been an abundance of injuries and busts so far this season. Across my leagues it seems as if the teams who had an early pick have had a sizable advantage. Many teams were able to package either Edge, Alexander, or Tomlinson with Steven Jackson, Lamont Jordan, or Tiki Barber. Some of the players taken in between included Culpepper, Julius Jones, Kevin Jones, Corey Dillon, Deuce McCalister, Willis Mcgahee, Randy Moss, and Jamal Lewis. So how could a team who drafted Deuce McCalister and Jamal Lewis with their first two picks compete with a team who took Tomlinson and Jordan? In the snake format the teams with the two stud Rb’s pick first again in the third round, so there are many teams who have trios like: Tomlinson, Steven Jackson, and Chad Johnson. Unfortunately, the guy who had Corey Dillon and Kevin Jones probably settled for Joe Horn or Javon Walker in the late third. I have never seen such a lopsided advantage from draft position before and I hope it doesn’t work out like this again anytime soon.
This week I have decided to make my 2005 Busts of the Year list. If you have one of these guys you’ve probably had an up hill battle all year, and if you were unlucky enough to draft two of these guys on your team, you’re probably already thinking about next year. In most cases I am leaving the guys who will have been out for most of the year off the list. So Preist Holmes, Javon Walker, Terrell Owens, Deuce Mccalister, and Mark Bulger do not apply. These guys all gave you good starts while they were playing and that counts for something. I’m also not including Ahman Green, Curtis Martin, or Fred Taylor, because these guys were labeled potential busts before the season even started and you should have known better than to take them in the first place. So the following players gave you every indication that they would excel for you only to break your heart and your team:
10) Nate Burleson- Avg. round drafted- mid 4th current rank at position- 96
There were too many reasons to think that this guy would be a top 10 wide receiver this year. Last year, even with Randy Moss around, Nate was able to get just over 1000 yards and he had 9 td’s. It seemed that Culpepper was a lock to throw for about 4000 yards and throw 30 td’s; so how could his new favorite target not get himself 1200/ 10?
Nate started the season with back to back games under 50 yards before hurting himself and missing a few weeks. The injury came at a bad time for his owners because two bad games just weren’t enough to warrant dropping their #1 WR in favor of a Kevin Curtis waiver type. If that weren’t enough, Burleson was benched on Sunday and had 0 receptions. So first you burn a 4th round pick on the guy, then he burns a roster spot for half a season, and then he comes back healthy only to get benched. We waited over 10 weeks for that?
Next year’s impact- Burleson will likely have none next year. Its doubtful that he will be in a starting lineup.
9) Willis Mcgahee- Avg. round drafted- mid 1st current rank at position- 17
Many owners struck gold last year with Willis as he amassed nearly 1300 total yards and 13 td’s in only 11 starts. Quarterback concerns kept him out of the top 5 in most drafts, but Willis was usually drafted right after that.
He had some good games early in the season, but he’s in the midst of a terrible 5 game slump when his owners need him the most. In the last 6 weeks (including a bye), Mcgahee has scored less fantasy points than he did in one game against Seattle last year. While we’re on the topic, the 4 td’s he had in that game against Seattle in 2004 are the same amount he has so far this season. His struggling team seems to catch most of the blame for this, but I’ve noticed Mcgahee dances around a little too much behind the line of scrimmage. Like Mcgahee, both Ruben Droughns and Thomas Jones play on lackluster offenses. Sadly they both rank ahead of Willis despite being taken nearly 8 rounds after.
Next year’s impact- Willis is a good NFL player and he should post slightly better #’s next year as the Bills offense matures. He’ll be taken as a #2 RB and he should fit the bill there.
8) Supposed top defenses- Baltimore, Buffalo, New England -All rank in the bottom half of the league.
Oh, how it all went wrong. In certain scoring formats a solid defense can be the difference between winning and loosing a couple games a year. It was easy to think that if you went up and drafted one of these top D’s that you could insert them in your line up and you’d be guaranteed to dominate that position all year long. Unfortunately, the following players have missed a big chunk of the season: Takeo Spikes, Duane Starks, Tyrone Poole, Rodney Harrison, Teddy Bruschi, Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed just to name a few. Just in case there is any confusion, That’s an injury list, not a pro bowl team. On top of injuries all three teams play in the more competitive AFC consistently playing top flight teams.
Next Year’s Impact- These defenses are getting expensive and old so they might not return to the top 3 anytime soon, but as long as they are healthy they could easily be a top 10 unit again.
7) Julius Jones- Avg. round drafted- early 2nd current rank at position- 29
Julius started this year off much like he ended last year, on a high note. He seemed like a very consistent 100 total yards and a td per game. In the Pacells system, Jones seemed like a safe bet who had a very high ceiling for the season.
We cant get on his case too much for the 3 games he missed with injury, but after missing time in each of his first two seasons Jones may have earned himself the “injury prone” tag. To make matters worse, in the 8 games he’s played in, Jones hasn’t rushed for 100 yards yet and he hasn’t scored a td since week 3. So you’ve waited patiently for your #1 RB to get back and now that he’s healthy he’s going to make it up to you by breaking out, right? Wrong! Parcells has found Jones a sidekick in Marion Barber III. It seems like Barber is a good bet to get about 10 carries a game plus the all important goal line duties, which absolutely destroys Jones’s value. None of us saw this one coming!
Next Year’s Impact- Its hard to definitively say, but Jones still has a good chance to do well in Dallas. His durability is in question and Parcells can’t be in love with the guy if he’s feeding Barber so many of his carries. Jones will probably be an upside risk play somewhere in the late second to early third round of drafts next year.
6) Joe Horn- Avg. round drafted- mid 3rd current rank at position- 52
Joe Horn finished last season as the #2 fantasy reciever behind only Mushin Muhammad. Since 2000, Horn has always been a great value pick getting drafted rounds after the big names, while still getting you solid #1 numbers. With his big year last year and his 5 years of consistency, he seemed like a very safe pick.
Like many of the guys on this list, Horn missed about a month of time due to injury. In 7 games Horn is averaging 60 yards per game and has only 1 td all season. I know Katrina is going to catch some of the blame for this, but I don’t see it. They’ve been behind in a lot of games and Brooks has thrown a lot of passes; That’s a bad thing for the Saints, but a good thing for Horn. Donte Stallworth is having himself a fine season, but nothing big enough to take away from what Horn should have. Its hard to sit the guy, but at this point you have to.
Next Year’s Impact- There are rumors that the Saints will be in a different town, with a different coach and possibly even a different QB. This isn’t a stable situation so there is a strong likelihood that Horn’s demise could continue. He’s not getting any younger either, so be careful not to take Horn to early next year.
5) Randy Moss- Avg. round drafted- late 1st current rank at position- 18
Moss has been a stud since coming into the league and he’s done it with several different quarterbacks. He was injured last year, but his durability was never in question. The move to Oakland didn’t have a big effect on his value because Collins has a big arm and it seemed like Norv Turner would be more than willing to air it out to the Raiders’ new deep threat. If TO flourished last year after switching teams, why couldn’t Randy do it this year.
Moss missed a game and a half with assorted injuries and it was believed that he wasn’t 100% for a few games after. There were reports that he was finally healthy on Sunday and he responded with a paltry 28 yards. In the 10 games he has played in Moss has gained 697 yards and 5 td’s. To give you some perspective, Jerry Porter has 720 yards and 4 td’s despite not hitting 70 yards or catching a touchdown pass in his first 6 games. So Jerry Porter was somewhat of a bust and he’s basically equaling Moss’s #’s. And what about Randy’s 3 or so breakout games where he can single handedly get you a win? He has none so far failing to reach 20 fantasy points in any game this season.
Next year’s Impact- On name alone Moss will be one of the top 2 or 3 receivers taken in drafts. He will still be the most talented receiver in the league, but with two straight off years, maybe its time to realize that he shouldn’t be taken in the first two rounds.
4) Corey Dillon- Avg. round drafted- late 1st current rank at position- 24
Dillon had an impressive Super Bowl season last year putting up over 1700 total yards and 13 td’s. He averaged a gaudy 4.7 yards per carry as well earning himself first round status for the first time in years. Dillon didn’t have as high a ceiling as other backs did because he doesn’t catch too many passes, but he was a much safer pick than a lot of RB’s taken in his tier.
Dillon injured his calf this year, and if the Patriots organization just came out said that he would be out 4-6 weeks, he might not find himself on this list. His 7 td’s in his first 6 games this season certainly are not bust material, but the last 6 weeks have been hard to swallow. There have been a few instances already where you thought it was safe to start him only to get a donut in the stat box. Taking a donut from your starter when you have a Ronnie Brown type on your bench who could have got you 12 points is often times the difference between winning and loosing for that week. Every Sunday its like pulling teeth trying to figure out if you should start this guy or not. It’s also worth noting that his ypc is down from 4.7 to 3.5 this year as the Patriots have become a passing team.
Next year’s impact- Although he’s getting older, Dillon can still be an effective #2 RB provided he’s on the field. He should be a late second round pick next year and I doubt that he’ll make this list again.
3) Jamal Lewis- Avg. round drafted- mid to late 1st current rank at position-30
In 2003 we all remember Jamal Lewis rushing for over 2000 yards, which was quite an accomplishment. Last year Lewis was drafted in the first round and was labeled a bust by season’s end. He missed 4 games due to suspension, but totaled over 1100 total yards and 7 td’s in his remaining 12 games. He also averaged 4.3 ypc. and it was believed that he played much of the year through injury. If that was considered “bust material,” I’m not sure what to call this season. There were many indications that Jamal would have an axe to grind after getting out of jail and would dominate this season. He was supposed to be healthy and in great shape, so he seemed like a lock for around 1400 yards and double digit td’s.
Jamal Lewis put up some good #’s Sunday in garbage time against Cincinnati who was up by 30+ points. It still doesn’t change much, because even with that game he’s sill on pace to have less total yards and td’s than he had last year despite playing an extra quarter of a season this year. And people were actually disappointed last year! A good game against Cincinnati actually took his ypc. average up to 3.2. He had a full 6 game stretch in the middle of the season where he totaled 22 fantasy points. 22 fantasy points in 6 games is almost unthinkable for a starting running back, but somehow JLew pulled the feat off.
Next year’s impact- I think we have an Eddie George situation here with Jamal. He probably won’t be on the Raven’s roster next year, and its unlikely that a team will count on him as their clear cut #1, so Jamal Lewis might have went from a 1st rounder this year to a 10th rounder next year; That is astonishing!
2) Kevin Jones Avg. round drafted- late 1st current rank at postion-27
Last year Jones finished the season on fire. After a slow start, he managed to accumulate over 1300 total yards and 6 td’s while averaging 4.7 ypc. After the Lions drafted another receiver in the first round and even brought Marcus Pollard in, it was clear that their offense was going to be a force no matter who the quarterback was. It seemed like the most obvious beneficiary of this would be Jones who showed some flashed last year, rushing for over 100 yards 4 times in the second of the season.
Jones hasn’t rushed for 100 yards in a single game this year and he’s averaging only 3.3 ypc. Even though he has started every game this season, Jones is on pace for only 761 rushing yards. Splitting time with Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown already has more than that and the Dolphins offense is terrible too. Owners had been patient with Jones because he had a very RB friendly schedule down the stretch, but he’s done nothing with it so far and there is no indication of it getting any better.
Next Year’s Impact- Jones was a Kevan Barlow type of bust this year, so he’s likely to take a huge hit on draft day next year. He still won’t have a QB and the team will have to adjust to a new offensive scheme as well, so Jones’s struggles may very well continue. Someone will take him in round 4 next year and you should smile when they do.
1) Daunte Culpepper Avg. round drafted- late 1st current rank at position 25
In case anyone forgot, last year Pep threw for nearly 5000 yards and had 41 total td’s with only 11 Int’s. Yes he was about to loose Randy Moss, but he played well when Moss missed time last year. The bottom line was even if you sliced off 1000 passing yards and 10 td’s off of last years totals, he’d still be worth a top pick. He was a guy many owners were excited to have this year.
Forget the injury; that could have been a blessing in disguise for owners who had a disaster on their hands from opening day. Remember Pep’s 11 int’s from last year? He had 12 through 6 games this season and also fumbled 5 times in that same span. How bout those 41 td’s from last year? In 6 full games this season, Pep had 7 total td’s on pace for 19 for the season. Throw in a boat party and the injury for kicks and you have yourself the 2005 BUST OF THE YEAR! Congratulations Daunte.
Next Year’s Impact- My, how the mighty have fallen. There is a significant chance that Culpepper may never be a top flight fantasy quarterback again. This knee injury could have an effect on his speed indefinitely, so forget about big rushing totals. His team is in shambles especially on the offense, so he’s not going to get help any time soon either. You have to give the guy credit for one thing though, he throws the prettiest pass in the NFL and he does it so effortlessly. The nail’s not in coffin just yet for Pep, but next year he will most likely be a mid round pick.
Honorable Mentions- Andre Johnson, Ahman Green, Tony Gonzalez, Trent Green
Next week I will do some more player analysis and I will follow that with my 2005 Studs of the Year list. Have a great week.