Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Five NFL Players That Won't Be On My Fantasy Team In 2013

Keep Walking, State Farm Boy
Here's the obvious caveat that we're obligated to say, because morons won't read it: these players aren't bad. And if the world changes a lot in the next 10 days, and their average draft position drops 4 to 5 rounds, I will swoop in with a quickness. But since they won't, let's have at it.

5) Aaron Rodgers

The best QB in the NFL. A common #1 pick in 6-point passing touchdown leagues. A man who is in the prime of his career, who is a mortal lock for 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns. Am I high to avoid him?

Not this time. Rodgers has been sacked more than any QB in the league in the past few years, and hasn't missed time; that's a condition that can't continue. He's got real running backs now in Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin, which means his third-down short touchdown passes and scrambles are going to go down. His offensive line is already battered, and there is a very real possibility that his WR corps is going to take a downturn this year, with Jordy Nelson already sidelined and Greg Jennings in Minnesota. Add it all up, and I'm seeing a lot more risk than you should ever have for the consensus #1 at his position...

And, oh, by the way? QB is *crazy* loaded this year. Yahoo ranks them as Rodgers, Drew Brees, Colin Kaepernick, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin, Russell Wilson... which means that Matthew Stafford, the guy throwing to Calvin Freaking Johnson is a low tier QB1, and so is Tony Romo, Andrew Luck and even Eli Manning. (Note: I do not love Eli Manning, but he might have the best WRs in the NFC if they stay healthy.) Paying a lot for QB this year is something that someone else is going to do. Not me.

4) Arian Foster

Every year, there's a guy like this -- an absolute blue chip stud of a back, a guy with a ton of production in the past few years, a player who seems borderline unassailable... and he takes it easy in pre-season. What's there left to prove, after all? Save him for the regular season. Ignore the bumps and bruises at the start of the year, when everyone else is, well, pretty healthy. He's played 45 of the last 48 games! Over 1,000 carries and 150 catches! 47 TDs in the past three years!

Folks, there's a reason why fantasy football leagues are popular; it's because they are nearly as random as NCAA fantasy basketball pools. And that randomness is most clearly shown when the blue-chip RB that never gets hurt... gets hurt. Or just isn't the complete work horse any more (Ben Tate, as always, is lurking), or he takes most of the final month off because his team is coasting to the close. Take a look around the AFC South: Jacksonville, Tennessee, and an Indianapolis team that's screaming out regression to the mean. There's every chance that the Texans won't play a meaningful game past Thanksgiving this year, which makes your first round pick of Foster... well, not mine. This way lies disappointment.

3) Brandon Marshall

1,400 yards and 12 TDs just seems like you can write it down and go about your business, having closed up shop on WR1, right? Not so fast. Last year, Marshall got there on volume volume volume as the only credible WR on the roster (seriously, they were still trying to convince us all that Devin Hester was on the rise). This year, new head coach Marc Trestman has other ideas, and he's also got new offensive line players that actually belong in the NFL. Combine that with a contract year for QB Jay Cutler, who will see his path to Gaining The Wealth as Spreading The Wealth, and I'm seeing a whole lot fewer footballs thrown to Marshall Marshall Marshall.

Make no bones about it: Cutler is going to want to get paid, and the best chance that he's got to make that happen is to play nice and distribute all over the place (which will make his coach look like a genius), rather than just dump it to his big security blanket before eating turf, which was 2012's business method. Earl Bennett is healthy, and Alshon Jeffery is turning heads in training camp. Martellus Bennett is going to see targets at TE, which really wasn't that big of an issue for the Bears last year. Hell, I even like Matt Forte's chances for breaking the plane a dozen times this year; this offensive line actually has some hope now. Oh, and there's also this: despite his size and skills, Marshall has never been effective in the red zone: 45 total TDs on 612 catches, with a career high last year of 11. Put it all together, and it's really easy to see Marshall looking more like a ho-hum WR 2 (1,000 yards, 6 TDs)... which isn't where he's going. Also, keep in mind that Brandon does not exactly suffer a lack of passes in silence. This could get ugly, which is not where you want your first WR drafted to be.

2) C.J. Spiller

The explosiveness! The six yards per carry average in 2012! The extra 500 yards as a receiver! The knowledge that new head coach Doug Marrone isn't beholden to leaden RB option Fred Jackson, and that he's already talking up CJ's chances of a 2,000 yard season. Why, you'd have to be crazy to not love this guy!

Well, call me crazy. Or perhaps bitter for drafting Spiller as a rookie, where he became the living embodiment of all of my disappointments. Or, well, highly suspicious of the cheap Bills for wanting the soon to be free agent Spiller to have a monster year to cash in... or wondering just why every defense that faces the Bills this year won't sell out like mad to stop Spiller, rather than working too hard to make life difficult for E.J. Manuel or (ulp) Kevin Kolb...

I'm not loving life here. There's also this: Spiller has played 46 NFL games in 3 years as a 5'-11", 200-pound running back. Despite a 5.4 career yards per carry average, he's only gotten to double-digits in carries 16 times. He's also only crossed the plane 10 times on the ground, and 5 times as a receiver. So your #1 RB here isn't just an undersized guy with an injury history on a team that's either going to play a retread QB on his third team in four years, or a super-raw rookie... you also get a guy that's no real threat to get the goal line carries.

I get that Spiller has highlights, and talent to spare. I get that his division looks like cake, and that when he's right, he's a threat to go for 200 all-purpose yards and make you squee with joy. But there's a ton of risk here for the ADP, and the fact that some systems have him going at RB5 (ahead of, ahem, Shady McCoy, Trent Richardson, Forte, Alfred Morris, Marshawn Lynch)...  Well, I like my RB1 to be a guy that's going to touch it 25 times a game, and who will be the first option down low, and who isn't going to leave me high and dry for about a quarter of the season as his team tries to disguise some injury.  Leave him to someone else who is ready to buy into the eternally pending Bills Renaissance.

1) Vernon Davis

Every year, someone remembers the last time they saw Davis -- in a playoff game that doesn't help anyone in fantasy -- looking utterly dominant. The next move is to project his skills into a true TE1 role, where his physical ability just seems to demand a breakout, and rub your hands together over what a value you got.

Well, the reality of Vernon is that the yards and TDs have gone done every year he's been in the league, all the way to last year's 548 yards and 5 TDs, which is to say, a guy that should be freely available in the free agent pool. Those numbers went deep in the toilet when Kaepernick took over, because for some reason a QB sprinting through open spaces for touchdowns seemed better to the Niner brain trust than trying to force feed a whiny head case.

The biggest problem with VD is that, like many of the players on this list, he's better in reality than in fantasy. Since he can run block, the Niners actually have him do that. Not good for the fantasy player. Since he's got the ability to stretch a defense deep, the Niners use him to do just that, then take the underneath routes to move the chains. And since he's had years of mostly keeping quiet on low targets, most weeks, he gets low targets. I have no doubt that he's one of the five best real TEs in the NFL... but this isn't about reality, it's about numbers. I'd rather have any number of other, cheaper options here (an Antonio Gates last hurrah year on a Charger team that will be behind constantly, and can't keep their WRs upright? Dustin Keller with a semblance of an NFL QB in Miami, and no real competition for balls? Bennett in Chicago, Brandon Petitgrew in Detroit for a team that throws it 50+ times a game, maybe even sneaky Rob Housler in Arizona for the corpse of Carson Palmer to play short ball with...

Well, all of them sound like more fun to have than VD. And at a lot better price, too.

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