Sleepers and Poopers Part Two

Now for the final segment of our 3 part fantasy series. Rather than saying this is a team full of outright busts, it is really more a team consisting of players I am looking to avoid. A lot of these players will still submit some very productive seasons. But based on where they are being drafted, I believe the costs to acquire them will far outweigh the numbers I believe they are going to produce.

2011-12 ALL-POOPER TEAM (same format as the last two days)

QB: Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles. This was a pretty close call between Vick and Manning, but something tells me that Manning will find a way to get on the field for the season opener. I really don’t have very much against Vick, hell, he helped carry one of my teams to a fantasy championship (and a hefty prize) last season. I just don’t think people realize the type of punishment his body takes because of the style of football he plays. If you could tell me that Michael Vick would play even 15 games at the level he played at last year, I would have to think about taking him with the top pick in the draft. But the fact of the matter is, I don’t think he will be able to register a full season or play at the all-pro standard he submitted last year. Even if you subtracted every single one of his rushing attempts, his style of passing attracts an unusual amount of hits in the pocket. Now, when you add in his greatest strength (his ability to scramble), his body takes a true pounding every game. Moreover, it seemed apparent that defenses began to figure him out towards the end of last year. His TD/INT Ratio in his first seven games was an astounding 11:0. In his last six games (including his wild card loss to Green Bay), it was a more human 11:7. He also started getting sacked at a higher rate and fumbling the ball more to boot. I am completely OK with Vick being in that elite class for quarterbacks this season. His talent and the weapons around him are too tantalizing to ignore. But with the way he was trending towards the end of last season, coupled with the logical health risks that come with his style of play, the price tag he is commanding this season is too high for me.

Team Reserve: Peyton Manning

RB: Arian Foster, Houston Texans. Like Vick, this is another case of a very talented player who will likely produce at a pretty high level this season. I just don’t think it will be terribly close to the incredible marks he set last year.* The aggravated hamstring (althought I’m sure he will be fine) isn’t doing much to calm my fears. And I don’t want to put too much stock into Vonta Leach when determining the first round of a fantasy draft, but the numbers simply do not lie (refer to my paragraph on Ray Rice in Monday’s column). Maybe he won’t lose a yard per carry like other running backs who lost an all-pro fullback, but some regression on his averages is a very reasonable thing to expect. Moreover, while there is no contesting that Foster will be receiving the overwhelming majority of the work out of the backfield, the return of Ben Tate has been interesting to say the least. If you will recall, Tate was a 2nd round pick out of Auburn in 2010 and went on to suffer a season ending injury before the season began a year ago. He is now fully rehabilitated and has been earning the praise from his coach not only for his running ability, but his pass protection too. Again, Foster is the man in this situation. But if he needs a breather, or needs to have some limited carries because of that hamstring, Tate sounds like the right guy to come in and steal some production.** Make no mistake, Foster will produce some good numbers this season, and will be an asset to any team who owns him. But at what cost? For me, his ADP (the highest of any player in all of Yahoo!) is too high for me to be taking that kind of risk. You can have Vick and Foster. I’ll stick with the likes of Rivers and Peterson.

*Guys I would rather have than Foster this season: Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and Ray Rice. Maybe even Chris Johnson and Rashard Mendenhall (not even joking on the last one).

 **Recall, if you will, Rashad Jennings’ expanded role for the Jacksonville Jaguars last year. For anyone who owned Maurice Jones-Drew like I did, Jennings’ name is not one you relish hearing. I think Tate could have a very similar impact on Foster’s numbers this season.

RB: Ryan Matthews, San Diego Chargers. I really could have put any of the reserves below in this spot, but because Matthews is in such a concrete time share (one in which he will not be having the goal line carries), he takes the cake. This is a shame, because he has made some good strides this preseason and might be the best running back in this group. That said, Mike Tolbert is going to be getting somewhere around 40% of the workload plus a pretty good amount of touchdowns, which does not bode well for the Fresno Kid. Matthews could stay healthy all season and be no more than MAYBE a flex option. This kind of value is not what I’m looking for from a running back that is being drafted in most leagues as a RB2 option. If Tolbert were to get hurt at all, than Matthews immediately becomes a pretty valuable commodity, but I’m not taking those chances. I like the talent of Ryan Matthews quite a bit, but he just isn’t in a situation conducive to being a fantasy star. Not yet at least.

Team Reserves: Cedric Benson, BenJarvus “The Law Firm” Green-Ellis, Jahvid Best, Daniel Thomas

WR: Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs. As much as it hurts me to say, this was a pretty easy call. For all of the strides Bowe made on the field and in the locker room last season, there is NO WAY he can sustain the kind of production that made him one of the highest scoring receivers in the game. He did some great things but the numbers are a little flukey. 15 touchdowns on only 72 receptions is an absurd number, and one that he will not come close to replicating this season. Yahoo! currently has him ranked 15th at his position going into the season, but his ADP of 37 is just too high. Maybe I’m wrong (he is going into his age 27 year, so he has that going for him), but I think all of this increased attention on him and the team, coupled with a schedule chalk full of difficult opposing defenses will make it too difficult for him to even be a legit, every week WR2 option. I think he will serve as a microcosm of his team this season. More on that in my Chiefs season preview though.

WR: Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers. I don’t know about you guys, but doesn’t it seem like there is always something wrong with Vincent Jackson? Granted, he has had a couple very good seasons, but nothing yet that warrants his current ADP of 31. I actually wouldn’t mind him being a WR2 on my team, but a lot of people are drafting him as their top receiving threat, and that is not leaving their teams in a good spot. You certainly cannot deny the deep ball connection he has with Phillip Rivers. But in a PPR league like mine, that is almost a detriment.* For me, the consistency isn’t there to explain how high he is going in drafts. Again, this isn’t a case of me avoiding a player alltogether. If I can get him at the right time and at the right price, I’d welcome him on my squad. But at the price he would cost my team the way he’s currently being drafted, he’s too big a risk.

*I’ll take the points where I can get them, but the high volume reception guys will always be more valuable in PPR leagues than the deep ball threats like DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson, and the like.

Team Reserves: Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Marshall, Reggie Wayne

TE: Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons. This was easily the most painful addition to the squad of any player. Tony Gonzalez is not only the greatest fantasy football tight end of all time, but the greatest tight end in football history. Period. A first ballot HOF without any question. As far as football purposes go (I mean, like, real football…on a field), he’s one of the better tight ends in the game. But for our intents and purposes, his contributions have been growing less and less for consecutive seasons. Age, it seems, is finally beginning to catch up to Tony the Tiger, and the addition of Julio Jones into the Falcons’ offensive mix will certainly hurt the amount of times Matt Ryan looks his way. The facts are facts. Last year was his first since 2002 to average below 50 yards receiving per game. That almost never happens to T-Gon. Now, if my regular TE1 is on a bye week, Tony is the first guy I’m looking to add via the waiver wire. The only problem is, he won’t be there because he’ll have been previously chosen in the draft, and the fact of the matter is that this tight end class is too deep for that. There are way too many options that present much more upside.* Again, in the right setting, Gonzalez could find a way to contribute on fantasy teams. As of now though, his cost is too high. I am really hoping that he proves me wrong this year and takes a big step toward being the first tight end ever with 100 touchdown catches. But I’m not betting on it.

*If this is any indication, in my reasonably crude power rankings, Gonzalez ranks somewhere in the teens.

Team Reserves: Dallas Clark, Zach Miller

DEF: Baltimore Ravens. As I said yesterday, when selecting someone for your team, at any position, you need to be careful that you’re not selecting based on reputation rather what that commodity has done the last few years. That warning can apply to Tony Gonzalez for people who are picking him to be a TE1, and I also think it applies to people drafting Baltimore to be an every week starting defense. For real football purposes, this is still a pretty good defense. But as some of their best players continue to age, this unit has started to show cracks in the real and fantasy world. This is a team that actually dropped to 10th among defenses in fantasy points last season, yet Yahoo! has them projected as their second best defense and people are drafting them as the fifth best defense in all of fantasy. Under the right context (against average to bad offenses), this is a good defense to employ. And for the criteria I just used in the previous sentence, maybe that means they’re a decent start ten weeks out of the season. But that is not what the people drafting them so highly are expecting. There are a lot of solid options out there this season that I think will have better, more consistent seasons than this Baltimore unit. I am a huge fan of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed (a fan of the whole team for that matter). But this is just another case where the cost to acquire a player or team outweighs the future benefits.

Team Reserve: Not really a reserve necessary for this spot.

And that concludes my fantasy preview for the season. To hedge one more time, there is a good chance that a lot of these picks in the last few days will totally blow up in my face. But if I can even get a few right, than this just might have been worth it. Sometime later this week/early next week, look for a season preview of my Kansas City Chiefs (may split it to two parts). And the day before regular season football begins next week, look for an NFL-wide season preview of what I believe is to come this football year. Go football, go America.

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