2008 Fantasy Football – Players to Avoid

Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends Kickers Defenses Top 150 Sleepers Busts

Last year, I gave you Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, Ronnie Brown, Donte’ Stallworth, Marc Bulger and Marques Colston (oops). Well, I guess going 5-of-6 isn’t too bad.

Here are some more players you should avoid in your fantasy leagues this upcoming season, sorted by how high ESPN ranks them. You could just go through my 2008 Fantasy Football Rankings and just look at all the guys with “bust” tags next to them, but what’s the fun in that? Besides, there are more features on this page:

Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings

Where ESPN Ranks him: No. 2 overall

Where I would take him: No. 6 overall

Why should I avoid him? I gave four reasons in my running back rankings, and I might as well list them again:

1. Adrian Peterson’s inability to stay healthy. I know all running backs have injury issues, but Peterson always seems to be hurt. There’s no way he lasts 16 games.

2. An odd decline the final four weeks of the 2007 campaign (54 carries, 144 yards, two touchdowns), including a 14-carry, 3-yard effort at San Francisco in Week 14, which helped knock me out of the playoffs in one of my leagues. Seriously, three yards against the pathetic 49ers? How is that possible?

3. Chester Taylor. Like it or not, Taylor will steal some of Peterson’s carries. The other top running backs on this bord don’t have to share rushes with anyone.

4. The possibility that Pro Bowl left tackle Bryant McKinnie could be suspended for at least a portion of the season. McKinnie is on trial with four charges in the wake of a fight outside a night club (big surprise).

Peterson is extremely talented, but he also comes with major baggage. There’s a reason he slipped in the 2007 NFL Draft. Do you want to be the guy who has to start a Fred Taylor or a Willie Parker for five or six weeks because Peterson is nursing an injury?

As mentioned in another page, I know what Peterson can do for your team. I had him in two of my leagues last year and reaped the benefits during the regular season. I also lost in the playoffs because of that 3-yard rushing effort at San Francisco. I feel like a scorned, fragile woman who vows never to trust men ever again. Seriously, that loss hurt so much that it still haunts my dreams. Three yards – against the stinkin’ Niners!

Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs

Where ESPN Ranks him: No. 10 RB; No. 12 overall

Where I would take him: No. 19 RB; Round 4

Why should I avoid him? Larry Johnson was my No. 1 player to avoid last year. I wasn’t taking him unless he somehow slipped into the third round, which wasn’t happening because people ignore history. Here was my reasoning:

“Running backs who carry the ball more than 390 times in a single season have a tendency to break down. If you draft Johnson, be careful and make sure you have solid depth on your team. Furthermore, Johnson’s average yards per carry, which dropped a full yard in 2006, could go down even further without Will Shields.”

Johnson was horrendous in 2007, as he gained 559 yards in eight games on a 3.5 clip, down from 4.3 in 2006.

Well, I have news for you. The 2006 Johnson isn’t coming back. At least not yet. Generally, it takes running backs at least two years to recover from such a heavy workload. Look at Jamal Lewis. He totaled 2,006 yards in 2003, but didn’t return to prominence until 2007. In the three years between, he struggled with injuries, while his yards-per-carry reached career-lows. Meanwhile, Shaun Alexander burnt out after 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns. Despite never gaining less than four yards per carry prior to that 2005 season, Alexander gained maintained a 3.5 figure the next two years. He’s currently out of the league.

There’s a very slim chance Johnson returns to 2006 form. And even if he does, he’ll have to run behind one of the worst offensive lines in football. Congratulations, Herm Edwards and Carl Peterson, you killed a promising running back’s career.

Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins

Where ESPN Ranks him: No. 18 RB; No. 31 overall

Where I would take him: No. 26 RB; Round 5

Why should I avoid him? Ronnie Brown, like the guys above him on this page, is an incredible talent. There’s no denying that. When he’s in the lineup, he can produce great fantasy numbers behind a solid run-blocking line.

So, what’s the problem? Well, it has to do with that “when he’s in the lineup” part.

Let’s run through this quickly:

1. He’s coming off a torn ACL (October 2007) and knee surgery.

2. He has NEVER carried the load on his own for a full season. Not in the NFL. Not at Auburn. Not even in high school.

3. In his three-year career, he has never received more than 241 carries.

4. In his three-year career, he has never scored more than five touchdowns.

Brown is a bit more valuable in PPR leagues because he’s an effective pass-catcher, but who knows how many receptions he’ll garner, given that he has missed 12 games the past two seasons?

Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers

Where ESPN Ranks him: No. 1 TE; No. 42 overall

Where I would take him: No. 2 TE; Round 5

Why should I avoid him? Antonio Gates!? I’m not pulling any punches here.

Everyone has Gates as their No. 1 tight end. Not me. Gates is coming off foot surgery and has yet to practice. There have been reports that Gates won’t play in the preseason, but will return on Kickoff Sunday. Other reports state that Gates won’t be ready until Week 3 or 4.

Whatever the truth is, I’d rather not deal with it. Couple Gates’ foot with Philip Rivers’ torn ACL, and I can see Dan Marino sitting with a confused look on his face during CBS’ pregame show, asking, “Guys, what happened to Antonio Gates? I don’t know what happened to him, he used to be so good!” Boomer Esiason, meanwhile, would turn toward Marino and smuggly reply, “See, Dan? I told you Gates would have a down year! This is why you’ve never won a Super Bowl, Dan!”

Let someone else take Gates. I’d rather be safe, and draft Jason Witten or Kellen Winslow Jr. a round later.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks

Where ESPN Ranks him: No. 7 QB; No. 44 overall

Where I would take him: No. 12 QB; Round 7

Why should I avoid him? No knock on Matt Hasselbeck. In my opinion, he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. As we’ve seen over the years, he’s fully capable of winning a championship and carrying a team on his back.

However, this doesn’t always translate to fantasy success. In his seven seasons in Seattle, Hasselbeck has eclipsed 3,500 yards and 24 touchdowns just twice. In 2003, Hasselbeck had to throw the ball 513 times because his defense was horrendous. Last year, Mike Holmgren’s pass-happy play-calling forced Hasselbeck to air it out 562 times, as the head coach simply quit on his ineffective ground attack.

With Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett in town, and a monstrous defense limiting opposing offenses to low-scoring outputs, Hasselbeck’s passing attempts will slide back to normal (475).

Furthermore, Holmgren could be discouraged to call tons of passing plays because of the lack of targets Hasselbeck has at his disposal. With Deion Branch out for most of the year and D.J. Hackett playing in Carolina, the Seahawks will have to depend on perennial underachiever Nate Burleson, old man Bobby Engram, inexperienced Ben Obomanu and Courtney Taylor, and rookie tight end John Carlson.

I’ll be shocked if Hasselbeck matches last year’s yardage (3,966) and touchdown totals (28). Expect something closer to 3,500 and 24. Round 6-7 material.

Dallas Clark, TE, Colts

Where ESPN Ranks him: No. 5 TE; No. 64 overall

Where I would take him: No. 10 TE; Round 7

Why should I avoid him? Disregard this if you’re in a touchdown league.

I was shocked to see Dallas Clark was ranked fifth in ESPN’s Fantasy Football issue. Prior to 2007, Clark never had more than 488 yards and five touchdowns. He was simply overrated because of his name and the guy throwing him the ball. In Marvin Harrison’s absence, however, Clark exploded for 11 touchdowns but only 616 yards. Not much of a career year from a yardage perspective.

I’m not sure how much Harrison plays in 2007, but if he does, Clark’s touchdown total will regress a bit to the norm. That’ll leave him with mediocre yardage numbers, which pale in comparison to Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow’s. That’s why I was so surprised to see him ranked right below those guys.

Kevin Smith, RB, Lions

Where ESPN Ranks him: No. 32 RB; No. 72 overall

Where I would take him: No. 35 RB; Round 8

Why should I avoid him? Good to see ESPN doesn’t have this guy ranked 11th on their running backs list. I’m actually planning on writing a critique of ESPN’s Fantasy Football magazine soon, as I’ve found about 20 factual errors and/or omissions – and I’m only halfway through. But I have to give “the Mag” credit for citing my reservations about Smith.

If you thought Larry Johnson’s 416 carries in 2006 was bad… get a load of this: In his final year at Central Florida, Smith carried the ball 450 times. Keep in mind he did so in just 14 games, as opposed to Johnson’s 16.

Seriously? Why did they give Smith 450 rushes? Were they trying to kill his NFL career? Again, you have to go back about 20 years to find a running back who had a solid year after carrying the ball at least 390 times.

On the surface, Smith seems like an intriguing fantasy prospect – a talented rookie runner with no competition in a balanced system. But I see Smith as more of a Larry Johnson Version 2.0. Basically, a fatigued running back struggling behind a pedestrian offensive line.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers

Where ESPN Ranks him: No. 33 RB; No. 77 overall

Where I would take him: No. 51 RB; Not drafted

Why should I avoid him? I’ll have to admit – I liked DeAngelo Williams last year and even took him fairly high in one of my leagues. Ironically, I won the championship in that league, so the fantasy gods apparently forgave me for my sin.

Quite frankly, I can’t believe some people think Williams is going to split carries with Jonathan Stewart. Seriously, Williams couldn’t even get close to half the rushes with DeShaun Foster in the backfield last season, and now he’ll be receiving 50 percent of the touches with a talented rookie by his side?

Williams is a bust, and will never be anything more than a Kevin Faulk/Kenny Watson impersonator. Those guys are solid NFL players, but neither was drafted in the first round.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers

Where ESPN Ranks him: No. 15 QB; No. 104 overall

Where I would take him: No. 20 QB; Round 12

Why should I avoid him? Quick, what do Donovan McNabb, Carson Palmer and Daunte Culpepper have in common, besides the obvious? All three suffered torn ACLs and struggled mightily the year after having knee surgery.

Philip Rivers suffered a similar injury in a second-round playoff victory at Indianapolis. Reports may indicate that Rivers is looking great in practice, but similar things were said of McNabb, Palmer and Culpepper. The truth is, and Ron Jaworski can back me up here, is that it takes a quarterback two years to fully recover from a torn ACL. Per Jaworski, the first season is physical and the second is mental.

Considering Rivers tore his knee in the middle of January, he’s a long way from 100 percent.

Jake Delhomme, QB, Panthers

Where ESPN Ranks him: No. 16 QB; No. 109 overall

Where I would take him: No. 22 QB; Not drafted

Why should I avoid him? Jake Delhomme is 33. He’s coming off Tommy John surgery. I can’t believe people are shrugging this off like it’s no big deal.

Now, there are rumors that Brett Favre wants to play in Carolina because he thinks he can easily beat Delhomme out of a job. And you know what? I can’t really blame him, considering Delhomme’s recent injury.

2008 Fantasy Football – Home Page

2008 Fantasy Football: Late-Round Sleepers

2008 Fantasy Football Rankings
Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers
Tight Ends Kickers Defenses
Top 150 Sleepers Busts