Boom or Bust? Some NFL players in fantasy football are just too tough to read season to season. They are either going to be fantasy football gods or they are going to be complete failures. Here are ten guys who fit the mold. Leading off with the poster child of boom or bust years…
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Back in 2010, Vick was picked up by the Eagles and started the season as a back-up to Kevin Kolb. Just a few plays after kickoff, Kolb was injured, enter Michael Vick. Vick lit up his 2010 opponents setting records across the board in both the NFL and in fantasy football. Going into 2011, Vick was touted as a player who could single handedly win games for you. While that did not exactly pan out last year, going into 2012, that fact is still true. He averaged 17 fantasy points per game (in games he played) last year and missed 3 games. Let’s take a look at a comparably styled quarterback, Cam Newton. Newton produced 5 more points on average in fantasy (22 for those of you bad at math) than Vick. That’s not too shabby. Especially considering the perception that Vick was a complete wash last year and Newton had a boom year. Yes, Vick had a down year but is he draft-able in the early rounds? Absolutely, provided you take the necessary precaution of drafting more than one quarterback, but you were already going to do that, right?
Vick’s current ADP is 37.0, but if you can grab him in one of the later rounds (four or five), he is a proven golden goose. Yes, he is injury prone, his ribs and hands (as the preseason proved) are vulnerable. Despite this, on the off chance that he does finish the season, he will be among the top fantasy players in the game and even if he doesn’t all you need is a serviceable backup at QB.
Prediction for 2012: Boom… For a late fourth or fifth round pick.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
Darren McFadden is twenty five years old and has played four seasons in the NFL. He has not finished one complete season ever. So while the injury prone tag does get thrown around a lot when people talk about players, in this case, I think the body fits the bag. For argument’s sake, McFadden really played in six games in 2011. (He got injured in the seventh game and only had two touches for four yards so let’s just say he fell down the stairs at the hotel or something and never made it to that one.) In the first six games of 2011, he averaged 16.67 points per game. If he had held that averaged in the last ten games he would have had approximately 260 total fantasy points in 2011! WOW. For comparative purposes, Arian Foster had 238 points in 13 games, Ray Rice had 283 in 16 games and LeSean McCoy had 270 points in 15 games. What does this mean? That McFadden, if he could stay healthy, would probably be one of the better running backs in the NFL. Unfortunately for him, he has not been able to stay healthy.
So you could end up with Darren McFadden, fantasy stud, or the 2012 version (or worse) of Brandon Jacobs (111 fantasy points last year). In 2011, who took Brandon Jacobs with a second or first round pick? No one (Reports are unconfirmed but it seems that Brandon Jacobs took Ahmad Bradshaw with his second round pick in 2011 fantasy football season… That probably wasn’t such a hot idea either.) Anyway I digress, McFadden comes with a lot of risk. His ADP is currently 21.8 making him a second or third round pick. A risk that you may or may not want to take.
2012 Prediction: Bust. Show me evidence that McFadden won’t suffer another foot sprain, toe injury, knee injury or hamstring injury. Running backs need their legs to score owners fantasy points! Seems like an unnecessary risk.
Megatron. Calvin Johnson definitely epitomized his giant mechanized moniker last year, setting a career year with Matthew Stafford to the tune of 254 fantasy points and averaging 15 points per game. Utterly astounding. This year, Megatron will still be a primary target as he has been for years regardless of the coverage or quarterback. However, to repeat a career year wouldn’t one need the same quarterback or the same level of quarterback? Yes. Johnson’s productivity will be directly related to how healthy Stafford can stay. Will he still produce heavy numbers if Stafford goes down with an injury? Yes, but they won’t be to the tune of 254 fantasy points or averaging 15 points per game.
Johnson’s ADP is currently 7.7. Pretty high for a wide receiver and if he produces anything less than he did last year, he will be a bust for people who took him with a 1st round pick. Stafford on the whole has played three seasons in the NFL his first two riddeled with injury and his third season, completed with excellence. It is tough to say whether or not he will be injured again this season, but I think based on past performance, if you can survive one NFL season, you should be able to do it again. Expect Stafford to survive another NFL season.
Lastly, I don’t want to hear any of this Madden curse nonsense. Doesn’t exist- Dr. Drew Brees disproved it in his 2011 “I’m gonna break all the quarterback records this year” season dissertation.
Prediction for 2012: Boom. This was for Megatron but ended up being more about Stafford. With or without Stafford, Megatron is going to be a fantasy nightmare for opposing teams. It might be tough to repeat the same numbers but a high level of output should still be expected.
Victor Cruz, WRs, New York Giants
Victor Cruz in 2011, was a fantasy lifeline for many people. Cruz shimmied and salsa-ed (he also created his own verb with his highlight reel plays) his way into the Giants receiver record books, posting 82 receptions, 1536 yards and 9 touchdowns. Not to mention 195 fantasy football points after emerging in week 3 for 23 points. Cruz, after eliminating the first two games where he had not emerged yet, averaged, 13.9 points per game last year. Not too shabby for a waiver wire grab. This year the Giants are attempting to repeat their Super Bowl run and Victor Cruz’s performance will be a big part of that. He functions mainly as a slot receiver but with Mario Manningham gone and Hakeem Nicks battling a foot injury, look for Cruz’s role to expand in 2012. His current ADP is 31.9, a far cry from his old waiver wire days. You will have to pay premium dollar to enlist his services this year, so is he worth it? Absolutely.
Prediction for 2012: Boom! As one of Eli Manning’s most trusted targets, Victor Cruz is definitely worth a third round pick or very late second round pick. Expect Cruz to be a top five-fantasy football receiver this year, improving on his repertoire with Manning.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
“Killa Cam” Newton, was a difference maker for many people in fantasy football last year. As a rookie he set records for yards, touchdowns and rushing yards. While he threw for 4051 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, his real value came from his running ability and unspoken role as the goal line running back for the Panthers. It was this ability that helped him post 352 fantasy football points, putting on an average of 22 points per game in 16 games played. For comparative purposes, Aaron Rodgers, the best fantasy player last year, posted 385 points in 15 games. Not bad for a rookie quarterback who went largely undrafted last year. So what can we expect this year?
Tough to say, Cam’s current ADP is 17.5, meaning a first or second round pick. It would also appear that the Panthers are attempting to limit Newton’s carries as the goal-line back by adding Mike Tolbert, who functions as a five foot nine inch, 245 pound wrecking ball. Tolbert stole 8 touchdowns and 490 yards from Ryan Matthews last season. Expect the wrecking ball to continue to steal touchdowns but from the Panthers primary goal-line back—Newton.
Prediction for 2012: Bust. Cam will throw long and often but his goal-line touches that enamored him to fantasy owners should be limited this year. If he progresses as a passer he could approach the fantasy output he did last year, but I would temper my expectations of such a drastic jump in performance. Not to mention the Panthers still have DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Gronk! This guy is 23 years old and set records across the board at the tight end position with 90 receptions, 1327 yards and 17 touchdowns. He produced 233 fantasy points last year, averaging 14.6 points per game. His chemistry with Tom Brady is phenomenal and will continue to be excellent, but when his ADP is 17.0 and he is being drafted in the first and second rounds, is he worth those picks? If produces similar numbers, he is definitely worth those picks, if he flounders even to the stats of the second tier tight ends like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez, he is a bust. So what can we expect a year after a break out performance?
I think Gronk will still have a phenomenal year. I have heard rumblings that people think Aaron Hernandez (the other NE TE) or Jimmy Graham (NO, TE) will have a better year this year but based on what? The Patriots play the statistically easiest schedule in the NFL in 2012. They also added a deep threat in Brandon Lloyd to open up some things for the other pass catchers and oh yeah, they still have that guy…what was his name? Oh right, Tom Brady. Brady, barring a dramatic injury, will take advantage of his schedule and post big numbers. Defenders will have trouble defending the 6’6’ 265 pound Gronkowski again this year.
2012 Prediction: Boom. With confidence. Invest those picks and grab a fantastic fantasy player.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
Everybody knows it. If you have a couple of neck surgeries and you are coming back to the NFL, you might not be what you used to be. Peyton is as big of a fantasy football boom or bust pick as they come. Peyton is on the wrong side of 30, (36) and is going to attempt to come back from a possible career-ending injury. First, I am not sure that he will be able to come back and be exactly the same, I have a bad feeling about neck injuries and playing one of the most physical games on the face of the earth. While his run support is drastically better in Denver than it ever was with Indianapolis, expectations should be tempered. Additionally, with young wide receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, it is hard to tell exactly what kind of fantasy result we will see from Manning. He might be the 4700 yard and 33 touchdown guy from 2010 or he might not finish the season. Peyton’s current ADP is 40.7 meaning a fourth or fifth round pick. The deciding factor in my mind was real action. Manning had some rough preseason performances but started bringing it together connecting for a couple of touchdowns with WR, Eric Decker and taking some hits. Ultimately we will need to see how Peyton reacts to regular play before you can truly render an accurate assessment of his fantasy ability.
2012 Prediction: I am going to say bust, but you will know for sure whether or not Peyton plays the full season after his first three games against, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Houston. He could be worth the fourth or fifth round pick but there are definitely quarterbacks with better risk-reward values floating around in that round.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jones-Drew, 27 years old, just recently ended a contract dispute with the Jaguars’ management returning after Rashad Jennings put in some good work with the first team offense during preseason. Jones-Drew was the NFL’s leading rusher in 2011 putting up 249 fantasy points, averaging 15.6 points per game in his 16 games. While Jones-Drew did not receive a pay upgrade, he did lose valuable time with his team in preparing for the upcoming season. Similar to how Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson held out last year. The difference being that Johnson got paid. Johnson posted a pretty mediocre outing last season notching 157 fantasy points, averaging 9.8 points per game. Should we expect a similar outing from Jones-Drew? I think the answer is yes, losing that time with your team puts you back a few weeks and with a legitimate backup in Rashad Jennings, the Jaguars might not feature Jones-Drew as much if he is not in peak football shape right from the get go. As of right now Coach Mike Mularkey has been quoted as saying Jones-Drew will be the third down back to start the season. Things are not looking good for Jones-Drew owners in fantasy football. MJD’s current ADP is 13.8. It is also worth noting that Jones-Drew had a career year last year with 343 attempts. That is a lot of mileage for a running back. Even if he had gotten the entire offseason, I doubt MJD would put up similar numbers to last year.
2011 Prediction: Bust. A serviceable back up, a high ADP, and no offseason will lead to a Chris Johnson-esque season for MJD.
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
Rivers was in the Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger draft class back in 2003. He remains the only one of those three to not reach the Super Bowl, despite his valiant efforts. Last year Rivers notched 246 fantasy points, averaging a pedestrian (for a QB) 15.4 points per game. He had 8 games with more than 1 interception and 11 games with at least 1 interception. He threw 27 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, a career high, last year. He was quite simply not himself. This offseason the Chargers have gotten rid of star WR and main deep threat Vincent Jackson. Ryan Matthews, starting running back for the Chargers is injured to start the season. Leaving Rivers in charge of what is likely a make or break year for management. He still has wide receiver Malcolm Floyd and a healthy Antonio Gates (TE). The Chargers also added Robert Meachem, WR, from the Saints to add some firepower to Rivers’ arsenal.
Being in Manning’s draft class was not the only thing, Rivers shared with the New York Giants quarterback, there are statistical similarities between Rivers’ 2011 season and Manning’s 2010 season. Both quarterbacks had an increase interceptions in these years but Manning went on to have a career year in 2011. Can Rivers mimic Manning and have a great bounce back year? Yes. Rivers before 2011 had always been a statistically superior quarterback to Eli Manning and there is a very good chance that Rivers could bounce back and be better than ever this year. His current ADP is 60.9 and Rivers is worth it. A fifth or six round pick is well worth a quarterback who can be within the top ten in the league.
2011 Prediction: Boom. Rivers bounces back and has a much better year in 2012 than his 2011 campaign. Remember those alternatives to Peyton? Philip Rivers is definitely one of them.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vincent Jackson, was unhappy being the home run threat in San Diego for the Chargers and Philip Rivers so he sold his talents to the highest bidder this offseason—the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even at Philip Rivers’ worst he is still a vastly better quarterback than Josh Freeman. Additionally, with coach Greg Schiano’s inclination to throw for short and mid distanced passes, Jackson’s deep threat ability may be limited in Tampa Bay. Even then, Jackson has never attained more than 68 receptions, 1167 yards and nine touchdowns. He was a good player in the San Diego system putting up 162 fantasy points last year, averaging 10.1 points per game. In the new Tampa Bay offense will Vincent Jackson (current ADP= 54.8) succeed? Perhaps but, as a fantasy owner should you risk a fifth or sixth round pick on a player with a limited upside and who resides in the wrong type of offensive system? No.
2011 Prediction: Bust. Jackson may have mingled with similar numbers had he stayed in San Diego with Rivers, but bet on struggles with the relationship between Jackson and QB Josh Freeman. Not worth your fifth or six round pick.