Smoke and mirrors.
For as much time as fantasy football managers spend trying to predict who will be the next big sensation, just as much time is spent trying to figure out which of the previous year’s stars were a flash in the pan.
Unfortunately, doing this involves a large amount of luck and guess work. Look at the stats, analyze the match-ups, and cross your fingers.
That being said, here are 10 players you may want to re-evaluate before drafting this summer:
Running Back | Eagles
For a brief, passing moment, Bryce Brown looked like the next Arian Foster.
In week 12 against the Carolina Panthers, Brown rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns, and followed it up in week 13 by rushing for 169 yards and two more touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys.
The problem? He rushed for just 6 yards the following week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. Brown would only rush for a total of 70 yards in the three games that followed, and didn’t score again.
While his two insane performances would make him an instant pick-up if Eagles starter LeSean McCoy were to succumb to injury, Brown is a late round pick at best heading into 2013.
Running Back | Lions
While Bell had some long runs in 2012, most of his damage was done through the air, as he tied for fifth amongst RB’s with 52 catches.
Even if the Lions hadn’t signed Reggie Bush – one of the NFL’s top pass catching running backs – to take over on passing downs, Bell was unlikely to repeat his 2012 totals. A whopping 31 of his receptions came in the fourth quarter thanks to Detroit’s sputtering 4-12 season, a record they’re likely to improve on in 2013. Additionally, Bell averaged a pedestrian 9.3 yards per reception.
Barring an injury, Bell isn’t fantasy relevant heading into 2013.
Running Back | Chargers
Brown did nothing on the ground in 2012 – 220 yards on 46 carries – but caught 49 passes, enough to make him a decent flex option in PPR leagues.
The bad news for Brown is that the Chargers signed speedster Danny Woodhead, who had 41 catches with the New England Patriots. Woodhead figures to cut into the 31-year-old Brown’s 2013 production. If starting running back Ryan Matthews manages to stay healthy – a long shot – Brown won’t be fantasy relevant in 2013.
But, with Philip Rivers arm strength deteriorating and his historical reliance on the running back in passing situations, Brown could be a factor in PPR leagues next season. Still, it’s best to leave him on the waiver wire to start next fantasy season.
Running Back | Colts
Ballard didn’t take the fantasy world by storm in 2012, but he was certainly serviceable as he gained 966 total yards on 228 touches.
However, those touches are likely to drop significantly in 2013. The Colts recently signed three-down back Ahmad Bradshaw to a contract, and 2012 opening day starter Donald Brown remains in the mix. Both of the aforementioned players are injury prone, so Ballard will have some games in the limelight. But heading into 2013, he’s no more than a reserve option on draft day.
Wide Receiver | Dolphins
After three years of limited production, Brian Hartline came out of nowhere to record a 74 catch, 1083 yard season in 2012.
While it’s true Brian Hartline had a good season overall, his high yardage total was due in large part to his dominant week 4 performance against the Arizona Cardinals in which he had 12 receptions for 253 yards and a touchdown.
In the 12 weeks that followed, Hartline only had one more 100+ yard receiving game and didn’t score another touchdown. Based on his relatively slow finish to the season, another 1,000+ receiving yard campaign in 2013 seems like a stretch.
Wide Receiver | Broncos
Decker was a prototypical “break out” third year receiver in 2012 with a 85 yard catch, 1064 yard, 13 touchdown season.
In this case, I don’t think his stats were inflated. However, with veteran Wes Welker in the Broncos mix, Decker’s stats are likely to take a hit in 2013.
While Welker may not reach the 120 catches that he has averaged in his past two seasons, he will certainly knock on triple digits. This spells bad news for Decker, who did a lot of his work in short range situations for the Broncos last year.
Draft with caution.
Wide Receiver | Packers
Jones had some big games in 2011, and was able to put it all together in 2012 with a tight end-like stat line of 64 catches, 784 yards, and 14 touchdowns. His break out season included four multi-touchdown games, including a three touchdown performance in a 21-13 victory over the Chicago Bears in week 15.
The chink in the armor for James Jones heading into 2013 is that Jordy Nelson will be taking away some of his targets. Nelson, who had 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011, was completely ineffective the second half of last season as he was in-and-out of the line-up while battling ankle and hamstring injuries.
Now that he’s back in the fold, you can expect James Jones’s touchdown totals to shrink a bit in 2013.
Wide Receiver | Colts
With rookie Quarterback Andrew Luck under center, Reggie Wayne had a huge statistical bounce back following his 2011 season catching passes from Curtis Painter.
That being said, Wayne’s 2012 numbers are a bit skewed due to Luck’s reliance on him early in the season. Over the first four games last season, Wayne was targeted an eye-popping 60 times, catching 36 of those targets for 506 yards and two touchdowns.
Eventually, Luck started connecting with his other targets – namely T.Y. Hilton – and Wayne’s numbers leveled off. Because of how much his hot start played into his final stat line – 106 receptions for 1355 yards and five TD’s – I think another 100 catch season may be a tough accomplishment in 2013.
Tight End | Giants
Myers came out of no where to be a top-12 fantasy tight end in 2012. Though he tailed off a bit towards the end of the season – 10 receptions and no touchdowns his final four games, he was consistent for the most part.
The trouble for Brandon Myers in 2013 is that he won’t see the 105 targets he did with the Raiders as a member of the New York Giants because the Giants figure to be considerably more competitive than the 4-12 Raiders were, and therefore won’t be throwing from behind as often. Myers did most of his damage late in games last year, recording 36 receptions for 391 yards and 4 touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Tight End | Bears
Playing in Dallas behind All-Pro Jason Witten, Bennett had four touchdown receptions in 60 career games. That changed in 2012 when he caught five touchdowns in 16 games while playing an increased role with New York Giants.
However, Martellus Bennett numbers are a bit of smoke-and-mirrors. He started out the season red hot, with 15 receptions and three touchdowns to start 2012. But after that he tailed off a bit, finishing with only one reception in four of his next 12 games, and finishing the season with only four receptions in his final three games.
It doesn’t help that his new quarterback Jay Cutler has never been tight end friendly fantasy-wise.
James enjoys digging into the depths of a football player’s stat sheet and using that barely-relevant information to build his fantasy championship teams. Loves the Detroit Lions and iced tea.