The NFL Lockout has officially been lifted. Player movement took place at a rapid pace and training camps are well underway. That can only mean that the 2010 NFL Fantasy Football season is just around the corner.
With all things considered, millions of people around the world, including myself and the majority of my degenerate buddies, are currently preparing for what could be the most difficult fantasy football season in history. Many players are on new teams with new coaches and teammates. Rookies will have less time than ever to prepare for the season and learn a new playbook. Many players did not stay in tip-top shape throughout the offseason and lockout, meaning injuries to some big name studs could be popping up at alarming rates. So what exactly does that mean when you are getting ready for your drafts?
The best advice I can offer is to keep it simple this season. When comparing two players, go with the one who has performed admirably in the past. This is not the year to reach for a rookie running back, or a wideout learning an entire new offense. Go with quarterbacks who return their same wide receivers. Go with the running back who returns under the same coach and same team. Let someone else take more gambles this year while you get ridiculed for playing it safe, almost to a boring level. They can continue laughing while you cash in at the end of the season with your league’s championship.
That being said, here is a look at some of the bigger potential busts for the upcoming season. Now, mind you, this is not an exact science when it comes to projecting busts. When I use the term bust, that does not mean that a player will have a horrible season or miss ten games. It simply means that each said player may not live up to their high draft billing, and you should use some caution when selecting them. Without further adieu, here is a list of some potential busts, as well as candidates you may be better off selecting in your 2010 NFL Fantasy Football drafts.
QUARTERBACK: Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles): Yes, the guy is talented. Yes, he is explosive. But yes, he will miss a game or two due to his playing style. While many people will take him in the first or second round (although you will never see him on any of my teams), Vick is a huge injury risk. Couple that in with the fact that the team added Ronnie Brown in their backfield, and this will a more balanced offensive attack. Select Vick if you must, but he would only rank as my fifth or sixth quarterback. You can get much better value than Vick, but if you do select him, do not wait to get a solid back-up, such as Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons or Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Other Potential QB Busts: Matt Schaub (Houston Texans) – their defense is going to get better, meaning they may be able to grind it out on the ground more with Arian Foster late in the game; Matt Cassel (Kansas City Chiefs) – the loss of Charlie Weiss will certainly hurt Cassel, as he is more of a system quarterback; Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams) – he had a great rookie season, but with games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers in the fantasy football championship weeks, he is very avoidable.
RUNNING BACK: Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars): MJD was once the darling of the fantasy football world. He loves to play and knows who to draft, but injuries and too many carries are really catching up with him. Owners too often see him slow down toward the end of the season when it counts, meaning he is no longer a safe first round selection. He will probably be a top five selection, but I would rather have Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons or even Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams, now that they have finally gotten him some help in the backfield.
Other Potential RB Busts: Peyton Hillis (Cleveland Browns) – he started the season on fire and earned the distinction of being the first player from the Dawg Pound to grace the Madden cover, but he finished very poorly, and too many carries will affect him throughout the season again; Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers) – great back, but hurt too often at crucial times, and contract still an issue; Lesean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles) – Ronnie Brown was brought in to spell McCoy, who also wore down as the season progressed.
WIDE RECEIVER: Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts): We seem to say this every year. Critics always say that this is the year that Wayne takes a tumble in the fantasy football wide receiver rankings. Every year, the star wideout from “The U” proves them wrong. So why is this season any different? First, the neck injury to Peyton Manning may be more serious than initially feared. If he misses any games – and I know that has yet to happen due to injury – Wayne slides way down to a third or fourth option. Second, younger receivers have been stepping up more and more. They will never overtake Wayne as Manning’s go-to guy, but they steal some of his catches. Mix all of that in with a healthy Dallas Clark, and Wayne may not be quite as steady as years’ past. He is still a top ten talent, but I would rather draft Vincent Jackson of the San Diego Chargers or Miles Austin of the Dallas Cowboys.
Other Potential WR Busts: Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City Chiefs) – again, no Weiss could spell doom for Bowe, who also disappeared at crunch time; Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia Eagles) – too many whispers or serious injury are sprouting up everywhere; Brandon Lloyd (Denver Broncos) – I still see last year as a fluke, regardless of who is throwing the ball in Denver); Kenny Britt (Tennessee Titans) – even with an upgrade at quarterback, Britt is just one more slip up away from a lengthy suspension.
TIGHT END: Marcedes Lewis (Jacksonville Jaguars): He had his breakout season last year, but instability at the quarterback position makes him a bit of a risk. Especially when you consider people will be overpaying for him after his performance from a year ago. Whether it is David Garrard or Blaine Gabbert, I would stay away from Lewis. Instead, opt for Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints or Brandon Pettigrew of the Detroit Lions.
Other Potential TE Busts: Zach Miller (Seattle Seahawks) – not the same situation as Oakland, although it was never great there either, and he is also always a risk issue; Brent Celek (Philadelphia Eagles) – Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb utilized Celek far more than Michael Vick; Kevin Boss (Oakland Raiders) – learning a new system with an inferior quarterback will hurt his value, which had been on the rise with the New York Giants.
Potential DEF/SPECIAL TEAMS Busts: Philadelphia Eagles: Yes, they signed every marquee defensive star out there, causing Vince Young to label them as the Dream Team, as he watches from the sidelines. But these things take time to develop. They rarely come together over night. Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins are all outstanding players, but playing together as a cohesive unit can take an entire season. The Eagles will be great, but they should not be taken in the top three, especially when you consider they play the Dallas Cowboys in what is the championship game for many leagues. I would still prefer the New York Jets, Green Bay Packers or Pittsburgh Steelers. Even the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots will surprise a few people. Basically, take any defense in the AFC East ahead of them, sans the Buffalo Bills.
Other Potential DEF/ST Busts: Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, New York Giants.
Stay tuned for sleepers in the coming days/weeks…