We’ve all drafted them, and we’ve all dropped them to the bench. Those big name guys in your fantasy football draft who are can’t-miss players, that end up disappointing you and leaving you with a loss but for the few extra points they should have provided.
Curse you, DeSean Jackson, and your dropped passes and suspensions! Be gone, Felix Jones and all like you!
Well fear not, trepidatious fantasy owners, for here is an initial guide to help steer you from those roster spot wasters. Keep in mind, all the players on this list can still be productive and give you some points, but you should avoid the temptation of using an early round pick, or spending too much in an auction for them.
Once training camps wind down, we’ll take another look at this list.
Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers: Don’t take being on this list as a knock on Newton. He’s a quality quarterback, who should provide Carolina with a lot of wins in future years. But for 2012, expect a drop off in production from his outstanding rookie campaign. Defenses are going to be fully prepared for the Newton experience, and his numbers will suffer accordingly.
Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos: It’s going to be a tempting pick…you know it is. But don’t do it. Don’t pull that trigger. There are simply too many questions surrounding Manning this season to make him a smart fantasy pick-up. Can he still throw with the same accuracy? Can he take the pounding of a full NFL season after missing all of 2011 with his neck issues? Could one blindside hit take him out of action for the season? Just keep Manning in your sights for a mid-season trade or free agent pick-up.
Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons: There are two big reasons you should avoid drafting Turner as one of your premier backs. It’s already been made clear by the Falcons that Turner is going to see less touches this season than in previous ones. He’s been a workhorse for the Falcons for the last four seasons, averaging nearly 300 carries per season. That kind of workload will wear any back out. Atlanta will also be leaning less on the running game as a whole, so all this makes Turner someone to pass over if possible.
Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings: As odd as this sounds, it would appear that Peterson is on the downward slope of his career. Peterson is coming off a torn ACL and MCL. His season ending injury occurred on December 24, 2011. At 27 years old, he will probably have a slow recovery. Last season he only had three 100-yard rushing games, and only scored 10 or more fantasy points in 6 of his 13 starts.
Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers: Nelson was lightning in a bottle, and he won’t have another 1,200-yard, 15TD season in 2012. Aaron Rodgers will more than likely go back to targeting Greg Jennings, who was dinged up last season, and Jermichael Finley, who should return to his 2010 form.
Roddy White – Atlanta Falcons: This is going to be an odd year for White, as he will still be a very productive receiver and a big part of Atlanta’s offense, but his years of being one of the NFL leaders in receptions are probably behind him. The package that new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter brings to Atlanta will have Matt Ryan spreading the ball around a lot more, and will contain many more screen plays and quick outs. If you want to draft a Falcons receiver, go get Julio Jones.
Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys: Still a great player, but the fact is that Witten is getting older, and his 2011 numbers were his lowest in the last five seasons. Tony Romo has a bigger choice of targets now than he has in years, so Witten’s days of being Romo’s favorite may be in the past.
Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers: Gates is one of those players you just hate to pass on, but at 32, he’s been through some long seasons and a lot of injuries. All those injuries have taken their toll, and Gates’ YAC numbers have dropped off severely. He averaged nearly 7 yards after the catch in both ’09 and ’10, but that number dropped to just 4.3 last season. There may still be some late round value for Gates, but I’d avoid penciling him in as your starting tight end.
Curtis Lofton (LB) – New Orleans Saints: Lofton came over from Atlanta where he produced some big numbers, and is going to have some lofty expectations laid on him. Without defensive leader Jonathan Vilma to help set the defense during games, Lofton will probably be a bit lost during his first season in New Orleans. It won’t take the Saints long to figure out Lofton was a big fish in a little pond while in Atlanta.
Ray Lewis (LB) – Baltimore Ravens: Simply put, Ray is at the end of his career. He’ll still make some big plays, and he’s still an important presence in the Baltimore locker room, but it’s become apparent over the past couple of seasons that Lewis is losing a step. He can still hit with the best of them, he just can’t always catch them now.