Fantasy Football 2013: 10 Picks to Avoid Like the Plague

1 of 11

Fantasy Football 2013: Top 10 Picks to Avoid Like the Plague

10 bad picks
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

When you think about it, fantasy football comes down to trying to predict the future. No one knows for sure what will happen in the NFL this season. Are we comfortable saying Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning will have good seasons, while Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kolb won’t? Of course we are, but that is all based on past performance. Truth is, we don’t actually know anything for sure.

Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball that will tell fantasy owners which players will have a breakout season and which ones will be a disaster. All owners can do is study factors such as past performance, injury history and surrounding talent and systems, and try to determine if a player will be successful.

The 10 players you will see listed here are products of those studies. Some of them are getting older, some are injured and some just don’t have the right players or system around them. These are the players you want to avoid on draft day, as getting stuck with one of them will lead to a long season of staring at the waiver wire hoping to find their replacement after yet another five-point performance. Many of these players are big names, and some may come as a shock to you.

One important thing to keep in mind while reading this is the word value. Fantasy football is all about production relative to what it took to acquire a player. Some of these players will produce decent numbers, but you will have to draft them far too high to get that production.

I tried to think outside the box a little when assembling this list. You don’t need me to tell you that Blaine Gabbert is a dumb pick, so I’m not going to put names like that on here. Likewise, everyone knows Percy Harvin and Santonio Holmes are hurt and not to draft them. It’s no secret players like Larry Fitzgerald and Arian Foster are a little risky, but they should be fine. The names listed here are all players that far too many owners will believe in and get burned by.

Now, without further ado, here are the 10 Fantasy Players to Avoid like the Plague.

2 of 11

10. Frank Gore

gore
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers have made Frank Gore their workhorse back and the toll is starting to show. Gore has played a complete season just three times in his eight year career. The negative signs about Gore are not as obvious as some of the other players on this list, but he remains a risky pick.

The 49ers have two very talented backup running backs and QB Colin Kaepernick is one of the best running quarterbacks in the league. Gore’s carries dropped last season from 2011, and they could be in for an even more precipitous drop this year.

Gore only broke 100 yards three times last season, and he seemed to wear down as the year went on, gaining only 300 yards total in the final five games of the season, otherwise known as the fantasy playoffs.

Although he hasn’t fallen off yet, you can see the signs that Gore is headed for a big drop in value. Many people still rank Gore as a top-10 fantasy running back, but with his age, injury concerns and declining carries, it is very unlikely that he produces at that level.

3 of 11

9. Rob Gronkowski

gronkowski
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Two seasons ago, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski emerged as the most dominant tight end in the league. However, injuries damaged his productivity last season.

In the last two and a half years, Gronk has had six surgeries on three different injuries. At this point, I don’t think you can even guarantee 12 games out of him. There is a chance he could stay healthy and make people like me look foolish for doubting him, but I’m not betting a high draft pick on it.

Concerns about Gronk are not all injury-related as well. This offseason, the Patriots lost a lot of receiving talent, and defenses will focus on him heavily. He will see double and even triple teams on every play and it’s pretty hard to be an impact player when you get that kind of attention.

There will be owners in many leagues who are risk-takers and who will grab Gronk early, but I believe those owners will be very disappointed in the return they receive on their investment.

4 of 11

8. Maurice Jones-Drew

jones-drew
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew was on his way to a solid season last year before a broken foot ended his year after just six games.

Jones-Drew is one of the most heavily relied on backs in the league, and he finished in the top-10 in carries in 2009, 2010 and 2011, leading the league with 343 attempts in the latter. This workload is a lot to ask of any back.

Jacksonville has such an ineffective passing game that defenses stack the box with eight or nine defenders to shut down the run. This both limits Jones-Drew’s effectiveness and forces him to take repeated hits. The wear and tear on his body is going to lead to a breakdown.

Don’t expect a bounce-back season from Jones-Drew. The days of him being a top-five fantasy player are over. He may still be a decent fantasy player, but there is an equally good chance that last year’s problems will continue. Consider Jones-Drew an RB2 at best, but a very risky one.

5 of 11

7. Ryan Mathews

mathews
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews was an absolute disaster last season, playing in only 12 games. He ran for 707 yards and just one touchdown, and averaged a measly 3.8 YPA. Mathews was a second or third-round pick in most leagues, and that type of production with that high a pick will quickly kill a fantasy team’s chances of winning.

Unfortunately, there is very little reason to think things will get better for Mathews. He has played 12, 14, and 12 games in his three seasons, earning him the injury-prone label. Even when he is healthy, he doesn’t get as much use as other top backs. Mathews carried the ball 20 times in a game only three times last season, and he has reached that figure only 10 times in this career.

The Chargers traded up to select Mathews 12th overall in 2010, but that move is looking like a bad one after three seasons. Mathews should not be a player that fantasy owners are considering as anything more than an RB3, and even then, it would be a mistake to expect a bounce-back season.

6 of 11

6. Mike Wallace

wallace
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Mike Wallace was the prize of the Miami Dolphins offseason, as they signed the Ole Miss product to a five-year, $60 million contract.

Wallace is talked about like an elite receiver, but the numbers simply don’t back it up. Last season, he caught 64 passes for 836 yards and eight touchdowns. 836 yards ranked him 34th in the NFL in receiving. Eight touchdowns is a solid number, but 20 other players scored at least that many. Players who posted similar stats to Wallace include Justin Blackmon and T.Y. Hilton, who are available several rounds later in drafts.

It only gets worse for Wallace. In leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers, he traded a much stronger supporting cast for an inexperienced one in Miami. Defenses will focus heavily on him because he is such a good deep threat, and Wallace will likely see bracket coverage on every play, forcing him to work underneath routes that take him out of his element.

Wallace is likely to be inconsistent because of the lack of talent around him. His stats say that he is an average fantasy receiver, and owners who draft him like an elite one will regret it.

7 of 11

5. Greg Jennings

jennings
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Jennings had the worst season of his career last season, appearing in only eight games totaling just 36 receptions for 366 yards and four touchdowns. The Minnesota Vikings still thought enough of Jennings to sign him to big contract this offseason, but fantasy owners do not want to follow suit.

Jennings has dealt with two separate leg injuries each of the last two seasons, and there are concerns that his legs will begin to fail him. He has always had the speed to be a deep threat, and losing that would sap much of his fantasy value.

The biggest concern about Jennings is his move to the Vikings from the Green Bay Packers. In doing so, he traded Aaron Rodgers for Christian Ponder. You don’t need me to figure out which quarterback you’d rather have throwing to your fantasy receiver. Minnesota's run-first offense will ensure Jennings see a major drop in targets as well.

There are too many questions surrounding Jennings to rely on him for anything close to his past production, and he is a WR3 at best.

8 of 11

4. Vernon Davis

davis
Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis was one of the biggest busts in fantasy last season, catching just 41 passes for 548 yards and five touchdowns — not exactly the production owners were expecting from the man who was the third tight end off the board in many drafts.

It was after Colin Kaepernick took over as the starting quarterback that Davis really began to struggle. Kaepernick started the final seven games of the season, and Davis was an afterthought in the 49ers' offense during that stretch. In the final six games of the season, Davis caught just six passes, an unbelievably low number.

Davis’ production has declined each of the last three seasons, and it is time that owners view his monster 2009 campaign as the outlier, not the norm. Unless Kaepernick shows a new-found interest in getting his tight end the ball, Davis is a borderline fantasy starter at best, and not even close to the top-five option at tight end that many believe he is.

9 of 11

3. Joe Flacco

flacco
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

What, Joe Flacco? The same Joe Flacco that led the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl? The same Joe Flacco that just signed a $120 million contract extension? Yup, that Joe Flacco. Everyone knows what he did last postseason, and that is exactly why you should avoid him in your draft.

Last season, Flacco threw for a career-high 3,817 yards, and that ranked him 14th in the NFL. His 22 touchdowns tied him for 15th in the league. This offseason, he lost Anquan Boldin to the 49ers and Dennis Pitta to injury. The Ravens still center their offense around Ray Rice, and it is unlikely to see Flacco rank much higher than the middle of the pack in pass attempts.

A very important thing to remember about fantasy football is that it is not real football. There is a huge difference, and Flacco is the type of player who reminds us of that. He is one of the best real quarterbacks in the league, but he is an average at best fantasy quarterback because he doesn’t put up big numbers, and numbers are the only thing that matters in fantasy.

Do not be that guy who makes Flacco the fifth or sixth quarterback drafted because he had a big postseason. He will continue to produce average stats, and you will be thoroughly disappointed with your investment.

10 of 11

2. Chris Johnson

johnson
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Since his 2,000-yard performance in 2009, Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson has repeatedly been a disappointment to fantasy owners who drafted him in the first round.

Johnson’s total stats appear fine on the surface as he ran for 1,243 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4.7 YPA. Break the numbers down however, and you see major flaws in Johnson as a fantasy player. Johnson broke three runs of over 80 yards last season, scoring on all three, or half his touchdowns. If you take those three runs out of his season, Johnson ran for just 986 yards and three TDs with 3.6 YPA. Not only is that not worthy of a first-round pick, that’s not even worthy of fifth-round pick.

The Titans signed Shonn Greene this offseason to back up Johnson, and Green will certainly vulture many goal-line carries. If your fantasy team is banking on Chris Johnson breaking an 80 yard every week, then you will be severely disappointed.

CJ2K looks like a pretty ridiculous nickname now, and if you draft Johnson, you’ll be lucky if he’s even CJ1K.

11 of 11

1. Michael Vick

vick
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Many observers saw the Philadelphia Eagles' hiring of Chip Kelly as a lifeline to the career of Michael Vick. Don’t buy into this theory, and don’t make the mistake of drafting Vick this season.

Let’s begin with the obvious with Vick: He will get hurt. It’s not a matter of if, but when. He has played a complete season just once in his career in 2006. In four years in Philly, he has never played more than 13 games in a season. Many people look at Kelly’s offense as a way to take advantage of Vick’s running ability, but more runs will only make the inevitable injury come faster.

Vick's completion percentage has fallen each of the last three seasons and he is extremely turnover-prone, throwing 10 interceptions and fumbling 11 times in just 10 games last season. Fantasy owners can't afford those kinds of deductions.

Jeremy Maclin recently tore his ACL, meaning Vick will be without his best receiver this season. Also, Vick likely will not pass as much as people think he will. Kelly is a run-first coach who will focus the offense on LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown.

Vick is not a fantasy starter, and he’s barely a fantasy backup in shallow leagues. Do not make the mistake of believing Kelly’s offense will turn Vick into fantasy star once again, and do not draft him as your starter. Vick is a bust waiting to happen, and owners would do well to stay away.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google

1 of 11

Fantasy Football 2013: Top 10 Picks to Avoid Like the Plague

10 bad picks
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

When you think about it, fantasy football comes down to trying to predict the future. No one knows for sure what will happen in the NFL this season. Are we comfortable saying Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning will have good seasons, while Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kolb won’t? Of course we are, but that is all based on past performance. Truth is, we don’t actually know anything for sure.

Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball that will tell fantasy owners which players will have a breakout season and which ones will be a disaster. All owners can do is study factors such as past performance, injury history and surrounding talent and systems, and try to determine if a player will be successful.

The 10 players you will see listed here are products of those studies. Some of them are getting older, some are injured and some just don’t have the right players or system around them. These are the players you want to avoid on draft day, as getting stuck with one of them will lead to a long season of staring at the waiver wire hoping to find their replacement after yet another five-point performance. Many of these players are big names, and some may come as a shock to you.

One important thing to keep in mind while reading this is the word value. Fantasy football is all about production relative to what it took to acquire a player. Some of these players will produce decent numbers, but you will have to draft them far too high to get that production.

I tried to think outside the box a little when assembling this list. You don’t need me to tell you that Blaine Gabbert is a dumb pick, so I’m not going to put names like that on here. Likewise, everyone knows Percy Harvin and Santonio Holmes are hurt and not to draft them. It’s no secret players like Larry Fitzgerald and Arian Foster are a little risky, but they should be fine. The names listed here are all players that far too many owners will believe in and get burned by.

Now, without further ado, here are the 10 Fantasy Players to Avoid like the Plague.

2 of 11

10. Frank Gore

gore
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers have made Frank Gore their workhorse back and the toll is starting to show. Gore has played a complete season just three times in his eight year career. The negative signs about Gore are not as obvious as some of the other players on this list, but he remains a risky pick.

The 49ers have two very talented backup running backs and QB Colin Kaepernick is one of the best running quarterbacks in the league. Gore’s carries dropped last season from 2011, and they could be in for an even more precipitous drop this year.

Gore only broke 100 yards three times last season, and he seemed to wear down as the year went on, gaining only 300 yards total in the final five games of the season, otherwise known as the fantasy playoffs.

Although he hasn’t fallen off yet, you can see the signs that Gore is headed for a big drop in value. Many people still rank Gore as a top-10 fantasy running back, but with his age, injury concerns and declining carries, it is very unlikely that he produces at that level.

3 of 11

9. Rob Gronkowski

gronkowski
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Two seasons ago, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski emerged as the most dominant tight end in the league. However, injuries damaged his productivity last season.

In the last two and a half years, Gronk has had six surgeries on three different injuries. At this point, I don’t think you can even guarantee 12 games out of him. There is a chance he could stay healthy and make people like me look foolish for doubting him, but I’m not betting a high draft pick on it.

Concerns about Gronk are not all injury-related as well. This offseason, the Patriots lost a lot of receiving talent, and defenses will focus on him heavily. He will see double and even triple teams on every play and it’s pretty hard to be an impact player when you get that kind of attention.

There will be owners in many leagues who are risk-takers and who will grab Gronk early, but I believe those owners will be very disappointed in the return they receive on their investment.

4 of 11

8. Maurice Jones-Drew

jones-drew
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew was on his way to a solid season last year before a broken foot ended his year after just six games.

Jones-Drew is one of the most heavily relied on backs in the league, and he finished in the top-10 in carries in 2009, 2010 and 2011, leading the league with 343 attempts in the latter. This workload is a lot to ask of any back.

Jacksonville has such an ineffective passing game that defenses stack the box with eight or nine defenders to shut down the run. This both limits Jones-Drew’s effectiveness and forces him to take repeated hits. The wear and tear on his body is going to lead to a breakdown.

Don’t expect a bounce-back season from Jones-Drew. The days of him being a top-five fantasy player are over. He may still be a decent fantasy player, but there is an equally good chance that last year’s problems will continue. Consider Jones-Drew an RB2 at best, but a very risky one.

5 of 11

7. Ryan Mathews

mathews
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews was an absolute disaster last season, playing in only 12 games. He ran for 707 yards and just one touchdown, and averaged a measly 3.8 YPA. Mathews was a second or third-round pick in most leagues, and that type of production with that high a pick will quickly kill a fantasy team’s chances of winning.

Unfortunately, there is very little reason to think things will get better for Mathews. He has played 12, 14, and 12 games in his three seasons, earning him the injury-prone label. Even when he is healthy, he doesn’t get as much use as other top backs. Mathews carried the ball 20 times in a game only three times last season, and he has reached that figure only 10 times in this career.

The Chargers traded up to select Mathews 12th overall in 2010, but that move is looking like a bad one after three seasons. Mathews should not be a player that fantasy owners are considering as anything more than an RB3, and even then, it would be a mistake to expect a bounce-back season.

6 of 11

6. Mike Wallace

wallace
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Mike Wallace was the prize of the Miami Dolphins offseason, as they signed the Ole Miss product to a five-year, $60 million contract.

Wallace is talked about like an elite receiver, but the numbers simply don’t back it up. Last season, he caught 64 passes for 836 yards and eight touchdowns. 836 yards ranked him 34th in the NFL in receiving. Eight touchdowns is a solid number, but 20 other players scored at least that many. Players who posted similar stats to Wallace include Justin Blackmon and T.Y. Hilton, who are available several rounds later in drafts.

It only gets worse for Wallace. In leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers, he traded a much stronger supporting cast for an inexperienced one in Miami. Defenses will focus heavily on him because he is such a good deep threat, and Wallace will likely see bracket coverage on every play, forcing him to work underneath routes that take him out of his element.

Wallace is likely to be inconsistent because of the lack of talent around him. His stats say that he is an average fantasy receiver, and owners who draft him like an elite one will regret it.

7 of 11

5. Greg Jennings

jennings
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Jennings had the worst season of his career last season, appearing in only eight games totaling just 36 receptions for 366 yards and four touchdowns. The Minnesota Vikings still thought enough of Jennings to sign him to big contract this offseason, but fantasy owners do not want to follow suit.

Jennings has dealt with two separate leg injuries each of the last two seasons, and there are concerns that his legs will begin to fail him. He has always had the speed to be a deep threat, and losing that would sap much of his fantasy value.

The biggest concern about Jennings is his move to the Vikings from the Green Bay Packers. In doing so, he traded Aaron Rodgers for Christian Ponder. You don’t need me to figure out which quarterback you’d rather have throwing to your fantasy receiver. Minnesota's run-first offense will ensure Jennings see a major drop in targets as well.

There are too many questions surrounding Jennings to rely on him for anything close to his past production, and he is a WR3 at best.

8 of 11

4. Vernon Davis

davis
Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis was one of the biggest busts in fantasy last season, catching just 41 passes for 548 yards and five touchdowns — not exactly the production owners were expecting from the man who was the third tight end off the board in many drafts.

It was after Colin Kaepernick took over as the starting quarterback that Davis really began to struggle. Kaepernick started the final seven games of the season, and Davis was an afterthought in the 49ers' offense during that stretch. In the final six games of the season, Davis caught just six passes, an unbelievably low number.

Davis’ production has declined each of the last three seasons, and it is time that owners view his monster 2009 campaign as the outlier, not the norm. Unless Kaepernick shows a new-found interest in getting his tight end the ball, Davis is a borderline fantasy starter at best, and not even close to the top-five option at tight end that many believe he is.

9 of 11

3. Joe Flacco

flacco
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

What, Joe Flacco? The same Joe Flacco that led the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl? The same Joe Flacco that just signed a $120 million contract extension? Yup, that Joe Flacco. Everyone knows what he did last postseason, and that is exactly why you should avoid him in your draft.

Last season, Flacco threw for a career-high 3,817 yards, and that ranked him 14th in the NFL. His 22 touchdowns tied him for 15th in the league. This offseason, he lost Anquan Boldin to the 49ers and Dennis Pitta to injury. The Ravens still center their offense around Ray Rice, and it is unlikely to see Flacco rank much higher than the middle of the pack in pass attempts.

A very important thing to remember about fantasy football is that it is not real football. There is a huge difference, and Flacco is the type of player who reminds us of that. He is one of the best real quarterbacks in the league, but he is an average at best fantasy quarterback because he doesn’t put up big numbers, and numbers are the only thing that matters in fantasy.

Do not be that guy who makes Flacco the fifth or sixth quarterback drafted because he had a big postseason. He will continue to produce average stats, and you will be thoroughly disappointed with your investment.

10 of 11

2. Chris Johnson

johnson
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Since his 2,000-yard performance in 2009, Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson has repeatedly been a disappointment to fantasy owners who drafted him in the first round.

Johnson’s total stats appear fine on the surface as he ran for 1,243 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4.7 YPA. Break the numbers down however, and you see major flaws in Johnson as a fantasy player. Johnson broke three runs of over 80 yards last season, scoring on all three, or half his touchdowns. If you take those three runs out of his season, Johnson ran for just 986 yards and three TDs with 3.6 YPA. Not only is that not worthy of a first-round pick, that’s not even worthy of fifth-round pick.

The Titans signed Shonn Greene this offseason to back up Johnson, and Green will certainly vulture many goal-line carries. If your fantasy team is banking on Chris Johnson breaking an 80 yard every week, then you will be severely disappointed.

CJ2K looks like a pretty ridiculous nickname now, and if you draft Johnson, you’ll be lucky if he’s even CJ1K.

11 of 11

1. Michael Vick

vick
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Many observers saw the Philadelphia Eagles' hiring of Chip Kelly as a lifeline to the career of Michael Vick. Don’t buy into this theory, and don’t make the mistake of drafting Vick this season.

Let’s begin with the obvious with Vick: He will get hurt. It’s not a matter of if, but when. He has played a complete season just once in his career in 2006. In four years in Philly, he has never played more than 13 games in a season. Many people look at Kelly’s offense as a way to take advantage of Vick’s running ability, but more runs will only make the inevitable injury come faster.

Vick's completion percentage has fallen each of the last three seasons and he is extremely turnover-prone, throwing 10 interceptions and fumbling 11 times in just 10 games last season. Fantasy owners can't afford those kinds of deductions.

Jeremy Maclin recently tore his ACL, meaning Vick will be without his best receiver this season. Also, Vick likely will not pass as much as people think he will. Kelly is a run-first coach who will focus the offense on LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown.

Vick is not a fantasy starter, and he’s barely a fantasy backup in shallow leagues. Do not make the mistake of believing Kelly’s offense will turn Vick into fantasy star once again, and do not draft him as your starter. Vick is a bust waiting to happen, and owners would do well to stay away.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google


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