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10 Fantasy Football Studs Who Will Be on the Decline in 2014

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Fantasy Football 2014: 10 Studs Who Will Decline in 2014

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The 2013 fantasy football season was typical in a lot of ways, with notable names disappointing due to injury or simply a decline in skills, unheralded players emerging as stars with a bright future and everything in between.

11 quarterbacks passed for at least 3,900 yards this past season, led by a record-setting season from Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, and nine of those signal callers had over 4,200 yards through the air. By comparison the league had 13 running backs top 1,000 rushing yards, and only two (LeSean McCoy-314 and Marshawn Lynch-301) had over 300 carries. So the evolution of the NFL as a pass-first league has obviously infiltrated fantasy football, and using a first-round pick on a quarterback or a wide receiver has become commonplace and widely accepted over the last handful of years as those two positions have become deeper with viable fantasy options than they’ve ever been.

Things will surely be unique again next year, as players who were once stars begin to fade into the background or have their role minimized and new stars emerge to take their place. The challenge for fantasy owners will, as always, be to try to predict the players who are set for a decline and hone in on others who are set to breakout.

Big-name players are the most likely disappoint fantasy owners each year, and 2014 will be no different as some notable names reach the downside of their careers. With that in mind, here are 10 players who have been “studs” for fantasy owners that I think will decline next year.

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10. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans

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Johnson had another excellent season in 2013, with 109 receptions for 1,407 yards and five touchdowns. He will still be among the first 5-10 wide receivers off the board in fantasy drafts next summer, but he will turn 33 before the season starts and the prospect of a rookie quarterback seeing significant playing time for the Texans limits his overall upside.

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9. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

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Including Manning in this list is more about having nowhere to go but down after his record-setting 2013 season, though he will turn 38 by the time the 2014 season starts. I think he’ll still be the first quarterback drafted in a lot of leagues next summer, assuming the March check-up on his neck goes well and he continues his career, but if fantasy owners expect a repeat of this season from Manning they’ll be left disappointed.

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8. Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos

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Welker had a good first season catching passes from Peyton Manning, with 73 receptions for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 regular season games, but he missed the final three games with his second concussion in a short time frame and his small stature will keep concern about his durability prevalent going forward. Welker will still be very good in PPR formats in 2014 if he can stay on the field, but there is risk attached to him that did not exist during his peak with the New England Patriots.

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7. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

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Injuries are obviously a big concern with Gronkowski, but he had at least five catches for 59 yards in five of the seven games he played in 2013 before going down with a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee and missing the final three games. If he is on track to be ready for the start of the season after the eighth known surgery of his career, some fantasy owners will certainly still buy-in to Gronkowski a top-five fantasy tight end next year. But I am not likely to be one of them, and there will be other more reliable options that deserve consideration as a TE1.

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6. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys

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Witten had as many touchdowns (eight) as he had the previous two seasons in 2013, but he had his lowest catch (73) and yardage (851) totals since 2006 and without a 12-catch, 135-yard effort in Week 17 his numbers would have looked worse. Witten will remain among the top tier of fantasy tight ends for at least one more year, but this past season looks like the new bar for how he will produce and expecting much more would be foolish.

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5. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

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The arrival of Carson Palmer under center for the Cardinals did not boost Fitzgerald’s overall production in the fashion many fantasy owners had hoped in 2013 (82 receptions for 954 yards), but he did reach double-digit touchdowns (10) for the first time since 2009. Fitzgerald set a career-high by averaging 17.6 yards per catch in 2011, but he has averaged less than 12 yards per catch in each of the last two seasons and this new version of him is not an elite fantasy wide receiver anymore.

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4. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens

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The decline may have already started for Rice, as he averaged a career-low 3.1 yards per carry this past season and without a big game in Week 11 against the Chicago Bears (131 rushing yards) his yardage total (660 rushing yards in 15 games) would have been even worse. Now Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh has talked of a backfield timeshare involving Bernard Pierce next year, so Rice’s days as a legit high-end RB1 seem to be over.

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3. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

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You know a quarterback is elite when 4,343 yards and 25 touchdowns feels like a disappointment, but Brady’s yards per attempt dropped below 7.0 for the first time (in a full season) since 2006 this year and his completion percentage is trending downward. His supporting cast was depleted by injuries and off-field issues, but without dramatic change this offseason Brady will have a hard time maintaining his status as a high-end QB1 in 2014.

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2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

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Peterson played much of the 2013 season at less than 100 percent, and even with two missed games his production was not too bad (1,266 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns). But Peterson will turn 29 in March and has over 2,200 touches in his career, so his days as the unquestioned No.1-ranked running back in fantasy circles are coming to an end.

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1. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans

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Foster missed eight games in 2013 due to a back injury that required surgery, and averaging close to 372 touches per season from 2010-2012 may have finally caught up with him. His production as a pass catcher had already dropped from 2011 (53 receptions for 617 yards) to 2012 (40 receptions for 217 yards) and his yards per-carry average was trending downward before rebounding to 4.5 last season. Foster will at least be a very risky fantasy option in 2014, and he is no longer a slam-dunk RB1.