Here is the week 11 edition of RotoProfessor.Com's 'Fourth & 1 Debate' fantasy football roundtable featuring some of the best football writers on the net. Each week the participating sites will take turns posing a question.
This week's question:'Thinking back to the players that you targeted in drafts at the beginning of the season, which 1 or 2 players have been the biggest disappointments? What kind of additional information do you think you could use to avoid selecting this type of underachieving player in 2010 ?'
There are definitely more than two players, but since I'm sticking with the format, the two players that have killed a few of my fantasy teams are Houston Texans running back Steve Slaton and San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Both players I selected in the first round, and both have under performed greatly.
Slaton was highly regarded as this Points-Per-Reception (PPR) machine prior to the season. Although his receiving numbers have been decent, at this point in the season, he doesn't start for my team. In nine games this season, Slaton has reached double-digit fantasy points only four times. What a waste of a first round pick.
The jury is still out on Tomlinson. Without a 100-yard game this season, Tomlinson is showing his running back age, 30. What's more frustrating though is the fact that he is not catching the ball out of the backfield. With only nine receptions on the season for 40 yards and no touchdowns, Tomlinson really is no better than a flex position, yes, even with the two touchdowns last week.
Ryan Lester of LestersLegends.com says:
A couple of players that I targeted in fantasy drafts this year were Calvin Johnson and Carolina's Steve Smith. Both Wide Receivers were coming off of big years and came with high expectations.
However, a closer look at both of their situations would have revealed some red flags. Calvin Johnson had little talent around him on offense to take away some of the pressure that he faces from week to week. He also had to rely on an unproven Rookie QB in Matthew Stafford or washed up Daunte Culpepper. When you consider that he was being drafted ahead of Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Wes Welker, and Vincent Jackson it just makes you cringe.
There were warning signs for Steve Smith as well, that many chose to ignore. First of all he plays for a run-first offense. Plus, Carolina did not provide him a legitimate complimentary receiver. They don't have a solid #2 WR, slot receiver, or even a pass-catching Tight End. It's Smith and that's it. Finally, the way Jake Delhomme imploded in the playoffs, especially when the Panther didn't solidify their QB depth, should have been the last straw.
Next year, when I am investing an early pick on a Wide Receiver I am going to make sure he has a stable QB.
Kurt of Top-Fantasy-Football.com says:
T.J. Houshmandzadeh was a huge bust this year averaging 5 catches per game, scoring in only two games and cracking 100 yards only twice; Houshmandzadeh has left my barrel dry. Lesson learned here? Lets take a gander at players that have moved to new teams and failed versus players that have moved to new teams and succeeded, from a fantasy football stand point.
Big Names that failed on new team:
Jay Cutler - sporadic and unreliable this year
Terrell Owens - umm not worth a roster spot, period
T.J. Houshmandzadeh - Matt isn't Carson
Matt Cassel - No Welker or Moss means no soup for you
Big Names that have succeeded on new team:
Cedric Benson - WOW nuff said
Tony Gonzalez - Not Kansas numbers but still Top 10 TE
The common denominator here is obvious, players don't improve teams, teams improve players. Bottom line don't draft a stud high when he moves to a struggling offense; odds are it won't pan out for you. Teams make the player, keep this in mind in next years draft.
Smitty of FantasyFootballXtreme.Com says:
Brian Westbrook is my number one regret looking back at August of 2009. That said, I did label LeSean McCoy as the number one must-have handcuff entering August drafts, but the real plan of attack would have been to use a second-round pick on a player other than Westbrook, while still drafting McCoy in the later rounds. In some cases we did draft like this, as we didn't always take Westbrook in all leagues, but we almost certainly landed McCoy in later rounds when the price is right. Still, we backed Westbrook in August and he failed us.
Avoiding underachievers is a tough gig, as you're always going to have disappointments year in and year out... but one thing fantasy owners can do to avoid such disappointments is to avoid athletes that are prone to injury. Avoiding 30+ year old runners is also advised. Yes, on rare occasion you're going to miss out on the successful 30+ rushers, like Thomas Jones and Curtis Martin, but more often than not, you're going to save your fantasy season. Play it safe with your first- and second-round picks, it's well worth it when it is all said and done.
Bryce McRae of KFFL.Com says:
The biggest disappointment this year must be the San Diego Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson. The other disappointment: the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson.
Outside of medical reports, psychological tests, game plans, etc., I'm not sure there is a ton of information we'd use for 2010 that we didn't already have. With each of our projections, we take into account the news, surrounding offense, player's talent, past production, etc.
One thing I've learned to weigh even more for next year: Putting stock into the offense and coaching staff on the player's team. For Johnson, the Lions were starting a rookie QB, yes, but we figured if Johnson can put up great numbers with a multitude of poor quarterbacks in 2008, he could do the same with a strong-armed rook in 2009. This wasn't the case as Stafford has struggled with his accuracy and getting on the same page as Megatron.
I avoided him largely in drafts, mainly because of strategy, but he was ranked higher than he should have been. You can't plan for injuries, but the offensive line in San Diego hasn't been right all year even before Nick Hardwick was injured. Taking that into account, plus the way Philip Rivers showed command of the offense last year, meant LT shouldn't have been ranked as high as he was. Also, we weren't able to factor in that Norv Turner would be so quick to abandon the run. Picking the right fantasy players is a combination of finding all the news and information you can and analyzing that (along with a little luck). The latter is the biggest area to improve; anyone can find the information.
Jacob of FantasyFootballFools.Com says:
The biggest two disappointments in my book are Matt Forte and Calvin Johnson. Both were drafted in among the top-three at their position, and both have been miserable for most of the season.
In Forte's case, there was good reason to believe his role in the offense might be threatened. Chicago traded for Jay Cutler, bringing an arm to Chicago and taking away Kyle Orton's compulsive checkdown passes. But that alone was not enough to scare off fantasy owners.
The decline of the Chicago defense, an unexpected factor this season, has also hurt Forte's value. When the Bears get behind, they have put the game in Cutler's hands and reduced Forte's chances. Forte's turned it around in recent weeks, but the damage has, for the most part, already been done to the owners who drafted him and their fantasy hopes.
Calvin Johnson was regarded as "quarterback-proof" coming into this season. No matter who was throwing the ball, he would get his yards and probably a score. He still ranked as one of the elite wide receivers in fantasy despite news that a rookie quarterback, Matthew Stafford would start for the Lions. With no legitimate threat on the other side of the field, defenses tried to take Megatron out of games, and a few times early in the season, they were successful. Even if you're quarterback-proof, you can't be "team-proof," and the Lions were doing him no favors.
A knee injury prevented Johnson from seeing the field for several weeks. Now that he's back to full health, he is contributing, but with only one touchdown and one 100+ yard game this season, it's safe to say owners were hoping to get more out of him by this point in the season.
What info could prevent us from making these same drafting mistakes in the future? We must pay close attention to change in the offseason, and give special attention to teams with new quarterbacks. The quarterback runs the offense, and changes at that position can often mean big swings in fantasy. In their first year with a new team, quarterbacks must spend time learning the playbook and finding their rhythm with the receivers and running back. There are many variables in play there, and it creates risks in fantasy.
In Chicago's case, Cutler brought that "gunslinger" mentality and a powerful arm to Chicago, which has allowed the passing game to be more of a focus on offense. He didn't avoid using Forte, but Cutler had to understand how and when he could use Forte, which led to Forte's slow start.
A rookie quarterback always has a big learning curve in coming to the NFL, and Matthew Stafford was no different. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco's exceptional rookie seasons may have warmed fantasy football players up to the idea of starting rookies, but the Lions were not nearly as complete a team as the Falcons and Ravens were last season. Stafford's rookie struggles have held Calvin Johnson back, and an unexpected knee injury did the rest.
It's unfortunate that new quarterbacks impact a team so much. Avoiding them as a rule can prevent you from finding some real value in your fantasy football draft (see: Vikings receivers like Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin), but taking a risk on teams with new signal callers can also cost you big, as we saw this year with Forte and Megatron.
The secret is to do your homework on them.
Hatty of HattyWaiverWireguru.Com says:
I targeted Anthony Gonzalez in as many leagues as I could, because I was certain he was going to be a stud opposite Reggie Wayne. The truth is that he would have been a beast and everyone would have been jealous of my pick, but got hurt. What's the moral of the story and what can I do different? NOTHING, players get hurt, the best fantasy football owners are the ones that plan for injuries. I drafted Derrick Mason, Sidney Rice, Miles Austin, and Torry Holt in the later rounds of the draft and I would say I ended up pretty good. You have to plan for injuries and do your research on later round fliers that have huge upside. Many people were down on Mason and I grabbed him late; I also got Rice and Austin in the last rounds, they have paid off in a major way.
Moral of the story is be prepared for injuries, no matter how well you draft you have to expect one of your better picks will be out for most of the season.
Jake of Junkyardjake.Com says:
Oh boy, have I been burned by more than my share of players this year. In one category, there are the players that went late in drafts, but turned out not to be worth the gamble. For example receivers like Chris Chambers and Kevin Curtis. These guys could be picked up late in drafts, but lingering injury problems, and advanced age have rendered them essentially useless. In the runningback department, Willis McGahee and Laurence Maroney looked like decent bounceback candidates, but the value of both these guys has been diminished by better players on their respective teams.
More to the point, I think two players who I was really fond of, and who went high enough in fantasy drafts to cause collective damage to many fantasy teams are Eddie Royal and LenDale White. The good news, is that both these guys offer possible lessons for to help refine your draft strategy next year.
In the case of Eddie Royal, his outstanding 91 catch 980 yard 5 TD rookie season dictated that you would need to spend at least a 5th or 6th round draft pick on him. Fair enough, seemed reasonable for the precocious and potentially explosive offensive weapon that Royal represents. Wrong ! I'm not sure there has been a bigger fantasy disaster than Royal in 2009. While he has clearly demonstrated his physical skills during his short career, other factors needed to be considered.
QB Changes Of course, it was fairly obvious that Kyle Orton was a downgrade from Jay Cutler, and this has no doubt affected Royal this year.
Coaching Changes I believe the other less obvious lesson that might be inferred from the Royal situation, is the need to assess the possible impact that coaching changes can have on a player. While Mike Shanahan deployed Royal as a featured receiver in his run-heavy West Coast offense, new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels has used his receivers in a way that attempts to exploit the defensive team he is playing. Seemingly, this has often meant that Eddie Royal has been sent on deep routes, or treated as interchangable with less talented receivers like Jabar Gaffney.
LenDale White has been another player whose performance has not come anywhere near his preseason draft value. It was probably more difficult to see this disaster coming, as White entered 2009 with two productive seasons under his belt. In 2007 White had 1,110 yards and 7 TDs, and then after Chris Johnson joined the team in 2008, he produced 773 yards and 15 TDs. Moreover, he was reportedly in the best shape of his young career, and the team and coaching situation for the Titans had remained largely intact from 2008. So what went wrong?
Consider RB Platoons and Team Defense Well, in this case, it seems that underestimating the superior skills of Chris Johnson was a mistake, and a more subtle change for the Titans seemed to be the deterioration of their defense. Perhaps a lesson here, is that if you wish to invest a draft pick in a runningback who is largely designated as a short yardage and goal line specialist, it is important to assess the quality of both the offensive and defensive squad. For a team with a weak offense and defense, like the Titans this year, there will be less goalline chances, and more extensive use of a back like Chris Johnson, who is far more effective on passing downs.