Each year in fantasy football there is a mad scramble to find sleepers, guys that no one knows about to help your team. In this mad scramble, you sometimes end up making the mistake of drafting Michael Turner in the fifth round as your RB2; look it’s okay, it happens to everyone. Part of our job here at The Fake Football is to help you avoid from making those mistakes. While it is very important to identify players who can see a massive leap in production, it is also very important to identify those who are could see a massive drop in production. With that in mind, I have identified 5 players who are on the decline to avoid in 2013 fantasy football drafts.
Darren McFadden, Running Back, Oakland Raiders:
This one pains me. No one is a bigger fan of the behemoth from Arkansas, but the production no longer matches the praise. Before 2012, McFadden’s fans could always say that when he was healthy, he was a beast. In 2012, that simply wasn’t true. He missed 4 games with a high-ankle sprain, but at least his owners didn’t have to put up with his miserable 3.3 yard per carry when he was on their benches. He basically had one impressive Darren McFadden game all year, an 18 carry, 113 yard effort against Pittsburgh. The other two times that he topped 100 yards, he needed 29 and 30 carries to do so. There is a chance that McFadden’s struggles are due to the zone blocking scheme that will now be excised due to the firing of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, but that doesn’t explain the times where he was chased down in the open field on runs that 2011 Darren McFadden would have taken to the end zone. Whether it is all of his foot injuries finally catching up with him, or just being bogged down by the mediocre talent around him, McFadden is no longer the truly elite running back he once was while healthy. If he ends up costing a first round pick in 2013 fantasy football drafts, he’ll be a severe disappointment.
Roddy White, Wide Receiver, Atlanta Falcons:
Much like McFadden, White is a personal favorite of mine and this also pains me. While he is coming off a very solid season with 141 targets for 92 catches in combination with 1,351 yards and 7 touchdowns, there are only a handful of wide outs who are able to maintain that level of productivity heading into their age 32 seasons. Julio Jones is going to demand more targets and will replace Roddy as the wide receiver one for the Atlanta offense. With 39 red zone targets in 2011, 30 went to Roddy and 9 went to Julio. In 2012, with 40 targets, 20 went to Roddy and 20 went to Julio. I fully expect that trend to continue in Jones favor. The writing is on the injury wall as well. In his 8 year career, White has never missed a game. However, White was also dealing with a nagging knee injury over the last half of the season, especially noticeable in games against the Giants, Bucs and Saints. While White will still be fantasy relevant at a WR2 level in 2013, he most likely won’t live up to his WR1 cost.
Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals:
Unlike Roddy White, Fitzgerald was unable to provide any semblance of production in 2012. The mantra before the 2012 season was that Fitz would be able to put 90 catches, 1,200 yards and 8 touchdowns no matter who the quarterback. Fitzgerald responded by posting a line of 71 catches, 798 yards and 4 touchdowns, finishing with 99 fantasy points, just below Santana Moss in wide receiver scoring. While a new head coach and quarterback will help, it is a distinct possibility that Fitzgerald has lost a step. Before 2012, Fitzgerald made it happen fantasy-wise with the likes of Matt Leinart, Kevin Kolb and Jon Skelton. The trio of Skelton, Kolb and Ryan Lindley was certainly terrible, but was it any worse than Christian Ponder, who made Percy Harvin a top 10 wide receiver when he was healthy? I certainly don’t think so. It is true that Harvin is used in a different way than Fitzgerald, but it isn’t like the targets weren’t there; Fitzgerald averaged 9.5 targets a game and scored .6 fantasy points per target. That’s pitiful, no matter who the quarterback is. Unless the team finds a way to trade for a serviceable quarterback, there isn’t anyone on the open market or available to the Cardinals that really provides real hope for Fitzgerald’s fantasy value. Fitzgerald’s name value will make him go much higher in 2013 drafts than you should be willing to pay.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Running Back, New York Giants:
The writing is certainly on the wall for Bradshaw in 2013. The team spent a 2012 first round pick on the electrifying David Wilson and gave consistent goal line work to Andre Brown. Even after Andre Brown went on Injured Reserve, Bradshaw had to struggle his way to a 1,000 yard season with a mere six touchdowns. Always a popular RB2 in the 4th round, Bradshaw is on his way down. He has consistently battled foot injuries that keep him out of practice during the weeks between games for months on end and the injuries are finally starting to catch up to him, putting up six games with less than 3.6 yard per carry. With David Wilson having a full off-season to improve at pass protection at the professional level and gain Tom Coughlin’s trust, Bradshaw is going to be the more costly, less productive half of a messy timeshare. Many forget that in the very first game of the season, Wilson was featured just as much as Bradshaw on the opening drive until suffering a crucial fumble that banished him to the bench. Coughlin and company will have real plans for Wilson in 2013, making the injury-riddled Bradshaw a fantasy stay-away in 2013.
Antonio Gates, Tight End, San Diego Chargers
That’s it. It’s done. No more ‘he is in the best shape of the last three years stories’. No more ‘his foot injury is totally healed’. Antonio Gates is done as a fantasy relevant tight end. He had a late resurgence, scoring a touchdown each of the last three weeks, but not even that could save his fantasy season. Tight end was a wasteland of a position in 2012 and that will lead some people to want to take a shot on Gates with a new head coach in 2013, but it simply won’t work out. The Chargers offensive line will still be a mess and Gates will still be a lumbering 33-year-old who posted his worst statistical season since his rookie year. Avoid at all costs, in any round.