This year is harder than ever to hand down rulings on the draft's winners and losers because so many players remain in limbo. With trades and free agency signings still to come, Dynasty values will continue to fluctuate based on the changing landscape. That said, here are the biggest Dynasty losers of the 2011 draft:
1. Beanie Wells / Tim Hightower
- The Cardinals pulled the trigger on Ryan Williams
at No. 38 overall for two primary reasons: 1. He was the best player on their board. 2. The coaching staff no longer trusted Wells and Hightower to stay healthy and productive. Hightower, never more than a flex fantasy option, fumbled away his opportunity while bringing up the rear in Pro Football Focus' running back ratings
last season. After closing out his rookie year as one of the most promising young backs in the league, Wells suffered through a disastrous injury-plagued 2010 season. It's worth noting that Wells has not been on the field for even a third of the offensive snaps in either season, a sure sign that his coaching staff lacks confidence in his pass protection, ball security, and ability (willingness?
) to play effectively through pain. On the other hand, Wells is arguably a stronger runner than Williams when healthy, and one season marred by a meniscus injury isn't reason enough to write off a promising talent. It's not a bad idea to approach the Beanie owner in your league, seeking a bargain-basement deal for a potential starter.
2. Roddy White
- It's no secret that wide receiver fantasy success directly corresponds to consistently high target numbers, but White is an extreme case. A true volume receiver, White has racked up 18 more targets than any other NFL wideout over the past two seasons. While he earns plenty of credit for an ability to get open against stacked coverage, White has been force-fed the ball with no semblance of a threat on the opposite side. His counting stats have gone up, but only at the expense of his per-play effectiveness. Enter Julio Jones
, hand-picked to draw attention -- and valuable targets -- away from Matt Ryan
's go-to receiver. White is entering his age-30 season, which means the downslope is coming soon for a player who isn't quite Hall of Fame caliber. Within 2-3 years, I expect Jones to be outproducing White as Ryan's top target.
3. Pierre Thomas / Chris Ivory
- The writing was on the wall for Thomas when he inked a backup's contract in early March. What we didn't know then was that the Saints would bypass another role player in the backfield to target a workmanlike, chain-moving offensive foundation
like Ingram. The Saints didn't surrender a second-rounder and next year's first-round pick to turn Ingram into a mix-and-match situational back. Ingram is expected to take over feature-back duties
immediately, leaving the roles of Thomas and Ivory up in the air. After missing time with knee, head, shoulder, hamstring, and Lisfranc injuries as a rookie, Ivory can't be counted on as more than a backup going forward.
4. Felix Jones / Tashard Choice
- The Cowboys didn't draft Jones with the intention of turning him into a feature back
, so it came as no surprise when his explosiveness disappeared under the weight of increased carries last year. With Marion Barber
on the chopping block, DeMarco Murray
was picked up in the third-round to help shoulder Jones' workload. Rather than a RB2 with difference-making upside, Jones will remain a RB3/flex with RB2 upside. For whatever reason, Choice fell out of favor
with the coaching staff last season. One beat writer even suggests the productive backup could be on the roster bubble
this summer. I'd advising holding in Dynasty leagues. Jones and Murray are both injury risks, and Choice could excel in another locale if traded.
5. Jahvid Best
- A second-round power-back complement was far from ideal, but the sky isn't exactly falling on Best's long-term value. Coach Jim Schwartz plans to use Best in the Chris Johnson
"get the lead" role with Leshoure as the LenDale White
"keep the lead" hammer in the four-minute drill
. As long as the Lions folllow the Titans' 2008 script, Best's touches should see very little standard deviation
while Leshoure's carries will be directly tied to situation and game momentum. The homerun hitting Best that we saw pre-turf toe injury last season was reminiscent of Brian Westbrook
-- too talented to keep off the field for long stretches. He'll lose goal-line opportunities, but fewer between-the-tackles carries will help keep Best out of the trainers' room going forward.
6. Jerome Simpson
The late-season breakout star rightfully entered the offseason as a fantasy sleeper, but the landscape in Cincinnati has changed markedly in the past few months. Simpson could have not only a new coordinator planning a run-heavy offense, but also a new QB as well as competition for the No. 1 receiver role that enabled him to first in receptions (18) and fourth in targets (21) over the final two weeks of the season. First-rounder A.J. Green
was NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell's top player in the draft
, with the talent to leapfrog
Simpson as the Bengals' top receiver. Without that high volume of targets, Simpson's sleeper status is on the ropes.
7. David Garrard
- Garrard is coming off a season in which he threw for a career-high 23 touchdowns and completed a career-high 64.5 percent of his passes while mirroring Drew Brees
and Matt Ryan
in passer rating. The performance hid an inconsistency that saw Garrard nearly yanked multiple times by October. After noting for a second straight offseason that Garrard is not an elite QB, the Jags traded up to land his replacement in Blaine Gabbert
. While it would be a major upset if Gabbert, an early-entry candidate from a spread offense, starts in Week 1, Garrard's leash will be short. It's not inconceivable that the cash-strapped franchise will release Garrard and his $8 million salary by the end of summer.
8. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
- Smart Dynasty owners realized 2010 was the perfect storm for the Law Firm, selling high at the end of the season on a back with mediocre talent and little staying power. The 2008 undrafted free agent is deserving of respect for making 2006 first-rounder Laurence Maroney
expendable, but his fantasy output on just 40 percent of the offensive snaps was mostly attributable to the Patriots playing with a commanding lead from October through December. Green-Ellis' workload has nowhere to go but down after the selections of well-rounded Shane Vereen
and power back Stevan Ridley