The Shy-Away Top 40Tuesday, August 21, 2012
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We've seen each team play at least two preseason games and closely monitored camp reports on every skill-position player in the NFL. The recommendations in this column are inherently negative (see title), but based on the facts we've gleaned, represent an informed and reasoned projection.
This isn't a list of undervalued players, or projected busts. Those can be found in the 2012 Fantasy Football Draft Guide. This is a list of players I think you should consider scratching off your cheatsheets altogether. Guys you should draft around.
1. Trent Richardson (ADP: Early 3rd round) -- I loved watching Richardson run in college, and I initially loved his fantasy landing spot as a projected 350-touch workhorse behind an underrated Cleveland offensive line. Recurring knee woes led to a second surgery in six months, however, and missing all of preseason and a huge chunk of camp erases Richardson's chances of being an early-season bellcow back. Montario Hardesty has earned a sizable role, and Brandon Jackson can handle all passing downs. I wouldn't draft Richardson before the fifth round.
2. Philip Rivers (ADP: Early 7th round) -- Rivers' Average Draft Position isn't grossly out of whack, but you don't want him as your fantasy starter. The 2011 tape showed Rivers lacking velocity on throws, leading to a career high in interceptions, and his pick-prone preseason has only furthered those concerns. It's not that Rivers isn't still capable of throwing 20-25 touchdown passes and winning some games. It's that you'll be at a weekly disadvantage if he's your fantasy football QB1.
3. Maurice Jones-Drew (ADP: Early 2nd round) -- Adam Levitan has broken down the history of training-camp holdouts and on-field production subsequent them. The falloff is downright scary. The Jaguars won't cave on this one, and Jones-Drew may not report until just before Week 1. In the interim, Rashad Jennings has held down the fort effectively enough to at least create a regular-season timeshare. It's shocking that people are still drafting MJD in the first two rounds.
4. Michael Turner (ADP: Late 3rd round) -- There are some hard-headed Turner believers out there, but you won't find any of them at Rotoworld. In Atlanta's new up-tempo offense, the cement-footed 30-year-old will lose significant field time to passing-game contributors Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling while morphing into a clock-killing role player who makes his biggest impact at the end of blowouts. Turner's performance is in decline, and he no longer fits what Atlanta wants to do schematically. He could fall to the fifth round and you still shouldn't draft him.
5. Frank Gore (ADP: Early 4th round) -- Once among the league's most versatile backs, Gore's passing-game role has evaporated in Jim Harbaugh's run-heavy attack, and he's sure to lose short-yardage duties to Brandon Jacobs. It's also fair to wonder whether impressive second-year runner Kendall Hunter will overtake Gore as the 49ers' top tailback by midseason. Gore is no more than a low-upside, low-end RB2 who will catch few passes and score very few touchdowns.
6. Jason Witten (ADP: Late 7th round) -- Witten's Average Draft Position has predictably plummeted since lacerating his spleen on August 13, but he continues to be drafted as a fantasy starter. Not a great idea. Witten has been a good player for a very long time, but he's coming off the least productive year of his career and now faces a diminished early-season role, especially in the passing game. Witten hasn't even been able to exercise since his injury. Look elsewhere for your TE1.
7. Mike Wallace (ADP: Early 5th round) -- The 2011 game tape shows Wallace is a more dynamic player than Antonio Brown, but that analysis flies out the window when we're projecting 2012 statistics and the guy isn't even on the field. The Steelers are running a brand-new offense, and Wallace held out for all of OTA "install" in addition to the first month of camp. When Wallace returns, will he know enough of Todd Haley's scheme to be anything more than a decoy, running clear-out routes so Brown can rack up stats like last year? Let someone else take this leap.
8. Tony Romo (ADP: Mid 6th round) -- I was aboard the Romo pre-camp bandwagon, and then things started to take shape. Dallas' interior line is a major issue in both pass protection and run blocking, while Witten (spleen) and Miles Austin (hamstring) have suffered injuries that seem likely to affect their regular-season production. Dez Bryant's patella tendinitis isn't helping. People seem to be catching on, as Romo's ADP has fallen about a round over the past week. It’s still too high.
9. Wes Welker (ADP: Mid 3rd round) -- I still think Welker can catch 100 balls and be a PPR moneymaker, but I'm down on him in standard leagues. New OC Josh McDaniels' offense is more vertical-oriented than outgoing OC Bill O'Brien's and will feature Brandon Lloyd downfield as opposed to Welker on checkdowns underneath. I think a realistic Welker 2012 stat line would be similar to his in 2008, McDaniels' last year as Pats playcaller. Welker caught 111 passes for 1,165 yards and three touchdowns, ranking 21st among fantasy receivers. He was still top 10 in PPR.
10. Miles Austin (ADP: Late 5th round) -- The Cowboys initially stated Austin's August 4 hamstring strain was "minor," and he'd be "fine." They then projected him back for their August 25 exhibition game. Owner Jerry Jones has since ruled out Austin for all of the preseason, confirming he's well behind schedule. While Austin's role is safe for when he returns, this is a player who recovered incredibly slowly from similar injuries in 2011. I wouldn't even count on him as a WR3.