16. Ben Tate
Tate’s contract year wasn’t so much a failure as more of the same. A powerful, downhill runner, Tate managed a respectable 4.3 yards per carry, but again found himself plagued by injury. With Arian Foster going down in Week 9, Tate was gifted half a year to prove he could carry the mail. Instead, he played through a ribs issue for the better part of two months before being shut down for Weeks 16 and 17. If Tate’s power is his trademark, it’s also his Achilles’ heel, as he’s simply never at 100 percent. Tate may very well be someone’s starter for 2014, but it will almost certainly be on a one-year contract, and not the multi-year deal that was once within his grasp.
17. Dwayne Bowe
You can blame Alex Smith all you want, but the fact is, it wasn’t just his quarterback holding Bowe back in 2013. Admittedly sluggish — translation: out of shape — Bowe struggled more than he should have against man coverage, and managed just 3.4 yards after every catch. Bowe has never been a YAC dynamo, but that was a half yard off his 2012 mark, a year in which the Chiefs received far worse quarterback play. Bowe has vowed to get into better shape for 2014, and to improve his endurance while getting more “explosive and faster.” That’s easier said than done for a player going on 30.
18. Coby Fleener
Fleener was supposed to strike up an immediate bond with college teammate Andrew Luck when the Colts made him the No. 34 pick of the 2012 draft. Instead, he’s shown a disconcerting knack for doing all the little things wrong. Never known for his blocking, Fleener remains behind schedule as a pass catcher. There’s the drops, his struggle to create separation and a remarkable habit of never knowing where the chains are. There’s no overarching flaw with Fleener’s game, but five small problems are just as bad as one big one. With Dwayne Allen back in the picture for 2014, 2013 could go down as Fleener’s disappointing peak.
19. Stevan Ridley
Before 2013, you could make the case that Bill Belichick was too harsh on Ridley. Four lost fumbles later, it appears The Hoodie was right. Ridley is too loose with the ball, and it not only cost him a shot at a true breakout season, but burned legions of fantasy owners who made him a second-round pick. Ridley is a one-dimensional player. He’s still barely trusted as a blocker, and has only 19 career receptions. Now that he’s compromised his one dimension — chain-moving power running — by continuing to put the ball on the ground, he may never escape the ranks of “complementary back.”
20. Vincent Brown
A one-time draftnik favorite, Brown entered 2013 as a certifiable sleeper. He exits it as a certified bust, having caught just 41 passes for a team that lost its No. 1 and No. 2 receivers. Leapfrogged by Keenan Allen and out-produced by Eddie Royal, Brown’s promise appears to have gone down with the fractured ankle that cost him all of 2012. He’s a tight end stuck in a 5-foot-11, 184-pound body.
21. Brandon Myers
Myers made his name racking up cheap catches for an overmatched Raiders team in 2012. He parlayed it into a one-year deal for a club and quarterback who have never hesitated to dump the ball off to the tight end. But instead of easy money over the middle, the Giants got a player whose receiving production fell by nearly a third. Throw that on top of utterly incompetent blocking, and you have a player who won’t be invited back to the TE1 ranks, either in “real life” or fantasy.
22. Ryan Broyles
An NCAA record setter, Broyles is on pace to suffer a record amount of serious injuries at the NFL level. Even before a torn right Achilles’ tendon ended Broyles’ 2013 in late October, he clearly wasn’t beyond the twin ACL tears he suffered in 2011 and 2012, managing only eight catches as he played sparse snaps for an offense that was direly thin at receiver. At one time, Broyles’ upside was immense. Now it’s kaput.
23. Chris Johnson
CJ2K became CJ55MillionK in 2011. Since, he’s seen his production steadily decline along with his effort. Unwilling or unable to break through contact, Johnson managed only 3.9 yards per carry in 2013, while turning in a “long” rush of just 30 yards. He averaged 1.8 yards after first contact, good for No. 48 in Pro Football Focus’ ratings. They’re startlingly pedestrian numbers for a player who still has super-human speed. Now on the outs in Tennessee, CJwhateverK’s days as an every-down runner are likely through.
24. Isaiah Pead
Still less than two years removed from being the No. 50 overall pick of the 2012 draft, Pead will enter his third NFL campaign with all of 31 career touches — and perhaps without a roster spot. Pead threw away a golden opportunity to replace Steven Jackson by getting himself suspended for Week 1 and failing to show signs of progress anywhere on the field. He averaged 3.3 yards per carry in the preseason. “Miserable” by his own admission as a rookie, Pead now has two miserably ineffective seasons to his name as a pro. There’s no guarantee he’ll get a chance to make it three.
25. Miles Austin
Austin entered the season at (supposedly) 100 percent health. Three weeks and one hamstring “tweak” later, it was off to the disappointing races yet again. Extremely ineffective when he was on the field, the rapidly declining 29 year old caught just 24 passes in 11 games. A shooting star Jerry Jones paid $57 million in 2010, Austin has barely been a No. 3 receiver since. The Cowboys are expected to give up the ghost this offseason.