While fantasy football is a glaring example of the old adageâ€™Â What Have You Done For Me Lately, youâ€™d be doing yourself a huge disservice by not considering the injured and downtrodden from a year ago.
I am talking about the fantasy relevant who, due to injury or misfortune, became fantasy irrelevant. The guys who made you want to run out into the middle of the woods and scream like a savage, only to return to your laptop or television flush, disheveled and confused.
We couldnâ€™t blame you if you entered this yearâ€™s draft with a level of trepidation; Leery beyond any shadow of a doubt with anyone who clutched a hamstring, pulled a quad, or just plain came up terribly short in 2011. Some were the victims of injuries, whether severe or nagging. Some stood steadfast through contract squabbles, only to return and fall well below expectations. Some were just plain bad, due to environment, coaching issues, or their own doing. Some took the year off, literally and figuratively. Football players aside, these guys are human, and the human stage is a very wacky production.
Realize this hobby presents a level of risk that deserves to be embraced and celebrated. It presents not only owners with a second chance at redemption; it affords the players in question that very same luxury! Make sure you are cognizant of the varied situations out there and use that hesitancy that grips your fellow owners to your advantage.
Take Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson for instance. After a contract dispute that cost Johnson the entire Titans’ training camp, he had arguably the worst season of his professional career. Never a good thing when you just signed a 4 year, $53.5 million contract extension, $30 million of which is guaranteed. Johnson is an enormous talent, as evidenced by the fact that so many were willing to draft him extremely high in 2011 despite the air of uncertainty regarding his playing status. Compounding things were the dismal performances that followed his return to action. You can lean towards business as usual in 2012: donâ€™t expect much of a drop at all in regards to his draft position, but if you are hesitant in the least, donâ€™t be.
As far as the injury bug, no fantasy player caused more headaches and enraged more fantasy owners than Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden. A consensus first-round pick from coast to coast, McFadden busted out in fine style in week 1 with 150 yards rushing against Denver, following it up with over 140 combined yards and two TDâ€™s against the Bills. The following week he tore into Rex Ryanâ€™s New York Jets defense for 171 rushing yards and two more TDâ€™s. However, McFadden would play only 4 more games in 2011.
Great performances aside, 7 games from your first round selection does not bode well. He went to score one TD over the next 4 games, the last of which he suffered a foot injury in shutout loss to Kansas City that pretty much rendered McFadden bench fodder. I canâ€™t help but think that in 2012 owners will think long and hard about pulling the trigger early when it comes to McFadden, a guy who has yet to dress for more than 13 games in his career thus far. However, all signs are he is 100%, and former standout backup RB Michael Bush is off to Chicago.
Following a breakout 2010 season with almost 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns, new Kansas City Chiefs RB Peyton Hillis entered 2011 with much fanfare, including the dreaded cover of Madden 12. The ultimate result? Futility, anger, confusion and misery for the Cleveland Browns and fantasy owners alike. Hillis battled a hamstring injury that nagged him all season, limiting him to only four games. I have a hard time seeing owners bellying up to the bar and taking that leap of faith on Hillis in 2012. That could be a mistake. Signing with the Chiefs in the offseason, I would seriously consider drafting Hillis when the time is right, even more so should you risk a pick on RB Jamaal Charles, who is recovering from an ACL injury.
Realize that Hillis is healthy, and brings a bruising, power running game that Kansas City hasnâ€™t seen in a long time. He leaves a forgettable situation in Cleveland and when you factor in the uncertainty of Charles, Hillis could delight once again. As far as securing Charles, I would be cautious. The first year removed from an ACL injury can be tricky. Itâ€™s safe to say this thought occurred to the folks in the Chiefs front office, since they sought out and signed Hillis. Just some food for thought.
Sometimes the much ballyhooed come up shorter than expected. For rookies in the NFL, this shouldnâ€™t really be a surprise. The football is brown, the field is green, the referees wear striped shirts. However the difference in skill level from college to the professional game is monumental. Couple that in with injuries, and you have the 2011 seasons of Miami Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas and New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram. Iâ€™ll go out on the limb and say that RB Reggie Bushâ€™s injury free campaign was an aberration and Thomas will recapture his role in Miami. I believe heâ€™ll do good things. In regards to Ingram, the Saints are a pass-first team, but Ingram is their most talented running back and I think he makes noticeable strides in his second NFL season.
I will say that Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Petersonâ€™s double whammy on Christmas Eve with the ACL and MCL scares me. The fact that both ligaments were torn should be a huge concern as you sit down at the draft table. He could drop a few rounds and could be a steal, but then again he could struggle mightily as he works through his recovery. Heâ€™s a stud, but if the wheels are banged up, youâ€™d probably want to look in another direction. Simply put, look beyond the name value.
A few higher profile quarterbacks will be defined by their ability to stay healthy and ultimately stay in fantasy starting lineups. Most notably Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning. Sounds weird, doesnâ€™t it? Not to the folks in Denver. To them it sounds like excitement, intensity and wins. All of these things are possible with Manning in the lineup. He is indeed a risk, but when you consider what he brings to the table, and how heâ€™ll raise the level of everyone around him, he is more than worth the gamble. He is the consummate performer and could be a draft day steal. Donâ€™t go crazy, but realize heâ€™s back because he can play, period paragraph.
Another make or break performer would be that Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick. He wonâ€™t slide far, but youâ€™ll want to keep an eye on him on draft day without question. If he manages to stay healthy, and his hand away from his own offensive linemanâ€™s helmet, he could be a lock for tops at the QB position in 2012. Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub is a quiet yet solid performer who missed a nice portion of the season with a foot injury. He is reportedly back 100% and when you consider the talent around him, he could be a nice addition to your fantasy squad. Finally we have San Diego Chargers QB Phillip Rivers. Interceptions, questionable decisions, and spells of maddeningly bad play defined Rivers in 2011. However, you have to take into consideration a dinged up offensive line, injuries and other issues to standout receivers Antonio Gates and the departed WR Vincent Jackson. These along with other issues all made Rivers a prime candidate for instability and mediocrity. The offensive line should be healthier, and with Gates ready to go and some new blood downfield, I expect Rivers to rebound nicely. It also bears mentioning that in addition to paving the way for the likes of RB Ryan Matthews Â expect newly signed FB LeRon McClain to help protect Rivers as well. Heâ€™s the best in the game at what he does.
Other quarterbacks that could be poised for a brighter 2012Â -Â Chiefs QB Matt Cassel and Rams QB Sam Bradford.
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