David Sabino
Thursday August 26th, 2010

Gridiron 11

Caveat Emptor: The last thing you want to do at your draft is squander a valuable pick on someone who'll be a flop. This week's Gridiron 11 examines players who, at this point, we'll stop short of calling busts, but in each case the potential is there for them to experience a drop in production from last season. Some will prove to be a complete fantasy meltdown. In a few instances, circumstances will dictate this decline, but in most, the drop in fantasy value will simply be a result of poor performance.

Here are 11 players who will see their production fall in 2010:

For more insights, follow SI's fantasy expert David Sabino on Twitter at SI_DavidSabino.

1Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
From a technical standpoint you won't find a better NFL receiver. Fitzgerald can go up and get the ball as well as anyone who has ever played his position. However, someone has to deliver throws that he can make plays on. Matt Leinart is struggling to recapture the starting job he coughed up to Kurt Warner two years ago. Ex-Browns starter Derek Anderson played his way out of Cleveland. This dicey situation is a shame, but barring a dramatic development behind Arizona's center, Fitzgerald won't produce the numbers that fantasy players have been used to.
2Sidney Rice, Vikings
Sidney Rice, Vikings
He's Exhibit A for why it's a bad idea to draft too early in the summer. The euphoria among Rice owners over the return of Brett Favre was short-lived. Not only does it look like the troublesome hip that required surgery will sideline Rice for the start of the season, he's almost sure to land on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which will cost him at least six games. He's even at risk for Injured Reserve, which would cost him the entire season without his ever stepping on the field.
3Thomas Jones, Chiefs
Thomas Jones, Chiefs
After two All-World seasons, it's not a great idea to underestimate Jones, 32, but the NFL's second-leading rusher since 2005 will be hard pressed to keep Jamaal Charles out of the lineup. At best, Jones and Charles will each hover around the 1,000-yard mark, far short of what you might expect for someone coming off of a 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown season. At worst for Jones, he'll step back into the role of mentor for the Chiefs' back of the future.
4Beanie Wells, Cardinals
Beanie Wells, Cardinals
It's assumed that the Cards are going to hand the keys to the rushing game to Wells, but the starter from the last two seasons --Tim Hightower -- hasn't ceded the starting spot easily, if at all.
5Braylon Edwards, Jets
Braylon Edwards, Jets
Something will have to give in the Jets' passing game once Santonio Holmes returns after his three-game suspension. Given his history of drops and disappointments, and Jerricho Cotchery's consistency over the last four seasons, Edwards' value may be limited simply to September games, so don't overdraft him.
6Willis McGahee, Ravens
Willis McGahee, Ravens
Not only has Ray Rice developed into a one-man wrecking crew, Le'Ron McClain has shown that he's more than capable of serving as the team's goal line option. McClain gained 902 yards and scored 10 touchdowns as recently as 2008. Those factors, and the advancement of Jalen Parmele's game, have McGahee caught in a swirl of trade rumors. With such a crowded Ravens backfield, a trade would be a boon to McGahee's value.
7Devery Henderson, Saints
Devery Henderson, Saints
A starter for 13 of the final 14 games last season, including the playoffs and Super Bowl, Henderson appears to be recovered from offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia. However, Robert Meachem's recovery and the re-emergence of Lance Moore have clouded Henderson's prospects. He's likely to return to his former role of deep threat to stretch the defense, so his value will be inconsistent at best.
8Justin Forsett, Seahawks
Justin Forsett, Seahawks
When LenDale White was cut, the buzz turned to Forsett, who unseated current depth chart leader Julius Jones last season. However, Forsett has been invisible in preseason action while Leon Washington has willed his way back from reconstructive knee surgery to squarely place himself in the race to be Seattle's flagship back.
9Brandon Jacobs, Giants
Brandon Jacobs, Giants
He is quickly making his way onto the Giants' list of big, flash-in-the-pan backs that is populated by disappointments such as Tyrone Wheatley and Ron Dayne. With just one outstanding season to his credit (2008, when he averaged 83.8 yards and scored 15 TDs in just 13 games), Jacobs is in serious danger of losing his featured status to the much speedier Ahmad Bradshaw who outgained him by 1.1 yards per carry last season. You can't even count on Jacobs in the Red Zone where his TD percentage (10.9) was far outdistanced by Bradshaw's (25) despite the huge discrepancy in their respective statures.
10Larry Johnson, Redskins
Larry Johnson, Redskins
First, the good news: Johnson got the ball eight times against the Ravens in Washington's last preseason game. The bad news: He averaged just 0.5 yards per carry, gaining a total of four yards. Should he even make the team (something that's in no way a lock), he appears destined to the same fate that fellow former fantasy first pick Shaun Alexander met in Washington in 2008 when he ended his career by gaining 24 yards on 11 rushes in four games. Don't waste a valuable pick here.
11Derrick Ward, Buccaneers
Derrick Ward, Buccaneers
We've already heard from "Earth" and "Fire," so it's only fitting that the man known as "Wind" in the Giants three-headed rushing monster of 2008 would end up on this list, too. The former 1,000-yard runner virtually vanished last season in Tampa Bay while playing for a team that really needed a spark on offense. Now he finds himself drawing the ire of head coach Raheem Morris, who considers Ward out of shape. Thus, Ward lands on the roster bubble. If you must take a Bucs runner, look at undrafted free agent Kareem Huggins, who has passed Ward on the depth chart. Huggins could be an excellent pickup, given starter Cadillac Williams' injury history.

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