Eric Mack: Top potential NFL fantasy disappointments - Sports Illustrated

Expectations, circumstances make for potential NFL disappointments

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This might sound obvious, but we will go ahead and say it anyway: In order to be a disappointment, you have to have expectations. Someone has to value you.

That needs to be said because we are going to trash some non-obvious choices as disappointments.

Save for sudden season-ending injuries, it is how you put together a list of potential fantasy football busts. No one cares if you speak poorly about JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Knowshon Moreno, Laurence Maroney, David Carr, Brady Quinn ... or Ryan Leaf.

OK, so those names are busts in real NFL terms. But we're talking fantasy, where those names never amounted to anything.

So calling them disappointments won't register with anyone. Instead, we will attack some of the best names in drafts this August and say they're going to leave you wanting more -- Chris Johnson or Michael Vick circa 2011-style.

Stories like this make someone want to set small goals, ones easily attainable, because disappointment s----, err-um, stinks. These players below aren't undraftable, but they represent a bad value for where you would have to draft them. Basically, these top-10 disappointments of fantasy football 2012 don't have small goals, unfortunately:

MJD is going to be the first back off the board that doesn't play on a contender. He will also be the first back picked that doesn't play for an elite offense. He will also be the first extended holdout selected. That is a formula for disappointment.

Ask the Titans' Johnson.

Bad offenses, especially one-dimensional ones like the Jags', tend to be easier to stop. Sure, MJD still racked up a league-leading 1,606 yards, mostly in garbage time, a year ago, but banking on that happening again is a bad idea -- particularly since you have to pick him in the top four of most standard drafts.

That is true even if MJD doesn't get hurt. He went into last season with some questions about his knee, didn't have a backup running back to take the pressure off and finished with a league-high 343 carries (and a league-high 386 touches). That sets him up for a potential injury to make him go bust.

This is not to mention: The Jags are readying Rashad Jennings to start in MJD's place right now, so MJD is going to have to re-earn his job even if he reports to camp before Week 1 of the season. He won't be a starter again right away.

Turner not only has to deal with the questions about his previous season's workload, he also has the big 3-oh working against him. Backs with high workloads break down just like the ones that turn the age of 30. These are the fantasy football facts of life.

Turner was second to MJD in carries last season after leading the NFL in 2010, and to combat the potential for breakdown, the Falcons are planning to limit Turner's touches, particularly early in the season. They are also planning a more pass-oriented attack with the maturation of quarterback Matt Ryan and second-year receiver Julio Jones. Turner has been a model of consistency, playing all 16 games in four of the past five seasons. At 30, that might just mean he is due for something catastrophic.

Jackson had a checkered past with Philip Rivers, one of the better QBs in the NFL, and playing second fiddle to Antonio Gates. Now, he has to live up to his newly inked contract as the primary option for quarterback Josh Freeman, who is one of the NFL's short-ball throwers.

Think of 2011's dink-and-dunk passers: Blaine Gabbert, Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez and Freeman. McCoy is no longer a starter. Tebow and Sanchez are competing for the same job. Gabbert might not be the answer long term in Jacksonville. Freeman is in no danger of being benched, but he was in their area of having a low yards per attempt and only McCoy had a lower yards per completion.

The point here is: Jackson is a deep route runner now playing with a quarterback who is a short-route passer. That is a formula of failure.

This is no to suggest RG3 is going to be a bust as an NFL QB. It is just the belief you're going to be disappointed with what you get out of him. The expectation is he will be the second coming of Cam Newton.

But Newton's rookie year was a once-in-a-generation type that will be improbable to duplicate.

The hype will likely force whoever winds up with RG3 to pick him among the top 12 QBs on draft day. That person will be drafting a fantasy backup. RG3 shouldn't be picked the top 15 veterans are off the board. His bust potential this year is as great as his long-term potential itself.

Before you point to his seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons consider that there was talk the Rams thought about picking Trent Richardson early in Round 1 and dealing, or releasing, Jackson. It might be just smoke, or even hot air, but you have to be concerned there's fire somewhere.

The Rams just don't like Jackson enough.

He is 29, so almost at that breakdown age of 30, a weekly injury risk, leading a generally incompetent offense and hasn't been a great source of touchdowns for fantasy owners. Those are the reasons you should be wary of Jackson.

Also, the presence of second-round pick Isaiah Pead should concern you. At 5-feet-10 and 197 pounds, Pead reminds new coach Jeff Fisher of the Titans' Johnson. So, read: Jackson avoid, Pead a get.

This is one of the names that seems chic to jump on right now. So, we don't feel ashamed calling him a potential disappointment even though he has never had 100-yard game. He has totaled just 726 yards and three TDs in his career and he is already 27, which is relatively old for a running back. Oh, and he already needed an MRI on his groin injury.

No, Redman doesn't have a lot of wear on the tire, but it is remarkable to see he is getting picked around 35th overall, according to average draft position (ADP) on That is awfully early for an unproven, non-prospect.

Yes, he is slated to be the Steelers' starting RB out of the gate -- and that is a great running game to be the front man for -- but Rashard Mendenhall will eventually steal that feature-back role, relegating Redman to third downs. At the current premium, Redman is a bad buy. (Chewing tobacco is bad for you, too.)

Think what you want about the 49ers this season. Say what you want about how Gore has overcome so many serious knee injuries. The fact is the 49ers just are not confident in Gore's health and the fact he declined precipitously at the end of last season.

Gore, another 29-year-old back, was backed up often by speedy Kendall Hunter last season and the bulldozer Anthony Dixon. Then, the 49ers added small back in LaMichael James in the draft this year and big back Brandon Jacobs via free agency (although Jacobs may be sideline after taking a hard hit over the weekend). That is a lot of depth the Niners have tried to build.

Teams don't guard themselves like that if they are confident in their starter. Consider Gore a fallback option, not a second-round starter for your fantasy team, even if you really want to get a bite of that 49ers ground-and-pound attack.

From one injury-prone former Miami Hurricanes RB to another, McGahee is yet another 30-year-old running back with injury questions playing for a run-reliant coach. McGahee enjoyed a career revival a year ago, but odds are the Broncos are going to need to rely more on Peyton Manning and the passing game this year.

Unlike the other backs on this disappointments list above, McGahee is more likely to be picked as a fantasy backup. He is currently 24th among backs in's ADP.

As opposed to picking McGahee as a starter, you are better off picking rookie Ronnie Hillman or sliding unknowns Lance Ball or long-time bust Knowshon Moreno as late-round sleepers.

Right behind McGahee in ADP is Sproles at No. 25. He's right behind him in age, too, at 29.

Sproles is coming off a career year in the Sean Payton's wide-open offense, but there remains a question whether the replacement coaches can maintain the same production. Sproles is durable but only as a third-down back. It will be incredibly tough for him to repeat his 6.9 yards per carry this season.

Fewer catches, fewer yards, a less-productive offense, age 29 and the inevitability that injury will finally find the diminutive one combine to make him a risky one to trust in the round you have to draft him.

Harvin should have been a fantasy star by now. In his fourth year, he could be. But for some reason, the Vikings misused their leading receiver in the first half of last season, running him on the ground more than getting him targets.

That changed in the second half and Harvin emerged as a good fantasy starter down the stretch. At 11th in ADP among WRs, Harvin is being picked as a great fantasy starter.

No, he's a marginal one the Vikings still cannot be counted on to use properly, particularly with the development of QB Christian Ponder as a bit roller-coaster like. In a different situation, Harvin is worth considering a breakout candidate. Not this one.

You might completely disagree with this list. You're entitled. A lot of people love these players above, that is why they are getting picked where they are.

On the flip side, it is doubtful everyone will agree with these potential disappointments. And if they do, these guys will fall on draft day into a round where the reward will better outweigh the risks. That's when you might actually consider buying on some of these guys.

No one can be disappointed when you set the bar low enough.