LaMont Jordan (left) :: AP
Each year, there are a group of players who have been disappointments in the past, about whom you're convinced this is the year they finally turn it around ... so you draft them. Well, it's time to let others deal with the heartbreak when the season starts and all you get is the same old thing: heartbreak. Here are five players to let pass by, no matter how great the reports on them have been:
1) LaMont Jordan, Broncos: Jordan, signed in the offseason by Denver, has supposedly discovered that you have to take care of yourself in the offseason in order to be a productive NFL running back. He's in line for goal-line carries and has even been mentioned as a potential starter, possibly jumping above Knowshown Moreno on the depth chart. However at age 30 and with one quality fantasy season under his belt in his previous eight campaigns -- and that came four years ago -- don't have any expectations of this being the year.
2) Cedric Benson, Bengals: Once upon a time Benson was the fourth overall pick of the 2005 draft. Now entering his fifth NFL season, he hasn't shown that he was worthy of a fourth-round pick. After alienating his teammates in Chicago (Matt Forte should send Benson a gift every Christmas for the opportunity Benson created for him), Benson ended up with the lowly Bengals and had semi-decent numbers. (Note: Semi-decent is not what you want on your roster.) Now Carson Palmer is back in charge of the striped-cats attack, meaning that there are other options to move the ball than the run, run, run (45.0% of the offensive snaps in '08 were runs as opposed to 42.0 in '07 under Palmer) strategy that allowed Benson to gain 747 yards last year.
3) Larry Johnson, Chiefs: Before the start of the 2007 season, Johnson, coming off a 1,789-yard, 17 TD season was the consensus No. 1 overall pick. A contract holdout, injuries and off the field problems all conspired to torpedo Johnson's fantasy value and his NFL career in general. Now he's 29 and sliding further down the backside of his career curve. He's most valuable to you in your opponent's lineup.
4) Roy Williams, Cowboys: Playing one of the league's most glamorous positions on its most popular team, you'd think that this really was the year Williams breaks out of his 24-month long funk. Don't bet on it. Now that Terrell Owens has been run out of town, the Cowboys are circling the wagons and will rely on many more plays between the hash marks than in years' past. That leaves Williams -- whose 100 catches since the start of '07 is tied with Zach Miller and Vincent Jackson for 56th in the league (and whose receiving yardage ranks 49th, behind Michael Jenkins, Bobby Wade and Shaun McDonald) -- as someone to stay totally clear of.
5) Vernon Davis, 49ers: The poster child for the All-Waiting-For-Something-(Anything!-To-Happen-Team, Davis had excellent offseason workouts and reports from coaches and reporters have been glowing. Here's all I can recommend: Let someone else take the chance on having him in their lineup and tip your cap if somehow this is really the year he pulls it all together, the way someone with his size (6-3, 250 lbs.) and athleticism seemingly should.
Cedric Benson isn't the only flop to come out of the '05 draft. Of the 13 offensive skill players chosen in the first round that year, only four -- Ronnie Brown, Aaron Rodgers, Roddy White and Heath Miller -- are quality fantasy players. The next group is comprised of the "only-if-you-have-to" players like Mark Clayton, Benson and Braylon Edwards. Then there's shot-in-the-dark choices Alex Smith and Jason Campbell, who currently rank in the bottom half of the quarterback rankings and would be surprising fantasy contributors. And lastly there's Cadillac Williams, Matt Jones, Troy Williamson and Mike Williams, none of whom will have fantasy impact in this or any other NFL season.
It's sad to see that second-year Falcons slot receiver Harry Douglas went down with a torn ACL. Certainly slated to be Atlanta's punt returner, the former Louisville Cardinal was in line to see a lot more action in the Matt Ryan-led passing attack than the 23 catches he made last season. Douglas had two big games, against Chicago and Carolina during which he caught nine balls for 188 yards. Ironically, Douglas was running in holdout Roddy White's spot at practice at the time of the injury. You can move Brian Finneran up a tick or two on your cheat sheets, but it's more likely that a new signee will have as much, if not more fantasy value than the veteran.
You've got to love watching your fantasy backs bouncing off hits and gaining yards after it looked like he might get stopped at the line. However when entering a new season, it's prudent to limit the number of players on your squad who have expended a lot of extra effort the previous season. Of the Top 10 rushers in yards gained after contact in 2007, only two, Clinton Portis (1,262 overall, 690 after contact) and Adrian Peterson (1,341 overall, 641 after getting hit) raised their rushing totals for 2008. Six of the remaining eight (Brian Westbrook, Willis McGahee, Fred Taylor, LenDale White, Willie Parker, Edgerrin James), all of whom gained over 1,100 yards in '07, failed to ever reach 1,000 yards in 2008. The remaining two, '07 yards-after contact leader Jamal Lewis (1,304 yards in '07, 1,002 in '08) and Marshawn Lynch (1,115 in '07, 1,036 in '08) failed to meet expectations. Here are the 2008 yards after contact leaders, many of whom will likely fall well short of '09 projections.
|Yards After Contact Leaders||Rushing Yards||Yards after contact|
|Michael Turner, Falcons||1,699||913|
|Adrian Peterson, Vikings||1,760||868|
|DeAngelo Williams, Panthers||1,515||809|
|Clinton Portis, Redskins||1,487||710|
|Ryan Grant, Packers||1,203||658|
|Steve Slaton, Texans||1,282||630|
|Jamal Lewis, Browns||1,002||619|
|Brandon Jacobs, Giants||1,089||608|
|Marshawn Lynch, Bills||1,036||586|
|Le'Ron McClain, Ravens||902||578|
If you want more updates like these, especially once fantasy football season kicks off, follow me on Twitter at @SI_DavidSabino.