Fantasy Football Report
The biggest busts: Michael Vick, Chris Johnson and the other NFL underachievers
I know it’s Christmas and all, and we should be counting our blessings. I thought I’d be a bit contrarian instead and continue our Fantasy Football season wrap-up by throwing some coal in your stocking. That’s right: It’s time for the biggest busts of the 2011 season.
The qualifications: A guy had to be considered an every-week starter at his position at the start of the year only to come up woefully short of expectations. And while injuries can be part of the story, they can’t be the entire reason for the lackluster production. (For example, Jamaal Charles can’t be blamed for his season-ending injury in Week 1.)
So here they are: The true heartbreakers and season-takers of the 2011 season.
QB Michael Vick, Philadelphia: Vick was a Fantasy revelation in 2010, leading to his being taken in the first round in most drafts, often as the first quarterback. With 13 TD’s and 13 interceptions thus far, it’s safe to say that he hasn’t been worth that high pick. What’s been even more damaging is the fact that, while his rushing yards are still exemplary among quarterbacks, he’s managed just one score on the ground versus nine a year ago. Add in the fact that he’s had just two 300-yard passing games and missed three games to injury, and you can see how Vick has frustrated his owners.
RB Chris Johnson, Tennessee: Count me as one of the owners who was overjoyed to get my hands on Johnson in the draft, taking him fifth in one league and feeling very lucky about it. With averages of over 1,500 yards and 12 TD’s per season in his first three years, CJ looked like a lock for RB1 status. Blame it on the holdout, or blame it on poor offensive line play, but the bottom line is painful no matter what you choose to blame. He rushed for over 100 yards in just four contests; for the rest of the year, he averaged just 35 yards per game.
RB Peyton Hillis, Cleveland: Granted, Hillis missed six games with a variety of injuries. But even when he did play, his production was anemic. It’s hard to believe that a guy who rushed for 1,177 yards a year ago still hasn’t picked up a 100-yard rushing game. His receptions are down from 61 to 16, his TD’s have decreased from 13 to three. He has had just two games that would be considered adequate for a starting Fantasy running back. Like Vick, the immediate question that comes to mind is whether his monster 2010 was just an aberration.
WR Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis: While it doesn’t take a genius to see that Wayne has been negatively affected by the absence of Peyton Manning, it should still be mentioned that he was still considered to be a solid, starting candidate in most drafts even with Manning’s status still up in the air at the time. After 106 yards and a TD in the opener, Wayne has managed just one more 100-yard game and two more TD’s since. And if Manning is completely to blame, how does that account for the fact that teammate Pierre Garcon is beating Wayne in all major categories?
WR DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia: I suppose it’s only fitting that the most disappointing team in football is the only one to place two players on this list. Jackson’s season has been a train wreck in every possible way, a shining example of how not to perform when wanting a bigger contract. He started OK with 100-yard games in two of his first four, but it caved in from there. Jackson hasn’t passed the century mark since and has just three scores. In the past he added to his value with the occasional return or running score; that hasn’t happened this year either.
TE Vernon Davis, San Francisco: In a season in which tight ends are putting up record-setting numbers practically everywhere you turn, Davis, a consensus Top 5 choice in most drafts, is going in the other direction. Jim Harbaugh’s dedication to the run has turned Davis into a blocker more often than not, resulting in far fewer opportunities to cash in on his athletic ability. After picking up over 900 yards in each of the past two years, Davis isn’t going to get anywhere near that. He has been downgraded from one of the best in the game to a middle-of-the-road Fantasy performer.
My Christmas wish for you: That you didn’t cross paths with any of these team-killers in 2011.