Fantasy Football 2012: Buyer Beware

Contributed by: Anthony King
Last Updated: Aug 07, 2012 11:38 PM

Nothing can stymie a fantasy football season quicker than picking a risky player early in the draft and then having that risk blow up in your face as injury or weak stats turn a can’t-miss, first-round pick into someone who perennially gets relegated to your fantasy bench.

If you don’t find yourself a gambling man (or woman), then these are some of the star players you should think twice about taking this season.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks

After his Richter-scale registering run in the Seahawks’ playoff win against the New Orleans Saints in 2010, Marshawn Lynch came back stronger in 2011 when he racked up 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns.

But his 2012 fantasy outlook took a hit during the offseason when Lynch was arrested for DUI – again. Now the latest mug shot to go up on Roger Goodell’s big board of NFL repeat offenders has to wait to see whether the commissioner’s gavel falls in his favor or not. Lynch could be looking at a suspension if Goodell chooses to – but then again, with Jonathan Vilma’s civil lawsuit still awaiting the commissioner, might he be more lenient with players in the meantime?

No matter what, Marshawn Lynch is a risky first running back to select until some definitive conclusion to his case has been ruled.

Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Mike Wallace was a steal last season for anyone smart enough to grab the Steelers’ young deep-threat, but this season sees many factors working against Mr. Wallace.

For one, Mike Wallace has not reported to camp and is trying to do his best Vincent Jackson impression by slamming his heels in the ground until his contract demands are met. The Steelers just inked Wallace’s backup, Antonio Brown to a five year, $42.5 million deal, which should only work to infuriate Wallace further. An unhappy wide receiver is usually not a good precursor for fantasy success.

The one, more pressing, issue for Wallace’s value rests within the right shoulder of Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben recently came out and confirmed he had a small tear in his rotator cuff, but shrugged it off as nothing major. If that nothing major becomes a problem, then Mike Wallace would have Charlie Batch at quarterback.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

MJD has been The Little Engine That Could throughout his career in Jacksonville, including leading the league in rushing last season with 1,606 yards. But like Larry Johnson, Priest Holmes and Eddie George before him, Maurice Jones-Drew might be in for a similar statistical regression in 2012.

A rule of thumb in the Fantasy world says that if a running back carries the ball more than 300 times in a season, the next year they will not be as productive. MJD has been able to buck the trend recently, but as to how long that can continue is anybody’s guess.

Jones-Drew has averaged 318 carries a season over the last three years, and in 2011, MJD carried the ball a staggering 343 times – 42 more times than the next closest back. At only 5-7, the possibility of Jones-Drew hitting the statistical wall is becoming harder and harder to ignore.

Aside from that very troubling trend, MJD is also currently holding out. He has not reported to training camp, and things between the two sides seem very contentious. As we saw with Chris Johnson’s similar holdout last season, a running back not being in training camp can have calamitous effects on their fantasy season.

Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

Thanks to his magical 2010 season, Michael Vick has returned to that quarterback full of fantasy potential, but who is also a major risk.

The first thing that makes picking Vick more akin to a roll of the dice is the fact owners will not be sure which player they are getting. Is Vick the player who threw 21 touchdown passes to only 6 interceptions while also rushing for 9 scores -- as he did in 2010 -- or is Vick the player from last season who threw 18 TDS to 14 picks and only found the end-zone with his legs one time?

The next, and biggest, concern for potential Vick owners is the fact they can almost guarantee he will not stay healthy all season. In Michael Vick’s nine NFL seasons, he has only managed a full 16-game schedule once – that being the 26 year old Michael Vick six seasons ago.

Over his last three years, Vick is averaging just slightly over ¾ of a season. He stayed upright for 13 games in 2012, but only 12 in the previous two years. It is hard to justify taking a player earlier if you can only really count on having them for part of the season.

Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers

As consistent wide receivers go, Greg Jennings has been one of the best for four seasons now. From 2008 to 2010, Jennings averaged 1,223 yards a season while playing in every single game. However, 2012 may have ushered in a changing of the guard in Green Bay.

After being injured last season, Jennings left the door open for his spot on the depth chart to be taken from him – enter Jordy Nelson. With 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, Nelson has made an interesting wide receiver controversy in Green Bay. Who will be the go-to receiver for Aaron Rodgers in 2012?

At 6-3 and 217lbs., Nelson is considerably bigger than the 5-11, 190lb Jennings. And with more catches on fewer targets than Greg Jennings had in 2011, might Rodgers and the Packers feel the need to shift No. 1 options?

 Jennings might be a good player again in 2012, but he now has to contend for targets with another player who is bound to catch Aaron Rodger’s eye over 100 times in his own right. As an owner’s first wide receiver taken, it may be wise to pass on Greg Jennings in favor of someone else this fantasy season.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders

With a weak class of running backs to choose from this year, some owners may have to gamble and take Darren McFadden earlier than they might like.

Before Run DMC was hurt last season, he was averaging 109.71 all-purpose yards per game. But therein lies the problem – he was hurt – again. After four seasons in the NFL, McFadden seems destined to become that supremely talented athlete who could never stay healthy enough to reach his full potential.

As he has only been able to stay on the field for roughly 11 games per year, it really is an all or nothing proposition to select McFadden with a high pick. 

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