When FFToday asked me to author this piece a year ago, I figured
it was a pretty low-risk proposition. I mean, yes, I was going to
be sticking my neck out and projecting performance over an entire
season (margin of error +/- 100%). But does anyone really go back
and check this stuff? Would anyone actually be keeping score?
Thank God for Al Gore and his Internet, I always say! Turns out
I’m pretty good at
this prognostication business. That, or I’m just really
lucky and the column you’re about to read isn’t going
to be worth the pixels it’s displayed on in six months. Tell
you what: I promise to keep it entertaining if you promise to conveniently
forget these predictions next summer should they end up being completely
off the mark. Deal?
Without further ado, let’s examine the Top10 quarterbacks,
running backs, and wide receivers from 2011—along with those
who dropped out from 2010—and see if we can identify some
potential underachievers for the upcoming 2012 season.
Note: All rankings are based on FFToday’s default standard
Missed the Cut in 2011 (4 of 10):
P. Manning, M. Vick, M. Schaub, J. Freeman
The extent of Peyton Manningís injury hadnít been determinedóor
at least publicly acknowledgedóas of press time last year.
The suspense actually continued into the first several weeks of
the season, long after barely suspecting owners had gobbled him
up in their respective drafts. Best case, you drafted late and he
was a mid-round ďvalueĒ pick with significant upside.
Worst case? Well, use your imagination. The bottom line is he went
from being the No. 1 fantasy signal caller in 2010 to literally
not playing a down in 2011. Ouch.
Speaking of ouchÖ. Though Manningís forced sabbatical
was surely rough on fantasy GMs, most at least had enough time to
troll for a competent stand-in. This was not the case for those
of you who ignored my warnings (tsk, tsk) and put all your fantasy
eggs in Michael Vickís basket. Itís not that Vick was
awful (he ranked 12th overall at the position) or even that he missed
an unusual amount of games (just three). However, he wasnít
the dual-threat demon he had been in 2010, and Iím guessing
Weeks 11 through 13 werenít exactly the most ideal weeks to
be without his services.
On the bright side, the Philly Phlash did return for the fantasy
playoff stretch run. This is more than can be said for Matt Schaub
who, following an absurdly efficient performance in Week 9, never
returned to action for the rest of the season. Schaub wasnít
exactly tearing things up before his hiatus (ask me how I know this)
but he was solid enough and playing in a solid enough offense to
keep balanced contenders in the mix.
Freeman, the last of our floundering four, was decidedly nonsolid
for most of 2011, though plenty healthy. Despite throwing a whole
bunch more passes and adding four rushing scores to his overall
ledger (he had none in his breakout 2010 season), the developing
field general managed only 16 passing touchdowns and flung a whopping
22 picks, just one fewer than league leader Ryan Fitzpatrick, and
the same number erstwhile Tampa punchline Vinny Testaverde tossed
in his third season with the Bucs. Like I saidÖouch.
The Most Likely Candidates to Fall from the
Top Ten This Year:
Newton, CAR: The preceding trio notwithstanding, the
Top 10 class of QBs in 2011 was, without question, the single most
productive in fantasy history, evidenced by the fact that five of
them easily surpassed the 400-point mark, young Mr. Newton included.
To put that in perspective, only four QBs have bested that total
in the previous 10 years combined! Just in case you needed further
proof that the NFL has become primarily a passing league.
So, why am I so sure the wunderkind from Auburn will slump in this,
his sophomore, season? Well, Iím not. In fact, Iím not
at all convinced, though history suggests three of the Top 10 will
fall from the ranks of the elite in 2012. Nevertheless, for the
sake of argument, hereís why he might.
Newton tallied a whole bunch of those 400+ points with his preternaturally
powerful legs. His 14 rushing touchdowns, in fact, were second only
to LeSean McCoyís 17 on the season. If you donít think
defensive coordinators didnít spend all offseason devising
ways to keep the big fella in the pocket, you havenít watched
much NFL football. Heíll still be insanely dangerous when
tucking and running (not to mention barrels of fun to watch), but
14 is a ton. Iíd take the under for 2012.
Even if Newton continues to be a terror on the ground, I suspect
heíll never be a polished professional passer. I remember
watching him struggle in the 2011 BCS chip against my Ducks (GO
DUCKS!), and my opinion of him as a thrower hasnít changed:
He looks pretty chucking it, yet the results are sometimes anything
but. Indeed, his quarterly yardage splits from last year support
this observation and tell a pretty troubling tale. Despite averaging
346.5 passing yards per game through his first four starts, Newtonís
average dropped to 251.75 in his next four, and then to 226.0 and
188.5, respectively, in the successive four-game sets to finish
out the year. In other words, he ended the season averaging almost
150 yards per game fewer than he had in the beginning. If thatís
not a downward trend, Iím not sure what is.
Manning, NYG: First Newton and now the reigning Super
Bowl MVP? Shall I have my head examined? Manningís about as solid
as they come these days. Heís topped the 4000-yard mark three years
running. Heís won two of the last five Super Bowls. Heís handled
himself with aplomb in the sportís biggest fishbowl. In short, whatís
not to like?
Which Manning would you prefer?
For starters, thereís his 82.1 career passer rating. Thatís
worse than all of the following quarterbacks, none of whom will
be threatening to crack the Top 10 anytime soon: Jason Campbell,
Matt Cassel, David Garrard (does he still play?), and Joe Flacco
(yawn). Sure, there are more important things than passer rating
when it comes to fantasy calculations, but Iím of the belief
a more comprehensive measuring stick for overall production at the
position has yet to be found.
Additionally (and this explains the aforementioned passer rating),
the younger Manning continues to be, after eight professional seasons,
habitually turnover-prone. Even during his eminently successful
2011 campaign, he managed to throw 16 passes to the bad guys. In
fact, heís only kept his pick total under 14 once as a full-time,
full-year starter. For the sake of comparison, Aaron Rodgers and
Tom Brady, the respective gold standards at the position, havenít
gone over that number in 14 combined seasons as the main men.
Finally, Manningís heading into the 2012 season with a lot
of new pieces around him. Gone are Mario Manningham, Jake Ballard,
and Brandon Jacobs. MIA for training camp is his No. 1 target, Hakeem
Nicks. Is it really so hard to imagine the G-Men suffering a post-Super
Bowl hangover and getting off to a sluggish start? Put it this way:
if I were forced to draft a Manning this upcoming season, it wouldnít
be this one.
Sanchez, NYJ: OK, so Iím not exactly going out on a limb
here with guys like Peyton
Manning and Michael
Vick champing at the bit to reclaim Top 10 status. Iím aware.
Hereís what I absolutely wasnít aware of: Gothamís other quarterback,
the much maligned Mark Sanchez, actually ended up being a Top 10
QB in 2011! How in the world did that happen?
For starters, The Sanchise didnít miss a single game. In fact,
heís only missed one start in three full seasons as the Jetsí
field general. Half the battle of attaining Top 10 status (and maybe
more than half) is staying upright. Also, for a guy who will never
be confused with the aforementioned Vick or the soon-to-be-mentioned
Tim Tebow (spoiler alert!), Sanchez has turned into a super-sneaky
source of rushing touchdowns these past three years. Despite averaging
just 100 yards per season (and a pedestrian 3.0 yds per carry),
heís already tallied 12 touchdowns on the ground in his brief
career, six of them in 2011 alone.
Alas, the wildly popular Tebow now brings his hugely unorthodox
talents to the Big Apple, clouding Mr. Sanchezís immediate
future. How ironic that the latter, a surprisingly productive scorer
on the ground, should be crowded up by one of the gameís most
prolific running quarterbacks. The former Trojan may have nothing
to fear in the long term, but thereís no question Tebow Time
will impinge upon this particular aspect of his game. Forced to
fall back on a 73.2 career passer rating (yuck), the Top 10 is probably
going to be a distant memory for Mark Sanchez come 2013.
Next: Running Backs