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Off Tackle - Week 15
John Tuvey
December 15, 2010
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When you’re in eight leagues and your day job involves breaking down the fantasy prospects of every player for every game, it’s inevitable that football is never far from your mind. And since many of the same dilemmas I encounter are ones you the readers bump up against as well, I thought it might make sense to share some of my thought processes with you. There’s no rhyme or reason to the topics to be discussed here, other than at some point they popped into my head, kicking to the side lyrics from some obscure ‘80s song (“Tell me you're trying to cure a seven-year ache/See what else your old heart can take”) and commanding my attention.

‘Tis the season to be counting your blessings or cursing your fate; lucky draws to the left, the line for bad beats forms behind me on the right (trust me, you don’t want to know; it will ruin your holidays).

And much like the big fella in the red suit—no, not Andy Reid wearing a non-contact jersey—it’s time to make our list and check it twice. If a player has been nice, he gets a little emotional bump up next year’s cheat sheet; if he’s been naughty, however, many owners will take a big block of the blackest coal and cross off that name so that said player will never sully our rosters again.

Kudos to Hugh 0ne for starting the “Guys you’ll never draft again...” thread in the Huddle forums that got the ball rolling on this idea. The idea of the “ten-foot pole list” (shout out to tazinib1) is universal; we all have players that for one reason or another we’ll never have on our team. For example, Blair F’ing White is now on this list for me after his knockdown of a Reggie Wayne touchdown pass cost me a playoff game (yes, the aforementioned bad beat). I have him on another roster and my intention this week is to cut him, pick him back up, and then cut him again. And that’s only if taking him out back and putting two in the base of his skull isn’t an option.

But I digress.

The fantasy version of the “no-fly list” is one of the hotter topics on the first page of the forum, with a plethora of Huddlers weighing in. But because one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, I thought a closer look at the listed names was warranted—especially as a guy who makes a living off mid-tier running backs.

With that in mind, here are some of the players who various Huddlers said they would never draft again... and whether I see that decision as being a wise one or one I can take advantage of on Draft Day 2011.

2010 ADP: 3.12

The world’s worst ankle sprain—there were whispers of tendon damage—have limited Thomas to just four games this season; however, his 10.2 fantasy points per game average still ranks him 24th among backs. In his absence the Saints discovered Chris Ivory, test-drove Julius Jones and Ladell Betts, and reportedly tried to deal Thomas to the Patriots. None of that bodes well for his 2011 prospects. If he’s back in New Orleans—his contract is up after the season—he’ll be part of an infuriating committee to rival anything Mike Shanahan can concoct. If he winds up elsewhere, his toughness is still in question.

ANTICIPATED 2011 ADP: 5th-6th Round
WHERE I’D TAKE HIM: As a Saint, 8th-9th; in a better situation, 5th-6th

2010 ADP: 4.10

Speaking of lingering injuries, Addai left after six games with a stinger and hasn’t been back since. It remains to be seen if the nerve damage in his neck and shoulder will ever heal; you have to think an offseason of rest will help, but maybe he’s one good shot from another extended absence. He also could be wearing a different uniform in 2011 as his Indy contract expires at the end of this season. Having seen just how bad Indy’s run game is without him, if they let him walk it will have to be because they don’t trust his shoulder—so I won’t, either. But if he’s back with the Horseshoes, he still has that enticing RB2 potential you’ll be able to get for even less than the fourth-round pick you paid this season.

ANTICIPATED 2011 ADP: 7th-8th Round
WHERE I’D TAKE HIM: As a Colt, 5th-6th; elsewhere, 10th or later

2010 ADP: 5.09

Brown was on his way to being a top-10 fantasy back and a very, very rich man before blowing out his knee in 2009. He’ll be 30 before the end of the 2011 season, so you have to decide if he’s got a Thomas Jones type of season left in his arsenal. If he remains in Miami and continues to share the load with Ricky Williams, that’s highly unlikely. And at his age, it’s tough to see another team giving him big money to be a go-to guy; he’ll be looking at a job-share somewhere. It’s going to take a very optimistic situation for him to land in to warrant Jones-like projections; more likely he’ll be treated like Patriots-era Fred Taylor.

ANTICIPATED 2011 ADP: 9th-10th Round
WHERE I’D TAKE HIM: In a best-case scenario, 9th or 10th; otherwise, 12th or later

2010 ADP: 2.07

This is the first back among those on the “don’t touch” list that I’m seeing with real value potential. Williams won’t be back in Carolina; his contract is up, and after the success of the Jonathan Stewart/Mike Goodson tandem it’s tough to see the Panthers opening the wallet and resigning the former first-round pick. That’s going to put a talented, versatile, three-down back with relatively low mileage on the open market; are you paying attention in Green Bay, Washington, Cincy... maybe Indy? Don’t be too quick to write off Williams just because of the injury; in the right situation he’ll bring RB1 value to a mid-round pick.

ANTICIPATED 2011 ADP: 5th-6th Round
WHERE I’D TAKE HIM: Back with the Panthers, 5th-6th seems about right; in a better situation, I’d snap him up in the 4th, maybe earlier

2010 ADP: 3.02

Greene was dramatically overvalued heading into 2010 thanks to a strong playoff showing as LaDainian Tomlinson stole his thunder early on. And now, with Greene getting the larger share of the carries, he’s doing very little with them. Still, he’s young enough and the Jets’ offensive line good enough—and LT old enough—that he projects to be at least a member of a very good committee going forward. However, the more experience Mark Sanchez gets the more the Jets feel like they can turn him lose to use their talented wideouts; in other words, Gang Green isn’t quite as run-heavy as they used to be.

ANTICIPATED 2011 ADP: 3rd-4th Round
WHERE I’D TAKE HIM: 5th-6th Round; I can't trust him as an RB2 yet

2010 ADP: 3.01

Grant is a fantasy value on an annual basis, and after missing 15 games in 2010 that’s unlikely to change next year. Thus far Brandon Jackson has been nothing special as Grant’s replacement, and James Starks has been far more myth than production. Grant gives the passing Packers exactly what they need, and unless they pursue a free agent (Addai? Williams?) or a rookie they’ll likely “settle” for his 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns again next year. Nothing wrong with RB2 numbers from a guy who may end up being drafted as an RB4.

ANTICIPATED 2011 ADP: 8th-9th Round
WHERE I’D TAKE HIM: Unless something happens in Green Bay to threaten his return to his old role, I’m happy with him in the 6th.

2010 ADP: 4.09

I took some heat from my colleagues back in September when, on the weekly fantasy football radio show I co-host in the Twin Cities, I named Wells as my bust of the year. Who’s laughing now, bee-yatches? On those rare occasions when Wells does play he doesn’t play well; his average fantasy points per game ranks just below Ladell Betts. Moreover, he’s getting no help from his offensive line or his quarterback, he fumbles, he’s injury-prone, and he still doesn’t know how to pass block. Oh yeah, and he’s getting consistently outplayed by Tim Hightower. It may take a Cedric Benson-like change of attitude and venue for Wells to live up to the hype that followed him out of Ohio State, because the Cardinals may be as close to bailing on him as most fantasy owners are. Surprisingly, he’s still being overranked (at the few non-Huddle 2011 rankings I could find), but he’s burned enough people that I can’t see him making much of a dent on the 2011 fantasy radar.

ANTICIPATED 2011 ADP: 7th-8th Round
WHERE I’D TAKE HIM: I can’t envision a scenario where he’s still on the board when I’d consider wasting a pick on him; 11th round or later, maybe.

2010 ADP: 5.07

Marion Barber is out of the picture, and there will be plenty of clamoring for Tashard Choice to be the every-down back or at least the leader of a Dallas RBBC. But Jones still has talent, and maybe he’ll drop some of the weight he added heading into this season to regain some of the shiftiness he’s lacked this year. Nothing wrong with being a scatback, right? Jones also has that Arkansas pedigree which still carries some clout with assistant coach Jerry Jones. Maybe the Cowboys figure out that magical balance of touches that keeps Felix fresh yet gives him game-breaking opportunities; I’d consider that potential RB3 worthy, especially in a PPR league.

ANTICIPATED 2011 ADP: 8th-9th Round
WHERE I’D TAKE HIM: I could see going after Jones as a 6th-round guy, a very attractive PPR option if I had gone WR/WR early and was looking to stockpile backs with upside.

As a point of reference, here’s where some of the more productive backs in 2010 were going off the board prior to the season:
Jamaal Charles, 3.09
LeSean McCoy, 4.03
Knowshon Moreno, 4.12
Matt Forte, 5.01
Arian Foster, 6.10
Ahmad Bradshaw, 7.08
Darren McFadden, 10.07
Peyton Hillis, 17.09

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