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10 Players to Avoid in This Year's Fantasy Draft
Kevin Ratterree
July 9, 2007

Almost as important as who you should draft is who you should not draft.  You should not draft players that underachieve their fantasy draft position.  That is what this column is all about.  Overvalued players.

I have been pretty proficient in this column over the last 3 seasons, hitting about 70% correct.  Last year I told you to avoid Boldin and Fitzgerald as they were both being drafted as top 5 receivers.  And they called me crazy..........

This year I am upping the ante.  More big names and less fluff.  I'm shooting for the fantasy prognosticators hall of fame with this one.

I am not saying all these players will be busts, though I'm sure a few will be.  But I suspect most of them will fall below their expected production based on where they are drafted in fantasy leagues.  You may find this list shocking.  You may be tempted to send the cops over to search my house for contraband.  That's ok.  Scoff if you wish.  Laugh and think me a fool if you must.

But once again I must point to the 70%.  Yes kids, its almost all true.  Lets dive right in with a first rounder.

Shaun Alexander

Shaun AlexanderMost people were convinced enough by SA's nice run down the stretch last season.  After a foot injury caused him to miss 6 games in the middle of the season.  But if you throw out his 31/140 2 TD game against the Chargers, and the 40/200 performance against the Packers, the other 4 games to close out the season he went a pedestrian 94/292 with 3 TD's (2 of them were the 1 yard variety).
And of course age is also an issue with Alexander at the dreaded 30.  Some of you will call this blasphemy, but for my money, its time to pull the plug on Alexander as an elite back.

If you look at the recent history of stud running backs late in their career, you are bucking some odds drafting Alexander.  I am talking about the elite top 5 running backs here.  The high mileage guys.

In 2003 Marshall Faulk came off a similarly injury plagued season, and at the age of 28 was still being drafted in the top 5.  After all, he had been a perennial stud for the last 4 seasons.  Faulk disappointed owners with a similarly injury plagued season and limped to 818 yards and 10 TD's.  Not horrible.  But not what those drafting him with a top 5 pick were expecting.

In that same year Priest Holmes took the reins and reeled off 320/1420 27 TD's plus 74/690 receiving.  He appeared to have beat the hip injury that threatened to end his career after the '02 season.  But at the age of 30, in 2004 Holmes injured his knee at midseason, and his days as a fantasy stud were over.  He played at a high level, and was being drafted at a high level, right up until the end.

Maybe you don't remember that far back.  Well, what about last season.  Edge James had been a stud for the Colts for years, but at the age of 28, and with a new team with an inferior offensive line, fantasy drafters were still giving Edge too much credit.  He was still a first rounder in many drafts.  Many people closed their eyes to his age and new situation and drafted him anyway.  He scored only 6 TD's, and was well out of the picture of elite fantasy backs.  A fantasy team killer.

And that is what I think Alexander will be this season.  A fantasy team killer.  Let someone else take a chance on a return to greatness.  In my book, the odds are slim.

Willis McGahee

Willis McGahee bitched his way out of Buffalo, and now finds himself in Baltimore.  His days of bitching are probably not over.  The problem is that Baltimore's offensive line is nothing special, and neither is McGahee.  It takes one or the other to make a fantasy stud.  McGahee has neither.  Yes, I know McGahee is going to a team that wins a lot more than Buffalo did.  I know he will likely be one of the rare breed of non RBBC backs that we clamor for.  And I expect him to turn in his usual workmanlike numbers.

What has McGahee accomplished as a perennial first round draft pick?  After his nice breakout season in 2004, and a nice start to the season on 2005, not much.  Since the midway point of the '05 season, McGahee has been below average.

In the Bills last 24 games he averaged over 4 yards per carry in only 4 games.  He has scored 7 TD's, He has carried 399 times for 1447 yards and a YPC of 3.63.  Yawn.

And I am suppose to assume a change of scenery will transform this guy into the stud everyone keeps waiting for him to be?  No.  I'm not buying it.  Yeah, McGahee will pile up the carries, and get some cheap touchdowns along the way, but I'm not holding my breath for McGahee to start leading any fantasy teams to the promised land any time soon.  You can have him.

Randy Moss

Randall the Great is another player that bitched his way out of a situation he didn't like.  When I heard the news I was stunned.  Randy Moss goes to New England?  The home of unselfish play, keeping your mouth shut, and giving it all you've got all the time, and winning.  All foreign concepts to Randy Moss.

Most of you probably know better than to draft Moss this season, but just in case you are climbing out on the ledge, I'm here to talk you down.

Clear your head.  Cleanse away the hype.  Moss would be lucky to put up numbers closel to those Deion Branch had before the Patriots let him go.  It is just the way the Patriots do things.  There is no guarantee that Moss will have anything other than an average middle of the pack fantasy receiver season, and an average season is exactly what I expect.

Yes, Moss has the best quarterback he will ever have throwing him the ball.  But unless the Patriots give their game plan a facelift, I just don't see Moss fitting in.  Unless Belichick is changing his philosophy of coaching, this move makes almost no sense at all.  I look at it as a knee-jerk reaction to getting offensively spanked by the Colts in the playoffs last season.  Belichick figures he needs some firepower for that one playoff game he knows he will have to win to get to the Super Bowl.  And that is where Moss comes in.

But I think there may be a false rush to judgment that the Pats are going feed Moss the ball on a consistent basis, and I just don't see it.

Moss will have some big games when the situation warrants it, and he decides to show up.  But his last big season was all the way back in 2003.  Three years of mediocrity while his skills have eroded, his interest has waned, his weight has increased, and his speed has slowed.  But suddenly this new address is suppose to cure all his ills?  Going to a team that spreads the ball around like nobody's business?   Hmmm.

And even if Moss is a good soldier, finally grasps the concept of a team, and does have a rebound season, he still plays for a coach that makes fantasy players pull their hair out on a weekly basis with his injury report circus.  And Moss will likely be overvalued in this years fantasy drafts.  If you are a dynasty leaguer, and you are holding Moss, pray that he has a big game within the first three weeks of the season and then in the full glow of the hype, dump him like a cheating girlfriend.

Chad Johnson

Okay, insert you "this guy must be on crack" type comment right here___________________________.

Yeah, what a long strange trip its been.  I was pimping CJ back before it became fashionable.  But here I am telling you not to draft CJ just a few short years later.

I'm a huge Chad Johnson fan.  I think he is good for the league.  I drafted him back when he was still a value pick.  But at this point, I'm not sure he is the best fantasy receiver on his own team.

Let me qualify this.  I am not saying CJ will be a bust.  Not at all.  I'm just here to suggest an alternative.  If you want to get in on the Bengals passing game, the true value lies in CJ's running mate TJ Houshmandzadeh.  Over the last two seasons Housh has put up almost identical fantasy points on a per game basis, (using PPR scoring) and his consistency has been superb.

I'm not saying TJ is a better receiver.  He is not.  But fantasy football is not simply a talent contest.  It is first and foremost a numbers game.  So why would I draft a less consistent receiver in the 2nd round of my draft, when I could have a more consistent receiver in the 4th round that will get me about the same amount of points?  Consistency is king in head to head leagues, and TJ was all over CJ in that department in '06.

I do expect Johnson to be more consistent this season, but last seasons bizarre turn of events has to give you pause for concern.

Johnson went through a wildly inconsistent year in '06, partially we're all sure due to Carson Palmers injury comeback.  Right?  Well, you better hope so if you are calling his name early in the 2nd round.  CJ scored only 2 touchdowns in the first 8 games last season, then exploded in the next 2 games for 17/450 and 5 TD's.  That was week 9 and 10.  From that point on "Ocho Cinco" had "Cero" touchdowns.  The final three regular season games were abysmal with 10 catches for 122 yards.  Take out those two huge games and Johnsons stat line read like this:  70/919/2.  Not all that pretty for a guy you drafted around the first turn.

If you want to draft a stud WR this year, grab Steve Smith in the 2nd, and try to reach Housh in the 4th.  You will be miles ahead of where you would have been if you had chosen the Bengals "number one" receiver.

Reggie Brown

Reggie Brown is being drafted as a WR2 or WR3 in fantasy mocks, around the end of the 5th round.  If you think you have the RBBC puzzle all figured out and spend 3 of your first 4 picks on them, and then you draft Reggie as your #2 receiver, I'd say you are living very dangerously.  The Eagles offense largely ignores the wide receiver position with Westbrook and LJ Smith getting all the attention.  Why is it suddenly going to change this season?  Worse yet you are counting on McNabb actually staying healthy for 16 games to be able to deliver those crumbs the WR's get.

It might happen for you.  Brown might get 900 yards and 7- 8 TD's.  But in PPR leagues he would still likely get beat out by guys that were drafted after him, because the receptions just won't be there. Especially if McNabb doesn't hold up, or if he gets his feeling hurt and needs to go home to pout for a few games.  Not a horrible pick, but just not a great value.  You can probably do better.

Michael "Mad Dog" Vick

Michael VickAs if Mike Vick didn't have his hands full enough trying to learn a new offense (even though he hadn't finished learning the last one yet), with a new coaching staff that oddly enough intends to try to turn Vick into a passer, now he has the whole dog fighting thing hanging over his head going into the pre-season.

One can only guess what will come of his possible legal woes, but there are a few things we should have all accepted by now.

Mike Vick is not an NFL caliber passer.  Mike Vick is of questionable character.  His judgment on and off the field is suspect.  His commitment to the game is not now, nor has it ever been what it should be.

The very notion that the Falcons still think they can salvage this project is absurd.  Mike Vick is a halfback that has somehow convinced the football community that he is a quarterback.  He is a square peg in a round hole.  And the greatness that many forecast for Ron Mexico just isn't going to happen.

Vick is a risk on many fronts this season, none the least of which is whether he will trade his Falcons uniform for a bright orange jumpsuit.  This one is almost like cheating.  Here is the fluff.  Don't draft Mike Vick this season, even at the discount price he is likely to be had.  Don't you have enough aggravation and disappointment in your life already?

Alge Crumpler

This one is somewhat tied to the Mike Vick situation.  Crumpler has been playing pitch and catch for several years now, and the one constant about Mike Vick is that he manages to get Crumpler the ball.  Crumpler is solid.  Crumpler is consistent.

I have drafted Crumpler on several of my teams in past years, but this is the year I jump ship.  I think the time may be right.  Crumpler has hung right with the top TE crowd for the last 4 seasons, but the field seems to be catching up, in many cases looks poised to pass Crumpler.  He looks to have topped out production wise, and it seems he will always be a good, but not great fantasy producer.

You can probably get a tight end in similar rounds as Crumpler that will put up the same if not better numbers with upside that Crumpler does not possess.  New head coach Bobby Petrino has never involved tight ends in his playbook all that much, and if the Falcons lose Vick at any point, Crumpler may be left to tame the timid stylings of Mr. Joey Harrington.

Add to that the nagging knee issues Crumpler has endured over the last few seasons, and it just reeks of a situation to avoid.
You may get away with drafting either Vick or Crumpler this season.  It is possible Vicks legal troubles could evaporate into thin air, and it is business as usual in Atlanta.  But the whole situation is just a bit shaky for my taste, and even if Crumpler and Vick are heavily discounted, I want no part of it.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Well, I should say anybody not named Maurice Jones Drew on the Jaguars.  This team looks like an offensive disaster area.  I tried to just pick one player to list, but that would be a disservice to all the other underachievers with a kitty on the helmet.  They have one quarterback that can't stay healthy, and is inconsistent at best even when he is.  One quarterback that struggles to reach 150 passing yards in any given game.  An aging running back with a long history of injuries.  And a whole slew of 1st round receiver busts that give even the Detroit Lions a reason to chuckle

That newly acquired veteran Dennis Northcutt has been moving up the mock draft boards is all you need to know about the receiver situation in Jacksonville.  I have no idea who will be throwing him the ball, but he is garnering some interest as a deep sleeper.  Wow.

I have a game plan that may work for the Jags.  MJD right.  MJD left.  MJD up the middle.  MJD on a swing pass.  MJD on an end around.  MJD on a hook and ladder.  MJD on a flea flicker.  MJD on the fumblerooskie .......and so on and so forth..........

Larry Johnson

I just have to push the envelope.  Couldn't leave well enough alone.  Had to swing for the fences.  Why?  Why would I make such an outlandish statement as to suggest avoiding Larry Johnson.  It isn't as crazy as you might think. I submit for your examination:

Johnson is threatening a holdout.  He wants to get paid before the Chiefs use up what is left of him this season with another 400+ carry workload.  That makes good business sense.  Because if you look at the past, Johnson is in for a downturn in production or health issues.  Only 15 times has a running back had more than 380 carries in a season.  Only 7 of those played an entire 16 game season the following year, and 13 of the 15 had their stats drop by at least 10 percent.  That ain't chump change.

Now a 10 percent reduction in LJ's stats alone would not justify moving him down your draft board much.  Even at a 10 percent reduction, he would still likely be a top 5 back.  And if that were the only downside here, one could dismiss the statistics forecasting trouble for LJ.
But when you factor in the increasing likelihood of an extended and possibly nasty holdout situation, my comfort level of taking him with a top 5 pick is getting as thin as the walls at Motel 6.  LJ and his agent know the statistics quoted above, and you can bet they both want to get paid right now before his value goes any lower.  Carl Peterson and Herm Edwards don't figure to be very compassionate toward LJ's financial planning strategy, so I am very much thinking this thing is not going to end well.

And if he does hold out, even if he comes back at some point the risk of injury in again increases having missed training camp.

And even if a miracle happens, the Chiefs negotiate a one year tender for a bazillion dollars and everybody shakes hands and makes up. Even if all that happens, LJ is still lining up behind either a raw prospect or a little used journeyman at quarterback, and yet another offensive line replacement.

A lot of good things have to happen for LJ to repeat his success as a fantasy stud.  I'm not feeling optimistic.

With all that information at my disposal, I think I am willing to let someone else spend that expensive draft pick on LJ.  Could I interest you in something in a Gore instead?

Anybody else on the Chiefs

Come to think of it, why stop with LJ.  There is another whole team here that deserves mentioning to avoid.  Because lets face it, the Chiefs go as LJ goes.  And if LJ goes, so goes the Chiefs chances of even sniffing respectability.  This is just a team that has the feel of one that is just about to implode.  I want to be nowhere near ground zero when it happens.

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