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Players to Avoid in 2009
Kevin Ratterree
July 13, 2009
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When I included Tom Brady in last year's "Players To Avoid" column I expected some crap.  And some crap I got.  Yes, some accused me of smoking the chronic or being on crack.  Some of you questioned my intelligence and yes, even my sanity.  But here you are, back again for more mystical knowledge from the Huddle college.

Yeah, I know.  Brady got injured. Otherwise I would have come out looking like a giant ass. But he did and I didn't.  Hey, I can't explain how this stuff works for me with this list any more than I can explain why drunken golf gallery idiots shout "get in the hole" on a par 5 tee.  In the immortal words of Charlie Daniels, "there are some things in this world you just can't explain."  I have hit 75% success rate with this column, and that means you would probably be wise to heed my advice.  Or call me a crack-head and end up looking like a buffoon by Christmas.  Either way I'm cool with it.

Once again for you first time readers out there, here are the parameters.  These are players that I think are overvalued in relation to their average draft position.  I play PPR leagues so all picks are based on ADP of PPR.  I am NOT saying all of these guys are going to be  busts.  Some will.  But I think all these players are risky where they are currently being drafted in mock drafts, and will not live up to their draft position expectations.  They are players I will avoid at their current draft positions, and some I will avoid regardless of draft position. 

I never shy away from first round picks; after all they have more downside than most, so let's start there.

Fantasy Football - DeAngelo WilliamsDeAngelo Williams

Wow!  When it finally happened for Williams it really happened.  He is coming off a killer season.  A great value pick in last year's fantasy draft.  Congratulations if you saw that coming.  Most figured Williams was a bit risky last year with rookie Jonathan Stewart coming into the fold, however Williams stole the show with an impressive run after a slow start to the season.   But let's get a good clear look in the rear-view shall we?

Stewart was a rookie, and if I am remembering correctly he was a bit dinged up when the season started. The Panthers rushing schedule was as puffy as Mel Gibson's face after a hard night of drinking.  And Williams took 60% of the carries did last year.  Will that continue?  You will have to spend a first round pick to find out, and that would make me kind of nervous. 

The Panthers have only one "easy" rushing game on the schedule for the entire season.  What's worse is they have 5 matchups against some of the leagues best run defenses. Here is a sobering thought.  Williams was not impressive at all versus defenses of that caliber last season.  And 5 games is 1/3 of your fantasy season if you are lucky enough to make it to week 15. 

The Panthers project to have one of if not the toughest rushing schedules this season.  During his magical run over the last half of last year, Williams faced an amazing string of teams that were horrible against the run.  KC, AZ, OAK, DET, ATL, GB, TB, DEN, NYG.  That run of good running back fortune was largely responsible for DeAngelo Williams’s monster season.

When you consider all that, the reality that Stewart could push his way into a true 50/50 timeshare, and the fact that Williams is still not getting involved in the passing game, I think you have to look at him as a guy that could take a huge statistical hit.  It is often the case in fantasy football that a player will be undervalued one season, have success, and then be overvalued the following season.  That is not entirely the situation here, his ADP at this writing is 1:8.  Not bad for a guy that was #1 RB in most formats. 

I just have a hunch he may just slip further than his draft position might indicate. 

Michael Turner

When Iplay blackjack it seems that I get my best double-down hands when I make my biggest bets.  Last year I made a big bet on a running back going to an "inferior" team to take over as a featured back.  I told you not to draft him.  I was wrong and the fantasy football dealer took my stack of chips.

Turner proved me wrong in a big way.  The offensive line I was so concerned about turned out to be no problem at all.  The rookie QB I was concerned about turned out to be very un-rookie like.  And the new coaching regime turned a losing team into a winner.  So why would I double down on Turner this year?  The same reason I will double down in blackjack when I draw an eleven against a dealer six.  It is the right thing to do.

Here is the problem with Turner.  Last year everything went just about perfect for the Falcons.  The team stayed healthy all year as did Turner.  The schedule was "runner friendly."  And Turner was a workhorse that helped lead his new team to respectability.  Turner's role as workhorse is a big part of the problem I have with him this year.

You see, any book you read concerning blackjack will tell you that you must double-down with an eleven against a dealer six.  And there is a statistic concerning running backs that is telling me to double-down with Turner.  That statistic is 370+ carries.  No running back has beat this for years.  A running back with 370+ carries in one season ALWAYS has a drop-off the next year.  I used this information to warn you about Larry Johnson in 2007 after Herm Edwards ruined him with a brutal 416 carry season in '06.  LJ has never been the same since.

Turner had 376 carries last season.  The magic number was passed.  Only one player in modern NFL history has bucked this trend and his name was Eric Dickerson.  Yes, there is a chance that Turner will turn out to be another Eric Dickerson, but I am not going to bet my tasty 1st round pick on it.

To further compound my fear with Turner is the fact that he is not used in the passing game, so a big downturn in rushing yards would be a killer.  Turner may not be a bust, but he is bucking some serious odds to even come close to last year's numbers.  Statistically speaking, it would be nearly impossible. 

Fantasy Football - Steven JacksonSteven Jackson

Last year at this time I almost added Steven Jackson to this list. If there had been one more player added, it would have been him.  This year I'm not going to fight the temptation.  Jackson is being drafted in the first half of the first round in a lot of mock drafts.  Every fantasy service and magazine will probably give you the green light to rely on this guy as your RB1.  I wouldn't do it, not at that price.

My main problem with Jackson is that he has become an injury concern.  He missed 8 games over the last two seasons.  Do you really want the guy you draft in the first round to miss 1/4 of your games?  Can your team still win under those conditions?  The Rams have finally made a coaching change, and attempted to address their woeful offensive line.  And I understand that the Rams rushing schedule figures to be much easier this year.  That is all well and good, but Jackson did his best work when defenses had to account for Torry Holt in his prime, and Isaac Bruce just past his, in a system that was successful and already established.  This year, the offensive focus figures to be all on Jackson, and defenses will be very aware of that fact.
  
The bottom line is, he is an injury risk, in a new offensive scheme, and will be the main focus of every DC that comes his way this year.  He hasn't been particularly successful within his own division, which is not exactly brimming with run-stopping units.  I would love to gamble on a guy like Jackson.  Maybe in the second round.  Or the third.  But I wouldn't want to be the guy rolling the dice with Jackson at 1:5 or 1:6.  Jackson looks like a beast when times are good.  I'm just not sold on the heart inside the beast.

Roy Williams

Roy Williams, your moment has arrived.  You are the undisputed go-to receiver for the Dallas Cowboys.  All that disappointment you experienced in Detroit (aka NFL Hell) can be just a chuckle in your rear-view mirror after you finally show the world who the "real" Roy Williams is this season. It is Roy Williams’s time to shine.   That will be the opinion of those drafting or bidding for Roy Williams this season.  Sorry, I can't go there.  I have an affliction I call "final judgment syndrome."  And I have already made my final judgment on Roy Williams.  He is a terminal underachiever.  I already let him ruin one or two of my fantasy teams, and aversion therapy has worked wonders on me.

A moment of clarity if you will.  Williams is not going to be a superstar.  He is just "a guy" on the team, and an inconsistent one at that.  And when you pair up an inconsistent quarterback with an inconsistent wide receiver, that smells like fantasy trouble to me.   I think the value play for Cowboys players will be Miles Austin, who (if he moves into a starters role) in my opinion has just a good a chance as Williams of leading the Cowboys receiving corps in fantasy relevance.

Jason Witten will come almost as cheaply as Roy Williams too.  You line those two up against one another on fantasy draft day, I don't even have to think about which one I am taking in the 4th round. 
  
Williams probably won't burn you too bad if you get him as a relative bargain, but I wouldn't be taking Mr. Fat Contract over hungry looming free agency guys like Braylon Edwards or Brandon Marshall.  Williams might not ruin your fantasy season, but he isn't going to be the guy to lead you to fantasy glory either.

Joseph Addai

Unlike Williams, whose moment might appear at hand, Addai finds himself on the wrong side of Opportunity Lane.  It appears Addai's time as a featured back has passed.  Before last season he seemed an automatic first round draft pick, but now the writing seems to be on the wall.  After declining yardage numbers and an injury plagued 2008 his peak fantasy days are likely over now.  The backfield has gotten a bit more crowded, and Addai may find himself in the fight of his life for playing time, and that's assuming he can stay out of the trainers room.  This is the perfect "trap" draft pick, because some less versed fantasy players will see Addai still available a few rounds into the draft and take him based on name recognition, without recognizing that his days as "the guy" are probably over.

Chad Ochocinco

This writer was one of the first to jump on the Chad Johnson bandwagon.  And one of the first off.  Chad Johnson isn't Chad Johnson any more.  He is now Chad Ochocinco.   Not the fun-loving touchdown scoring yard-piling machine he used to be.  Now he is a whiny complaining inconsistent publicity seeking machine, who is going to feel pretty damn foolish when he gets traded to a team that already has a number 85.
  
A tiger (or Bengal) can change his name, but he can't change his stripes.  Some will excuse his horrible 2008 season due to the injury to Carson Palmer and see great value in Ocho as a late 4th or early 5th round pick.  But keep in mind that Palmer still has to be considered an injury risk, the team is not going to be considerably better, and the Bengals face a brutal schedule vs. the pass.

Even when Johnson piled up good stats in 2007, they usually came in bunches leaving his fantasy owners hung out to dry most weeks during the season.  And inconsistency is something I desperately try to avoid when assembling a fantasy team.  There are a lot of receivers being drafted after Ocho that I would prefer.  His relative value is much more in line with where it should be this season, but I still think he will be drafted too high in most leagues.

Santana Moss 

Here is a guy that could have been on this list every year except '05 and I would have been right.  Moss suffers from the same problem as Ocho does.  Inconsistency.  He will get you a couple of monster games every season but is invisible for the most part otherwise.  He is being drafted near the start of the 7th round in early mocks and I think that is a wasted draft pick.  He plays for an underachieving team, with an underachieving QB.   But there will be fantasy players that still continue to overpay for this guy.  Right now Moss is being taken a few picks before guys like Coles, Cotchery, Ward, and Bernard Berrian.   I would take any of those guys hands down over Moss, and a lot of WRs drafted MUCH later as well.  Know Moss no mas. 

Fantasy Football - Tom BradyTom Brady

I certainly took a lot of crap last year when I put "god" on this list.  But as it turned out, it only took a few minutes into the season for me to chalk up my first Players To Avoid "hit." 

Look, I don't claim to have known that Tom Brady would suffer a season-ending injury minutes into the campaign, but I did smell something afoul.  Perhaps that  something was drafting ANY quarterback in the first round.  Even "god."  But at long last the fantasy football community seems to have come around.  In early 12 team mock drafts Brees is going mid 2nd and Manning and Brady in the 3rd.   No first rounders this season.  And that's a good thing.  Welcome to sanity.

Yes, this season Brady seems to be being drafted in a more "reasonable" territory coming off his injury, but he is still the first QB taken in some drafts.  I guess I understand that.  I mean, he is only one season removed from wreaking havoc on the NFL record books.  And he certainly seems to have the same pieces around him that made that happen.  Why then do I have this uneasy feeling about Brady that the rest of the fantasy universe seems to lack?   Part of it is the same reasoning I used last year.  2007 was a "career year."  They are called career years for a reason.  They are the best season of a players career.  All the planets have to align just right and they did for Brady in '07.

When I am evaluating players, I look at the whole picture.  I can't look at Tom Brady in a 2007 vacuum.  I'm not saying Brady is going to bust.  He is just too good and the system is just too good (hell, it made a star out of Matt Cassel) for Brady to fail miserably barring another injury.  But let's talk injury shall we?   And let’s talk about where Brady's head is right now.  (insert joke here)  (wow, that was easy)

I have a dirty little vice.  I watch TMZ.  I'm sorry, but I am strangely compelled to watch cameramen hunt celebrities and then ask them amazingly stupid questions.  It is wrong on a lot of levels, but there, it is out in the open now.  One of the "running stories" on TMZ over the off-season was the relationship between Brady and his now bride.  I watched the limping Brady carrying packages into Gisele's New York apartment.  And a few nights later I watched the hobbled Brady schlepping more merchandise up the stairs.  And the next week?  You guessed it, more shopping, more limping, and more package deliveries.

I'll grant you, Mrs. Brady is hot.  No doubt about that.  And I am sure he is really REALLY in love with this woman.  I think Mr. Brady is really REALLY focused on this woman.  He is going to try to be the best husband and father that he can be for this woman.

Here is what scares me.  It is really REALLY hard to be great at two things at once, even for "god."  I just wonder if all Brady has accomplished between the stripes will take a back seat to what he has accomplished between the sheets.

Brian Westbrook

This is a tough one for me.  I saw the potential in Westbrook before many of my league-mates back in the day, and he was a value draft pick that helped me win some championships during his rise to prominence.  But right now I see Westbrook as a guy that has reached the tipping point in his career.  He is 30 years old, and has been carrying this team for a couple of years now.  He finally got his due in the fantasy community last year as one of the first players drafted.  Unfortunately, the fantasy community was behind the curve as usual. Westy fell off a bit last year placing only 8th in running back PPR scoring.  Not bad for a "down" year.

This year Westbrook has fallen back out of the first round of most drafts.  So many will pencil him in as a "value pick" for this season.  And he may be.  If he fully recovers from those two off-season surgeries and is good to go in week one he is fully capable of returning to the dominant fantasy player he was before last season.  But my thought is that the Eagles will try to reduce his workload.  They drafted Jeremy Maclin, who is capable of doing many of the same things Westbrook did.  And to cloud matters even worse they drafted a running back with a similar skill set to Westbrook.  A big part of the reason Westbrook was a fantasy beast all those years was the fact that he was about all the Eagles had.  That would not seem to be the case now, or at least in the near future.   If you draft Westbrook, follow the Huddle's advice and commit yourself to handcuffing him with McCoy.  Westbrook might hold up another season, but it seems to me that the statistical slope is downhill from here.

Matt Cassel

Admit it, you laughed at the Patriots when they trotted out Matt Cassel last year to replace the injured Tom Brady.  I did.  It is my understanding that the coaching staff had little confidence in Cassel before last season started.  But when called upon, Cassel knew the system, and ran  the system pretty well.  And suddenly the guy that had never started at any level since high school found himself a hot commodity. 

One could then reason that if Cassel will be running a similar system in Kansas City, we might expect similar results.  Except one thing.  The Chiefs are not the Patriots.  Dwayne Bowe is not Randy Moss (well, not yet anyway) and Mark Bradley is not Wes Welker.  Actually that is three things.  And it is just the tip of the iceberg.

As a Chiefs fan I hate to say this, but I think the Chiefs are barking up the wrong tree here.  I made the statement last year that a few years from now, Cassel's "breakout season" would just be a blip in the rear-view mirror of the league.  I didn't fall for the hype then, and I am not falling for it now.  I think the Chiefs had a pretty decent prospect already in Tyler Thigpen.   But new coaches love to bring in "their guys" to put a stamp on things their way. 

I think Cassel was admirable filling in for Brady, but he is coming into a situation that is not nearly as favorable for the quarterback as the one he just left.  And Cassel will look every bit like the below average talent quarterback he is when lined up behind the Chiefs below average talent offensive line.   He was sacked 47 times behind a line far better than the one the Chiefs will sport.  I suspect Cassel might not even last the full season as a starter for one reason or another.  When I look at the Chiefs schedule for the first half of the season I see the Ravens, Raiders, Eagles, Giants, Cowboys, Redskins, Chargers and Jaguars.  Three of the first six opponents for the Chiefs are bad match-ups for QBs.

Just in case you are still not convinced, Cassel with his "well oiled machine" of a team had his "big" games (over 20 fantasy points) 4 times last season.  Those games were the SECOND time he played both the Jets and the Dolphins, the Raiders, and the Cardinals in that horrible game where the Cardinals stayed in Arizona and sent their uniforms to New England to play the game in the sub-freezing snowstorm.  So let's review:  Cassel excelled the second time he saw division rivals (after watching them from the sidelines for years I might add).   He excelled against the beaten down Raiders.  He excelled against the hologram Cardinals. That's the resume'.  Color me skeptical.

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