The first quarter of the 2010 fantasy football season has been filled with injuries and poor performances by some of last year’s fantasy stars and most promising rookies. While a lot these underachievers can blame injuries or point the finger at their teammates, this offers little consolation to the fantasy team owners that put the fate of their season in the hands of these bums. I am going to list the 10 most disappointing players, so far, and attempt to determine if they will reward owners with a strong finish or continue to suck a fat one.
10) Maurice Jones-Drew – MJD was dealing with a knee injury during the pre-season, but was still the 3rd pick in most fantasy drafts, and with good reason. He has averaged 13.5 touchdowns per season over the last 4 years and can contribute in point-per-reception (PPR) and standard scoring leagues. The Jaguars’ passing game is horrible, which allows opposing defenses to stack the box to shut down the run. This is nothing new for MJD and the Jaguars, however, but a lot of owners are wondering if they should make a trade. My advice would be to hang in there, it will get better. MJD has a nice fantasy playoff schedule and the passing game showed signs of life in Week 4. While injury will be a big concern, as it is with most top running backs, I put his odds of success going forward at 98%.
9) Randy Moss – It didn’t take long for Moss to start grumbling about wanting a new contract and how he feels under-appreciated (Raiders and Vikings fans know this story). Since Belichick feels that no one is above the team, he and the Patriots decided to trade Moss back to the Minnesota Vikings (keeping Brett Favre’s penis out of the news for a few hours). Randy is low on this list because he has managed to score 3 touchdowns despite his disappointing yardage totals. Owners should not panic because Moss is now in a very good situation in Minnesota. He has a great running back in Adrian Peterson to help open up the pass and if Brett Favre can keep his arm from falling off he will target Moss early and often. I put his odds of success going forward at 95%.
8) Pierre Thomas – It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Thomas owners and it’s only been 5 games. In the first game of the season the Saints started Reggie Bush over Thomas, but PT responded by getting 71 yards and a touchdown against a tough Vikings’ defense. The success was short-lived, however, as Thomas has not gotten in the endzone again and he has missed the last 2 games due to injury. The good news is that his replacements (Ladell Betts and Chris Ivory) have not done enough to steal his job and PT seems to be on his way back from injury. I put his odds of success going forward at 90%.
7) Marques Colston – Colston will be the first of a string of disappointing Wide Receivers on this list. He is lower on the list, however, since a lot of people downgraded Colston at the draft due to all the options in the Saints’ offense. This is no excuse for how he has performed, though; he should still be putting up better numbers than he has so far. Nevertheless, the future looks bright. Colston has been the most targeted receiver in a high powered offense and this gives me hope that the numbers will come and he has the track record to back up this assumption. So I put his odds of success going forward at 90%.
6) Michael Crabtree – Crabtree was one of the top Wide Receivers over the second half of the 2009 season (his rookie year), despite a lengthy holdout. Because of this strong finish, Crabtree entered 2010 with a high ranking and high draft position. So far, however, Crabtree has put up numbers that have had some owners thinking about cutting one of their higher picks. I think that this panic is understandable, but definitely premature. For one, 49ers coach Mike Singletary has called out Crabtree much like he did with Vernon Davis and now Davis is one of the top Tight Ends in football. It seems like it might be having a similar effect on Crabtree, since he put up 105 yards and a touchdown in Week 5. The 49ers are a mess offensively, though, so I put his odds of success going forward at 85%.
5) Mike Sims-Walker – MSW broke out for the Jaguars in 2009 to the tune of 869 yards and 7 touchdowns. So naturally, he entered 2010 with a lot of potential and high on people’s draft boards. But due to a weak quarterback and getting extra attention from the opposing team’s defensive backs, Sims-Walker has started the year off extremely slow. Since his quarterback and the attention are unlikely to change, I put his odds of success going forward at 50%.
4) Steve Smith – Topping the list of underperforming wide receivers is perennial star Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers. Smith has averaged 1,226 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns over the last 5 seasons. Even with the Panthers’ question marks at Quarterback, Smith was still a top receiving pick for most fantasy football clubs. Even before his injury (which should keep him out a few weeks), Smith was disappointing his fantasy owners and in some leagues he has even hit the waiver wire for the first time in recent memory. I am not going to go as far as to say he is a great buy-low candidate, since the quarterback situation will be murky all year, but if he is available on waivers, I would definitely grab him. So, because of the injury and the craptastic state of the Carolina Panthers’ football team, I put his odds of success going forward at 60%.
3) Shonn Greene – Greene entered the 2010 season on the heels of an amazing finish and playoff run in 2009. With only the over-the-hill (in running back terms) LaDainian Tomlinson as his competition for carries, it was thought that Greene would put up first round numbers this season for the New York Jets. Instead, Greene has showed us that the only thing we know about fantasy football is that we know nothing. With only 5 carries in Week 1 and no touchdowns on the season, so far, Greene has turned into one of the biggest first round busts in recent memory (while Tomlinson has been one of the best late round steals of the year). Last week, against the Bills, Greene was able to rush for 117 yards on 22 carries and showed the talent that everyone knows he possesses. However, that was in a blow-out game against a very weak defense, and right now those look to be the only games in which Greene is a safe start. So, barring an injury or regression by Tomlinson, I put Shonn Greene’s odds of success going forward at 70%.
2) Kevin Kolb – Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Kevin Kolb is on this list because he was a player that a lot of fantasy owners were counting on to be their starting QB if they decided to draft other positions in the higher rounds of their drafts. Even though the Eagles traded away Donovan McNabb and tabbed Kolb their starter, the warning signs were there. First of all, he only started a few games last year and even though he looked great in those starts, it is still a very small sample size. Secondly, his back-up was former pro-bowler, Michael Vick. This small sample size combined with an all-pro caliber back-up should have sent up red flags prior to draft day. Nevertheless, Kolb remained a favorite of many fantasy owners, I included, and his subsequent concussion and losing his job to Vick, left us scrambling for a quality back-up. Kolb is now getting another shot thanks to a Vick rib injury, but coach Andy Reid has already stated that Vick will get the job back when healthy. Since Vick’s style leaves him prone to injury, I’ll put Kolb’s odds of success going forward at 50%.
1) Ryan Mathews – Topping the list of biggest fantasy busts so far, is a player that was a first round pick in every draft (unless you are in a 7-team league) and who a lot of people were predicting could put up top 5 running back numbers. San Diego Chargers’ running back Ryan Mathews burst on the scene in the preseason, quickly making fans forget about the loss of LaDainian Tomlinson. His preseason performance also shot him up draft boards and ultimately landed him in the mid to late first round. With no real competition for carries, this probably would have been about the right spot for him if it wasn’t for the high ankle sprain he suffered in Week 2. Even though this injury only kept Mathews out one full week, it did allow Mike Tolbert to emerge as a viable option and now Mathews will most likely be dealing with at least a partial carry split for the rest of the year. This early season set-back may have stung fantasy owners a bit, but the future looks bright. Mathews appears to be getting back to full health and does seem to be a much more dominant runner than the cannonball, Tolbert. So I’ll put Mathews’ odds of success going forward at 90%.
The Fantasy Dick is the fantasy baseball writer for www.thebaseballchick.com and can be followed on Twitter at @thefantasydick or emailed at thefantasydick at yahoo.com. Feel free to ask any fantasy sports related questions or just questions about life in general, The Fantasy Dick is an expert at both.