Every season there are NFL players who are taken excessively high in fantasy football drafts only because they are household names. Each season, we identify a list of 10 players that tend to go a lot higher than their fantasy production warrants.
Being on this list does not mean we think a player is bad for his NFL team; it just means we do not think he is a strong fantasy football option.
Many players do things that help teams win games that do not show up in the box score. It is possible to be a very good football player that does not score well in fantasy football.
1) Donovan McNabb (Washington Redskins)
I cannot believe how many people still talk about him as a top-tier fantasy quarterback. The last three years he has finished 12th, seventh and 11th in fantasy points among quarterbacks. He is a sure bet to miss at least two games due to injuries. He has never thrown for 4,000 yards in a season in his career. He has not thrown for 25 or more touchdowns in a single season since 2004.
The last five seasons he has failed to rush for more than 250 yards, and the last time he had more than two rushing touchdowns in a season was 2006. He just is not the same player he was from 2000 to 2004, when he finished among the top five fantasy quarterbacks three times. Now he is going to a situation in Washington where he has an inferior offensive line to Philadelphia, aging running backs and his best receiver is WR Santana Moss, not WR DeSean Jackson.
If McNabb finishes higher than 15th in fantasy points, I will be surprised. He is a big name, but there will be plenty of lesser-known quarterbacks that finish higher in the fantasy rankings than McNabb. I can see McNabb being taken in the fifth to sixth round; he probably should not go off the board until at least the eighth or ninth round. He is no better than a solid No. 2 quarterback in 10-team leagues; he certainly is not going to have numbers that will separate him from some of the lower-ranked quarterbacks.
2) Randy Moss (New England Patriots)
I still see articles and rankings that talk about him as a top-three receiver. He did finish second among fantasy receivers in 2009, but you have to look at how those numbers were accumulated. From Week 10 forward he never had more than five receptions or 75 yards in a single game. He had five touchdowns, but three of them came in the Jacksonville game against a team that ranked 26th in touchdown passes allowed. He played terribly the second half of the season, and at 33 years old, he cannot just be penciled in as an elite fantasy player. He also is going to be without WR Wes Welker, possibly until Thanksgiving.
Receivers that you want to take in the first or second round are the ones that have at least 1,000 yards receiving and at least 10 touchdowns; those are the players that separate themselves from the rest of the pack and make it worthwhile to select a receiver that high in the draft. If they do not do both, you are basically taking a player in the first or second round that you can take in the fourth or fifth round.
I still expect Moss to finish near the top 10, but I expect him to be bunched up with a bunch of other receivers because I do think he will have 13 touchdown receptions in 2010. You do not want to build your receiving corps around him; I do not see him as a player capable of doing that anymore. He will not be anywhere close to the top of the rankings with Texans WR Andre Johnson and Colts WR Reggie Wayne, even though a lot of people will draft him in a similar spot.
3) LaDainian Tomlinson (New York Jets)
He is saying that he is healthy and in good enough shape to win the job from RB Shonn Greene, something I find difficult to believe at 31 years old. Let us assume he receives 130 carries and rushes for 600 yards and catches 40 or 50 passes for another 300 to 400 yards. Let us also assume he scores five to eight touchdowns. It is going to put him only 30th among fantasy running backs. Seattle Seahawks RB Justin Forsett had very similar numbers to what I gave in the example, and he finished 34th among backs as a player that was probably not drafted in many leagues.
I can guarantee inexperienced Fantasy Owners are going to take LT in the seventh or eighth round and think they got a steal with the big name and past seasons at the top of the fantasy football scoring chart. He may very well help put the Jets in the Super Bowl, but I cannot see him putting a fantasy owner in a championship game. I think he has value after the 12th round as a handcuff to Greene or as a fourth running back, but good luck having a player with that name recognition lasting that long.
4) Brandon Jacobs (New York Giants)
Jacobs had a big season in 2008, rushing for 1,089 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns, which ranked him 12th in fantasy football scoring among running backs. He crashed and burned last year with 835 yards and five rushing touchdowns, which was terrible for a second round pick. He finished 30th among fantasy backs. He is 27 years old, plays in New York and has been in a Super Bowl; I think some people are going to select him in the fourth or fifth round thinking he will have a rebound year. I just do not see it.
Even though he has only 779 career rushing attempts, I think RB Ahmad Bradshaw is going to see even more time in 2010, and Bradshaw actually outscored Jacobs in 2009 on 61 fewer carries. People that take Jacobs based on his name are going to be saddened when he has a down year for a second year in a row and Bradshaw leads Giants backs in fantasy points scored for a second straight year.
5) Carson Palmer (Cincinnati Bengals)
Palmer was a fixture in starting lineups from 2005 to 2007, finishing first in scoring in 2005, fourth in 2006 and ninth in 2007. He suffered an injury-plagued season in 2008 and in 2009 ranked just 18th among quarterbacks, throwing for only 3,094 yards and 21 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions, with a QB rating of 83.6. Players that finished higher than he did in 2009 included Washington Redskins QB Jason Campbell (14th), Jacksonville Jaguars QB David Garrard (15th) and Denver Broncos QB Kyle Orton (16th). Campbell is not even with the Redskins anymore, and the Broncos acquired both QB Tim Tebow and QB Brady Quinn to replace Orton.
There is going to be excitement in Cincinnati with the additions of rookie TE Jermaine Gresham and free agent WR Antonio Bryant. Similar to McNabb, Palmer is not worth the pick that his name recognition seems to bring him; people will take him much earlier than after the 10th round, which is the absolute earliest his statistics warrant him being selected.
6) Ryan Mathews (San Diego Chargers)
People might be a little surprised to see that I have a rookie on my list, but I think he is being overrated because of the high-scoring offense he is joining. I think there are many people that believe that the San Diego running game was undone by an aging Tomlinson and now that they have a young running back, we can expect a return to 2007-type numbers, when the Chargers were seventh in rushing yards gained.
Keep in mind that in 2009, nobody ran particularly well behind the Chargers' offensive line. Tomlinson averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, but RB Darren Sproles averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. That was just a year removed from averaging 5.4 yards per carry and well under his 5.1 career average entering the season. I think there are a lot of offensive line problems in San Diego that have not been addressed in free agency or the draft, and this notion that Mathews is going to go to San Diego and rush for 1,000 to 1,200 yards and seven to nine touchdowns is laughable to me.
My prediction is that Mathews fails to crack the 1,000-yard mark this season as the Chargers rely on QB Philip Rivers and the passing game. I think Mathews finishes in the mid 20s, not the mid to high teens, among fantasy running backs. If you take him in the first four rounds, I think you will be disappointed at his inconsistent production. The San Diego running game is very overrated; Tomlinson was not the only reason the Chargers ranked 31st in rushing yards gained in 2009. Stay clear of Mathews as a high pick or No. 2 back. I think he will be closer to a No. 3 back that is a good play against favorable matchups, not an every-week play.
7) Reggie Bush (New Orleans Saints)
I think most people would agree Houston Texans RB Steve Slaton was a bust in 2009. He played only 11 games and rushed for only 437 yards, caught 417 yards in passes and scored seven touchdowns. He ranked 33rd among fantasy running backs. That should tell you something about Bush--he has ranked 36th the last two years.
He has the Heisman Trophy, was the second pick in the 2006 draft, and is one of the most exciting players in the NFL in the open field. He has endorsements and dated the famous Kim Kardashian, which keeps him in the public eye. All of those things mean nothing in fantasy football; he puts up terrible statistics and is not a viable fantasy running back most weeks, unless you are in a PPR (Points Per Reception) League. Keep in mind he had only 47 receptions, or three more than Slaton did in 2009; I think people that talk about him as a great PPR back overrate him as well.
He might be worth a late round pick now that RB Mike Bell is in Philadelphia, but like clockwork, someone will take him in the middle rounds thinking that a big name will yield big production. I would not bet on it--there are much better bargains to be had in 2010 in the middle rounds. Don't bet on this big name having a big year.
8) T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Seattle Seahawks)
We all remember the commercials. I select T.J. Who's Your Mama, CHAMPIONSHIP! He actually helped deliver in 2007, when he had a league-leading 112 receptions for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns. That put him as the seventh best fantasy receiver. Since then, he has failed to record a 1,000-yard season and has scored seven touchdowns in two seasons. He ranked 31st among fantasy receivers in both 2008 and 2009.
I think he was an exciting player that put up some big numbers playing with QB Carson Palmer and WR Chad Ochocinco. That 2007 season put him on the map and landed him the huge contract in Seattle in 2009. At 33 years old, I do not think he is worth a middle round choice anymore. I would rather go with a young receiver that I think might break out than with a guy that has been a below average No. 3 fantasy receiver since 2007.
I think his name recognition is going to have him taken a lot higher than his numbers say he should. Seattle has a new coach in Pete Carroll, an aging inconsistent quarterback in QB Matt Hasselbeck and an inexperienced quarterback waiting in the wings (QB Charlie Whitehurst). It all adds up to another very average season, and he is a player that should not be taken prior to the 10th round.
9) Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys)
Witten is still a fantastic player, but the perception of him is that he is a tight end with wide receiver value because of his 2007 season, when he had 96 receptions for 1,145 yards and scored seven touchdowns. That gave him the No. 1 tight end ranking and No. 7 among all tight ends and receivers. He just does not score enough touchdowns to rank in that type of company most years. In 2009 he was eighth among tight ends but scored only two touchdowns. He has ranked in the top 30 among all scorers only twice, 22nd back in 2004 and 16th in 2007.
I like him as my starting tight end, but I do not think it is worth taking him in the fourth or fifth round as one of the top tight ends off the board. I say let someone else draft him first and go with a lesser known tight end like Green Bay Packers TE Jermichael Finley or Philadelphia Eagles TE Brent Celek. I think the production will be similar at a much lower cost.
10) Marques Colston (New Orleans Saints)
He shocked us all when as a seventh round pick he finished his rookie season with 70 receptions for 1,038 yards and scored seven touchdowns. He followed that up with 98 receptions for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns, ranking eighth among fantasy receivers. I give him a pass for 2008, because he was injured, but in 2009 he finished with 1,074 yards and nine touchdowns, ranking 13th among fantasy receivers.
People keep expecting him to be that player from 2007, and the Saints have so much balance in their offense that no one skill position player sees enough touches to put up dominant fantasy numbers. The Saints have so many weapons and spread the ball so much that I just do not see him ever becoming the player that people hope for in a second round pick.
It is the same issue I talked about with Moss. Colston is a very good player, but he should not be any better than your No. 2 fantasy receiver this year. You can find similar numbers in the fourth or fifth round and build a deeper fantasy team; Colston will probably be gone by the end of the second or beginning of the third round.
By Derek Lofland, analyst at Fantasy Football Maniaxs