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Players to Avoid in 2008
Kevin Ratterree
July 23, 2008
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In an ideal fantasy draft, we all want to get players that outperform their draft position, or at least live up to it. For instance, if you are drafting 5th you want to draft a player in the first round that finishes in the top 5 for fantasy points. Actually since the first 5 picks of most any draft will be running backs, at worst you want to get one that is going to rank in the top 5 at the position. Drafting players that fall below their expected level drag your team down, and can lead to a soul crushing state of depression by mid-season. And who among us needs that?

So rather than tell you who I think you should draft, I am going to try to help you avoid the landmines. These picks are based on PPR flex leagues, and the general area in which the players are being drafted. The point here is not necessarily to predict only “busts” but picking out guys that I think are overvalued in relation to their draft position. In some cases I offer alternatives I prefer. Whether draft or auction leagues, the guys who get value generally win and those who overpay tend to lose. And we hate that.

This is my 4th year penning this article, and in that time I have hit on about 75% of my anti-picks. So while some of these may seem outlandish to you, I regret to inform you that most of them are correct.

However, in some cases of course I am completely wrong. When I make a mistake it tends to be a nasty one and I stepped in a big pile of nasty last year with Randy Moss. After that and the ensuing public humiliation, I considered taking less risks with this list, but how much fun would that be? Let’s dive right in with a first rounder as usual.

Tom Brady

The first one is so easy it is almost like cheating. Yeah, I know, he is coming off the greatest season by a quarterback ever. But therein lies the problem. Has there been a quarterback in the history of quarterbacks that followed up a huge year with another huge year? No. And every one of them looked just as rock solid as Brady looks to you right now.

I’m not going to tell you that Brady will be a huge bust this season. That would be a ludicrous statement. But you will probably have to take him with your first round pick if you want him. And in my opinion, if you are taking a quarterback that high in the draft he damn well better be numero uno at the position by a fair margin. Statistically, that is unlikely to be the case. While I agree that having one of the top quarterbacks is probably a bit more important in fantasy leagues right now than it has been in the recent past, I just don’t see enough of a difference between Brady and Manning, Romo, and Brees to take that first round leap at QB.

I’m not telling you not to draft Brady, but I just think you are bucking heavy odds if you expect a repeat of last year’s remarkable performance. Brady’s previous season high TD total was 28.

One final thought. Would it be out of the realm of possibility for Belichick to zig when everyone thinks they have figured out his zag?

Eli Manning

After his uncharacteristic performance during the Giants unlikely playoff run, Eli is sure to get plenty of interest in fantasy circles this year. He is being drafted as a starter by those poor wretches that wait until 9 or 10 quarterbacks are off the board. That is probably a mistake. There is little doubt that Eli’s impressive playoff run will give him some much needed confidence, but should that give you the confidence to go into battle with him as you fantasy starter? I don’t think so.

Granted, the pickings are slim when you get down to the part of the draft where Eli is being taken. But if I were in such a position I would probably roll the dice with someone like Delhomme or Schaub instead. If you are waiting that long in the draft to take a quarterback wouldn’t you rather have some serious upside?

Manning is not a horrible pick. He is a perfect pick if you just want someone you can plug into your lineup every week that will likely play all 16 games. Eli is not an injury risk like Delhomme or Schaub. But he probably doesn’t have Schaub’s upside either. Despite the fact that some will tag him as an upside player this season I expect Manning to plug along about the same, maybe a bit better than he has in the past. And that will probably disappoint owners that draft him expecting more.

Laveranues Coles

 If you had to make a WR pick in your draft, and you had it narrowed down to two guys, which one would you draft?

Player A: Ranked 19th and 20th WR last two seasons in PPR rankings. 9 games under 10 points in the last 2 years. Missed one game with injury.

Player B: Ranked 14th and 38th WR last two seasons. 10 games under 10 points in the last 2 years. Missed 5 games with injury.

I don’t know about you, but I would probably go the steadier Player A.

Player A is Jerricho Cotchery and player B is Laverneus Coles. Yet I see Coles ranked higher by than Cotchery by some. Why? Perception.

Fantasy football is a game of perception sometimes. Coles is perceived to be the better draft pick because people have just gotten used to penciling him in as the WR1, but Cotchery is likely the more attractive option. It comes back to the consistency issue I used in my Housh vs. CJ argument last season. Cotch is simply a more reliable play at this point.

Coles never seems to live up to the hype. Yes he was the 14th ranked WR in PPR leagues two seasons ago, but even in that year he only outscored Cotch by 22 points. And Cotch was a first year starter. We probably haven’t even seen his best yet. Coles has had some good years. But is he likely at this point to best those efforts?

I am not necessarily saying Coles is going to bust. But I am saying that if I have to make a choice between those guys, it is Cotchery hands down. Yet I still see Coles being drafted ahead of Cotch in some drafts. Coles might have a decent year, but I don’t expect him to be the team’s leading receiver.

Marion Barber

If you want Marion Barber on your team this season, you will have to spend a first round pick to have him. He has gotten considerably more expensive than last year when he was a 4th rounder or beyond. Last year he was a fantasy bargain. He had plenty of upside and his owners cashed in on it. This season he might actually be over-rated. Don’t get me wrong. I love Barber as a player. I would like to have him on my team. But at the price he is going for, I just don’t think he has anything but downside.

Some people presume that because the Cowboys let Julius Jones fly away to Seattle, Barber is going to turn into a fantasy monster. But the Cowboys have done nothing to suggest they will appreciably increase his workload. Drafting two running backs in April kind of gave me that feeling. The Cowboys want to keep Barber healthy, despite our wishes to see him get 20 carries a game and lead the league in rushing. He could. But I don’t think he will.

Barber is a solid pick to be sure, but he will likely be outscored by the top receivers that are still available when his name is called in the draft. I don’t see Barber having the upside of a guy like Ryan Grant who is drafted around the same neighborhood. Barber is the safe pick, but if you are drafting him thinking he will challenge the league leaders it just ain’t gonna happen.

Willie Parker

 The writing seems to be on the wall for Fast Willie. Parker was a first round pick for many fantasy leagues last season. But while the fantasy community expected Parkers role to increase, thus his value, we were unaware of the painful consequences of giving a small back 25 carries a game. With only two rushing touchdowns and an ill-timed week 16 season ending injury, Fast Willie was a classic first round fantasy bust in ‘07.

The fact that the Steelers added a big every down type running back early in the draft only fuels expectation that Parker will see his role diminish. The Steelers don’t want to burn Fast Willie up. The schedule is tough, and the running may be as well with an offensive line seemingly in decay. It is real hard to find a reason to be optimistic here. Seems like an ideal player to avoid.

Jeremy Shockey

The fact that the Giants and Eli Manning in particular flourished when Shockey was sidelined with an injury last season speaks volumes. The Giants organization took notice. When you spend half the season injured, and the other half creating bad karma in the locker-room you are nothing but a jalapeno in the middle of a cherry pie. Shockey mercifully found himself on the train to the city of New Orleans.

At this writing the trade is still pending awaiting Shockey’s physical. But the Shockey hype machine is in full force. Yes, he is seemingly a perfect fit for the Saints. And Brees isn’t as “sensitive” as Eli was, and is less likely to be crushed by Shock’s unseemly personality flaws. Shockey seems to be in a perfect spot to succeed. New city. New teammates. A new beginning.

But unfortunately the same perpetually injured body. A year older. A year more brittle. If you look at Shockey’s game history over the last 3 years you might think the guy has been pretty healthy. He has only missed a handful of games. But he seemingly always has some type of nagging injury or three. And despite the talent to have been one of the elite tight ends in the league Shockey has only regressed. From a fantasy standpoint, Shockey has gone from the 3rd ranked TE in 2005 to the 10th ranked TE in ‘07. He was basically a non factor last season. If you throw out his one big game (30 points in PPR format)he was down there in Ben Watson & Zach Miller territory.

My point is that it is easy to envision Shockey getting a boost from his new situation, but I think it is supremely optimistic to think his body will allow him to come full circle back to the top of the TE rankings. As of the trade announcement, Shockey was being drafted as about the #10 TE off the board. And even though he has been traded into a better situation I still think that is about where he should go. I suspect he will go higher from this point forward, so this player to avoid is a pre-emptive strike against moving Shockey way up your draft board.

Most of us only get one good tight end because there are only 10-12 to go around. Do you really want to hang your season on a guy that is perpetually injured, and will play the majority of his games on turf?

Marvin Harrison

Here is a pick that kind of seems like laub. But with a guy like Harrison, who has been a dependable fantasy stud for years, I think he merits inclusion in this column. He will likely still be there when the 4th round or so of your fantasy draft rolls around. People will look at the name “Marvin Harrison” and think, “hey, this is ridiculous. The guy is a star. He just had a bad year. He will bounce back.” Possible. Possible.

But spending one of your first 4 or 5 draft picks on a guy that laid to waste owners that drafted him last year is anything but safe. If you draft Harrison, you are ignoring his age, injury issues, legal issues, not to mention Anthony Gonzalez. That is a lot of issues. If you want in on the Colts passing attack, grab Manning or Wayne or Gonzalez or Addai. Let somebody else gamble on an unlikely revival of a 35 year old receiver that suddenly seems loaded with baggage.

Chicago Bears

Scene: Bears team headquarters immediately following a disastrous '07 season. Two guys in suits are sitting in leather chairs knocking back a few martinis.

Guy in suit: Do you think we should try to get a quarterback for next season?

Other guy in suit: We already have Grossman.

Guy in suit: Oh yeah. Do you have any more olives?

Michael Turner

At long last Turner will get his chance to be a featured back. But will he be the same guy we saw rip up tired defenses after Tomlinson had beat them senseless for 3 quarters? There are a couple of things that have me throwing a nonchalant wave at the Turner bandwagon as it goes by.

First and foremost is team he landed with followed closely by the team’s horrific offensive line. Then there is the fact that the Falcons best quarterback on the roster hasn’t even thrown an NFL pass yet. Add to that there is a younger running back already on the roster that has an even higher yards per carry average than Turner. And the final nail in the coffin is the fact that Turner was not nearly as effective last season as he had been in the past, (albeit with very limited opportunities) he averaged a full yard per carry under his career average. And that was with a far superior team than the one he landed with. Turner seems to be a perfect fit for what the Falcons want to do on offense. But I just wonder how effective he will be with a supporting cast that is decidedly less talented than the one he left behind.

Crazy talk?  Maybe.  But the last guy to make a seamless transition from much hyped back-up to successful starter for another team? Charlie Garner. Remember him? Color me skeptical.

Larry Johnson

I really didn’t want to put Johnson on this list. I mean, I hit with him last season here, why should I press my luck? But, the fact is LJ is still being drafted around the end of the first round, and I will probably avoid him at that price.

Johnson supporters will offer two arguments why he should be drafted in the first round. 2005 and 2006. Johnson was a monster. A lot has changed since then. Most notably the Chiefs offensive line. At the time Johnson broke through for his huge 20 TD season in 2005 the Chiefs offensive line was probably the best in football. And Trent Green was a top 10 type quarterback. The Chiefs were playoff contenders. Johnson did not have a 336 carry season followed by a 416 carry season under his belt. And he also did not have his massive 43 million dollar (19 mil guaranteed) contract.

All that is changed now. The offensive line has been dismantled through retirement. The Chiefs don’t figure to be anywhere near a playoff contender. The starting quarterback is a backup quarterback. And Johnson has his money after holding out just in the nick of time before the bottom fell out.

People will still be drafting this 2007 bust in hopes that he will return to his former glory, but the pieces just don’t look to be in place for it to happen. It is easy to run through massive holes in the line if they are there. When you have to create them in the face of 8 man fronts it is a whole different ball game. LJ is being drafted at least a round and maybe even 2-3 rounds ahead of where he should be. Don’t live in the past. See reality for what it really is. Let someone else call out this name in your fantasy draft.

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