As we head into the last week of the 2011 NFL regular season when most fantasy football leagues have been completed, we can now look back in retrospect at what went right or wrong during the season. For the most part, superstar players who are projected to perform well do in fact match those expectations. However, not all of them have done so. Whether it is because of injury, age, declining skills, emerging competition, holdouts, or any other external factors, some players just simply did not justify their draft position or purported value. So this week’s Top Ten list will be the ten biggest fantasy disappointments of the season. Get some tissues ready in case your season was lost because of any of these players.
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10. Mario Manningham (WR-NYG) – After the Giants lost both Steve Smith and Kevin Boss during the pre-season, all eyes were on Mario Manningham to step up and become a true #2 wide receiver for Eli Manning. The hope was that Manningham could be both a deep threat and a possession receiver in the slot. As it turned out, Manningham has been banged up most of the season which has cost him several games. The Giants didn’t miss a beat without him as Victor Cruz emerged in the role Manningham was expected to fill. Manningham was projected as a solid WR2 in fantasy leagues and was likely drafted in between the 4th – 7th rounds. He played more like a 14th round pick.
9. Darren McFadden (RB-OAK) – Coming off a breakout season, the Raiders were poised to compete for the AFC title on the shoulders of Darren McFadden. He started off strong but then sustained an injury halfway through the season and hasn’t gotten back on the field since. With a new quarterback in town in Carson Palmer, it would have been interesting to see how good McFadden could have been had he stayed healthy. Instead, the fantasy football universe has gotten to know his backup, Michael Bush, very well.
8. Peyton Hillis (RB-CLE) – We all should have seen this coming once Peyton Hillis was voted to be on the cover of Madden ’12. This year has been a disaster for the modern-day John Riggins as he has been marred by injuries and had his heart and integrity questioned repeatedly. Hillis has missed several games this year with a variety of injuries. Even worse, his integrity has been challenged as players, coaches, and fans tend to believe Hillis is either exaggerating his injuries or malingering. He was likely one of the top keeper options in leagues because of his low draft value coming into 2010. However, people were burned severely relying on Hillis this year. Even when he has played, his numbers pale in comparison to his magical 2010 season. The moral of the story is to stay off the cover of Madden football games.
7. Rashard Mendenhall (RB-PIT) – It is remarkable how the Steelers have transitioned from a smash-mouth running team into a high-powered passing attack. That tends to happen when you have several talented and versatile wide receivers and a banged up running back. Mendenhall leads a long list of injured Steelers, especially in the backfield. Because of these injuries and the emergence of several talented wide receivers, Ben Roethlisberger changed the landscape of the Steelers’ offense by airing it out to the likes of Hines Ward, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders. This limited Mendenhall’s production and value, especially considering he was likely a first round pick and near the top of the board in terms of running backs.
6. Vincent Jackson (WR-SD) – This was supposed to be the year. No more contract disputes, no more injuries. Just run and gun with Philip Rivers deep into the playoffs. That was the mantra coming in to 2011, but it hasn’t exactly worked out that way. No other player has been as streaky or inconsistent as V-Jax. Most of the sexy stats he has accumulated came in bunches.
5. Ahmad Bradshaw (RB-NYG) – The Giants have always been known as a team that relies on an effective and relentless running game. With the two-headed monster of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, much of the same was expected in 2011. Even more so, Bradshaw was supposed to be the featured back. But injuries to the offensive line and playing from behind too often derailed what was once one of the NFL’s best running games. On top of that, Bradshaw broke a bone in his foot in the middle of the season and missed four games. Hopes were high for him this year, and despite the disappointment, he should be high on people’s radar for 2012.
4. Jamaal Charles (RB-KC) – After winning the AFC West in 2010, the Kansas City Chiefs were poised to prove that it was no fluke. Jamaal Charles was finally given the reins as the team’s premier running back after an explosive season last year. Arguably one of the fastest runners in the league, Charles was one of the top five draft picks in almost every fantasy draft this season. However, a season-ending injury during Week 2 shattered the dreams of many fantasy players.
3. Michael Vick (QB-PHI) – Regarded by many as last year’s fantasy football MVP, Michael Vick came into 2011 as one of the top projected picks by pundits because of his ability to run the ball as well as throwing the deep pass to some of the league’s fastest wide receivers. However, 2011 has been a remarkably inconsistent and disappointing season for Vick and the Eagles. Once again, injuries played a major factor with Vick as he missed a few games during the course of the season. He never quite put it all together over a stretch of several games. If you spent your first round pick on Vick, then you probably spent the past few weeks watching other people play in the fantasy football playoffs.
2. Adrian Peterson (RB-MIN) – Much to the dismay of Vikings fans, NFL fans, and the human race, 2010 was the Year of Brett Favre in Minnesota. No, not because he performed so well. Rather, he was the center of a lot of drama and controversy that also centered around the head coach. With Favre-mania running wild, the Vikings abandoned their running game with Adrian Peterson and suffered miserably for it. Coming into 2011, the thought was that the Vikings would return to what has worked for them before and give AP the ball 25-30 times a game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen this year. The Vikings have had an awful season and eventually went with a rookie quarterback to start building for the future. Christian Ponder played relatively well, but Minnesota’s defense has been terrible which has forced them to throw the ball more than they would like. This affected Peterson’s production, which tragically ended last week with a serious knee injury which will require surgery. Once the top running back in football, AP has been relegated to a borderline RB2 this year and his status for 2012 is now in question.
1. Chris Johnson (RB-TEN) – There was no question that the lockout would have a profound effect on most players coming into the season. However, Chris Johnson missed even more time during the pre-season because he was holding out for a new contract. Eventually, the Tennessee Titans obliged and Johnson was back in time for Week 1. However, it was obvious that he was not ready for active competition. Still regarded as one of the top running backs in the league, Johnson’s average draft position didn’t suffer too much despite missing all of that time. People who took Johnson with their first round pick got the worst value for their pick as he repeatedly put up numbers that even Ryan Leaf would laugh at. Towards the end of the season, Johnson did put together some monster games, but it was too little too late. He has fallen quite a bit since his 2,000+ yard campaign a couple years ago. I don’t see him going back to the Titans’ management and offering to return some of that money garnered in his new contract.
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