Who is the fantasy experts' kryptonite?
"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." -- Chinese proverb
We've all heard this expression a million times, and we know better. But do we heed the warning? No. Every fantasy football owner has a blind spot, and year after year, like a moth to the flame, we all find ourselves picking a player who has disappointed us in the past, hoping against hope that this year will be different. But it's not. Just like Wile E. Coyote, we simply shake off the bad season, shrug our shoulders and head right back to that same old Acme Corporation catalog, rather than perhaps shopping for our roadrunner-catching contraptions at some other company for a change.
At some point, though, maybe we have to accept the fact that these players who constantly underperform are simply not the superheroes we've made them out to be in our own minds. They are who the stats say they are, and no more than that. We asked our experts the following question, hoping to create a list of some of these players so that perhaps you don't fall into their clutches as well:
"Who's your fantasy football Kryptonite? You know, the guy who always ends up on your team, never truly coming through, yet always showing just enough potential to make you go down that road again and why will (or won't) this year be any different?"
Strangely enough, nearly all the responses yielded the names of wide receivers. Maybe that helps to explain why they're so gung-ho on picking running backs early and often. Here's how they answered:
Tristan Cockcroft: Lee Evans, WR, Buffalo
Has to be Lee Evans, I always -- always -- end up saddled with him. Like the lure of the siren song, there's Lee, in the fifth, sixth round, whatever it is, and I can't resist taking him. It's maddening, I tell you, maddening!
And you know what? Sign me up again! There's Evans, going around 70th on average in our live drafts, way too low for a player with his talent. (Speaking of which, think I could get a discount price for multiple seasons of Evans ownership? Can't hurt to ask )
I understand the terrible first five weeks of his 2007 campaign. The Bills were a team in flux, with new faces and all, but after the bye week they seemed a totally improved team. He was still inconsistent, sure, yet he managed four double-digit fantasy point performances in his final 11 contests. He averaged nine per game, even though the team used terrible quarterbacks and lacked anything else in the receiving game remotely threatening to a defense.
This year, though, we have Marshawn Lynch with an extra year of experience to keep those defenses honest, and rookie James Hardy on hand to deepen the receiving corps. Evans might not finish a top-10 receiver, but he won't be No. 24 (his average-draft-position rank), either. Look at who's ranked ahead of him: Calvin Johnson, not even the best receiver on his pretty overrated team; Roddy White, a fellow No. 1 receiver on an offense at least as bad as Buffalo's; and Dwayne Bowe, boy, talk about bad teams. Do we honestly believe Evans has less potential than those three?
Christopher Harris: Donte' Stallworth, WR, Cleveland
Does he "always" end up on my team? No. But I always seem to predict good things for him. In New Orleans, he flashed impressive speed and scored on a bunch of bombs, but his hammies were a nightmare. In his one season as an Eagle, he was awesome for a few weeks, then got hurt again and wound up catching just 38 passes. In his one season as a Patriot, he entered the best situation of his career, was locked in as the No. 2 receiver for the greatest offensive show the world has ever seen, and somehow caught only 46 of Tom Brady's 398 completions. Now he has another shot as a key cog for a great aerial attack in Cleveland.
"He's the ideal guy to draw double-teams away from Braylon Edwards," I think. "He'll never have a safety roll his way because of Kellen Winslow," I murmur. Nevertheless, Stallworth is running out of chances. I do think he's worth drafting this year, though I'd be scared to use him as a No. 2 receiver in a standard league. Good guy, great speed, high-octane offense. Where have I heard this before?
AJ Mass: Matt Jones, WR, Jacksonville
Enormous potential. Incredible upside. Freakishly talented. This is how Matt Jones was described when the Jaguars selected him in the first round of the 2005 draft. At 6-6 and with blazing speed, it looked like Jones would be a huge part of the Jaguars' passing game. After a decent rookie campaign in which Jones caught 36 balls for 432 yards and five scores, I thought he'd be ready for a breakout 2006. After all, surely there would be an adjustment period, because Jones had been a quarterback in college and was being converted to the wide receiver position. With a year under his belt, Jones would be far better. Well, Jones did a bit better, with more catches (41) and more yards (643) in fewer games played (14), yet it still seemed he should have been doing more given his size and innate ability. Then again, he had a bad ankle.
Then I thought that 2007 would be the year. It was not. Not even close. Jones was criticized by coach Jack Del Rio for his lack of work ethic, and he didn't even get to dress for weeks on end. Time to cross Jones off my draft list once and for all, right? But wait Jones is having his best training camp ever. Maybe 2008 will be the year after all. Maybe he'll finally live up to all that potential. Hold up did you hear? Drug charges? Oh, no. Even though he's pleading not guilty, a trial looms and could be a distraction. What's that? He's now playing with the first-team offense and starting preseason games. What's that? It's my turn to pick? Hmmmmm
Jim McCormick: Chad Johnson, WR, Cincinnati
His numbers always look great in the end. He's one of the greatest, if not the greatest, football personality of our time. He's also an incredibly frustrating fantasy player to own. And yet, I just can't stay away. Chad Ocho Cinco (if his name change goes through) or, more commonly, Chad Johnson, is my fantasy Kryptonite. I'm perennially a buyer of his services via draft or trade, however I can get him. It belies my normal fantasy thought process because aside from Johnson, I never invest in a player for any reason other than expected production. Just like my Eagles (sigh), he lures me back every year. After a tumultuous offseason filled with numerous threats of a holdout and lingering trade demands, I thought I had finally kicked the habit. But then he went and made nice, hugged Carson Palmer on "Pardon the Interruption," and gave spectacularly ridiculous interviews such as the one which he challenged Michael Phelps to a swimming meet in his native Miami. I think I'm hooked again. Johnson is a great talent in addition to being wickedly amusing. His year-end totals are often deserving of a flight to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. The problem with Ocho in fantasy regard is that so much of his production comes from just a handful of explosive games. He's a more impressive Kevin Curtis/Lee Evans type, if you will. Just last season, 62 percent of his TDs, 25 percent of his receptions and 21 percent of his yards came in two huge games. He's reached the end zone in just four games each of the past two seasons. The prospect of a huge, double-digit TD season always looms, but again, the man seems apt to produce and entertain in bunches. There's no guarantee that he'll become a steady, consistent fantasy source. But I'm not confident that will stop me from pursuing him yet again.
Maybe, maybe not. But if it's "maybe not," he's sure got me fooled (again).
Eric Karabell: Lee Evans, WR, Buffalo and Chris Chambers, WR, San Diego
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Where do I begin? How about I name an entire starting lineup of these players? The poster boy probably would be Lee Evans. He drives me up the wall, yet I keep going down that road because I was watching the day he destroyed the Houston Texans for 265 yards and two touchdowns and had visions of a full season like what Braylon Edwards delivered last season. That was in Week 11 of 2006. Evans beat me in a key league his rookie year, when he went off in December, and in 2005 I took him on multiple teams and he scored in two games before my league's playoffs. Then I sat him for Week 13, and he scored three times. Last season I wasted September using Evans, then thankfully benched him as he scored only twice in the first 13 weeks of the season. I've already picked him on a few teams because I think Trent Edwards will develop relatively soon, and rookie James Hardy isn't quite ready to be this season's Dwayne Bowe, so someone has to catch the ball. But I will be prepared for Evans to disappear from time to time.
Chris Chambers would be the other wide receiver for my teams, and again there's a point even in 2008 drafts when he should be selected, so I end up doing it. Like Evans, Chambers is a shoddy route-runner, and his big games aren't enough to satiate the fantasy owner during three months of the regular season. Antonio Gates and his troublesome toe could miss September and get everyone excited about Chambers, and still the Chargers would find another way to score points and keep him under the radar, much like they did when they traded a second-round pick to acquire him from Miami. Chambers does have a pair of 11-touchdown seasons to his credit, but he disappointed in the follow-up years.
One of these years. One of these years, I tell ya.
I still say that when Norwood entered the league, he was one of the most talented runners in the league, skill for skill. The shame of it all is that he hasn't done anything to disprove that; he has averaged a whopping 6.2 yards per carry in his two-year career. The crime of it all is that the only reason he hasn't become the elite back he's capable of being is opportunity, not ability.
You'd think the Falcons would want to see what they have with Norwood in a primary role. Instead, the team's fascination with thirtysomething Warrick Dunn, a similar "scatback" type of runner, kept Norwood in a reserve role. Yeah, that sure led them places -- Atlanta was a combined 11-21 the past two seasons. Sure, Norwood might not be the better blocker or receiver of the duo, but when you have little to play for, wouldn't you want to see whether he's the future at running back? Sigh.
Now it's 26-year-old Michael Turner's turn to start, and I must admit it'll be even harder for Norwood to get more carries next to this potential workhorse. But I still believe. I have a hard time finding a backup with more upside than Norwood, and it's no sure thing that Turner can make it through a season unscathed, considering he (obviously) never took on a primary back's role in San Diego. I consider Norwood to be much more than just a Turner handcuff; I'm drafting on his own accord in the middle rounds.
So you can see the Kryptonite is definitely still hanging from my neck.