Sunday, January 2, 2011

NFL Fantasy Recap

Week 17 is upon us. This is the final day of the regular season. Playoff match-ups will be determined, favorites decided upon, and the road to the Super Bowl will be paved.

However, the fantasy season, for most leagues, is already over. As I touched on last week, there were plenty of fun stories that led to fantasy glory in 2010. But it wasn't all fun. There were many fantasy disappointments, high draft picks who got hurt or never got going. Without further ado, here is the Sports Pinata's lineup of preseason stars who sucked.

Quarterback - Tony Romo. It's hard to blame someone when they go down with a major injury, especially since Romo was playing well before he got hurt. However, injury or not, Romo's production was a killer for anyone who drafted him. He was mostly likely taken as a team's starting QB and ended the year 29th in quarterback fantasy scoring. For the uninformed, there are only 32 NFL teams. And yes, Romo's Dallas replacement Jon Kitna ended the year with more fantasy points.

Quarterback Honorable Mention - Kevin Kolb. Although Kolb was not as highly drafted in most leagues as Romo, he was still universally drafted. He was expected by some to have a huge year with all those weapons in Philadelphia. Of course he too got injured, and although he was physically able to return from it, he lost his job to Michael Vick. The idea that players should not be allowed to lose their job because of injury is utterly ridiculous. If someone comes in and does the same job better, when both are healthy, go with the guy who is better. Pretty simple. Nevertheless, highly thought of in August got Kolb nowhere in fantasy circles. He ended the year outside the top 32 quarterbacks, meaning a few teams actually had multiple QB's who outscored him.

Running Back - Ryan Mathews and DeAngelo Williams. Both of these men got hurt at some point during the 2010 season. However, in each case, it seemed not to matter. They were both god awful before and after returning. Williams may have been victim of playing for the worst team in the league, as his backup Jonathan Stewart hardly fared much better once coming in as a replacement. Mathews, on the other hand, was just a bust. After such success of rookie running backs in years past, everyone thought Mathews would be the guy this year. He was not. He ran for less than 600 yards and got outperformed week after week by former fullback Mike Tolbert. The only people who felt sorry for anyone who drafted Ryan Mathews was anyone who drafted CJ Spiller. Perhaps owners will be more hesitant to draft the unproven rookie come 2011.

Running Back Honorable Mentions - Shonn Greene and Pierre Thomas. Greene never got the carries he needed to become the breakout star everyone was expecting him to be. Thomas never got the carries to be the solid fantasy performer on a talented team that everyone expected him to be. Greene was never injured, but was simply made a backup by Rex Ryan in New York and LaDainian Tomlinson was never quite bad enough to relinquish that title. Thomas was always injured, and never had enough time to come back and win enough carries away from Chris Ivory.

Note: If you feel so inclined, you can read the previous paragraph with the word "Beanie" replacing "Pierre" and the word "Wells" replacing "Thomas" and it would check out.

Additional Note: Ryan Grant was clearly the worst performer of the bunch at running back, having gotten hurt in the very first game of the year and never returning. However, there's just something different about that fantasy failure. You don't blame Grant if you had drafted him. You just feel bad. Take my word for it. He was on my team.

Wide Receiver - Randy Moss and Steve Smith (Car). This was so easy. Sure, Brandon Marshall and Miles Austin were disappointing. Larry Fitzgerald couldn't overcome the quarterback problems, Michael Crabtree no-showed for much of the year and the Giants' Steve Smith went down right as fantasy playoffs were starting up. But none of them were as bad as the two that deserved to make this team. Everyone knows the Randy Moss tale by now. He was mailing in the season on the Pats. He got traded and mailed in his time in Tennessee. He got dumped and picked up and mailed in his season for the Vikings. He got dropped again. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on you again, but fool me a third time, shame on me. Everyone learned. As for the Panthers' Steve Smith, he was nicked up for a large portion of the season, his team's quarterback was ever changing, and he ended outside the top 60 fantasy wide receivers. Some of the big-time stars who ended week 16 with more fantasy points on the season than Steve Smith: Jordan Shipley, Ben Obomanu, Brandon Gibson, and the immortal Brian Hartline.

Tight End - Take your pick. Antonio Gates was the only dependable tight end all season. And he was only dependable when he played. Gates missed a number of games. Outside of him and a handful of others, the tight end position was a pile of mediocrity and disappointment throughout 2010. Brent Celek was drafted as a top 10 tight end, but wasn't even worth owning most of the season. Big things were expected of Jermichael Finley but he was put on IR before owners could reap the benefits. Visanthe Shiancoe was a disappointment after a breakout 2009. John Carlson, Owen Daniels, Greg Olsen and Heath Miller were fantasy non-factors. Really if you drafted a tight end projected in the top 10, chances are you ended up dropping that player rather quickly.

D/ST - Vikings. Most disappointing defense of the season was a close race. The Jets were expected to be the top performers coming into the year. They didn't even finish in the top 12, and who plays in a league with more than 12 teams? Same goes for the 49ers. After a stellar 2009 and high expectations, the 49ers franchise laid an egg this season, with the defense finishing in the bottom third of the league in fantasy points. The same can be said for the Ravens. The defense is no where near where it used to be. The franchise didn't exactly lay an egg though. So they have that going for them, which is nice. But out of everyone, Minnesota was the most disappointing. Led by Jared Allen, the Williams' and one of the best run defenses in NFL history the past few years, the Vikings plain sucked. They finished as the 27th ranked fantasy defense on the season. Sure the Texans and Broncos were epically bad, but no one expected them to be good. Minnesota, on the other hand, was supposed to be a set-and-forget defense, one you could play every week regardless of the opponent.

Keep in mind all numbers and rankings depend on your league settings, but regardless of the details, these starters on the 2010 lineup of stars who sucked were all heart-crushingly disappointing no matter how many points are awarded per touchdown. Remember this for your drafts next year. No matter how many people think someone will be good, there's a good chance he won't be. Go ahead and draft who you like; at least then you'll have no one to blame other than yourself when your team sucks. Because, as we all know, there is only one happy fantasy owner at the end of each season: the one who wins the title.

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