Fantasy Football: The most disappointing players of the first half


Fantasy Football: The most disappointing players of the first half

Nobody can predict the future.

We've said that plenty of times before on this site and it's an important fact to keep in mind as you read through or listen to any fantasy football preseason advice. Whoever is doling out the info is just guessing at best, because that's all it is: An educated guess.

Every fantasy season, plenty of surprises - both good and bad - come out of nowhere that not a soul on Earth could have predicted.

[MORE - Fantasy Football: The five best surprises of the first half]

As we enter Week 8, we sit at roughly the halfway mark between most fantasy regular seasons in leagues, so the CSN Fantasy crew is taking a look at the most disappointing players at each position:

QB - Peyton Manning, DEN

We all saw some ominous signs in Peyton Manning's second half of 2014. The 14-time Pro Bowler finished with three touchdowns and six interceptions in his last four games last season. With all the warning signs there and at the age of 39 going into the 2015 season, Manning still had an ADP of 50.

If you took him at or before his ADP, you're probably kicking yourself in the behind right about now. Manning is currently ranked as the No. 29 fantasy quarterback through six games, behind guys like Brian Hoyer, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown and Kirk Cousins. Manning has thrown an interception in each game this season, with 10 total on the year.

Now, we all know the future Hall of Famer could string together a marvelous fantasy stretch in the second half of the season so he shouldn't be dropped under any circumstance quite yet. Keep a close eye on him and only play him when the matchup dictates it. (Scott Krinch)

RB - Eddie Lacy, GB

It's certainly not time to write the obituary for Eddie Lacy's 2015 fantasy campaign, but when the season is seven weeks deep and he's sandwiched between Dexter McCluster and Thomas Rawls, something's gone awry. It's laughable at this point that Lacy was a debatable top overall pick; Adrian Peterson and Le'Veon Bell are the Nos. 7 and 8 running backs in points per game, and that should only improve.

Lacy's season has been marred by a nagging ankle injury suffered early in Week 2 against the Seahawks. This coming after a 17-point performance against the Bears in Week 1; Lacy missed the rest of that game and hasn't topped 18 carries or 90 rushing yards since. It also hasn't helped Lacy's fantasy prospects that James Starks is on a career-best pace through six games and has allowed the Packers to work Lacy back slowly.

[ROTOWORLD - Week 8 touches and targets]

There's good news, though. Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that Lacy's ankle injury is no longer a concern, which also means it HAD been a concern for more than a month. The Packers' passing attack has been better than expected after Jordy Nelson went down, and Davante Adams will return in Week 8 to give Aaron Rodgers another target.

But a healthy Lacy is going to get his, as witnessed by his 13-touchdown campaign a year ago despite Rodgers earning MVP honors under center. It's bad news that Lacy has been a first-round bust thus far, averaging fewer points per game than guys like Isaiah Crowell and Marcel Reese. The good news, though, is that it came because of injury and not because Lacy is slipping in Year 3. He'll face tough defenses in Denver and Carolina the next two weeks, but then the schedule really opens up for him to have a stellar second half, so long as he's healthy. (Mark Strotman)

WR - Andre Johnson, IND

Johnson was the 23rd receiver off the board in ESPN drafts, ahead of guys like Jeremy Maclin, Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson, Larry Fitzgerald, Martavis Bryant, James Jones and Steve Smith. Everybody thought this was Johnson's chance to truly break into the double-digit TD club with a true QB throwing to him for the first time in his career.

Of course it hasn't worked out that way at all. Johnson is now ranked as the No. 62 receiver in standard leagues and apart from one game (in which he put up 19 standard fantasy points), he's been downright awful. He failed to record a catch in two straight games in Weeks 3 and 4 and has just 11 fantasy points in six games apart from that 19-point outing.

[Complete CSN fantasy football coverage]

Johnson looks way more like a 34-year-old wide receiver than the guy many expected to find the fountain of youth. If you own him, give up on him. He's probably not worth owning at all, and certainly not worth starting right now. His only hope is if Andrew Luck puts his shoulder woes behind him and can regain his 2014 form ... and even then Johnson is way down on the totem pole for targets in Indy. (Tony Andracki)

TE - Jimmy Graham, SEA

What? You really thought the Seahawks were going to change their offense for Graham? It didn't happen when Percy Harvin came along (granted he was hurt a lot). The Seahawks have NEVER focused on one guy in the passing game. It's always been about spreading it around and that's driven fantasy owners nuts over the years.

But even though it's been bad for Graham this year, he's still leading the team in catches and yards and is tied for first in touchdown receptions. The tight end class this year has been somewhat underwhelming outside of Rob Gronkowski, Gary Barnidge (seriously, who saw this guy coming) and Tyler Eifert. Travis Kelce and Martellus Bennett haven't lived up to big expectations just yet.

It doesn't look like Graham will live up to his draft position but he's not worth cutting at all. He's still capable of having a vintage Jimmy Graham game at any point so be ready. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

1. Good games from Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan. Here’s a sampling of Pro Football Focus grades for primary middle/inside/will linebackers against New England this year: 

Reggie Ragland (KC): 60.1
Anthony Hitchens (KC): 30.2
Zaire Franklin (IND): 48.6
Najee Goode (IND): 47.1
Kiko Alonso (MIA): 63.9
Raekwon McMillan (MIA): 62.5
Christian Jones (DET): 59.7
Jarrad Davis (DET): 29.8
Telvin Smith Sr. (JAX): 64.1
Myles Jack (JAX): 61.0
Bernardrick McKinney (HOU): 68.7
Zach Cunningham (HOU): 43.2

Think what you will of Pro Football Focus’ grades, but the average here is 53.2. Interestingly, though, the average grade for these 12 players over the course of the 2018 season is 51.5. So maybe the issue is the Patriots have faced a bunch of mediocre-to-bad linebackers, allowing them to take advantage of those soft spots with Sony Michel running the ball and James White catching it. Smith’s PFF grade is 62.3; Trevathan’s is 64.3, so by this measure, they’re better than any of the interior linebackers the Patriots have faced but still are the weak spot in the Bears’ defense (only Jonathan Bullard has a lower PFF grade among players with 100 or more snaps). 

How Smith and Trevathan play will be key in determining how quickly Brady is able to get the ball out (with passes to White), and how many times they get into third-and-less-than-five situations (with Michel running it). Both those factors will be critical for the Bears’ pass rush, which brings us to our next point.

2. Pressure Tom Brady without blitzing. Brady is a master of beating blitzes, completing 23 of 31 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and only one sack when blitzed, per PFF (that’s good for a 138.4 passer rating). When he’s under pressure, though, he has his lowest passer rating — which is still 87.2 — but the point here is that the Bears can’t afford to have to send blitzes to try to get pressure on Brady. The Bears were one of the best teams in the league at pressuring opposing quarterbacks without blitzing before the trip to Miami, and how healthy Khalil Mack really is will be a critical determining factor in those efforts. But when the Bears do earn their pass-rushing opportunities, as Akiem Hicks put it, they need to at least affect Brady and not let him comfortably sit back to pick apart their defense. 

3. Convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns. This was a point Taylor Gabriel made this week about the state of the NFL in 2018: You can no longer afford to settle for three points or, worse, come away from a red zone possession with no points. Scoring is up league-wide, and the Patriots have scored 38, 38 and 43 points in their last three games. One of the biggest reasons the Bears lost that shootout in Miami was two turnovers from inside the five-yard line (Jordan Howard’s fumble, Mitch Trubisky’s interception). Stopping New England’s offense will be difficult, and the expectation should be for Sunday to be a high-scoring afternoon. If that’s the case, the Bears will have to get in the end zone every opportunity they get. The good news: New England’s defense is allowing a touchdown on 68 percent of their opponents’ possessions inside the red zone. 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Bears 27. The Bears’ defense sounded properly motivated after getting gouged by Brock Osweiler in Miami last weekend, but that only goes so far when one of the best quarterbacks of all time rolls into town. This winds up being a back-and-forth affair, but the guy with 54 game-winning drives in his regular season and playoff career makes it 55 late in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. A close loss to the Patriots wouldn’t dampen the positive vibes around the Bears, so long as they respond with wins against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in the next two weeks.