Gregg Rosenthal: The biggest fantasy busts heading into 2009
Drafting Tomlinson too high last year was inevitable. Doing it for a second straight year is less forgivable. It's painful to watch, but Tomlinson is now an average back with a Hall of Fame name. We have a history of struggling to give up on our fantasy heroes. The year after Shaun Alexander collapsed, he still went at the end of the first round. Same thing with Larry Johnson last year. Guess where Tomlinson is going?
L.J.'s price tag drops every year, but it still hasn't slid far enough. He's being taken ahead of many emerging young talents like Kevin Smith, Jonathan Stewart and Pierre Thomas. Meanwhile, his role with the new Chiefs staff is only shrinking, especially on passing downs.
There's a reason Housh had a hard time finding a team that would pay him like a true number one receiver. He's not one. He's a fantastic piece to the puzzle that is turning 32 years old and will have to deal with more defensive attention, and a new system that plans to emphasize the run. If Mike Holmgren was around, Houshmandzadeh wouldn't make this list. I miss the old walrus already.
Pick your spots betting on bounceback years. Holt can no longer separate from defenders, and he won't have the luxury of seeing non-stop targets in Jacksonville to pad his stats. He's averaged 10.6 yards-per-catch on grass to 13.4 yards on turf over the last three years. If the Rams can give up on such a reliable legend, so can you.
Surely Mike Tomlin has noticed that Parker can more effective with 15 carries-per-game than 25. He's certainly noticed that Mewelde Moore is better on passing downs, and anyone is better at the goal line. FWP may reverse his four consecutive year decline in yards-per-carry, but the emergence of Rashard Mendenhall will turn Parker into a poor fantasy choice.
Only Brandon Stokley enjoyed a more productive season as a true third receiver this decade. There's a reason: it's nearly impossible to pull off. Breaston was only consistent when Anquan Boldin was hurt, averaging an extra 15 yards-per-game. His 37-yard per-game average in the playoffs is more indicative of his likely role.
Running backs score fantasy points the fastest at the goal line and in the passing game. Taylor isn't likely to play in either situation. 10-15 carries a game just doesn't add up to much otherwise.
One of the most common mistakes from fantasy newbies is they aim low with reserve picks, especially the third running back. The best Lewis can hope for is to slow his decline long enough to stay mediocre for one more season. Players like Lewis will help you earn fifth place instead of eighth, but they'll never help you win titles. Take some risks.
The successes of last year's rookie wideouts have emboldened Fantasy Nation. Superstardom for Michael Crabtree must start immediately! But the rare cases of productive first-year pass catchers are tough to predict and usually come on proven passing attacks. Shaun Hill + Mike Singletary + a surprisingly deep receiver group - Mike Marz = disappointment.
Chronic back problems and a transition away from quarterback guru Mike Holmgren to a run-based offense spells trouble for Hasselbeck. T.J. Houshmandzadeh can't cover all that up.
I'll see your Michael Crabtree and raise you a track star playing for Oakland. Putting Heyward-Bey on this list seems like shooting fish in a barrel, but he's shown up shockingly high on early Average Draft Position lists. DHB is at least a year away and drafting him will incur the wrath of Mayock-o-files. (Go Chaz Schillens if you want a Raiders wideout.)
For reasons beyond my understanding, Hightower's 2.8 yards-per-carry and the addition of first-rounder Beanie Wells haven't scared away fantasy owners. Hightower had his chance, and he couldn't hold off Edgerrin James for a starting job. Move along.
Beware of projecting a player's per-game stats over a full season when things have changed in the meantime. Rookie Hakeem Nicks will squash much of Hixon's value.
After a breakout year, Shiancoe's value looks overextended. Percy Harvin will take many of his catches over the middle, while Shiancoe focuses on blocking more. He's this season's Donald Lee.