Potential fantasy busts in 2008
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bustē, n., 1. A failure; a flop.
Failures and flops, don't you just hate 'em? When that player you selected in the first round winds up performing more like a fourth rounder, you've got good reason to be upset. If only you had advance warning that the player you so dearly covet today is due for a down year tomorrow, you just might have the edge that takes you to the top of your league. Well, you've come to the right place. We here at RotoExperts specialize in advance warnings.
In forecasting busts, it's not always about projecting complete failures. After all, what kind of benefit would we be providing by placing a "Buyer Beware" sign around John David Booty's neck? No, we're talking about the players who are most likely to fail to live up to their preseason hype and/or expectations.
Rest assured, we're not just picking these names out of a hat; there's usually a significant reason for us to believe a player is bound for a drop-off. Sometimes it's an injury, sometimes it's age, and sometimes it's due to factors beyond that player's control -- it's never just a hunch. Some of the names below may come as a surprise, and others may have the hardcore fantasy footballer screaming, "blasphemy!" But hey, if we were going to tell you something you already knew, this wouldn't be as fun.
Let's dig in.
Philip Rivers, Chargers
If you've read Matt Greber's piece on sleepers (or "slippers" as he likes to call them), you already know that he's thinking big things for Rivers in 2008. I'll admit, he raises some valid points, but I'll have to respectfully disagree with him (and put some money on it). You see, one thing about Rivers has always stood out for me -- he rarely makes big plays. Rather, the superstars are the ones on his team who usually make the big plays for him. With Rivers' success directly tied to the playmaking ability of a few superstars, let's eliminate the hype, forget about names, and concentrate on the following:
1. The main weapon in the Chargers offense is a 29-year-old running back coming off a torn MCL. He's also averaged 400-plus touches per season in his seven-year career (we saw small signs of the wear-and-tear taking its toll on him last season).
2. The No. 1 passing option in San Diego's offense had toe surgery this offseason, and isn't yet able to run. There's no telling if he'll be ready for the opener.
3. The team's Pro Bowl center underwent ankle surgery less than two months ago, and he isn't set to return until October, at the earliest.
Still not sold? Let's tack on Rivers' own off season surgery to repair a torn ACL, and then take a look at his regression as a QB last season: 10 games under 200 passing yards, five games with at least two interceptions and nine games with a passer rating under 75. Folks, the writing is on the wall. I'm not saying he shouldn't be drafted, but he's looking more and more like a QB3 to me.
Jake Delhomme, Panthers
In baseball, they say it takes about 18 months to fully recover from Tommy John surgery. I'm not sure how long it takes for an NFL quarterback to make it back, but I'm betting it's not less than a year (Delhomme had the surgery around Week 4 last season). Some will point to the addition of Muhsin Muhammad and D.J. Hackett as positives for Delhomme's production this year, and it's a fair argument. But I'm not buying it. This team is going to focus on the run, and there's no better proof of that plan of attack than the Panthers' decision to select running back Jonathan Stewart in the first round of this year's draft. The Panthers also lost a couple of key offensive lineman this off-season, rendering the '08 version a patchwork unit that will struggle to protect the quarterback. A lot of folks will grab Delhomme thinking they've got themselves a steal; don't allow yourself to fall into that same trap (unless he's available as a backup really, really late).
Carson Palmer, Bengals
Maybe last season wasn't an aberration? Sure, Palmer was still a very good fantasy QB in '07, but his play (20 INT) was never able to justify his draft position. And despite some of the best pass protection in the league (only 17 sacks) and one of the best wide-receiving corps in the entire NFL (Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry), he still struggled mightily down the stretch (2 TD/4 INT with three sub-200 yard games in weeks 13-16). Sure, the running game was mediocre, but that actually helped Palmer establish career highs in attempts, completions, and yards. Assuming the ground game improves with a healthy Rudi Johnson and Kenny Watson, it will only subtract from those same totals. It gets worse too. When you replace Henry with Antonio Chatman and Johnson with a very angry Ocho Cinco (who's damaged any and all relationships he had with anybody on the team), things aren't exactly looking up. Caveat Emptor.