Doomsday scenarios, Part 2
Darren Sproles could see a reduction in touches if Mark Ingram emerges
Maurice Jones-Drew has had the most carries over the last three years in the NFL
Addition of Brandojn Lloyd, more defensive attention may slow Rob Gronkowski
Last week we looked at a litany of ways the fortunes of the top-10 picks in the 2012 Sports Illustrated Fantasy Football extravaganza could go south. This week we'll follow up with Part 2 and delve a little deeper down our rankings, examining the worst-case scenarios for Nos. 11 through 25 (all scenarios are barring major injury).
11. Darren Sproles, RB, Saints. Drew Brees' safety valve could see a reduction in touches with the emergence of 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, who missed a lot of time as a rookie plus his other full-house backfield mates Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory. Lance Moore is also someone who can cut into Sproles' production by lining up more in the slot than on the outside.
12. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars. No fantasy owner ever wants to hear the word "holdout," especially when it's preceded by the word "protracted," but that's what MJD and the Jaguars are facing. The increased susceptibility to injury that comes with it can't be good news for someone who underwent knee surgery prior to 2011 and has taken a beating on the league's most rushes (954) and second-most touches (1,087) over the last three years.
13. Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints. Another rising star that it's difficult to find fault with, it's possible that Graham could see the effects of Robert Meachem's departure that takes away one of Drew Brees' most reliable deep threats, enabling safeties to pay more attention to the ex-hoopster in the seam.
14. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots. Is his ankle really 100 percent? Does the addition of Brandon Lloyd on the outside and maturation of Aaron Hernandez curtail his fantasy output? Are defensive gameplans designed primarily to stop him? Can he recover from a very eventful and well-publicized "Summer of Gronk?"
15. Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers. Head coach Norv Turner is handing the keys to the offense to him, but can he handle 300-plus carries? Will Ronnie Brown be effective enough as his backup to provide a breather from time to time? Does the return of Antonio Gates and the addition of Eddie Royal prompt a revival for Philip Rivers, who abandons the running game altogether for a team that finished 15th in carries last year and 16th in 2010.
16. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants. Improved secondaries in the NFC East may keep better tabs on the quicksilver former practice squad player from UMass. Hakeem Nicks reaffirms his slot as the Giants No. 1 option. Rookie Rueben Randle clicks with Eli Manning across the middle and cuts into Cruz's looks downfield.
17. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans. Last year's slump caused by a long holdout was no fluke and he has trouble bouncing back after being the NFL's busiest running back over the past three seasons. The addition of Kendall Wright, the return of Kenny Britt and the ascent of Jake Locker transforms the Titans into more of a fast-paced passing team than the a run-first offense. The scouts who doubted his durability coming out of college were right and he's reduced to a third-down, change of pace back.
18. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers. Last season's resurgence was the last hurrah for the 33-year old. Cam Newton either takes a step back in his development or becomes less of a risk taker, staying in the pocket more and losing many of the broken plays that went deep downfield to Smith last season.
19. Greg Jennings, WR, Packers. The concussion he suffered in training camp lingers. Last season's slump was a sign of the beginning of the end. Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb demand more attention from Aaron Rodgers in the passing game, slashing Jennings' targets.
20. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals. Neither Kevin Kolb nor John Skelton seize control of the starting quarterback job leaving the Cardinals passing game in shambles again. Neither Beanie Wells nor Ryan Williams is healthy enough to play, rendering Fitzgerald a sitting duck against opposing defenses.
21. Eli Manning, QB, Giants. The glee of winning two Super Bowls leads Manning to start taking some short cuts in preparation. The lack of a good pass-catching tight end or top-flight slot receiver causes him to make more long throws and his interception total rises. The running game is stymied without Brandon Jacobs while David Wilson and Ahmad Bradshaw have trouble picking up the blitz. The veteran offensive line begins to break down.
22. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills. He finds himself in a timeshare with late 2011 starter C.J. Spiller. He's tentative when taking a hit following a broken fibula that cost him six games at the end of last season. The Jets, Dolphins and Patriots all improve offensively putting the Bills in a constant state of come-from-behind in division games.
23. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys. Felix Jones finally stays healthy and impresses Jason Garrett and his coaches so much during the preseason that he reclaims the starting job. The broken ankle he suffered toward the end of the 2011 season isn't completely healed and slows him down. Tony Romo falls in love with his deep, healthy, receiving corps and argues against handing off at all.
24. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons. Despite back-to-back 1,300-yard seasons his production drops off the table in his age 30 season, an age when most running backs lose effectiveness. His lack of pass-catching ability costs him many more snaps because the Falcons want to go to a more fast-paced attack. The dynamic Jacquizz Rodgers earns increased touches.
25. Trent Richardson, RB, Browns. Peyton Hillis' struggles last season were to a reduction in effectiveness of the offensive line. Richardson follows in fellow Crimson Tide runner Mark Ingram's footsteps and struggles as a rookie. The entire offense, led by Brandon Weeden, is overmatched and under new ownership Mike Holmgren's lame-duck football administration has no motivation to remedy the situation.
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