As we continue our fantasy football coverage, I looked back at my top-100 list from last year. I looked at the guys who were busts last year, and thought it would be interesting to see which of these guys looks to be most trustworthy as a fantasy option in ’09. We’ll do this with a relativity poll, with 10 being the most trustworthy and 1 being a guy to completely ignore. We’ll indicate in each entry where you should consider drafting each player.
As always, before we begin, you can find all of our other fantasy football coverage on the blog by using our fantasy football category tag. In addition, the search feature on the right of each page will help you find info and commentary on individual players quickly.
10 – RB Ryan Grant, Packers – Grant, who was rated as a borderline first-round pick in fantasy leagues last year, had a horrific start because of a contract holdout and then some nagging injuries. But he played all 16 games and ran for 1,200 yards. His low touchdown total (5) and the fact that he failed to break the 100-yard mark in a game until week 7 is what impeded his fantasy value. While Grant isn’t among the elite fantasy backs this year, he’s a good option to be a starting back. He should be on your radar once the top 20 picks are off the board.
8 – WR Marques Colston, Saints – Colston, who had more than 1,000 yards in both of his first two seasons, was considered a No. 1 fantasy receiver going into the ’08 season. But a broken finger sidelined Colston for five games last year, and he finished with just 47 catches. He turned those catches into 760 numbers and five touchdowns, which are good totals given that number of receptions, but he was not the clear No. 1 target in New Orleans’ offense. While some expect Colston to bounce right back to an elite level, he looks more like a good No. 2 fantasy receiver than a guy you want to build your team’s receiving corps around. The hunch here is that Lance Moore and Colston will have fairly equal fantasy value, instead of Colston being clearly more potent. That’s lower than many experts rate Colston, so take this as a small word of caution against letting his stock artificially inflate.
*This is the break between surefire every-week starters and flex options
7 – RB Joseph Addai, Colts – Addai, who cracked the 1,000-yard mark in his first two NFL seasons, and who had a monstrous 15 touchdowns in 2007, struggled last year, gaining just 544 rushing yards and scoring seven touchdowns in the 12 games he played. That return didn’t merit the top-10 status Addai had entering the year. In fact, Dominic Rhodes ended up being just as good an option from the Colts as Addai was. Rhodes is no longer in Indy, but now Addai must contend with rookie Donald Brown, the Colts’ first-round pick. That’s a major red flag on Addai’s fantasy value. Addai is only marginally more valuable in fantasy leagues than Brown is, which means that both guys are more No. 3 backs and/or flex options than traditional starters in fantasy leagues. Be careful where you rate Addai going into your draft.
6 – WR Chad Ochocinco, Bengals – The artist formerly known as Chad Johnson had been a reliable fantasy option from 2002 to ’07, delivering numbers worthy of a No. 1 fantasy wideout in five of those seasons, before falling apart last year with just 540 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. Granted, he played much of the year with below-average backup Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of Carson Palmer, but Ochocinco’s preparation and focus was also a problem. Plus, at this point you have to wonder whether Ochocinco, in his ninth year, is starting to decline physically. With all those questions, it’s wiser to have Ochocinco as your third fantasy wideout instead of as a No. 2. He’s still worth starting in most leagues, and if you draft him late enough he still has upside, but rely heavily on him at your own peril.
*This is the break between regular starters and spot starters/backups
5 – RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers – Mendenhall, the Steelers’ first-round pick in 2008, had just 19 carries in four games before he fractured his shoulder, which ended his season. That presented a problem for fantasy owners who envisioned him sharing carries with Willie Parker and even seizing goal-line opportunities from Fast Willie. But just because Mendenhall missed time last year, don’t overlook him in your fantasy preparation this year. Parker is a year older, so the door is cracked for Mendenhall to step in and find a role. He could easily be a 500-yard, 5-touchdown guy, which makes him a good backup. And if Parker were to miss some time, Mendenhall would immediately be a fantasy starter. If you can get Mendenhall as your first backup runner, do it and don’t look back.
4- RB Earnest Graham, Buccaneers – Graham broke out of obscurity in 2007 with 1,200 total yards and 10 touchdowns, and he looked to be a starting-caliber fantasy back entering the ’08 season. But injuries limited him to 10 games, and he totaled just 737 total yards and four touchdowns in those 10 games. Now Graham will split carries with import Derrick Ward. When it comes to fantasy, Ward, not Graham, is the Buc back you want this year. Graham is no more than a fantasy backup who is worth having around as a spot starter who could become a starter were Ward to get hurt. But he’s simply not a guy whom you can count on for your starting lineup this year.
4 (con’t) – QB Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks – Hasselbeck has been a solid if not unspectacular fantasy option for most of his time in Seattle, but last year his stock bottomed out as he played just seven games and threw just five touchdowns. His injuries, plus a ridiculous spate of injuries to the receiving corps, made him a fantasy bust in ’08. But Hasselbeck’s stock should bounce back this year, now that he’s healthy and the Seahawks have a No. 1 caliber receiver in T.J. Houshmandzedah. Hasselbeck isn’t a top-level fantasy starter, but if he’s one of two QBs you play matchups with on a week to week basis, he could deliver nice numbers for you.
3 – none
*This is the break between draftable players and undraftable players
2 – WR Chris Chambers, Chargers – Last year I considered Chambers a sleeper who could emerge as a true No. 1 receiver. Instead, it was Vincent Jackson who emerged in San Diego, while Chambers had 33 catches for 462 yards and five touchdowns. Those numbers sound high for Chambers, in part because all five TDs came in the first five games, and then he was useless from a fantasy perspective. I expect that uselessness to continue in ’09, and as a result I consider Chambers undraftable.
1 – RB Laurence Maroney, Patriots – Fantasy owners have been waiting on Maroney to emerge ever since the Patriots made him a first-round pick in 2007. But after two middling fantasy seasons, Maroney completely disappeared last year, playing just three games and rushing for just 93 yards. While Maroney should be healthy again, he’s not a fantasy option in 2009. Fred Taylor and underrated holdovers Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk are around to take carries, which leaves Maroney as a sleeper. His fantasy value would only go up if Taylor got hurt or if Maroney got cut and landed somewhere with much less RB depth. All that said, stay away from Maroney in your drafts this year.