Fantasy football season is upon us, fellow RotoBallers!
Admittedly, I’m still in fantasy baseball mode since all three of my teams are performing well, but as my email becomes stockpiled with fantasy football league invites, I’m getting more excited by the minute for virtual pigskin drafts. By now, you've probably scoured the internet for the latest fantasy football cheat sheet or rankings update, which we’re in the process of working on here at RotoBaller. In the meantime, I urge you to enjoy my mini-series of 2013 fantasy football Draft Studs and Draft Duds.
Up First, The Draft Duds
Arian Foster (RB, HOU) - A calf strain suffered in OTAs, a sore back in training camp, declining YPC over the past three seasons and enormous tread on the tires-- even at a prime age (26) for running backs-- are making me hesitant to draft Foster in the top five overall. It seems NFFC participants are having that same hesitation as early drafts had Foster going third or fourth overall, while more recent drafts are seeing him slip a few spots between the five-to-seven range. Last year, Ben Tate was supposed to cut into Foster’s workload, but it didn't really turn out that way. This season, I could see that changing a bit, with 8-10 carries going to Tate per game, just to preserve Foster’s health. Foster should still get all the goal-line work, but don’t be surprised if his yards-rushed total slips to the 1,200 range.
Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB) - It’s hard to believe that the Draft Duds column is headlined by two of the more historically reliable options in fantasy football, but in Rodgers's case, he’s listed because injuries continue to pile up in Packers camp. LT Bryan Bulaga is out for the year with a torn ACL, which doesn't bode well for Rodgers, who was sacked a league-high 51 times last season. To make matters worse, WR Jordy Nelson recently underwent knee surgery which will sideline him 4-6 weeks. Nelson is expected to be back for Week 1, but he had hamstring and ankle problems last year that forced him to miss time. That’s two key offensive pieces that are directly tied to Rodgers’s success. Not to mention, Green Bay could focus more on their running game with Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin now in the fold. I’d be comfortable drafting Rodgers in the late second or third round, but drafting him any higher would make him a Draft Dud, in my opinion.
Andre Johnson (WR, HOU) - Last season, Johnson started 16 games for the first time since 2009, and he posted a career-best 1,598 receiving yards behind 112 catches (his second-highest total). What’s not to like about those statistics? Out of all those catches, only four found paydirt, as Johnson continued to lack the touchdown production that you expect from an elite receiver. In fact, the 10-year NFL veteran is averaging only 5.6 touchdowns per season over his career, and has never posted more than nine in a single season. Lack of touchdowns aside, opponents are suggesting that the 32-year-old has lost a step. With explosive rookie DeAndre Hopkins offering Houston a legit #2 option in the passing game, Johnson will lose some targets on a team that already has a run-first mentality. And remember he’s still an injury risk. I’m just not buying Johnson as a Top-10 receiver anymore.
Antonio Gates (TE, SD) - I've heard many call for a bounce-back year for the 33-year-old Gates after last season’s 49 receptions were the second-lowest per-season total of his career. What’s encouraging about Gates is that despite the low reception total, he still managed to score at least seven times for the ninth straight season. What’s discouraging about Gates is his injury history. He hasn’t played a full season since 2009, and he’s only getting older. While Gates is a personal favorite of mine, dating back to my time attending Kent State University during the year Gates was a key piece in the school’s Elite 8 NCAA Basketball Tournament run, I’m skeptical of him finishing the year as a Top-5 tight end, and I’m fully aware of how weak the position is this year.
Bears Defense/Special Teams (D/ST, CHI) - The loss of Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli, as well as linebackers Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach will hurt this defense. Additionally, Chicago has to contend with perennial offensive juggernauts Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North, as well as a strong slate of non-divisional opponents in 2013 (Indianapolis, Houston, Seattle and San Francisco). I could see the Bears easily falling out of the Top-5 defenses in fantasy football this season.
Who are your Draft Duds? I welcome your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below, or via Twitter @RyanRufe.
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