by Steve Geller, Steve@wwl.com,posted Aug 13 2012 10:11AM
Before we get into looking at the players on this list, let us get one thing straight... I'm not telling you not to draft these players. Most of these guys will live up to expectations this season. However, occasionally players don't perform up to expectations. If you can find these guys before the draft and avoid taking them too early, it can mean the difference in making your fantasy league playoffs and winning it all. While I can't predict who will come back to play this season (nor can I predict injuries), it is sometimes better to play it safe. I'd much rather pass over a player who is likely to get injured - because he has had a tendency to do so in the past - for a player who may score a point or two less on average. Then I don't have to worry about who I have as a backup and whether or not my starter will actually play or not when he is listed as "questionable."
I'm also more inclined to select a player who has proven himself throughout the years than someone who played a few good games one season and is now in a new role. When players change position on the depth chart, they don't always perform up to expectations. So keep in mind while reading through this list, I don't believe you should avoid these players at all costs. I'm simply saying, 'Think about some of the obstacles these guys have to overcome this season before drafting them.'
QB Peyton Manning, DEN
I want nothing more than to see Peyton back in top form this season. I just wonder if a full year off the field will be too much for him to come back from. He has already admitted his arm strength just isn't there yet, plus he can't throw the deep ball like he used to... and there's no telling when he'll be back in form. In addition to his arm just not being what is used to, we have to wonder just how many hits Peyton can take before he's knocked out of the game or out for the season. Manning is returning from neck surgery, and we all know that one big hit could send him off the field forever. Add to all the physical questions a new team, new offense, new receivers, new everything; and one has to wonder just how well Peyton Manning will play this season. As I said, I'd like nothing more than to see him return to his old form. I just don't know if I'd be willing to risk my fantasy season on when or if that ever happens.
QB Cam Newton, CAR
Newton is a primary example of a player that I'm betting his 2011 performance is going to cause owners to jump on him early in the draft. I believe Newton should be a starter, but I'm not sold on him being an elite fantasy quarterback. Cam's legs carried him to 706 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in 2011. While a repeat of his 2011 performance is possible, I wouldn't feel comfortable resting my fantasy season on it. Another reason fantasy owners need to take a second look at Newton is that his 2011 passing yards look better than they really were. In three of the first four games he threw for 400+ yards twice and 374 yards once. Aside from these performances, he didn't break 300 yards again all season. There is a ton of upside with Newton, but with that risk comes a ton of downside. If he doesn't run for 700 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, does that cause your fantasy team to miss the playoffs?
RB Jamaal Charles, KC
Charles missed 14 games last season after suffering a season ending ACL injury in the Chiefs' second game. The one piece of good news here is that Charles has had nearly a year to recover and rehab his knee. The bad news is that the Chiefs have some major concerns about his ability to return to his pre-injury form, and they addressed these concerns by signing free agent Peyton Hillis. This means Charles will be sharing carries with Hillis, and it's likely we'll see Hillis receiving the bulk of the carries inside the 10 yard line. Running backs returning to action after suffering this type of injury the previous season tend not to have great seasons their first year back.
RB Fred Jackson, BUF
Jackson's performance last season was a bit of a surprise. I don't know many people who thought he would be a top 5 back last year. That was up until he broke his fibula in week 11, ending what was Fred's best season of his career. This year Jackson is 31, and while you could argue he hasn't had a lot of touches and hasn't taken the abuse many 31-year-old backs have, it doesn't change the fact that he is getting up there in age. Couple this with the emergence of CJ Spiller at the end of last year, and one has to wonder just how much action Jackson will see this season. Sure we'll see Jackson getting a majority of the carries early in the year, but will that continue all season? If you're banking on Jackson's '12 campaign looking like his 2011 numbers, you may want to think again.
RB Doug Martin, TB
There is plenty of upside with the rookie, however with all the upside there is some downside fantasy owners need to consider before drafting him. First, Martin is a rookie. While rookie running backs tend to have the best chance to perform well their first season, it doesn't mean he will. Second, Martin is not used to playing a 16 week season. It wouldn't surprise me to see him begin to fade around week 12. That means right when you need him most, his performance may begin to fall. You could trade him before that time comes, but that is always a gamble. To top it all off, Martin will most likely be splitting carries with LeGarrette Blount. While Martin may get the majority of the touches this year, it doesn't mean he'll get the rock on the goal line.
WR Victor Cruz, NYG
When the 2011 season began, Victor Cruz was a virtual unknown. In most leagues he went undrafted, and in leagues where he was drafted he was probably picked up by a Giants fan who just wanted one of their own on their fantasy team. Victor then goes from being a virtual nobody to the 4th best receiver in the NFL. He finished off the 2011 season with 1,536 yards and 9 touchdowns. Because of these numbers fantasy owners are drafting him in the third round this season. I don't want to say Cruz can't post numbers like that again, but the chances of a repeat performance are highly unlikely. If you recall, Brandon Lloyd had a similar sudden career year in 2010. That was promptly followed up with a 966 yard, 5 touchdown season a year later. Another thing to consider before drafting Cruz this year is that his role in the offense this season has changed. He will now be playing opposite Nicks every down, unlike last year. Cruz had just 16 receptions last year when just he and Nicks were both on the field. It should be interesting to see just how well Victor plays this season.
WR A.J. Green, CIN
Don't get me wrong here, I like A.J. Green, but I don't know if I like him enough to be a top 10 receiver at year's end. I believe he was lucky and found himself in the right place at the right time. The Bengals needed a number one receiver and there wasn't anyone else, so Green was the recipient. Not to say he isn't loaded with talent, but I just don't know if we'll see the 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns again. My main concern is really that I have my doubts QB Andy Dalton will perform this year as well as he did in 2011.
WR Steve Smith, CAR
Steve Smith's season will be as good as Cam Newton's. If Newton is having a great year, then so will Smith. The thing is, I'm not sold on Newton having a great year. I didn't like what I saw in the final 6 games of the season last year, and if that carries into this season, then fantasy owners could have a long year. Couple this with Smith turning 33 this year, and things don't look so great. I'm not going to sit here and tell you Smith won't hit 1,000 yards this year, but it wouldn't surprise me if he didn't.