Top picks are supposed to be among the elite performers in all of fantasy football. When you select a player in the first or second round, you’re expecting that guy to finish among the top players at his position.
When early-round selections produce like they’re supposed to, they’re easy to take for granted. After all, that’s exactly what you were expecting.
It doesn’t always work that way, though.
When top picks go awry and fail to live up to the value of an early-round choice, you remember it. You mumble obscenities under your breath when you seen them on TV. You feel betrayed by that player and refuse to take him in any drafts going forward. You never look at him the same again. You hire a heckler like Shooter McGavin did to go to his games and berate him.
OK, not that far, but you get the point.
A misstep with a top draft pick isn’t a death sentence. You can compensate by getting a late-round steal, landing a savvy pickup or swinging a key trade, but how your first three picks pan out can often times be the difference in a title contender and a bottom feeder.
This year — like every year — a few of those top picks have disappointed owners. We’re just six weeks in to the season, so there’s plenty of time for these guys to pick up their pace, but here’s some of the players driving fantasy owners bonkers in 2012.
Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham
Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski will be linked together for the rest of their careers after what the two accomplished last season. Clearly the top two tight ends on draft day, each was off the board by the third round, with one or both being taken in the first round in some leagues. Gronkowski and Graham, who did everything but cure cancer in 2011, have taken a step backwards in 2012.
Gronkowski has had two things working against him this season: a nagging hip injury and no Aaron Hernandez. Gronk’s problematic hip seems to have taken away from his typical wrecking-ball style, and with no Hernandez to worry about for three weeks, opposing defenses were able to zero in on Gronkowski.
He has only reached double digit fantasy points in half of New England’s six games, posting a miniscule average of 4.6 points in those other three contests. For the year, Gronkowski is averaging 8.6 points per game — good for the tight end position, but not exactly the kind of numbers that owners had in mind when they spent an early-round pick on him.
Gronkowski came into the year ranked as the 13th overall player after a historic 2011 season. Through six weeks, Gronk is the fifth-ranked tight end. Hernandez returned a week ago, which should give Gronkowski more chances to operate in one-on-one coverage. The hip injury is a concern, though. He just doesn’t look like the same guy.
Graham was projected 11th overall and hasn’t lived up to that billing, checking in as the 8th best tight end and the 71st overall player. However, Graham has his bye out of the way already — not the case for Gronkowski — and has scored at least 7.6 points in four of the Saints’ five games. In the other contest, the Week 5 Sunday night matchup with San Diego, Graham sprained his ankle in the first half. He played the remainder of the game, but Drew Brees looked elsewhere the rest of the way.
There have been conflicting reports on the severity of the injury. After initially not appearing to be too serious, the dreaded term “high-ankle sprain” was tossed around Thursday afternoon. Graham did, however, practice Thursday on a limited basis.
When healthy, Graham has been a near-lock for 6 to 10 points. This is definitely a situation worth monitoring going forward.
Four quarterbacks were among the top 16 overall players in preseason projections. The big three — Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers — are doing their thing through six weeks, but Matthew Stafford, the 16th ranked player before the year, is failing to live up to his preseason ranking.
Let’s get this out of the way: Stafford isn’t having a terrible season. He’s on pace for 4,800 yards, averaging 17.5 points per week through his first five games. Stafford’s numbers are boosted by a pair of rushing touchdowns, which are two more than he had all of last year.
But fantasy owners didn’t draft him because of his legs.
After throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011, Stafford headed the list of quarterbacks in the second tier, coming off the board in most drafts late in the first round or early in the second round.
Stafford’s performance thus far hasn’t been worthy of that draft spot, punishing owners who reached for a quarterback. Stafford — ranked 16th overall coming in to the year — is the 18th-ranked quarterback, slotting in behind players like Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’s thrown four touchdowns, less than one per game, and five interceptions.
He does, however, have his bye week out of the way. Detroit rallied for a key win in Week 6, and the Lions’ offense is poised for a breakout game. Still, Stafford has a long way to go to justify his first- or second-round selection.
With Darren McFadden, injuries are typically at the root of his troubles. When he’s been healthy, he’s shown the ability to produce as an elite running back.
He’s been relatively injury free through six weeks. That’s the good thing. The bad thing: he’s not racking up points like a No. 1 running back who came off the board in one of the first two rounds. McFadden entered the season projected as the number 4 or 5 running back. He currently sits at number 18.
McFadden has rushed for 271 yards and racked up 139 receiving yards for an average of 82 total yards per game. With a Week 5 bye, McFadden is getting owners 10.2 fantasy points per contest.
The former Arkansas star’s numbers would look even worse if it wasn’t for a long 64-yard touchdown run against Pittsburgh, which led to a 17.5-point day. Other than that, he hasn’t ripped off a run of more than 14 yards.
McFadden came back to life this past Sunday, scoring his second touchdown of the season and totaling 13.8 points against Atlanta, but McFadden also has 4.1-point (Week 2) and 3.8-point (Week 4) outings to his name, leaving people scratching their heads.
Always a capable pass catcher, McFadden had 86 receiving yards and a hard-to-believe 18 targets in the Raiders’ season opener. He’s been targeted just 12 times in the four games since.
Five games is a small sample size and McFadden is likely to ramp up his production, but something’s amiss with the Oakland running game, which has been solid for the past couple seasons.
Was there any doubt he’d be listed here? Chris Johnson’s name has become an adjective, one that’s a synonym with disappointment. If you hear, “That movie was rather Chris Johnson,” you know it’s not a ringing endorsement.
Oh, where do we start?
Johnson, the number 4 or 5 running back in preseason rankings, was coming off a disappointing 2011. Even though most considered his season a bust, he still rushed for 1,047 yards a year ago, giving fantasy owners a reason to be optimistic for 2012.
He crushed any dreams of a return to elite status with a disastrous start, rushing for four yards (yes, FOUR) in Week 1. Johnson followed that up with a whopping 17-yard day in Week 2 and a Week-3 outing of 24 yards.
Johnson showed a pulse with two solid totals — 141 yards against Houston in Week 4 and a 91-yard day versus Pittsburgh in Week 6 — sandwiched around another stinker (24 yards in Week 5).
Remove the Texans and Steelers —where he combined for 27.1 points — from the equation and Johnson has amassed a docile 19.6 points in his other four games.
Johnson has a juicy upcoming matchup with Buffalo, who have surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs, but he’s simply not a guy you can trust at this point. If CJWTF (my favorite of the CJ2K spinoffs) is on your roster, wait to see some consistency before you stick him in the lineup. If you’re in the unfortunate position of having to rely on him, good luck.
Projected as the number two wide receiver behind Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald figured to produce at his typically excellent level. But neither Johnson nor Fitzgerald has done enough to verify their early-round selection.
I was tempted to list Megatron here because so much — maybe too much — was expected out of him after what he did last year. I just can’t call what he’s done so far a disappointment.
The dude has scored at least nine points in four of his five games and is averaging 111 yards per game. The only thing dissimilar from his incredible 2011 campaign is touchdowns. Johnson — who has already cleared his bye week — has only reached the end zone once thus far, which is mostly a byproduct of the random nature of touchdowns.
Fitzgerald hasn’t quite been the same guy. With Kevin Kolb —and now John Skelton — playing quarterback, Fitzgerald will always be somewhat limited, but he had 1,411 yards and eight touchdowns with those two in 2011 en rout to a top-five finish among wideouts.
He got off to a slow start this year, posting 63 yards in Week 1 before coming up with just one grab for four yards in Week 2.
Fitzgerald has been solid since then, averaging 90.8 yards over the last four games with three touchdowns. Through six weeks, though, he’s the 16th-ranked wide receiver, behind James Jones, Torrey Smith and Marques Colston. Not exactly commendable for one of the first wide receivers taken in drafts.
All projections and stats are taken from Yahoo! standard scoring leagues.