Every year fantasy fanatics make two lists: sleepers and busts. But how many of those people re-visit those lists? 2012 certainly paid off for those who took a shot on a rookie, with running backs like Alfred Morris, Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, and (obviously) Rookie of the Year candidates: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson. All of those rookies paid off big, but what about those sleepers who busted? Ryan Mathews? Eli Manning? We’ll take a look at some of the most distinct surprises and busts of 2012.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings running back – Remember when Toby Gerhart was going above All Day because he was expected to begin the season as the starter? That’s why you don’t draft early. Peterson is well on his way to break 2,000 yards after tearing his ACL on Christmas Eve in 2011, remarkable by itself. Not to mention his many runs over 50 yards that have put the Vikings in contention for a Wild Card spot. In fact, Peterson has performed better than any running back that I have ever seen in my football watching days. Better than LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006, in which he scored 31 total touchdowns, breaking Shaun Alexander’s single-season rushing touchdown record from the previous season. Peterson’s season has been remarkable, and for early drafters who did not know of Peterson’s determination in Week 1, it has come as a present surprise for those who drafted him
Alfred Morris, Redskins running back – Roy Helu? Evan Royster? Tim Hightower? No. No. No. This humble sixth-round rookie from Florida Atlantic stole the show in Redskins’ training camp and soon enough became a huge part o the Redskins’ pistol set. He’s the most likeable guy in the NFL for more reason’s than one, his high school coach even called him “too nice”. Yeah, too nice. Here’s another play of names: Doug Martin? Trent Richardson? David Wilson? Morris has rushed for more yards than any of them, and continues to him improve on his pass-catching. On top of that, according to ProFootballFocus.com (PFF), Morris has broken the third most tackles by any running back in the NFL (52), behind just Peterson and Marshawyn Lynch. He’s a remarkable guy on the football field and off of it, and he’s going to be a part of this Redskins offense for many years to come.
Randall Cobb, Packers wide receiver – Cobb was drafted as the 49th receiver in fantasy football drafts, according to FFToolbox. He’s now become the most targeted receiver in Green Bay, and the most efficient too. According to PFF, Cobb has caught 78.4% of his passes this season. Cobb also has eight touchdowns and no penalties all season. Expect him to be a top ten wide receiver in the next couple of years, and Greg Jennings will no longer be in Green Bay after 2012.
Reggie Wayne, Colts wide receiver – You can’t exactly put into words what Wayne has been to this team. I feel like Wayne is the heart and soul of the offense. Among a plethora of young targets and a rookie quarterback, Wayne had one of his best seasons, which no small feat, considering he’s been in Indy for 12 years. Wayne was drafted as the 29th receiver, so a WR3 or 4; he’s been overwhelming for that price.
Robert Griffin III, Redskins quarterback – It’s time to stop doubting rookie quarterbacks. Cam Newton impresses us in 2011-12, but RG3 taken rookie quarterbacks to a whole new level this year. He’s second in passer rating to only Aaron Rodgers, and has already achieved a perfect pass rating in a single game, something that has never before been done by a rookie. Griffin has been outstanding, and it’s conceivable to see him as the top fantasy quarterback in 2012.
Honorable mentions: Peyton Manning, Dez Bryant, Heath Miller, Michael Crabtree (PPR)
Michael Vick, Eagles quarterback – Drafted as the 8th quarterback, he was the only one in the first 22 drafted to lose his job. Vick was sacked 27 times in just 378 dropbacks; Peyton Manning has been sacked 21 times in 580 dropbacks. It wasn’t all Vick’s fault, but if he’s going to be successful he needs a strong line, and this year, Philadelphia just didn’t have that. It’s likely Vick will get another chance with another team in 2013 if the Eagles cut his contract short, but he probably shouldn’t be a part of your fantasy team’s plans.
Darren McFadden, Raiders running back and Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars running back – The only reason these two are together is because of the injury bug: it nabbed both of them. You knew it was coming for McFadden, it does every year. However, this year, it was different for McFadden: he was ineffective even when he was healthy, which we hadn’t seen before. He’ll free-fall in rankings in 2012. Jones-Drew played in just five games before being injured in his sixth game, and the Jaguars season went to the dump (not as if we expected anything different).
Ryan Mathews, Chargers running back – A major for many coming into 2012 (including me), Mathews was awful before going on IR after Week 15. After a 4.9 yards per carry average and six touchdowns in 2011, Mathews followed up with an underwhelming 3.8 yards per carry, one touchdown, and disappointed fantasy owners all over the world. In fact, Mathews never even hit 100 yards in a single game. What a shame.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals wide receiver – We all expected that Kevin Kolb and John Skelton (maybe even Ryan Lindley) would hurt Fitzgerald, but we didn’t know it would leave a mark this big. Fitzgerald has just 69 catches all season, and has caught under 50 percent of his passes, according to PFF. Nonetheless, if the Cardinals bring in a semi-decent quarterback then Fitzgerald will shoot back up to the top 10, but time is running out on his career.
Jimmy Graham, Saints tight end – I don’t doubt that this is just an off year, and I completely stand by Graham’s ability, so don’t get me wrong. However, if you used a first, or even a second-round pick on Graham, I doubt you were playing in the championship this past weekend. Coming into Week 17, Graham hadn’t scored in five consecutive weeks and has just one 100-yard receiving game all year. Again, it’s not talent it’s just the concern of if he will ever live up to the hype he had coming into 2012.
Honorable mentions: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Rob Gronkowski (injury), Brandon Lloyd, Hakeem Nicks
And there you have it, the surprises and busts of 2012. Who will you never draft again after 2012? Who’s that guyyou’re targeting in the 2013 draft? Let me know in the comments below!