Identifying the undervalued players that disappointed owners in 2011 will be a key step to ensuring that you are hoisting your league's version of the Lombardi trophy by season's end. In this article we discuss many players that were selected in the early rounds last season, but failed to produce elite numbers due to injuries, poor play or an ineffective surrounding cast.
Elite RBs were dropping like flies last season as Jamaal Charles, Darren McFadden, Matt Forte, Rashard Mendenhall and rookie breakout star DeMarco Murray were all in street clothes during most fantasy Super Bowls (week 16). Adrian Peterson had many of his owners kicking the TV as he suffered an ACL/MCL injury during the week 16 game in Washington. His recovery is the biggest wildcard as 2012 draft preparation begins, but the Vikings are cautiously optimistic that he'll be in uniform for week 1 (how much he plays is up in the air making, Toby Gerhart a must own handcuff).
It's no secret that the NFL has transitioned to more of a passing league as nine QBs topped 4,000 yards -- including San Diego's Phil Rivers. The Charger signal caller set a career high in INTs and suffered through a miserable first of the season before heating up down the stretch. A rebound should be in store, provided he can develop chemistry with Robert Meachem (replacing V-Jax who is now in Tampa). Mike Vick was a first round value heading into most 2011 drafts, but his performance left a lot to be desired (only one rushing TD after posting 9 TDs on the ground in his breakout 2010 season). He makes for a solid bounce back option with DeSean Jackson resigned and Jeremy Maclin looking healthy to start OTAs.
Most owners have a short memory and may have soured on those that burned them last season. We suggest the players mentioned in this article present excellent buy low opportunities that could pay major dividends if you are willing to take the risk.
Rivers finished the 2010 season as a rated fantasy QB behind the likes of Mike Vick, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. His 2011 season was a bit of a different story as he set a career high with 20 completions to opposing defenders. He maintained his QB1 status by averaging 289 YPG with 27 TDs, but is being somewhat forgotten about when discussing the elite fantasy QBs as he'll now be without his #1 WR (Vincent Jackson signed a free agent contract with Tampa Bay). Former Saint Robert Meachem will team up with Eddie Royal, Malcolm Floyd, youngster Vincent Brown and veteran TE Antonio Gates to provide Rivers with a talented receiving corps. It's worth noting that Rivers' accuracy concerns seemed to vanish late last season as he tossed for 12 TDs and only 3 INTs over the final 6 games of last season. Based on the solid depth at the QB position, going RB/WR early and waiting for Rivers in the 6th/7th round (current ADP of 72 overall) makes for a wise decision.
The Dogfather led many of his fantasy owners into the Super Bowl during a breakout 2010 season as he topped 60% passing for the first time in his career while averaging 251 YPG through the air. His nine rushing TDs were also a career high in 2010. Vick entered the 2011 season in the discussion as a potential MVP candidate, but he battled injuries and erratic play that resulted in him finishing as a borderline QB1 (just one rushing TD). With WR Desean Jackson resigned and Jeremy Maclin looking 100% (battled a training camp illness last season), Vick enters his 10th NFL season with the potential to provide fantasy owners with solid value based on his 5th round ADP.
After back to back 1,100+ yard seasons in KC, JC Superstar was a consensus top 10 pick entering the 2011 season. His value in PPR leagues was further elevated as he topped 40 catches in the 2009/2010 seasons. Those that spent a 1st round pick on the Chief RB were likely forced to endure a painful fantasy season as Charles suffered a season ending ACL injury in a week 2 game in Detroit. Since Charles' injury happened so early in the season, he fully expects to be 100% by the time training camp starts. KC did add Peyton Hillis as insurance and the albino rhino could cut into Charles receiving numbers. However, if fully recovered JC has the potential to provide lower end RB1 numbers. Don't forget that the 25 year old is just one season removed from finishing as the #4 fantasy RB (1,935 combined yards with 8 TDs).
CJ2K was quite possibly the biggest bust of the 2011 season based on where he was drafted. The Titan RB finished 16th in standard scoring leagues and averaged just 65 YPG (averaged 80+ YPG over his first three seasons). CJ was only able to reach pay dirt four times last season, a far cry from the 30 TDs he racked up over the 2009/2010 seasons. Questions about his offseason conditioning may have led to his 2011 down season, but signs are pointing to a potential rebound effort as Johnson has reportedly bulked up 8-10 pounds this offseason while maintaining his game breaking speed. He's currently going in the 2nd half of the first round based on current ADP and makes for a solid RB1 with the potential to return to top 5 RB status.
Like clockwork Darren McFadden missed games during the 2011 season (yet to play more than 13 games in any of his first four seasons). In 2011, a right foot injury (later confirmed as a Lisfranc sprain) forced him to miss the final 9 games of the season. He came out of the gates on fire last season topping 150 yards rushing in two of the first three games; with Michael Bush now in Chicago, McFadden could be primed to regain RB1 status provided he can stay off the trainer's table. The Arkansas alum has averaged 5+ YPC the past two seasons and his dual threat ability (47 catches in 2010) elevates his value in PPR leagues. He's the ultimate boom or bust pick and is well worth targeting if injury concerns cause RUN DMC to slip into the 2nd round of your draft (current ADP of #10 overall).