In cubicles and man-caves all over the country, fantasy football draft scenarios are being feverishly calculated, auctions are heating up and detailed stat lists are being checked and rechecked. Draft day can make or break a football season for a fan. If you do what I did the last two seasons and completely blow your first pick (Brian Westbrook and Chris Johnson, respectively), then you know that there are no sure things in the world of fantasy football.
That being said, here are a few of the issues that keep me up late at night, hoping and praying to the football gods that they don’t continue to curse me with the kind of luck that has left me digging through the waiver wire like a poor sap at the Goodwill bins.
The injured (and injurable)
I’m talking about Tom Brady first and foremost. A sprained knee in preseason has left the city of Boston holding their breath. Brady isn’t the spry, young kid he once was, but he’s not over the hill either. Brady, whose name is often found at the top of quarterback draft lists, has slipped down this year, making him an attractive bargain.
Adrian Peterson seems like a lock this year, but locks have turned into torpedoes before. Coming off a superhuman performance a year after ACL surgery, Peterson seems like he is truly capable of accomplishing anything (especially when you realize he was running opposite Christian Ponder). This seems like an opportune moment to bring up a bit of skepticism. If professional sports in the new millennium have taught us anything, it is that if an athletic feat seems impossible or superhuman (i.e. hitting 70 home runs in a season, winning seven Tour de France titles after surviving cancer), then it probably is. I’m not saying Adrian Peterson used HGH or any other performance enhancing drugs, but it does seem a little suspicious doesn’t it? Coming back from a potentially career-ending injury to have a career-defining season at one of the most punishing positions in the most punishing game seems like a stretch. If that’s the case, though, he’ll probably be running for 4,000 yards this year, so I think I’ll pick him if I have the chance.
I love Arian Foster. He’s intelligent, funny and capable of putting up monster numbers. But he has been battling chronic back problems in preseason. This might be the kind of situation where a franchise player has some aches and pains early and doesn’t want to push it in preseason and goes on to run for 2000 yards in the regular season. But I fear it could also be the kind of chronic, nagging injury that leads to fewer carries and possibly even some missed games.
Proven Talent in New Schemes
When the New England Patriots decided not to re-sign Wes Welker, it seems like they put an ad on Craigslist requesting an undersized, white slot receiver with a great smile and can’t quit attitude. Enter Danny Amendola. If Amendola is able to do what Wes Welker did in New England, then it will be a very profitable season, indeed. Welker, on the other hand, landed in Denver catching passes from Peyton Manning (not a bad concession prize). If preseason is any indication, Manning and Welker have worked out some pretty good chemistry so far. If it comes down to me and I have to choose sides in the battle of eager slot guys, I will definitely be going with Amendola, but only because he is five years younger than Welker, and Welker takes a lot of hard shots in the slot.
The biggest worry I have for proven talent in new schemes is LeSean McCoy in Philly. He’s sitting pretty with new coach Chip Kelly’s high octane offense revved and ready to go. This could be a career making year for McCoy. He’ll be set up in the backfield with Michael Vick (a potent threat himself) and he could be primed to put up some truly gaudy numbers, especially in the second halves of games where Kelly’s mile-a-minute offense has been known to run rampant. A lot of people will be watching LeSean McCoy this season, and I would be kicking myself if he wasn’t on my team when he goes off.
Luxury backs with a lot of miles
My wife and I just bought a 2004 Volvo SUV with 105k miles on it. It’s a beautiful car—leather seats, all- wheel drive, DVD players in the back. But it’s got 105k miles on it, so every time I drive it, I think about the moment that it’s going to break down and start costing me. These last two running backs give me that same feeling.
Steven Jackson — There should be a “Barry Sanders Award” given at the end of each season to the best player on the worst team. Steven Jackson would’ve won at least three. Last year was the first time he spent any major time on the sidelines because of injury, but I fear this may become more common. As much as I love Jackson, there is no way I’d pick him this season. He’s spent too many years pulling too much of the weight for the St. Louis Rams “offense.”
Maurice Jones-Drew — As much as I love this bowling ball of a runner, there are some major questions as he comes off a wash of a season in 2012. Reports have his foot being mostly healed, but you have to wonder if he’s got what it takes to once again anchor an anemic Jaguars offense (Jones-Drew would have also won at least one Barry Sanders Award). Considering he’s only twenty-eight and how Adrian Peterson was able to come back from a potentially devastating injury, MJD isn’t a horrible pick, but he’d make a lot more sense as a later round bargain choice.
None of the players mentioned (with the possible exceptions of Peterson and McCoy) will be my first picks at their position, but with so much of fantasy football hinging on your second and third string, I’ll be mostly avoiding these worrisome picks so that I can get a good night’s sleep without the nagging worries of age or injury keeping me up.