There are countless reasons why players often begin the inevitable
journey toward diminished production on the football field. Perhaps
injuries are the cause of declining performance, or a change in
coaching philosophy, or added competition at their position.
Another plausible reason why players’ numbers take nosedives
is the battle against the undefeated Father Time. Some are able
to avert the decline for a season or two, but inevitably the years
of physical abuse take their toll. It’s a prudent task each
year to take inventory of aging players to take risks on and which
ones to avoid. Here is my list of those I’d rather see on
someone else’s roster.
Manning (33) has a new offensive system
Manning, QB NYG Ė Eli Manning is entering his 11th
year in the league, and Iím happy to say heís never been on any
of my fantasy teams. Iíve never been a fan of his, which originated
from his petulant attitude on draft day in 2004 when he turned
his nose up at San Diego for drafting him. My personal feelings
aside, Manning simply stunk up the joint last season. Whether
that is a direct correlation to his age (heís 33) is debatable.
The fact remains that his play in 2013 was dreadful. His 27 interceptions
were five more than anyone else.
Itís said that the Giants will incorporate a West Coast offense
in 2014 with new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. Who cares?
Manning lost a solid, but rather brittle, receiving threat in
Hakeem Nicks and will rely on second-year pro Rueben Randle and
rookie Odell Beckham to go along with Victor Cruz. All that youth
and inexperience, coupled with Manningís unsteady play, makes
for a nasty concoction relative to fantasy reliability. Perhaps
the one saving grace for Manning is the defenses in his division.
Six games against teams that all ranked 17th or lower in overall
defense in 2013 may provide Manning with a good game or two. But
like Iíve done for over a decade, Iíll leave Manning to be drafted
by someone else. You should, too.
Foster, RB HOU Ė Itís no secret that when running backs
begin their decline in productivity, it is most often a swift
and not-so-pretty fall. Iím afraid weíre seeing the beginning
of that process with Arian Foster. Sure, injuries and an imploding
team expedited his demise last season. But one only needed to
see a few of Fosterís games in 2013 to see the powerful and explosive
runner we witnessed from 2010 through 2012 was a thing of the
past. And the one area in which Foster excelled during his three-year
reign as a top fantasy RBógoal-line situationsóhe struggled in
2013. Only one rushing TD on 121 carries last season is yet another
reason to remain pessimistic about his chances of rebounding to
the level of two years ago.
The Texans are devoid of a serious threat at QB as well, meaning
Houston will probably rely heavily on its running game. That usually
bodes well for the prospects of a productive season from a fantasy
running backójust not one coming off back surgery like Foster.
The offseason acquisition of RB Andre Brown, coming off an injury
himself, also could make for an interesting dilemma. Will Foster
and Brown have a timeshare at RB? Will disgruntled receiver Andre
Johnson be fully engaged during the rebuilding of the Texans,
thus adding a viable deterrent for defenses otherwise looking
at stopping the run? Will the offensive line improve its play
from 2013? There are way too many questions surrounding Foster
to justify his top-10 ranking on most preseason cheat sheets.
Thereís no way Iím paying that high a price for what I consider
a depreciating asset. A RB1 for 2014? Very doubtful.
Jones-Drew, RB OAK Ė There were whispers early in the
offseason that Maurice Jones-Drew contemplated retiring. Thatís
not a good sign. Having that thought in the back of your mind,
coupled with the recent history of Oaklandís ineptness as an organization
and MJDís Lisfranc injury last season, gives me great pause regarding
his chances for 2014.
MJD may get his opportunity to produce, since Darren McFadden
canít stay healthy if his life depended on it. But Oaklandís offensive
line woes and the potentially shaky psyche of QB Matt Schaub donít
quite make for an offensive situation thatís conducive to fantasy
production. MJD certainly had a great run as a fantasy stud, having
led the league in rushing just three years ago. But three years
to an NFL running back are like dog years; that was a lifetime
ago. So donít get nostalgic; steer clear of MJD in 2014 as anything
other than a flier RB3.
Gore, RB SF Ė For my money, Frank Gore has never gotten
the love I think he deserves. Heís been a solid and consistent
fantasy option, having reached 1,000 yards in seven of the past
eight seasons. Heís not the threat out of the backfield like he
was early in his career, but heís nonetheless a viable option
in the passing game if need be. So why is he on this list? Well,
heís 31 years old and has had a boatload of serious injuries dating
back as far as high school.
It seems the Ninersí front office is aware of this, as
well. Theyíve drafted a running back in the top half of
the draft in each of the last three years (LaMichael James, second
round, 2012; Marcus Lattimore, fourth round, 2013; Carlos Hyde,
second round, 2014). It appears Goreís replacement is being
groomed; we simply donít know who that will be. Again, Gore
is a productive fantasy option. His presence on this list is only
in response to the logjam at the position and the teamís
apparent desire to get younger. Itís probably a safe bet
to assume Gore wonít get the 276 carries he saw in 2013,
thus making him a prime candidate to see a swift decline in his
Johnson, WR HOU Ė Andre Johnson has made no secret
about his disinterest in being part of a rebuilding process in
Houston and, according to reports, has asked for a trade as a
result. If the team doesnít give in to his apparent demands, who
knows how engaged the 33-year-old receiver will be with Ryan Fitzpatrick
or Case Keenum throwing him the ball?
Houston could be a dumpster fire offensively this season, and
Johnsonís fantasy viability could go up in flames, too.
With all thatís surrounding the toxic situation between
Johnson and the Texans, I canít see a scenario where he
matches the 109/1,407/5 numbers he put up last year. Johnson could
even be a training camp holdout, which would further jeopardize
his potential to recapture his long-standing stature as a fantasy
stud. This situation indeed requires constant monitoring this
summer. If Johnson goes elsewhere, of course this outlook is subject
to change; if he stays put, expect a significant decrease in Johnsonís
performance in 2014.