This Year In Review: Round One Draft Day Busts
By Dave Hunter
I love the long-time fantasy football adage: You don’t win championships in the first round of your draft.
Well, unless you drafted Jamaal Charles that is.
It’s never too early to think about draft strategy heading into next season, even to get the slightest leg-up on league competition. Prepping for your draft can be cumbersome at times, but only because of all the second guessing that rolls through your mind before your draft. I’m not divulging anything new here; however, the point is to remind ourselves that while a draft mistake in the first round may not be devastating to our plans, doing our homework and snagging that all-important sleeper in Round 8 sure helps with those first-round blunders. And, there were lots of first-round blunders this season, some worse than others.
I usually like to venture into the slaps-on-the-back I deserve for advice given at this time of the year, or begrudgingly admit to the pitiful mistakes that I rarely make (ahem), but more importantly, it helps me figure out why first round players didn’t live up to billing and what can be done differently to prepare for the upcoming season.
Okay, so now that we’ve established that I’m willing to admit when things go wrong (way wrong sometimes) - Ray Rice over Charles - and that maybe my staunch historical stance of relying on consistency over potential is a tad predictable at times, lets dig into things a bit. So, if you were like me in 2013, there’s a solid chance Round 1 treated you unkindly.
My own personal Top 10 players overall heading into drafts last season, and my expectations for 2014:
1) Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings), RB – The consensus No. 1 pick for fantasy owners last year, Peterson fell short of the spot. Early season games pointed to a banner year, but some late-season injuries and the lack of a legitimate passing game by the Vikings hurt Peterson. In all honesty, I’m surprised AP did what he did having to carry so much of the load himself.
2014 Outlook: AP goes Top Three minimally in drafts, but I would still think hard on taking him No. 1 overall again if it weren’t for Charles. The Vikings have to get better with their recent organizational shake up, which only boosts AP’s production chances.
2) Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens), RB – Four good scoring weeks out of Rice in 2013 – that’s what you got if you relied upon historical consistency and counted on a RB in his prime. Ugh. I’ve never been a guy to take great risks in the first round, but Rice really got me this season. What led to Rice’s lowest yards per carry output (3.1) in his career? Lowest running attempts since his rookie season, not breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage, coaching game plans that abandoned the run completely, and just general poor play at times led to Rice’s seasonal demise. And, let’s not forget poor zone blocking schemes that likely led to the misusage of fullback Vonta Leach.
2014 Outlook: Things have to get better for Rice. Look for Head Coach John Harbaugh to make Rice a priority, getting back to straight-ahead run football with Leach, or another capable full back, leading the way. I certainly wouldn’t draft Rice as a first rounder in 2014 due to the factors he’ll have to overcome, but an early third round pick would be worth it, since I like a bounce-back year ahead for him.
3) Doug Martin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), RB – I tend to discount injuries that pretty much wipe out a season when evaluating my previous season’s rankings, but, even so, tons of us got hit hard by drafting Martin in a year where he wasn’t exactly having a stellar run of things prior to his season-ending shoulder injury.
2014 Outlook: According to new Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, Martin won’t have to carry the entire rushing load in 2014. That’s a good thing, since Martin was on pace for a boatload of rushes (think Michael Turner from a few seasons ago). A fresh and healthy Martin will keep him at the end of the first round in drafts.
4) Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs), RB – Charles was the jackpot pick of the year as far as first rounder’s go with just under 2,000 rushing and receiving yards, 19 total TDs, and for all you PPR mavens out there – 70 receptions. Wowzers. And to think, I was worried about his preseason injury situation.
2014 Outlook: Don’t expect the same year out of Charles, but he’s my No. 1 overall pick. I mean, even if he puts up three quarters of what he did last year, that’s still Top Five return at the RB position.
5) C.J. Spiller (Buffalo Bills), RB – Drafting Spiller and his maddening inconsistencies was almost as bad as taking Rice. At least with Spiller you got four 100-yard rushing games, but only two rushing TDs total? Oh, joy. The ankle injury was likely the main culprit to Spiller’s suffering ways, but the Bills insisting that Fred Jackson remain in the mix for touches didn't help either.
2014 Outlook: New coaching, Fred Jackson’s hitting 33-years old and that Spiller should be 100-percent healthy are good signs for the youngster. I’m not taking Spiller before the fourth round however, considering the major crapshoot he is.
6) Arian Foster (Houston Texans), RB – If it wasn’t for Foster’s preseason injury situation, I would have had him behind Peterson in my rankings. I admit it, I celebrate and talk up Foster a ton each season; however, I was worried and dropped him to sixth overall. It didn’t matter much, as Foster was done by Week 8 anyway with back issues, but the thing to keep in mind here is that the Texans were 2-5 when Foster called it quits for season-ending surgery. I’m guessing if the Texans were 5-2 at the time instead, Foster would have gutted through the season.
2014 Outlook: Foster should be ready to go for the start of camp, but he’s getting much closer to age 30 and coming off a long-term rehabilitation. He’s a late first, early second round pick. His preseason could move him up a bit though.
7) Trent Richardson (Indianapolis Colts), RB – Did you know that for six NFL weeks (9-14) Richardson only averaged 6.5 carries a game? And that he didn’t get any higher than eight carries in any one of those weeks? I know I wasn’t the only one expecting big things from Richardson in 2013. I saw the TD production, the potential as a receiver out of the backfield and his overall toughness with the Browns in 2012. I saw it, you saw it, so what the heck happened? T-Rich got too much into his own head after the trade from Cleveland to Indianapolis – that’s my “guess” anyway. Physically, the kid possesses all the talent in the world, although RB Donald Brown wasn’t making it easy on him with his flashes of decent production.
2014 Outlook: This is a toughie. Where to take T-Rich in drafts this season? Third round, fourth round? No. Not for me. I’d wait, mainly since so many will be soured by his 2013 fade away. You can get him in the fifth round.
8) Marshawn Lynch (Seattle Seahawks), RB – Fantasy owners have to love Lynch’s TD numbers, but he still had some real yardage stinkers. Still, Lynch scores TDs, that’s his thing, and he’s undeniably one of the best and toughest in the game right in the middle of his prime. I was expecting a slight decline in Lynch’s numbers in 2013, but I’m still not sure what-in-the-Ray-Rice I was thinking about.
2014 Outlook: Lynch is a Top Five overall player this season, and don’t push Beast Mode down like I did last year. Expect double-digit TD scores yet again.
9) LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles), RB – McCoy was all over the place in drafts for fantasy owners last season. Some had him Top Five, some Top 10, and some even out of the Top 10, but with over 2,100 combined rushing and receiving yards, he sure earned back any trust that was lost the previous year.
2014 Outlook: For me it goes, Charles, Peterson and then McCoy... one, two and three overall. McCoy thrived in new Head Coach Chip Kelly’s offense, and he’ll do so again.
10) Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions), WR – The only non-running back in my Top 10 last season, Johnson supplies wonderful reasoning for those non-traditionalists who just don’t want to take a RB with their first round pick. I rarely ever take a wide receiver or quarterback over RB in the first round, but if I did go that route, it would be Megatron. He faded a bit at the end of the season, right along with former Head Coach Jim Schwartz and the entire Lions offense.
2014 Outlook: You can go about your business. Move along… move along. Megatron remains right where he was as a late first rounder last year.
There you have it. If you were one of the unlucky one’s that drafted Rice, Martin, Spiller, Foster or Richardson, while still making a run at a title, then congratulations to you. Well done… and pat, pat, pat.