The Blacklist of Fantasy Football

As the real-life regular season winds down, some of you may be lucky enough to be playing for a championship in fantasy football (unless you are one of the few whose championship matchup is in week 17).

Although I made the playoffs in three of the four leagues I participated in, I have been eliminated in the first round in two of them and made the semifinals in another. In all three of my leagues, I made some questionable draft picks and trades (Zac Stacy,  Calvin Johnson and Harry Douglas for C.J. Spiller, Charles Clay and T.Y. Hilton, Yikes!).

Every year, I do a post-mortem on my fantasy teams and list a couple of players who I tend to refrain from drafting the next season unless certain factors assure me that they will have big years (a running back not being in a timeshare anymore or a quarterback getting more offensive weapons).

So without further ado, here are the five players whose poor seasons will prevent me from having confidence in them next season.

David Wilson-Blacklisted for being drafted as an RB2: Drafted in two leagues in the second and fourth rounds. (24th and 47th respectively)

Why I drafted him that high: The preseason injury to Andre Brown (he missed 10 weeks) combined with his strong ending to the previous season (he obliterated the Saints for three touchdowns) and it is very hard to resist those backflips. It doesn’t hurt that the Giants are my favorite team, I watch virtually every snap and his skill set made him a the type of player who could rush for over 1,000 yards, catch 50 balls and return kickoffs and punts. Wilson is one of the more electric players with the ball in his hands.

Why it didn’t work: He started the season off like he did last year, with two fumbles and that was all she wrote. The Giants offensive line was putrid both in pass and run blocking and their early season deficits forced Eli Manning to constantly throw the football and we know how much that worked, right?

After the fumbles, he got benched and was back in the doghouse for a few games and looked to be getting back to form as Coughlin gained more confidence in him. An injured neck put him on IR and ended his season with a total of 146 rushing yards and a touchdown in five games

Why I won’t draft him as an RB2 next year: Andre Brown is a bruising back and Tom Coughlin loves those types of runners. He also loves his backs when they hold on to the football, something Wilson still has not proven he can do consistently, nor can he prove that he can stay healthy. Running backs on a timeshare, especially when they are not the beneficiary of the goal line carries, make them incredibly hard to trust and mostly dependent on long runs. That is a perfect segway to…

C.J. Spiller-Blacklisted for being drafted as an RB2 if Fred Jackson is still in Buffalo: Drafted in first round (4th overall) in one league and traded for in another.

Why I drafted him that high: Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathanial Hackett lied to us fantasy owners when they speculated feeding Spiller the football until he would throw up. Everything was set up perfectly. Marrone implemented a run-heavy system, which meant that regardless of the workload Fred Jackson would get, you could easily pencil in Spiller for a good 16-20 touches. He’s that explosive that he didn’t need a bevy of carries like plodding types of runners get to be productive. He also completely broke out last year with a yards per carry total of six and Jackson, who got injured last season was seemingly phased out of the offense

Why it didn’t work: Fred Jackson. In all honesty, the former Coe College standout is a tremendous player despite his age and he deserved the carries he got. Spiller was never the same when he suffered the dreaded high-ankle sprain in a week 4 contest against the Ravens. Since then, it has been a whirlwind of inconsistency for Spiller. Marrone kept trotting him out to play when he was clearly injured and rendered ineffective. You had to start him because of how high you drafted him, but with Jackson establishing himself as the clear goal line back, Spiller was far too big play dependent. And how do you get big plays when you are playing with a bum ankle.

Why I won’t draft him as an RB2 next year: Look, Spiller is still an elite talent and if Fred Jackson is cut or suddenly retires, he goes back to being a potential RB1. Neither of those two moves happen as Jackson seems to have plenty left in the tank and Spiller is too injury prone to rely upon. Despite being 32 by next season, Jackson would immediately get snatched up by a team needing more stability in the backfield to pair with a younger runner.

Frank Gore- Blacklisted for being drafted as a RB1: Drafted in one league in the third round (35th overall)

Why I drafted him that high: An absolute model of consistency, Gore has had 1,000 yards (including this season) in seven of his nine seasons in the league.

Why it didn’t work: Gore is 30 years old and running backs have always struggled to hit their mark in fantasy when they turn 30. Gore’s yards per carry and catches have been on steady decline in the last three seasons, where he’s topped out at 4.2 YPC and only 15 catches this season. As well, Gore has had many opportunities to score near the goal line, but he would either fail on his attempt on first down, get removed for Kendall Hunter or Anthony Dixon on second down or come back in, but to have Kaepernick run it in or pass it on third down. Gore has become a plodder who is lucky enough to only have two runs of over 30 yards this season.

Why I won’t draft him as an RB: To be quite honest, I should get all the blame for drafting David Wilson and Frank Gore as my top two runners. Ideally, Gore is a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 who you start virtually every game.

Two caveats with regards to Gore: Only one time has he scored more than 10 touchdowns in a season and only once has he had over 300 carries. The latter has been more of a concerted effort by his coaches Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary and John Harbaugh, to keep him fresh and healthy.

With the bevy of backs at the 49ers disposal such as Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore, there is every reason to believe that this could be Gore’s last season as a premier running back.

Larry Fitzgerald-Blacklisted for being a WR1: Drafted in one league in the second round (22nd overall)

Why I drafted him that high: Fitzgerald has a great resume of solid seasons, despite average to mediocre quarterbacks. He’s had 1,400 seasons with the likes of Kevin Kolb and John Skelton throwing him the ball. He suffered his worst statistical year last season (789 yards, 4 touchdowns) as the Cardinals rotated four quarterbacks throughout the season due to injury and ineptitude. I figured that once Carson Palmer joined the mix as the first legitimate passing threat since Kurt Warner and with Bruce Arians and his downfield passing scheme, Fitzgerald was in for an elite year.

Why it didn’t work: Fitzgerald seems to have lost a bit of a step and Palmer had a terrible stretch of games in the first half of the season. He was throwing the type of interceptions that rookie quarterbacks are prone to. Conversely, the emergence of second year stud-to-be, Michael Floyd cut into Fitzgerald’s targets. Andre Ellington, who plays the role of Shane Vereen for the Cardinals, is a great receiver out of the backfield and alleviated pressure from the other receivers as well.

Why I won’t draft him as a WR1 next year: I hope I am wrong, but I think Fitzgerald’s time as a bona fide elite receiver in fantasy is over. While he is on pace for 1,000 yards (just barely), he doesn’t make the same leaping grabs down the field like he used to do. The only way I can see him getting back to his dominant form is if Floyd usurps the double teams that he was getting, which will allow Fitzgerald to roam with more room. The problem is that even when single covered, he isn’t beating his man like he used to, nor can he go up and get the ball like he did in the past. At best, Fitzgerald is a high-end WR1 next season.

Marques Colston-Blacklisted for being drafted as a WR2: Drafted in one league in the fourth round (46th overall)

Why I drafted him that high: Colston has been the epitome of consistency since he broke out in 2006. Six of his first seven seasons have resulted in 1,000 yard campaigns with him being on pace to reach that milestone again this season. Colston is almost a sure-fire bet to get eight touchdown passes as well in the Saints high-octane offense led by Drew Brees. Plus, Sean Payton was back, so you figured it would be a great opportunity for Colston to regain the 10-touchdown form he had last season. Another factor that I had considered was the injury to Joe Morgan, who made some big plays last season and became a favorite target for Brees.

Why it didn’t work: While Colston has had two of his three best performances in the last two weeks, compiling a combined 17 catches for over 200 yards and 3 touchdowns, for most of the season, Brees’ main target has been Jimmy Graham.

I have always compared the Saints passing attack as a socialist organization, which spreads the wealth to all of its backs and receivers. This hurts everyone but Graham because Brees plays no favorites with regards to how he spreads the wealth.

Ultimately, Colston is reaching his 30’s and simply cannot separate like before–not like that was his strength in the first place, as he was never much of a burner.

Why I won’t draft him as a WR2: Too risky to trust Colston on a consistent basis. Six games of four catches or less for a player you want, as your second best receiver would be crippling to any fantasy team. Brees clearly has great chemistry with Graham and is one player he will ensure gets the pre-requisite amount of 10 or more targets per game.

I could’ve easily replaced Colston with Lance Moore and replaced WR2 with WR2. Essentially, I would avoid all Saints receivers, period.

Of course, there’s the likes of Steven Jackson, Steve Smith, Darren McFadden and others who should never be drafted as anything more than backups. Conversely, blacklisting a player from being drafted by your team should not be the deciding factor. If you see a good player with great value next year, regardless of his blacklist rating, you should still scoop him. The point of the blacklisting is to stand strong on your viewpoint of a player and make sure you do not reach for him and overrate his value.

A perfect example of that is a guy like Ryan Mathews who no one wanted this season after a season in which he averaged 3.8 yards per carry and only topped 707 yards. He also suffered a broken collarbone in the preseason, which didn’t help disproving the notion that he is injury prone. This season, he has a career high in carries with 236, should surpass his previous career high of 1,091 yards rushing as well as his six touchdowns. But most importantly, he has stayed 100 percent healthy and has shown to be a tough instinctive runner, something he previously rarely displayed.

Fantasy football is an inexact science and can be as frustrating as watching your favorite team trying to win a game. The same frustration is what makes it so exhilarating when you draft a solid roster a win a league.

These are my five blacklisted players. Feel free to comment on your players who you will not trust next year.

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