After a promising season, I’m down to one team playing for a championship. A few minutes ago, I made my final lineup selections. And, in what felt almost like a travesty, I benched LaDanian Tomlinson. The same guy I blew $75 dollars (of a $200 budget) on at our preseason auction. The same guy who almost unanimously was projected the top fantasy producer for the season. In his place, I started the dude pictured above. The same guy who was largely undrafted at the beginning of the season.
That leads me to think about other players who’s stock has dropped considerably in 2008 …First, let me defend my benching of Tomlinson. I have three viable starting RB on my team. Tomlinson, who plays Tampa Bay, Marshawn Lynch (vs. Denver) and Pierre Thomas (pictured above), who plays against the Detroit Kittens.
Tomlinson has been an overall disappointment this season. While he hasn’t disappeared completely, he hasn’t scored over 15 points (in traditional non PPR leagues) since the week 8 matchup with New Orleans. During the past two months, he has faced the Kansas City Chiefs twice, the Colts (not a major run defense), The Falcons and the Raiders. Many people felt his biggest asset this season were the gravy matchups down the stretch run of the season. He did not produce up to expectations. Now, he faces a formidible Tampa Bay defense — a Buccaneers squad fighting for postseason bragging rights.
Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch and Pierre Thomas both face much easier defenses. While Lynch is currently listed as questionable, he’s showing improvement in practice and should fare well against a Denver defense allowing around 140 yards per game. Lynch, at this point, is a must-start.
Thomas, meanwhile, is peaking at the right time. He has flourished both on the ground and in the air the past two weeks against the Falcons and Bears, respectively. Now, he faces the crown jewel of cakewalk defenses. Plus, word out of New Orleans is that Reggie Bush is not playing this week and Deuce McAllister will only see a handful of opportunities. Basically, it will be the Pierre Thomas show this week.
As I mentioned before, Tomlinson’s overall value and his draft stock for next year’s fantasy draft have taken quite a hit this season. He’ll be turning 30 years old this offseason, and those who track running back statistics can tell you in stride that when backs reach the infamous age of 30, the production drops.
Tomlinson will be a top-10 pick next season. His overall talent is too good to let slip too low, however, I really don’t expect him to be a top-5 pick next year — definitely not in the top 3.
Here are others I expect to see significant drops in draft value in 2009.
WR: Terrell Owens. No. 81 is tied for 10th overall in wide receiver points scored (non-PPR) this season (with Antonio Bryant). Owens has seen less targets this season and has suddenly forgotten how to catch a football. Yes, Tony Romo was injured for part of the season, but Owens still is struggling to show the chemistry that helped him be a premier fantasy option last season. There are ton of talented (and younger) receivers above Owens in 2008 who figure to be at least as good, if not better, next season.
RB: Larry Johnson & Joseph Addai. Two running backs that were drafted in the first round in most leagues, Johnson and Addai rank well out of the top 25 running backs through the first 15 weeks of 2008. Yes, again, injuries played a part, but both also struggled with opportunities they did have to play. In a year dominated by younger players (Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Steve Slaton, etc.) who will have more upside next season than either Johnson or Addai looking ahead to 2009, it is safe to expect both backs to be falling well into the second or third rounds of fantasy drafts next summer.
3. Carson Palmer & Tom Brady. Both quarterbacks were expected to have monster seasons this year, and both were stricken early in their respective campaigns by injury. Brady dealt with numerous complications in his early rehabilitation, and there is some speculation that he may never be the same player again. Palmer has a better chance of starting the season healthy, but is in the middle of a habitually disfunctional organization that has plenty of talent that usually goes to waste. In the case of both Palmer and Brady, it will be hard to throw a high draft pick at either guy when there are younger players who have shown tons of potential (Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco) and what should be a strong class of quarterback draftees in 2009.
TE: Antonio Gates. Quick, name the top three tight ends in 2008 so far. Who’s the biggest guy missing from that list? Gates, who ranks fourth — a whopping 46 points behind Tony Gonzalez. The Chargers were largely disappointing all-around on offense, and Gates could bounce back. He’s still a top tight end, just not a guy I plan on throwing a third or fourth-round draft pick at like last summer.
Who are your biggest draft-value decliners for next season? Let us know and we’ll share your viewpoints with the Ninja nation.