Every season different NFL players spit out career years or performances that cut back against previous performance.
Deciding which was real and which was an aberration will determine your strategy in the first three rounds of your 2009 fantasy football draft. You’ll either end up with the 2007-to-2008 crash that was Earnest Graham, or you’ll feast on LenDale White’s delicious bump in fantasy stats from 2007-to-2008.
Yeah, both of those guys were highly coveted in 2008 drafts, but an educated ninja would have looked at Graham’s double-digit TDs in 2007 and smelled a trap.
What players smell like ninja killers in 2009? Let’s take a look at five examples:
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers
There’s not a bigger bust candidate in all of the NFL. Williams scored 20 TDs and ran for 1,515 yards last year, I put up those numbers in Madden on my Xbox 360. To think he got it out of a committee system makes it seem even more insane.
Don’t drop him from your board, the Panthers can run the ball, but expect Jonathan Stewart to swipe more carries and keep Williams from compiling enough touches to return to elite status.
Someone will pick him in the top five, and he’s not a top-5 back.
Thomas Jones, RB, Jets
At age 30, Jones rushed for a career-high 15 total TDs in 2008 and compiled a workhorse-like 1,500 total yards from scrimmage.
Without QB Brett Favre in New York, Jones’ high-end numbers revert back to his 2-6 TDs and 1,200 yards.
Low-end, you ask? Shonn Greene-Jones-Leon Washington split carries evenly.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Broncos (?)
Whether Kyle Orton’s throwing to him or his trade demand is met, Marshall’s numbers are going to take a serious hit — I’m thinking at least 20 fewer catches, 300 fewer yards and a lost TD.
He won’t go to another team that gave him the targets he got in 2008, and Orton would make certain they are not good targets in Denver. Receivers need targets to be successful.
Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers
This one’s a no-brainer. Bryant set career highs in catches, yards and TDs in 2008. Those passes were thrown by Jeff Garcia, a real NFL quarterback.
Fighting to be your 2009 Tampa Bay quarterback: Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich, Brian Griese, Josh Johnson (Go Josh, I thought you were just a pitcher for the Marlins!) and rookie Josh Freeman.
Freeman never looked so good, and he really isn’t that good.
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
If you think Romo reverts to 2007 and throws 30 TDs again without Terrell Owens, you’ve gotta lay off the recreational narcotics.
Look, I like Romo. I’ve seen him play games with fire like a young Brett Favre (I know it’s sacrilege Packers fans, but that’s what I see). I’ve also seen him struggle.
But Romo’s not the issue here. Remove TO — an annual lock for double-digit TDs — from any offense and it’s going to negatively impact everyone. WR2 becomes WR1, 3 becomes 2 and they pick up a grocery store clerk to fill the slot on third down.
Romo-to-Williams will produce good fantasy points, but Dallas goes ground-heavy this year with those three running backs. Romo’s overall numbers suffer because of it.
What do you think? Avoiding Bryant? Think Marshall is good enough to overcome the mess he’s created? Tell us about it in the comments, or start a conversation in our forums.