It is never too early to plan for next season when you are a fantasy football owner, especially if your team has no hope of making the playoffs this season.
Where in dynasty leagues you get to keep everybody or almost everybody on your roster, in keeper leagues you usually only keep one to four players, so picking the right guys to hold onto is a crucial head start to your 2013 success.
But not all players having super seasons are worthy keepers. Some might be playing over their heads, while some might be riskier bets than getting Axl Rose to start a concert on time due to the players’ injury histories or stat histories.
Here are four players who are simply fool’s gold in fantasy football keeper leagues.
Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders (QB)
There are five quarterbacks in the NFL averaging 300 passing yards per game this season—Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Peyton Manning and Palmer. The first four are definitely keeper material. The fifth, hmm, not so much.
With Oakland having no running game to speak of, Palmer has been racking up passing yards like he is the next coming of Warren Moon. Darren McFadden’s injuries and inconsistency have forced Palmer to throw so much you would think he was in the CFL, and Palmer’s fantasy owners are loving it.
But Palmer is still no Brees, Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. You cannot build a fantasy team around him. He throws too many interceptions, has no running ability whatsoever (never rushed for 100 yards or multiple touchdowns in any season) and has not played at a keeper level since 2006-2007.
And who knows if Palmer keeps this pace up. Oakland’s receivers are young, injury-prone and not among the league’s elite. To me, Palmer is someone I would try to trade now while his value is at its highest point, not someone I would keep for 2013.
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins (RB)
Morris is no Barry Sanders. This dude has fewer moves than Master P had during his humorous stint on Dancing With the Stars a few years back. But Morris runs downhill and does it hard, and that is why he is currently seventh in the NFL in rushing yards and one of 2012's breakout fantasy stars.
But Morris has his fantasy faults. He is worthless in the passing game (five catches for 35 yards). He also has to battle his own quarterback, Robert Griffin III, for rushing attempts, which certainly does not help his number yards-wise or TD-wise.
Yet the biggest problem for Morris might be head coach Mike Shanahan, who discards running backs like KFC discards chicken bones. At the end of the 2011 campaign it seemed like either Evan Royster or Roy Helu was destined to be Washington’s top tailback in 2012. Then Morris came out of nowhere to steal the starting spot and spotlight.
Who is to say Morris is a lock to be Washington’s main man in 2013? Not me. Shanahan might decide to bring in old friend Olandis Gary to be the workhorse for all I know. With all this going against Morris, I do not think he can be considered a keeper.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants (RB)
It feels like years ago that Bradshaw had his 200-yard rushing game against the Cleveland Browns that made his fantasy owners happier than Michael Irvin is after he buys a new suit. Truth is, Bradshaw had that amazing outing six weeks ago, and instead of that game being a precursor of wonderful things to come, it was actually just a big tease.
Bradshaw is a feisty, multi-talented, tough tailback. He can run between the tackles as well as he can take a play outside, he can catch passes out of the backfield and he can find the end zone when given the ball near the goal line. And yet he is not keeper-caliber.
Bradshaw has more trouble with his feet than Peter Forsberg’s used to in the NHL. Bradshaw has been battling foot and neck problems all season and always is banged up due to the way he runs. Sometimes it isn’t a bad thing to get out of bounds, dude!
Injuries are not Bradshaw’s only problem, though. He has lost three fumbles, so New York head honcho Tom Coughlin better teach Bradshaw how to carry the ball like he did with Tiki Barber or Bradshaw will not be trusted with more than 10 touches a game. And with solid backups Andre Brown and David Wilson behind him, it never takes much for Bradshaw to lose carries.
Bradshaw will probably finish this season with 1,000 rushing yards and seven or eight touchdowns. That is fine, but it isn’t enough to be a keeper, and he has too many obstacles standing between him and a magical 1,300-yard, 10-TD, keeper-like campaign.
Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins (WR)
Hartline is currently ranked eighth in the NFL in receiving yards ahead of fantasy superstars like Atlanta’s Julio Jones, Carolina’s Steve Smith, New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, so you might be conned into thinking he is a keeper.
Not so fast, Dexter McCluster! Before you start thinking that Hartline and Ryan Tannehill are destined to be the next Jerry Rice and Joe Montana, take two things into consideration.
Hartline might have 53 receptions this year, but he only has one touchdown. He is the anti-Cris Carter. And this is not a one-year thing. Hartline has scored just five times since entering the NFL in 2009.
Hartline has racked up 471 of his 790 yards this season in only three games. In his other seven contests he only had 319 yards. So he is not consistent and is hard to count on for solid weekly production.
You can definitely make the argument that Hartline had a couple lucky weeks and is really just a mediocre receiver. You cannot claim he is 2012's Victor Cruz because Cruz put up huge numbers every week last year, not every third week like Hartline does. Hartline is not protectable, pure and simple.