Opinions differ on whether it’s fair to label NFL stars like Maurice Jones-Drew as fantasy football busts simply because they’ve missed a lot of time due to injuries. Jones-Drew hasn’t played since Week 7, so we can’t possibly hold his prolonged absence against him, right? He would be performing at a high level if he were playing, right?
As long as you don’t harass or disrespect the men themselves, you’re well within your right to consider underperforming or absent NFL stars as fantasy flops for whatever reason, because fantasy is ultimately driven by the box score. If you don’t respect the players, they might just fire back:
Dear upset fantasy owners with the bad language you are a fantasy owner for a reason because you can't play or apparently fantasy coach!— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) October 7, 2012
The above tweet applies mainly to the vocally disappointed of fantasy owners—to put it lightly—who are preoccupied with subpar performances of players who are actually on the field. Guys who don’t play can’t contribute to the box score.
If it isn’t fair to label an injured player a fantasy flop, where would you draw the line with injuries? Is it only fair to label a player a bust if he plays every game but still isn’t statistically prolific, like Vernon Davis?
What about a guy who’s fighting through injuries and still shows up on the field most weeks but doesn’t register big numbers, like Hakeem Nicks?
Guys like Nicks who play hurt may arguably impair fantasy teams more than players who just don’t suit up. Healthier contingency plans can be set in motion upon learning that one of your fantasy starters isn’t going to play. It’s normal to feel compelled to start your injured studs for fear of missing a magnificent performance, even if those are rare occurrences. But you can’t bemoan the ones that hobble onto the field on Sundays while sparing the guys who can’t get out there at all.
That’s not fair.
Davis was concussed in Week 16 but played every game this season, even if the numbers don’t necessarily show it. Fantasy football owners were enamored enough with the prospect of relying on Davis to produce points from their tight end position that they selected him third at his position, on average, behind only Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.
Gronkowski and Graham experienced transcendent fantasy seasons for tight ends in 2011, posting stat lines that look more like No. 1 wide receivers:
Graham: 99 receptions, 1,310 yards and 11 TDs.
Gronk: 90 receptions, 1,327 yards and 17 TDs.
Davis’ regular-season numbers (67 catches, 792 yards and six scores) fell far short of the two guys who were drafted before him—but his big-time postseason drew attention from the fantasy community. The San Francisco 49ers playmaker made the most of his 10 catches over two playoff games: He went for 292 yards and four touchdowns.
Expectations were high for Davis entering 2012, but he simply didn’t deliver from a fantasy perspective. Since Week 4, he has had exactly one 100-yard game and one touchdown. Conversely, he’s had two games with zero catches, three games with one catch and three more with two catches.
Like Davis, Nicks of the New York Giants has been extraordinarily underwhelming for fantasy purposes in 2012 following a productive postseason. Calling him a bust this year highlights the aforementioned dilemma: His statistical struggles are based on the fact that he doesn’t look like himself and has been playing through injuries.
In the four games following the regular season that it took New York to win the Super Bowl, he averaged a clean seven catches for 111 yards and a touchdown per contest. Those numbers left Nicks’ fantasy owners hoping for a monster follow-up season, but the Giants receiver delivered just one huge game: In Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he totaled 199 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches.
His next-highest yardage output was 77 against the Green Bay Packers in Week 12.
Nicks missed four games this season, six fewer than Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew didn’t have prolific playoff performances following the 2011 season as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are a postseason afterthought. His offseason was eventful, though: He held out for over a month.
Fantasy owners still lined up to snag Jones-Drew in the first round, just ahead of Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson. MJD totaled 414 rushing yards and a touchdown on 84 carries. Both Lynch and Peterson more than tripled his rushing yardage despite not playing three times the number of regular-season contests as Jones-Drew (six).
Which NFL stars ruined your 2012 fantasy football season? Feel free to Tweet your fantasy stories to Jamal: Follow @StatManJ