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Fantasy Football's Overvalued in 2011

Feb 10, 2011 – 12:00 PM
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R.J. White

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Everyone loves a good fantasy football sleeper, and while leagues can potentially be won by nailing the right value pick in your draft, they can also be lost by wasting an early pick, or even one in the middle of the draft. Invest heavily in a player that disappoints, and by the time you remove him from your lineup it may be too late. Owners of Randy Moss, Beanie Wells and Brett Favre a season ago can relate.

It's important to discuss breakout players before heading into fantasy football drafts, and we've done so. But it's also crucial to identify the players from which you must steer clear. Let's do that now.

Jay Cutler, QB, CHI

Having reached the NFC Championship Game, Cutler may bring a sense of achievement along with him into 2011. However, he ranked 17th in passing yardage behind Chad Henne and Mark Sanchez and tied for 13th in passing TDs (23) with Ryan Fitzpatrick and David Garrard. He also threw the eighth most interceptions in the league. It turns out the Mike Martz effect was way overblown.

Astute readers have already noted that all the QBs mentioned above are no better than middling backup fantasy quarterbacks. That's where Cutler should fall, especially considering he didn't top 250 passing yards in a game after the Bears' Week 8 bye. Anyone giving consideration to him as a borderline fantasy starter is barking up the wrong tree.

Peyton Hillis, RB, CLE

Who wasn't rooting for Hillis in 2010? The bruising back came to Cleveland from Denver in what turned out to be a mighty questionable trade, and when Montario Hardesty went down before the season started, Hillis earned his opportunity to shine. After 11 games, Hillis had a remarkable 13 TDs to his credit, but he faded down the stretch after receiving a significant amount of carries for the first time in his career.

Hillis' dominance will be fresh on drafters' minds in 2011, but the Browns should be smart enough to mix Hardesty in early and often with the idea of keeping Hillis fresher toward the end of the season. I wouldn't use a first-round pick on the big back in 2011, no matter what last year's stats say.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA

After starting the season with Buffalo, Lynch was shipped to the Seahawks in 2010 where he was expected to earn a majority of the carries in the offense. While that actually was true, Lynch did little when he touched the ball. Despite receiving at least 20 carries three separate times, Lynch's season-best yardage total was just 83 yards. Moreover, aside from a three-TD game against the lowly Panthers, he was a stranger to the end zone, scoring only three other times in 2010.

Of course, the only thing people are going to remember about Lynch was the play that "Beast Mode" flicked on. He was huge in Seattle's playoff upset of New Orleans, and with that performance fresh on owners' minds, it's likely someone will be willing to reach on him next season. However, Seattle has a ton of problems on offense, and it would be shocking to see Lynch top four yards per carry. He's nothing but bench material in fantasy leagues.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, DEN

Lloyd was a nobody coming into 2010, having scored 15 TDs in his seven year career while never topping 750 receiving yards in a season. That all changed last season, as Lloyd nearly doubled his previous best in receiving yards, notching 1,448 yards on 77 catches with 11 TDs. That made him fantasy football's best receiver over the course of last year.

Although he remained solid with Tim Tebow under center at the end of the season, Lloyd has to fight an uphill battle to remain an elite fantasy option if Tebow is the team's starting QB. The second-year signal caller still has a lot of work to do in the passing game, and with defenses paying Lloyd extra attention as the Broncos have little in the way of dangerous receivers behind him, last year's king could be next year's fool.

Steve Johnson, WR, BUF

After catching just 12 passes for 112 yards in his first two seasons with the Bills, Johnson enjoyed a huge breakout in 2010, recording 82 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 TDs. He scored in five straight games early in the season and posted a huge three-TD game in Week 11 against the Bengals before ending the season with a whimper and largely disappearing in the fantasy playoffs.

Drafters will likely be drawn to any young receiver coming off a 1,000-yard, 10-TD season, but I'd remain cautious. The Bills passing offense isn't likely to retain long-term value, and if the team tanks again in 2011, the offense could be turned over to whichever young QB the Bills draft this offseason. That would bring Johnson's already small chances of consecutive double-digit-TD seasons down even further.

Anquan Boldin, WR, BAL

Boldin brings with him a solid history of fantasy success and name value at the receiver position. However, he was maddening to own in fantasy football in 2010. After topping 100 yards in two of his first three games and scoring three TDs in Week 3, his fantasy stock came crashing down. He would eclipse 100 yards only one other time for the rest of the season while topping 50 yards just twice. In six of his final nine games, Boldin was held under 30 yards.

Potential owners of Boldin in 2011 will see a solid TD total with an underwhelming yardage total in 2010 and think he'll have a nice bounce-back season. After drafting him in 2010, I know better. Let another poor sap spend a high pick on Boldin thinking a potential breakout is around the corner while you play it safe with more consistent scorers.
R.J. White
R.J. White | Twitter: @RJWhite1

R.J. White has written for Fantasy FanHouse and NFL FanHouse since 2009. He also works as the head writer and head editor at the Fantasy Baseball Cafe and Fantasy Football Cafe, and as the marketing manager and assistant editor at Scene In S.A. magazine.
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