Fantasy
Big names, falling production
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's a problem for all but the most plugged in fantasy owners among us. It is the matter of drafting a well-known player with dropping production.

If you go into your draft unprepared, or not totally 100-percent ready, you are in danger of picking a high-profile name even if his numbers have been slipping over the past few years.

The problem frequently arises when the player you have been targeting is picked by the fantasy owner right in front of you.

You panic.

Who should you pick?

Quickly you scan your cheat sheets and as your finger scrolls over a name you recognize, who has been successful in the past, you blurt out his name. The moment after you announce your pick, you know it's a mistake, but the deed is done.

We at the Sports Network understand the problem and have assembled a group of high-profile names that you should probably avoid, or at least keep any high expectations in check.

Miles Austin, Dallas - Austin has been an integral part of the Cowboys' offense for the past four seasons and, while he'll still be a key member, fantasy owners have to know this is Dez Bryant's time to shine. Bryant will be Tony Romo's first option, roommate Jason Witten will be his second and Austin will be No. 3 - at best.

Antonio Gates, San Diego - Once the premier fantasy tight end, Gates no longer has the wheels to perform at that elite level. He'll still score touchdowns because of his innate block-out ability near the goal line, but he simply can't run anymore. Also, with a questionable offensive line, quarterback Philip Rivers will need Gates to block more than catch. It's time to move on.

Brian Hartline, Miami - Hartline cracked the 1,000-yard mark last season for the first time in his career. He'll also benefit as quarterback Ryan Tannehill enters his second year as a starter. The down factor is the acquisition of talented Mike Wallace from Pittsburgh, who will be the team's No. 1 target and game-breaking deep threat. Hartline as a possession receiver should not excite any fantasy owners.

Santonio Holmes, New York Jets - His quarterback options are Mark Sanchez (sigh) or rookie Geno Smith, who spent most of his final season at West Virginia throwing passes behind the line of scrimmage to Tavon Austin and letting the mercurial receiver run with it.

Fred Jackson, Buffalo - Heading into 2012, Jackson was the Bills' primary running back and therefore was selected in the third round in most drafts. That's not the situation this season. C.J. Spiller is clearly the No. 1 back on the depth chart and Jackson will fill the backup role.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego - The Chargers had tried to make Mathews the focal point of the offense for the past three seasons, but Mathews has failed to produce enough for the team or fantasy owners. He's only started 32 of 48 games and played injured in many others. New head coach Mike McCoy has no allegiance to Mathews and has Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown as alternative options. In July 2012, Mathews was being drafted in the first round and fantasy owners might see his name still available in the third round and think they have found a diamond in the rough. Think again.

Darren McFadden, Oakland - McFadden continues to tease fantasy owners year after year because he has the ability to put together big games and a big season. Too bad his beaten up body is always getting in the way. He's never played more than 13 games in a season and any owner who drafts him high is living in a fantasy world. If he hasn't played a full season in his first five NFL campaigns, why would you draft him like he'll do it this season?

Santana Moss, Washington - Moss averaged 1,010 yards a season for eight years from 2003-2010, but he's not the same guy anymore. He's failed to crack the 600-yard mark in each of the last two seasons and is just one of many receiving options for Robert Griffin III. At this point in his career, he probably should not be selected on draft day.

Carson Palmer, Arizona - Palmer threw for more than 4,000 yards last season - the first time since 2007 that he accomplished the feat. And now he'll have one of the league's premier receivers on his side in Larry Fitzgerald. That's the good news. The bad news is that most of his Raiders' production was done while his team was well behind on the scoreboard and the opposition was playing a loose, prevent defense. He'll also face the 49ers and Seattle defenses twice each. In 2013, the 4,000-yard passing total will be a distant memory.

Steve Smith, Carolina - Smith has been a quality No. 1 receiver for 13 seasons but that can't last forever. Meanwhile, the Panthers have shown no signs that they will ever bring in another top receiver to take some of the pressure and attention off of Smith. Tight end Greg Olsen might be a better pass-catching option in Carolina.

Michael Vick, Philadelphia - It was just a few years ago that Vick was one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league. In 2010, although he only played 12 games, he finished top-three at his position. If you find yourself in need of a quarterback in this year's draft, however, you will want to bypass the former Virginia Tech star. He's injury-prone, turnover-prone and there is no guarantee he'll even be the Eagles' starter.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.