Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
Nobody would ever question Tom Brady's skill level. Watch the replay of his second half against Denver last season. The guy still has it.
But in 2013, the stats weren't there for Brady. The 25 touchdown passes he threw were his fewest since 2006 while his quarterback rating and completion percentages were his lowest since 2003. The end result was 241 fantasy points in standard scoring, 13th-best among NFL quarterbacks.
So what if Brady passed the eye test? He wasn't helpful to fantasy owners. Believe it or not, this happens all the time. There are dozens of players that are better in real life than they are in fantasy. Here are a few examples.
Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Boldin has always been a difference maker. He led the Niners in receiving yards last season despite being one of the oldest receivers in the league (he turns 34 in October). The year before that, he exploded for 380 yards in four playoff games en route to his first Super Bowl.
Still, last year was Boldin's first 1,000-yard receiving season in four years and it only happened because Michael Crabtree missed most of the year with a torn Achilles. Don't expect double-digit touchdowns from Boldin either. He hasn't done that since 2008.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Big Ben's toughness is unparalleled. So is his ability to improvise. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger has only passed for 4,000 yards three times and has reached 30 touchdowns just once in ten NFL seasons. Despite his penchant for using his feet to get out of trouble, Roethlisberger has rushed for a mere 264 yards over the last three seasons.
If you want to win the game, Roethlisberger's your man. If you want to win in fantasy, you might want to look somewhere else.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Smith's 53-to-17 touchdown-to-interception ratio over the last three seasons is astounding. But that doesn't erase the fact he's never thrown for more than 3,313 yards or 23 touchdowns in a single season.
Smith isn't used like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. His job is to get out of the way and let Jamaal Charles carry the rock. This strategy works well for Kansas City but not for fantasy owners.
Darren Sproles, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Sproles, a pioneer in the world of hybrid running backs, may be one of the league's most unique talents. He's the ultimate gadget player with great hands, a low center of gravity and cut-on-a-dime quickness.
The bad news is, Sproles isn't much help in fantasy. Last year, his contributions included just four touchdowns and 824 yards on 124 touches. With Shady McCoy to compete with at halfback, those totals are sure to drop in 2014. Sproles is probably a flex play, at best, even in PPR leagues.
Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions
In four seasons, Tate has averaged 37.8 yards per game while reeling in only 63 percent of passes sent in his direction. All of that would be fine if Tate found the end zone on a regular basis, but that hasn't been the case (five touchdowns in 19 games last season).
Tate has made some big catches in his career and could be a rock-solid No. 2 next to Calvin Johnson in Detroit's pass-heavy scheme. Just don't overestimate his ceiling.
Michael Vick, QB, New York Jets
Even in his 12th season, Vick is still breaking off runs like he did in his 20s, juking defenders for huge gains. If only Vick could throw the ball with as much vigor. His career-high in touchdown passes is a measly 21 and his lifetime QB rating (80.9) is just a few ticks higher than Tim Tebow's (75.3).
Currently, Vick is "competing" for the starting job in New York. That should tell you all you need to know about Vick's dwindling fantasy value.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers
Don't be fooled by D-Will's age. The 31-year-old can still bring the heat. He broke loose for 120 rushing yards against the Giants last season, kid's stuff compared to the 168 combined rushing and receiving yards he posted against New Orleans in Week 14.
The problem is, most of the goal line work in Carolina is reserved for Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton (11 combined rushing touchdowns last season). Your fantasy team doesn't need a chain mover. You need someone who can put the ball in the end zone. Williams just isn't that guy anymore (three touchdowns in 2013).
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson is a great game manager and it helps that he can make plays with his feet (539 rushing yards last season). But without the touchdowns to back it up (just one rushing score in 2013), the yards are meaningless.
Wilson is good for about 3,000 passing yards and 20-plus touchdowns a year. Plenty of quarterbacks can give you that.
Throw out the game film. If you want to win, check the stat sheet.