Every August, millions of football fans across the country come together to form a bond that will connect them for the next 17 weeks. Each fan hopes to put together that dream team that will earn him or her the title of league Champion. Every year, there will be players who go undrafted who should have went in the first round (i.e. Alfred Morris) and there will be players drafted in the early rounds who end the season unclaimed off the waiver wire. This is a list of the top fantasy football team killers of the 2012 season. These are the guys you drafted back in August and envisioned starting every week, as long as they were healthy. But sooner or later, you had to question if you had room for them on your team, let alone if you wanted to start them. These are the guys who were projected to give you 15 points, but instead gave you five in that week you lost by 2. Even though these guys killed your team week in and week out, you just couldn't bench them because you knew they were capable of a 3 touchdown day any week. If you had more than one of these players on your team, chances are your season didn't end the way you wanted it to. Here are the top 10 fantasy team killers of 2012. Players who under-performed due to injuries are not included.
10. Dwayne Bowe WR - Just two seasons ago, Bowe's 15 touchdown receptions led the NFL. His 1162 receiving yards were good enough for 7th most in the league as he, alongside Matt Cassel and Jamal Charles, led the Chiefs to a 10 win season and the playoffs. In 2011, Charles was lost for the season in week 2, Cassel went down shortly after, and Bowe's numbers took a noticeable hit. He still had 81 receptions and over 1100 yards receiving, but only 5 touchdowns. With both Cassel and Charles returning healthy for the start of 2012, Bowe was set for another big year and was ranked as a top 20 wideout. Bowe's average draft position was 60th overall, which is ahead of wideouts like Vincent Jackson and Reggie Wayne. In week 2, Bowe went over 100 yards receiving with 2 touchdowns and in week 4 he had 108 yards with a score. However, his week 4 touchdown was his last of the season and he never had more than 80 yards in a game the rest of the year. In 13 games in 2012, Bowe only had double digit fantasy points twice and had 6 or less points in 9 games. While Bowe might not have been drafted to be your number 1 fantasy wideout, his numbers weren't even good enough to be a third option. The Chiefs' quarterback situation was a mess in 2012 and Bowe will more than likely play somewhere else next year. Bowe is still a talented player and if he lands with the right team this off-season, he could return to being a fantasy stud.
9. Brandon Lloyd WR - When Brandon Lloyd had Kyle Orton as his quarterback, he led the NFL in receiving yards and added 11 touchdowns. When Lloyd joined Tom Brady and the Patriots, expectations were high. Lloyd was brought in to be the deep threat that Brady and the Pats have been missing since Randy Moss' departure. In 2012, Brady threw 34 touchdowns and all but four of them went to someone not named Brandon Lloyd. In 16 games, Lloyd had more than 10 fantasy points only three times, while he had 4 points or less 7 times. Lloyd came into the season as the 17th ranked wideout in fantasy football with an average draft position in the 5th round. Yet by the end of the season, he was either on a fantasy bench or the waiver wire after a four game stretch starting in week 10 where he earned a combined 11 points. A player in the 5th round earning those stats solidifies fantasy killer status.
8. Chris Johnson RB - After a long holdout to start last season, Johnson looked like a shell of the 2000 yard back we had seen in the past. There was no holdout this season; more importantly, there was no one to split carries with. With Johnson still having big play potential and the Titans having no option but to feed him the ball, the back known for his 4.29 speed was ranked as the fourth running back and 8th player overall. With an average draft position in the first round, fantasy owners were looking for Johnson to carry their teams. Three weeks into the season, Johnson had 0 touchdowns, less rushing yards than his quarterback, and, most importantly, a total of 8 fantasy points. By the fourth week of the season, Johnson owners all over the country had to decide whether it was time to bench their first round pick or trade for pennies on the dollar. In week four, Johnson had a 140 yard rushing day vs the Texans, but he still didn't find the end zone. He then followed that up with a 0 point performance in week 5 vs the Vikings. It wasn't until week 7 -- at which point most of the people who drafted him had already given up on him -- that Johnson found the end zone in a monster performance vs the Bills. Johnson then reeled off a four game stretch in which he looked like his old self, rushing for over 100 yards three out of four games (the only game he didn't break 100 he had 99). That stretch is the only reason he doesn't find himself much higher on the list. After his week 11 bye, Johnson would only rush for more than 80 yards once, including three games of 5 fantasy points or less down the stretch of the fantasy season. Although his season totals weren't terrible, those who drafted Johnson hoping for him to carry them to the title probably didn't make it.
7. Darren McFadden RB - The only question when drafting McFadden every year is how many games he is going to play. When healthy, the Raiders back has proven to be as good a fantasy back as anyone in the league. McFadden played 12 games this year, which is probably more than anyone who drafted him was expecting. The problem is, he did very little in the games he did play. In 12 games, McFadden rushed for 2 total touchdowns and only eclipsed the 100 yard rushing mark three times -- not exactly what you're looking for from a guy with an average draft position in the first round. The Raiders defense was horrible and the team often found themselves down by significant amounts early on, at which point they abandoned the run. The talented back did pull in 42 passes, but only for 250 yards and 1 touchdown. There is no doubt that McFadden's numbers had more to do with the state of the Raiders than his play, but when you draft a fantasy player that early, you are expecting numbers and not excuses. Anyone who drafted RUN DMC this summer knows that he or she didn't get his or her money's worth.
6. Michael Vick QB - Arguably the highest risk in fantasy football history, Vick's upside will always bait one owner to take him in the first two rounds. Just a year ago, Vick was the number one overall pick in drafts all over the country due to his performance in 2010. The lightning quick QB has the ability to make an 80 yard pass or run on any given play. Last season, he didn't live up to expectations, but he still came into this season ranked as the 6th quarterback overall, ahead of names like Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Robert Griffen III, etc. Anyone who drafted Vick knew the injury risk he or she was taking. What people didn't know was what a turnover machine they were getting. In the first three weeks of the season, Vick had 9 turnovers and only 3 touchdowns. The Eagles' passing game never got off the ground and the most elusive quarterback in NFL history finished with fewer rushing touchdowns than Tom Brady. Vick spent the first half of the season running for his life and taking a beating behind a depleted offensive line. By the time he was knocked out of the lineup in week 10, Vick had already become a fantasy afterthought.
5. Vernon Davis TE - No one has ever questioned Davis' ability -- it's the 49ers offense that scared many away from drafting the tight end. After last year's breakout performance from Davis, expectations were high. In two playoff games last season, Davis scored 4 touchdowns as he and Alex Smith appeared to have finally developed the chemistry many had been waiting for. Davis entered the season as the fifth ranked fantasy tight end, and after 3 weeks he looked like a draft day steal. In the first three weeks of the season, Davis had four touchdowns and double digit fantasy games 4 out of the first 5 games. The problem is that after week 3, Davis would only catch one touchdown pass the remainder of the season. In fact, he would become one of the least productive fantasy players in the league. From week 6 on, Davis recorded one double digit fantasy game. And, if you eliminate his 14 point performance in week 11, Davis' highest point output the last 11 weeks of the season was a lousy 3 points. There was a 5 week stretch where Davis had a combined 9 fantasy points and a separate 6 week stretch (the last 6 of the season) where he had a total of 4 points. On draft day, owners knew the 49ers' offense would limit Davis' production, but nobody could have predicted that he would have been out-performed by undrafted fantasy tight ends like Kyle Rudolph, Brandon Myers, and Scott Chandler.
4. LeSean McCoy RB - Coming into the 2012 season, Shady was the third ranked running back and was being drafted in first rounds all over. After scoring 20 touchdowns in 2011, it's easy to see why. At the young age of 24 and with no real threat of a backup stealing carries, McCoy was as close to a sure thing as there is in fantasy football. Between the Eagles o-line not providing much room to run and Michael Vick turning the ball over, McCoy and the Eagles offense never really got in sync. One year after setting an Eagles franchise record with 17 rushing touchdowns, McCoy had only 2 rushing touchdowns this season, which is not what owners were looking for when they used their first picks on the shifty runner. To add insult to injury (literally), when McCoy went down in week 12, his backup Bryce Brown rushed for over 340 yards with 4 touchdowns in his first two career starts behind the same line. For those who were looking for the McCoy of 2011 and used a top 5 pick to get him, what they got was one of the top fantasy team killers of the year.
3. Jermichael Finely TE - After catching 8 touchdowns in just 13 starts last season, Finley was the 6th ranked tight end this summer. By the time the Packers week 10 bye had rolled around, chances are he was available on the waiver wire in your league. After catching a touchdown in week 1, Finley put together a 10 week stretch in which he scored a grand total of 18 points. The Packers' pass catcher had 7 games this season in which he scored 3 fantasy points or fewer -- the true definition of a fantasy team killer. After falling out of Aaron Rodgers' good graces, Finley finished the season with only 2 touchdowns and didn't record over 75 yards receiving in any game. Despite playing in all 16 games, Finley, one of the first tight ends off the board this fall, finished 18th in scoring amongst tight ends. If you drafted Finley with hopes of having him locked in as your starter for 16 weeks, chances are you had already cut your losses by mid-season and picked a better option.
2. Ryan Mathews RB - With the departure of Michael Tolbert to Carolina, Mathews became an every down: the most coveted thing in all of fantasy football. Owners knew that a broken clavicle would sideline him for the start of the season, but the idea of him being the lone back in a Norv Turner offense was enough for Mathews to earn an average draft position in the top 10 of all fantasy backs. Mathews finally hit the field in week 3 and played in 12 games total, never once topping the 100 yard mark. Mathews scored 1 touchdown on the season and his 19 point performance vs a terrible Saints defense was his only double digit fantasy game of the year.
1. Larry Fitzgerald WR - As Kevin Kolb and a list of other quarterbacks in Arizona played the role of bank robber, Larry Fitz and his owners played the role of hostage. Fitzgerald entered the fantasy season ranked as the number two fantasy wideout, ranking him behind only Calvin Johnson. He finished the season with less fantasy points than Danario Alexander, who wasn't even in the NFL until mid-October. Thanks to the Cardinals offense being in shambles, the talented wideout had 3 fantasy points or fewer in 8 games this season, which is not the type of production owners were looking for from their number one receiver. With the Cards starting a different quarterback and running back each week, Fitzgerald's numbers took a beating. Known for having the best hands in the NFL, Fitzgerald had four games in which he only caught one pass. With no other threats on offense, defenses were able to double and triple team the star wideout and all fantasy owners could do was sit and watch as one of their top picks went to waste. While the list of pass catchers taken before him was very short, the list of receivers who had more fantasy points this season has 40 names on it. When it comes to fantasy team killers in 2012, Larry Fitzgerald, the face of ESPN's fantasy football page, was in a class all by himself.