21.3% Of You Are 100% Wrong
If I were to tell you that Gordon Ramsey was opening a new restaurant, you would likely assume it will have great food. And because he is known the world over as a top-notch chef and entertainer, your assumption wouldn't be much of a stretch. But what would happen if half the kitchen staff quit and was replaced by former McDonald's employees? On top of that, let's say that the wait staff turned rude, the GM ended up being incompetent, and Ramsey became paralyzed while fighting a rogue camel in Michigan's upper peninsula. Would people still go there? As long as it said Ramsey's name on the sign out front, of course they would. His name and reputation would keep people coming back for more, even if the quality of food and service had suffered.
Now lets replace Ramsey and his restaurant with Philip Rivers, the employees with the San Diego Chargers, and the camel with Norv Turner (duh). Does all this make perfect sense? No? OK, so maybe it was a bad metaphor. But you have to admit, this is probably the first fantasy column you've ever read with a camel in it. So that's worth something, right?
The sad truth, and the point of this rambling intro, is that there are a handful of players owned in about 20% of leagues who, like Rivers (owned in 21.3%), should not be on any fantasy roster. If you are one of the guilty owners I am about to call out, don't worry, I have your back. After I tell you how wrong you are (and boy, are you), I will extend an olive branch in the form of a suggested replacement or two. Why would I do such a thing? Because that's what I do. I have people's backs. With names of players. To pick up. Because they have players they shouldn't. In fantasy leagues. OK, I'll move on now.
Philip Rivers Would be a Terrible Chef
2008 was a great year for Rivers, as he finished as the number three fantasy quarterback. More importantly, to him anyway, it helped the young signal-caller gain the reverence of a fan base who were still crying in their mimosas (this is California we are talking about) over letting Drew Brees go. It was also the start of a nice three year run of fantasy success. In addition to being an elite quarterback option, he also posted remarkable Net Expected Point (NEP) per attempt figures, ranking in the top three each season.
Rivers was efficient, could throw the deep ball, had a stud tight end, and, when teamed with LaDainian Tomlinson, led a prolific offense. But then an aging LT left for the bright lights of NYC, Antonio Gates battled ongoing foot issues and the constant, steady hounding of father time, Vincent Jackson, left for big money in Tampa. Not to mention the offensive line turned into a mix of slow-footed statues and third-stringers thrusted into starting service.
The decline of the Chargers has been spectacular.
Rivers has shown a marked downward trend in NEP/attempt, completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns while also experiencing a significant uptick in interceptions thrown. 2012 brought a five-year low in yards per pass attempt and a seven-year low in yards per completion. It gets worse: his supporting cast for the impending season is downright ugly. The offensive line is an abject disaster and they lost their only deep threat at wide receiver when Danario Alexander tore up his knee.
In a nutshell, there is basically no situation where Rivers should be on a roster in a standard 10- or 12-team league.
I should preface this by saying that aside from Ben Roethlisberger, Robert Griffin III, or Mike Vick, I would not consider backing up any of the top-15 quarterbacks. And even then, most leagues have a couple serviceable passers on waivers. But if you must, I would rather have either of these next two guys than Mr. Rivers.
I don't know that Ryan Tannehill (12.4%) is the next Dan Marino, but in only his second season he is already a better bet to be fantasy relevant than Rivers. While I am keenly aware than I'm bucking numberFire's season-long projections (Rivers is 20, Tannehill 25), I am also aware of the upside factor. As in, Tannehill has some and Rivers does not. One of these guys could take a big sophomore leap towards a possible top 15 finish and the other is likely to spend most of his season on the sideline in San Diego making angry faces.
Brandon Weeden (7.2%) is admittedly old for an NFL sophomore. He doesn't move particularly well and handles pressure poorly. But he was also a first-round pick a season ago, so presumably the talent is in there somewhere. It doesn't hurt that he has two young studs in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron to throw to, the best young running back in the NFL, a very solid offensive line, and the camel himself, Norv Turner, as his offensive coordinator.
Andre Brown Has a Broken Leg
I get that Brown (26.2%) was just hurt a week ago, so his ownership percentage will continue to drop in the next several days. But I also saw him get picked in two of the five drafts I did after he was injured. Beyond the obvious (you know, the whole broken leg thing), the case against Brown is simple: David Wilson. Even if Wilson doesn't become the next big thing, he is very likely to at least establish himself as a very competent NFL running back with explosive upside. When Brown comes back he will not only have to get into game shape, but he will also have to somehow angle for touches. This could prove to be difficult for a guy with marginal talent to begin with. All of this on top of his best case scenario being returning when the fantasy season is already two-thirds over? No thanks.
Honorable mention at running back goes to Mikel LeShoure (17.6%). He is the third stringer in Detroit, so even if Reggie Bush goes down, he is in line for the bad end of the carry split behind our old friend, Joique Bell. You can do better. Such as...
I won't waste your time with pontification when two of my esteemed colleagues already covered Bilal Powell (30.6%) and Mike Tolbert (16.8%) in detail. Suffice it to say, both are better options than a guy on crutches for the next two months.
Santana Moss is Old
Raise your hand if you got to the 14th round needing a fourth wide receiver and said, "Santana Moss is still decent." I know at least some of you went there, because he is somehow owned in 19.7% of leagues. Look, there isn't a whole lot of next level, NEP, YPA, or YPC discussion needed here. The fact is that Moss is a 34 year-old fifth wide receiver on a run-heavy team. He saw a career low 61 targets last year, a number he will be hard pressed to approach in 2013. The circumstances required for Moss to have value are about as likely to occur as my wife being able to peel me off the couch this coming Sunday. Without a crane, subpoena, crowbar, and a can of Crisco, it ain't happening.
Darrius Heyward-Bey (20.4%) gets no respect. Maybe it is the stone hands, poor route running, brutal NEP per target numbers (54th among 59 receivers with at least 75 targets in 2012), and inability to live up to expectations? Regardless of whether we love him, the Colts do. In this case, that is all that matters. The cold hard fact is that DHB is going to be on the field nearly every offensive snap to start the season. And as much as people are talking about the Colts dialing back their offense, we will not be seeing Luck as a 25 pass per game quarterback either. The quality of their defense and questionable health of their starting running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, will dictate that they throw it a ton. Last year the Colts number two receiver, Donnie Avery, saw 124 targets. Heyward-Bey could easily see a similar number. And if he does, he will end up as a not-unreasonable flex play.