Offseason Extra: The good and bad of 2012
A lot can be learned from looking back at what we thought back in August. Our Dave Richard shares some of his best and worst calls from the 2012 season.
In a perfect world, Fantasy owners would dominate their drafts, go undefeated during the regular season and beat every playoff opponent by 75 points en route to a championship.
But this isn't a perfect world and football isn't an exact science. Thus, Fantasy Football proves to be unpredictable year after year. That's why we love it. There's plenty of proof of our mistakes (and good calls) when taking a look back at big predictions from before the season.
Here are five good predictions and five bad predictions made by yours truly from 2012, along with what I learned from each of them.
Five we got right
, RB, Redskins
2012 projection: 633 rush yards, four touchdowns; 130 receiving yards
2012 stats: 1,613 rush yards, 13 touchdowns; 77 receiving yards
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 136 overall (Round 12)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 12 overall (Round 1)
I remember tweeting about Morris in late August, and then subsequently tweeting a simple little hashtag just to keep him in the back of my followers' minds. When I saw Morris, I saw a back who could run in Mike Shanahan's scheme perfectly. That was enough for me to invest a late pick in him, and if I was going to do that then the least I could do is suggest to my readers to do the same. Never did I think he would finish second in rushing yards in 2012, but it's proof that preseason games are worth watching and being familiar with how coaches think can pay off. I suspect Morris will regress a bit in 2013, but there isn't a single owner who would pass on him by the middle of Round 2 anymore. Those who spent a late pick on #ALF will always have a soft spot in their hearts for him. I know I will.
, RB, Lions
2012 projection: 669 rush yards, seven touchdowns; 124 receiving yards
2012 stats: 798 rush yards, nine touchdowns; 214 receiving yards
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 113 overall (Round 9)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 50 overall (Round 5)
Many were scared to draft Leshoure because of the injury and subsequent surgery he had last year. A few didn't want to touch him because he was going to open 2012 with a two-game suspension. But if you assumed that the Lions would score some rushing touchdowns, Leshoure figured to be in the mix. The fact that Jahvid Best wasn't coming back, Kevin Smith wouldn't last and the Lions not adding another back in the draft further built the case for Leshoure. Now the comparisons to Michael Turner will be made: A plodder with big touchdown potential. Leshoure has a little more pop than Turner does now and has that same potential for lots of touchdowns so long as he shares the field with a dynamic pass attack. That same pass attack could take touches out of his hands, but he still should measure up as a No. 2 rusher next year.
, TE, Falcons
2012 projection: 68 catches, 761 receiving yards and seven touchdowns
2012 stats: 93 catches, 930 yards and eight touchdowns
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 93 overall (Round 8)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: If he plays, No. 77 overall (Round 7)
Why in the world did you pass on him on Draft Day? Because he was old? Because he had just 875 yards and seven touchdowns the season before? No one believed Gonzalez would be close to 1,000 yards with eight scores but at the very least he could have been considered "safe." He turned out to be safe all right, finishing as the third-best tight end in Fantasy in 2012. If you can't get a tight end with sick playmaking ability, at least look for one that shares the field with very good wide receivers and a more-than-capable passer. That lends itself to lots of targets (124 for Gonzo) in single coverage and good numbers to go along with it.
, WR, Broncos
2012 projection: 76 catches, 1,007 receiving yards and seven touchdowns
2012 stats: 85 catches, 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 60 overall (Round 5)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 46 overall (Round 4)
For a while there this one looked sort of bad -- there was a five-game stretch where Decker didn't get even 10 Fantasy points per game. But the season ended well with touchdowns in three straight and six or more receptions in five straight -- including the playoffs -- which made Decker's numbers look great at the end. They weren't so bad at the beginning either (484 yards and five touchdowns after seven games). Now the focus will be on whether or not he can keep this up and become more consistent in 2013. There are a lot of factors in play but assuming the Broncos' offense isn't changed this offseason, you should expect another solid year from Decker.
, WR, Cowboys
2012 projection: 68 catches, 885 receiving yards and six touchdowns
2012 stats: 66 catches, 943 receiving yards and six touchdowns
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 73 overall (Round 7)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 95 overall (Round 8)
Austin's injury history was the primary reason for me labeling him a bust candidate. Obviously I believed he'd be a capable Fantasy receiver but his average draft position was quite high (59th) when I wrote he'd be a bust and he subsequently tumbled heading into the season because of an injury. Thing is, Austin started the season strong with four touchdowns and 561 yards in his first seven games. Then things went south for him and he scored just twice more over his final nine. And of course, he ended the year with an injury. Now there's talk the Cowboys will ask him to re-do his deal to keep from cutting him. It would be nice if he stayed in Dallas with an offense and quarterback he knows, but it appears he's just too injury-riddled to keep being considered a reliable Fantasy receiver.
Five we got wrong
, RB, Falcons
2012 projection: 1,041 rush yards, 10 touchdowns; 128 receiving yards
2012 stats: 800 rush yards, 10 touchdowns; 128 receiving yards, receiving touchdown
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 31 overall (Round 3)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 87 overall (Round 8)
Looking back, owning Turner in Fantasy wasn't necessarily bad. Just frustrating. Finishing as the 17th best running back in standard leagues, he had two games with over 100 rush yards -- and nine with under 50. He had six games with 15-plus carries and only got past 20 carries twice. He had under 11 carries twice, but managed to score in those single-digit carry games. See, it's that ability to score that led me to believe in Turner in the first place and he came through with his fourth straight season with double-digit touchdowns. But the Falcons were true to their word about limiting Turner, and the 928 total yards he gained came in inconsistent clumps. With five-year lows in first-down/end zone runs, 20-plus-yard runs and rushing average (3.6), it's clear Turner needed to score to stay relevant in Fantasy. That relevancy is going to keep dwindling as he moves forward.
, RB, Bills
2012 projection: 540 rush yards, two touchdowns; 195 receiving yards, two receiving touchdowns
2012 stats: 1,244 rush yards, six touchdowns; 459 receiving yards, two receiving touchdowns
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 106 overall (Round 9)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 11 overall (Round 1)
If you had told me Spiller would have started nine games and had 15-plus touches in 10 games then I probably would have given him better projections. The injuries to veteran Fred Jackson opened the door for Spiller to showcase himself and once he got that opportunity in Week 1 he never gave it up. Playing in 16 games for the second year in a row, Spiller showed he could handle a big workload (250 touches, enough to finish 21st at the position). There's a new coach in Buffalo and a new offensive scheme to go with it, but Spiller should remain heavily featured in what should be an up-tempo system. After seeing him make many big plays last year, the expectations are higher than ever for Spiller, even if he is sharing with Jackson again in 2013.
, RB, Bengals
2012 projection: 1,049 rush yards, nine touchdowns; 92 receiving yards
2012 stats: 1,094 rush yards, six touchdowns; 104 receiving yards
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 55 overall (Round 5)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 64 overall (Round 6)
A lot of people were fans of Green-Ellis (like me), while a lot of people didn't want anything to do with him. I liked his potential as the primary rusher for the Bengals, and that's a role he filled admirably with 278 carries over 15 games (he sat out Week 17). By virtue of those carries he fell into production, totaling a career-best 1,094 yards. He also set a personal best with seven runs of 20-plus yards, which isn't great but still worth taking note of. Where he failed was finding the end zone as he scored just six times. Andy Dalton had four rushing touchdowns, two from the 1-yard line, and Green-Ellis was also rebuffed on a number of other attempts. There's room for improvement but there's also room for company in the backfield, which could mean a reduced workload for Green-Ellis in 2013.
, WR, Texans
2012 projection: 1,132 receiving yards, eight touchdowns
2012 stats: 1,598 receiving yards, four touchdowns
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 25 overall (Round 3)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 25 overall (Round 3)
My biggest concern with Johnson was him staying healthy for the full season. Sixteen regular-season games and a couple of postseason matchups later, he's still going strong. There were some lean times: He had one 100-yard game in his first seven with 444 receiving yards. Then he kicked down the door starting with a home game against the Bills and finished the year with four 100-yard efforts and a mammoth 273-yard game in his final nine. Johnson was one of two receivers with at least 180 targets who caught over 65 percent of his passes. After another early playoff exit, the focus in Houston has turned to the passing game with its star receiver not questioned at all. Matt Schaub isn't going anywhere but there is a belief the Texans will upgrade their receiving corps with another option besides Johnson. That shouldn't hurt Johnson's numbers too much. With his health a non-issue and his skills anything but declining, it's going to be OK to roll with Johnson again in 2013.
Robert Griffin III
, QB, Redskins
2012 projection: 3,985 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 18 interceptions; 407 rush yards, four rush touchdowns
2012 stats: 3,200 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions; 815 rush yards, seven rush touchdowns
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 83 overall (Round 7)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: If healthy, No. 68 overall (Round 6)
Injuries were part of the risk with RG3, as were questions about his development, but neither really became an issue until late in the season. For the first half of the year there was no doubt Griffin was ultra-productive, and he did it without the benefit of his best receiver and he did it while averaging 27.8 pass attempts per game. The excitement level was off the charts with RG3, even when he had just two games with over 20 Fantasy points in his final eight games, until he tore up his knee in the playoffs. When he'll play -- and how he'll play -- remains to be seen, but even if he doesn't come back with the same willingness to run that he had pre-ACL tear, he at least proved he had the arm to be great. Expect the Redskins to give him better weapons in the pass game and better depth along the offensive line, affording him the opportunity to be an excellent quarterback again once he is cleared to play.