After extensive research, countless interviews, and hours of data comparison and analysis, I am proud to present the 5 most disappointing players from the 2011 Fantasy football season.  To keep up the academic integrity of my last piece, allow me to qualify the criteria upon which this list was determined.  

Since the conclusion of the Fantasy season, I have surveyed every Fanager I have encountered to get a firsthand look into their 2011 Fantasy experience with individual players.  I wanted to learn things that only someone who has been closely monitoring the players for a full season would know (not to mention, it alleviates some of my workload…).  Factored into this equation are preseason projections as compared to an individual’s actual performance throughout the season.

Another important consideration for judging a player’s Fantasy effectiveness is by examining the way he was acquired to see if he exceeded the value of his roster spot.  In other words, if you were given the chance to rebuild your 2011 roster knowing what you know now, would you do it all the same?  Who would you reconsider drafting/trading/adding/starting when you did?  

It is important to point out how I considered injuries in this decision because injuries typically make (or more often break) a Fanager’s season, and with the consolidated prep time due to the lock out, this year was no exception.  This is one of the issues that makes this questionnaire-style approach to Fantasy analysis so critical because the Fanager’s subjective opinion of the individual is the tool for measuring a player’s success, or lack thereof in this case.  I wanted to know, in your personal experience, which players left you feeling like they just didn’t bring their “A-game?”  Who dropped the ball when it was all on the line (besides Wes Welker…that’s right – me and Giselle said it)?  If you had to blame someone for your team’s misfortunes, who would the bulk of responsibility fall on?

Consistent with the Top Surprises, I relied on you as Fanagers to weigh both the tangible and intangible aspects to decide, and the Top 5 Fantasy Football Duds From 2011 are:

5. Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh Steelers – Running Back) You hate to see this guy on here because you know it wasn’t for lack of trying, but unfortunately, being the 12th player picked overall warrants it.  Make no mistake, Mendenhall’s 9 touchdowns and just under 1,000 yards are nothing to scoff at, but you need more than 9.3 average points from your number 1 Running Back.  What’s worse is that we may not get to see Mendenhall, who underwent ACL surgery and is not expected to play in 2012, redeem himself anytime soon.

4. Peyton Hillis (Cleveland Browns – Running Back) I didn’t like him from the get-go this year, but others were surprised to see the ‘Madden Curse’ strike again this year, as the cover boy of its most recent edition churned out an abysmal season following the video game’s release.  Hillis averaged the 25th pick of the Fantasy draft and the 13th Running Back chosen.  Hillis owners were flying high in Week 2 when he posted 94 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns and 21 Fantasy points against the Colts, but the touchdown well would run dry all the way until Week 15 when Hillis scored his third and final touchdown of the season against the Cardinals. This guy was another player whose owners felt like personal contract negotiations or otherwise conscious personal decisions negatively impacted their performance on the field.  Not to mention, he gave Fanagers a fit setting their postseason starting rosters and brought down those who fell to the temptation of putting him in.
3. Michael Vick (Philidelphia Eagles – Quarterback) Which of the following names doesn’t belong: Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick, Drew Brees, or Tom Brady?  Clearly, Vick was the odd man out of the elite Quarterback bracket this season, and, unfortunately for his owners, he came at a high price.  Vick averaged the 7th overall pick in the draft, which is 2nd among Quarterbacks, going behind Rodgers, but before Brees and Brady.  It was a hard fall from grace for Vick (and consequently for the Eagles and Fanagers), who led all players in Fantasy points scored in the 2010 season.  Depending on when and how you acquired Vick, this season can vary in degrees of devastation.  I had him in one of my leagues as my Keeper and last round pick, so the backlash was less than if I had drafted him in the first round; however, I did also have to draft a back up in Eli Manning in later rounds.  While Eli came at a great value, the combined worth of the 2 roster spots allocated the Quarterbacks was a huge hurdle I could not overcome in a league this deep.  I will say there is an upside – it’s called next season where Vick will still be my Keeper making it rain all over the last round (hopefully).

2. Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans – Running Back) This guy has got some nerve and is a large part of the reason why I made special allowances for injury consideration (although I do respect his North Carolina ties as he is a product of ECU).  This guy holds out for a gigantic contract worth $56 million over six years which he ultimately gets only to be hampered by obvious conditioning issues he caused himself during the contract holdout.  Come on, man!  Not only that, but he cost his owners the 2nd overall pick in the draft only to come up a little short of the NFL record 2,509 scrimmage yards he set in the 2009 season.  To add insult to injury, literally, this guy wouldn’t stop making noise everywhere except on the field all season and would be just productive enough to leave Fanagers in turmoil trying to predict whether the next week would be a blow out or a blow up, usually ending unfavorably for those who owned him.  The icing on the cake was his marginal performance during the Fantasy postseason, especially considering his prior acknowledgment of his role in Fantasy football (although specifically more flattering performances).  CJ2K posted an unimpressive 147 Fantasy points, averaging just 9.8 points per game. Not what you want to see from the 2nd overall pick.

1. Indianapolis Colts – All Positions That’s right – every single one of them (well, in terms of Fantasy relevancy, anyway).  This ghastly joke of an attempt at an NFL season by everyone other than the rehabilitating (or not, depending on who you ask) Peyton Manning sunk countless Fantasy ships this season.  There were few scenarios over the course of the entire season in which starting a Colt would prove beneficial.  I think it is fair to say that many expected the Colts to be average minus Peyton Manning, but the fallout was much more than anyone anticipated, both in real life and in Fantasy leagues.  

First let’s address the obvious – if you don’t play Fantasy, you might be thinking, “Why would anyone have drafted Peyton knowing at the start he would probably miss a significant portion of the season?,” and there are a few answers.  One explanation is that the Fanager was using an outdated draft kit or other source of information that did not take into account the severity of the developing questions concerning Peyton Manning’s health at the time.  Another reason some people drafted him was because they thought he was worth the gamble, either to use him as a backup later on or possibly a starter late in the season if he came back for the Playoffs as the Colts had hoped.  Some seriously prepared Fanagers even drafted him in the later rounds of this year’s draft to use him as their Keeper for next year’s draft.

Whatever the reason behind it, Peyton Manning averaged the 80th overall pick of the draft, this year’s Fantasy draft.  On average, Peyton was picked ahead of guys like Joe Flacco, Matt Stafford, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and, oh yeah…Eli.  Peyton, who didn’t even come close to taking a snap the entire season, averaged the 11th pick out of all Quarterbacks in the 2011 Fantasy draft, finishing just in front of his brother Eli, the reigning Super Bowl MVP who averaged the 12th pick of all Quarterbacks.  If this Colt who didn’t even play can have that big on an impact on Fantasy squads, imagine the collective toll of the damage done by the following names, all of which were among the top 200 players to be drafted on average in 2011:

Reggie Wayne – Wide Receiver: 47th average overall pick, 7.1 average Fantasy points scored per game

Dallas Clark – Tight End: 63rd average overall pick, 2.6 average Fantasy points scored per game

Joseph Addai – Running Back: 89th average overall pick, 2.9 average Fantasy points scored per game

Austin Collie – Wide Receiver: 97th average overall pick, 3.2 average Fantasy points scored per game

Pierre Garcon – Wide Receiver: 114th average overall pick, 7.6 average Fantasy points scored per game

Adam Vinatieri – Kicker: 141st average overall pick, 6.3 average Fantasy points scored per game

That’s hurt all over your roster, no matter how you swing it, but that’s just the way the right knee crumbles.