Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Here is a test for all you fantasy football owners. Which of these fantasy stars didn't finish in the top-10 at his position last year... Rashard Mendenhall, Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore, Larry Fitzgerald or Miles Austin?
It's a trick question, as none of them finished the year in the top-10 at their position.
And while all five of the aforementioned players are being selected in the first three rounds this year (ADP under 30), there are reasons that you shouldn't be part of the trend.
Mendenhall (current ADP of 8.3 according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com) was all the rage early last season as fantasy owners knew that the Steelers would have to rely on the running game with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suspended for the first four games. And Mendenhall came through, posting a career-best 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
But if we dive a bit deeper into the numbers, we see a different story.
In the first four games, Mendenhall averaged 22.3 rushing attempts, 102.7 yards and one touchdown per contest. Then "Big Ben" returned and for the remainder of the season Mendenhall averaged 19.6 carries and 71.8 yards and that included a game against the Buffalo Bills in late November in which he had 36 attempts and 151 yards.
With Roethlisberger ready for training camp, which "Mendenhall" do you think you are more likely to see? Given his ADP of 8.3, he's not likely to hit those lofty expectations.
Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, the Jaguars are as concerned as fantasy owners about their franchise running back with his bad knees. Though his rushing yards didn't take a big hit last year (1,391 to 1,324), in the red zone when a running back needs to drive across the goal line, MJD was "missing in action." He scored just seven touchdowns in all, down from 16 two years ago, and only three of the scores were from rushes inside the five-yard line.
A couple of weeks ago, "MJD" acknowledged that the Jaguars were "already kind of scared of my knee" and "anxious to throw Rashad (Jennings) in for more carries." That's huge news that apparently hasn't made it's way to fantasy owners who are still selecting the Jacksonville running back in the first round (ADP 10.2).
For Gore (ADP 16.0), it's all about health. He's healthy now, at least according to his agent, but can he stay that way for an entire season? The last time he played a complete 16-game schedule was in 2006 when he ran for 1,695 yards and caught 61 balls for 485 yards. Since then, he hasn't cracked 1,200 yards in any season. The team has Anthony Dixon on the roster and drafted Kendall Hunter out of Oklahoma State, who NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell said "reminded him of Ray Rice." Selecting Gore in the second round is a big gamble.
Fitzgerald (ADP 23.2) might have had his best season last year, but his numbers didn't show it. That will happen when you are catching passes from the likes of Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall and Richard Bartel. Fitzgerald dropped just three balls all season, and put up 1,137 yards and six touchdowns. Still, until the quarterback situation gets straightened out, you can't expect Fitzgerald's fantasy statistics to climb.
You might think Austin (ADP 29.7) is primed to have a big season now that Tony Romo is back under center, but it may not happen the way you think. Austin is the Cowboys' deep threat and capable of scoring from anywhere on the field, but with the development of Dez Bryant, Austin probably won't get as many of the red zone looks as in past seasons. Bryant caught seven touchdowns in 2010 and five came from inside the 20-yard line. He plays bigger than his 6'2" frame and is an inviting target for any quarterback. Austin will still get plenty of yards, but double-digit touchdowns is questionable.
Each of the five players above seems to have limited upside and therefore you must be careful not to overpay for their services.