The so-called Madden Curse… not to be confused with the old Campbell’s Soup Curse has become notorious in football circles. As irrational as the concept of a curse may be, players do seem to have a high probability of having a bad year or of suffering an injury when they hit the cover of Madden or the can of soup. However, this probably has more to do with natural performance tendencies rather than anything supernatural. A player generally must have an extraordinary season to earn such a recognition. In a phenomenon something akin to a statistical “regression to the mean,” a particular player’s performance is likely to tend back towards that player’s career average following a breakout year. Perhaps this is from the wear and tear that often comes during an extraordinary season. Mental fatigue and distraction from newfound stardom are likely factors. Such a season may also be the result of all factors simply aligning perfectly for a player in a manner that is unlikely to repeat.
There are several players that might be due for a bit of a downturn after ridiculously good seasons last year. While I certainly don’t anticipate total collapses from these players, it would be difficulat to expect them to perform at or above the same level as last year. Accordingly, if they are being drafted based on their performance from last year, they may not be bargains. Here are a few players that could be due for a bit of a backslide.
1. Arian Foster – How does a guy go from barely clearing 500 yards his senior year in college, to being an undrafted practice squad player, to having one of the most dominant fantasy seasons in history in his first full year in the NFL? The probability of that happening is still mind-boggling. The odds of Foster even breaking through on his own roster were pretty high… let alone breaking through to dominate the league. Between the extreme workload and the sudden pressure of newfound stardom, it will be hard not to backslide at least a bit.
2. Peyton Hillis – For those of you that read my earlier article questioning Peyton Hillis’ low draft position, you might be confused to see him on this list. I do believe that Hills could be susceptible to a some backslide… but I do not believe it will be enough to justify the fall he is seeing in many drafts (particularly when Arian Foster appears to be seeing no draft slide at all).
3. Michael Vick – Last year, Vick was extremely hungry. He had lost his reputation, his riches, and his mojo. He apparently used that to propel him to ridiculous fantasy heights during the time that he was healthy… averaging over 28 fantasy points per start in standard formats. He certainly still has the talent around him… but it will be interesting to see if he can avoid injury and maintain the drive that led him back to the top.
4. Dwayne Bowe – Dwayne Bowe is a very talented WR and I have little doubt that he will put up solid yardage totals again this year. However, he erupted for 15 TD’s, more than twice his previous career high and 3 more than the next closest player in the NFL. Moreover, all but two of these TD’s came during a 7 week midseason hot streak, with a drop off at season’s end.
5. Brandon Lloyd – Brandon Lloyd basically doubled his career highs for both TD’s and yards in his eighth season in the league. Hmmm….. what are the chances of that happening again in a more conservative offense. I’m thinking not too spectacular.
6. Sebastian Janikowski – Yes, I’m including a kicker. He scored roughly 50 more points (real world points) than his average for the previous five years. (Yet another reason not to draft a kicker.) He could, however, sneak up on some people in autopick drafts as one of the first kickers off the board.
Dis-Honorable Mention: BenJarvus Green-Ellis; Stevie Johnson; Jamaal Charles