- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2011

In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, it’s time to carve up fantasy football’s turkeys, those players who gobbled up the preseason hopes you had for them (and possibly your team) and have thus far turned out to be about as satisfying as an overcooked green bean casserole.

Actually, multiple turkeys is too much even for our National Day of Gluttony, so for a true Feast of Unmet Expectations, we’ll take one turkey and verbally slice him to pieces, while adding side dishes of subpar seasons to complete this Bounty of Bad Performances.

Its takes a real bird brain to be the fantasy football turkey, but Eagles quarterback Michael Vick fits the bill. Plenty of fantasy experts were enamored with Vick after what amounted to half of a good season. There was even talk he deserved to be the No. 1 overall pick, advice which amounted to fantasy malpractice (I’m looking at you, Dr. Berry). Given Vick’s track record of inconsistency and the fact his production dropped off significantly as last season wore on, I thought it was insane to pin your fantasy hopes on him. Among the many predictions I’ve made, my belief that Vick was overrated and wouldn’t stay healthy more than makes up for everything else I got wrong. Vick’s numbers are vindication enough (11 TDs, 11 INTs), but as a personal bonus (you know what I’m talking about), I’ve enjoyed watching Vick get the stuffing knocked out of him.

Among every worthy Thanksgiving spread is that 1A dish, and Titans running back Chris Johnson is the fantasy equivalent of a Thanksgiving ham. From a pure numbers standpoint (1 100-yard game, 2 TDs), Johnson is worse than Vick. But blowing a first-round pick on a running back comes with less risk. In most leagues, you start 2-3 running backs every week but just one QB, so the risk of the former is mitigated by sheer numbers. Put another way, bad ham on Thanksgiving is not as disappointing as bad turkey.

It’s fitting that the stuffing would depend on the turkey, so it’s no surprise Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson has struggled along with his quarterback. But the goodwill Jackson had built up by reporting to camp while fighting with management about a new contract has dried up as fast as his production. He’s caught 1 TD all year, and it got so bad last week that he was inactive for an embarrassing home loss to the Cardinals.

For most of this season, Browns running back Peyton Hillis has resembled a plateful of potatoes - a big lump that only moves if you make it. Early in the season, there was talk he and management were working on an extension. Then he sat out a game on his agent’s advice. Then he made sure to alienate any teammates still on the fence by taking off to Arkansas to get married in the middle of the week instead of staying in Cleveland to get treatment on a hamstring injury that has limited him to 211 yards and 2 TDs. The rest of the Browns having reached the boiling point, this one-time masher’s future doesn’t look bright.

It looks weird, but ends up much better than you expected. That describes the aforementioned green bean casserole, and the NFL version is Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Well, until this year. Rivers has had some good games and hasn’t been a total loss for fantasy owners. But his league-leading 15 INTs are the burnt skin you have to pick through to enjoy too little of a good thing. Ultimately, you’re left with a bad taste in your mouth.

I didn’t expect too much from Patriots receiver Chad Ochocinco, but he disappeared from fantasy relevance faster than a pumpkin pie at a Criss Angel Thanksgiving. A more fitting comparison, though, might be a slab of processed cranberry in a can, which has just 11 fewer receptions but has learned the New England playbook at a faster pace.

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