Scout NFL Roundtable: Top Players Tumbling?

Putting up impressive numbers in one season doesn't automatically translate into another big season. Just ask any NFL general manager -- or fantasy football owner across the nation if you need confirmation. Our NFL team experts share their insight on who they thing could take a tumble this year.

"Who are the top players on your roster whose production might suddenly drop this year?"

That's the question we posed to our Scout NFL team experts. Find out what they had to say about it in this exclusive feature!

Todd Korth,
Green Bay Packers

Donald Driver is a Pro Bowl receiver who is coming off a career season with 92 catches for 1,295 yards and eight touchdowns. He's had three straight 1,200-plus yards receiving campaigns, but he is entering his ninth NFL season. Though he keeps himself in excellent shape, he will be double- and triple-covered constantly, in 2007, which will affect his numbers -- especially if younger receivers like Greg Jennings, Ruvell Martin and James Jones get open because of the focus on Driver.

Jon Scott,
New England Patriots

Reche Caldwell is the top candidate who will see his production level drop in New England. The free agent acquisition from 2006 became Tom Brady's No. 1 receiver by default after the team failed to re-sign Deion Branch. 

Caldwell managed a career-best 61 receptions for 760 yards to lead all Patriots' receivers. But the addition of Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker and Kelly Washington will put the heat on Caldwell just to make the final roster, let alone match his 2006 season.

Asante Samuel, who turned in a career-best 10 interceptions last year, should see a decline in production. If Samuel holds out, he'll suffer because he won't be ready for the season, or may even miss some games. If he reports in time for the season, teams will likely go after whomever is across from him. Either way it will be hard for Samuel to repeat his 2006 success.

Brad Keller,
Arizona Cardinals

The two players on the Cardinals most likely to see a decline in production are Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.  New head coach Ken Whisenhunt has never had two receivers go over 1,000 yards in the same season in his system, something that Boldin and Fitzgerald did in 2005 and would have easily duplicated in 2006 had Fitzgerald not missed three games.  

There will be a new emphasis on the running game under Whisenhunt and, hopefully, Arizona will not be playing from behind as much this season, which would limit both receivers' numbers in garbage time.

Barry McBride,
Cleveland Browns

Browns DT Ted Washington
(Mark Duncan/AP)
The first area concern is the team's defensive line. Ancient warrior Ted Washington (39) is edging closer to the end of his career and defensive stalwart Orpheus Roye (33) is coming from off a poor season due to injury. As with many players his age,  there are questions about whether Roye's lower production is a one-year blip due to injury or simply a sign of decline. The Browns hope that the answer is the former, because the they have few options behind Roye at right defensive end.

Another position the long-suffering team's fans and fantasy players need to watch is running back. While Jamal Lewis has looked great in workouts so far, displaying tremendous quickness and no hesitation getting to the hole, his yards per carry have decayed steadily over the past three years. This is generally one of the early signs of a player reaching the end of his career. 

Did the Browns sign Lewis in time for a revival of his career or simply get a washed-up back who will do less at running back than Reuben Droughns? Stay tuned.

John Crist,
Chicago Bears

Tight end Desmond Clark enjoyed a career year in 2006, catching 45 passes for 626 yards and 6 touchdowns. Quarterback Rex Grossman was at his best when Clark was heavily involved in the offensive attack, but with the addition of first-rounder Greg Olsen from Miami, Clark's numbers will most likely take a dip this season. Although nobody can deny the fact that Clark is a good player, Olsen is simply a better athlete and offers more big-play ability.

Clark will continue to be the starter in Chicago, but offensive coordinator Ron Turner has already created a package for Olsen and lined him up everywhere from tight end to H-back to fullback during mini camp and OTAs. The Bears will most likely feature a generous amount of two-tight sets, as well. Olsen could be the next in a long line of great Hurricane tight ends, so look for him to eat into Clark's productivity to some degree.

Michael Lombardo,
San Diego Chargers

LaDainian Tomlinson's numbers are almost certain to drop, as there is nowhere to go but down from the 31 touchdowns and 2,323 yards from scrimmage he posted a season ago. Michael Turner should see some more touches as the Chargers attempt to justify his $2.4 million price tag.

Also, no one should count on Nate Kaeding making a return trip to the Pro Bowl. His 2006 numbers were inflated by kicking for the league's highest scoring team, but his confidence appears to be at an all-time low. He missed field goals in both of the Chargers' regular-season defeats and -- for the second time in three years – he missed a clutch kick in the postseason that would have extended San Diego's season.

Doug Farrar,
Seattle Seahawks

After a 2006 season in which the starting quarterback, running back and top receiver from the year before all saw their output plummet due to injuries and other concerns, it's difficult to point out another marquee Seahawks player whose totals could be headed downward in 2007. If Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander and Bobby Engram return to reasonable facsimiles of their 2005 totals, the team will be in good shape. 

On defense, end Bryce Fisher might see fewer reps as youngsters Darryl Tapp and Baraka Atkins get time on the field. Other than that, I think the Seahawks saw such a downturn in production in so many areas last year, you'd almost have to point to a set of completely unpredictable injuries as a reason for further decline.

Matthew Postins,
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The one player who could suffer a big hit in terms of production in 2007 is wide receiver Joey Galloway. His production the past two seasons -- 145 receptions, 2,344 yards and 17 touchdowns -- rivals his production during his four seasons in Seattle. He's never had a better two-year stretch in terms of receptions of 20 yards or more (36) and first downs (101). 

But Galloway is 35 and he must be handled with care due to his hamstrings. He regularly practices just once a day during training camp. Plus, he'll be catching passes from 37-year old Jeff Garcia. If Garcia gets hurt, then it's likely second-year man Bruce Gradkowski, who struggled to get the ball to Galloway last year will step in.  Physical breakdowns by either Garcia or Galloway could spell a downturn in Galloway's career resurgence.

Michael John Schon,
Denver Broncos

Broncos WR Rod Smith
(Jack Dempsey/AP)
A huge question mark for the Denver Broncos heading into 2007 is at the wide receiver position, with thirty-seven year old Rod Smith coming off the worst season of his career, due in part to a severe hip injury. Although the hip was surgically repaired in February, the question remains whether or not the fourteen-year veteran has enough left in the tank to fend off second-year standout Brandon Marshall, who many consider to be the leading candidate to take over the starting role.

While not as predominate as Smith, another Bronco finding himself in an uphill battle is former University of Arizona running back Mike Bell, who broke out a very respectable 677-yards on 157 carries, playing alongside starter Tatum Bell. With Bell packaged in the Dre Bly trade with Detroit during the offseason, the Broncos look to have a shift in philosophy, moving newly acquired Travis Henry into the featured back position and limiting Bell's carries to short yardage situations. While he may prove effective over the long haul, Bell's value on the fantasy market will undoubtedly drop severely.

Denis Savage,
Oakland Raiders

The Raiders offense was so anemic last year that it would be improbable to see any production drop.  As the only team in the league not to surpass 210 points offensively (168),  the only way to go is up in all categories.

We turn to the defense where Warren Sapp had a renaissance of sorts, tracking and wrapping the quarterback up 10 times last year, his highest total since the 2000 campaign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Expecting that kind of production from the 34-year-old veteran may be a bit much to ask.  Also, Nnamdi Asomugha came into his fourth season without an interception to his credit and picked off eight in 2006.  If the Oakland offense can control the ball more, the odds of Asomugha coming close to equaling his impressive feat last year will be slim.

Charlie Bernstein,
Jacksonville Jaguars

The top player on the Jaguars whose production may take a hit in 2007 could be Maurice Jones-Drew.  Jones-Drew surprised many in the league last season when the second-round pick ran over and around defenses en route to 2,250 total yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns.  Since Jacksonville played without their starting quarterback for most of 2006, they instantly became a run-first team, and Jones-Drew flourished with all the extra touches.  The second-year player will not only have to share the backfield with a healthy Fred Taylor in 2007, but also with Greg Jones as well. 

In 2007, teams will be keying on stopping the Jaguars' third-ranked rushing attack, and Maurice Jones-Drew is likely to garner attention every time he steps on the field.  With quarterback Byron Leftwich returning from injury, and an infusion of talent at the wide receiver positions, the Jaguars will likely throw the football considerably more and that should take away some opportunities for Jones-Drew to carry the ball, and subsequently score touchdowns. 

Alain Poupart,
Miami Dolphins

This actually is a very difficult question to answer for the Dolphins, particularly from a fantasy football standpoint, because none of their returning offensive players really had great numbers in 2006. That would include wide receivers Chris Chambers and Marty Booker, and could apply as well to running back Ronnie Brown. Brown did reach 1,000 yards rushing in his second season, but he missed some time because of injuries and he's likely to be able to duplicate -- and probably surpass -- his 2006 stats.

If we take it outside the realm of fantasy football, the logical answer to this question would have to be Jason Taylor, if only because he had such a monstrous 2006 season. Taylor is too good not to put up numbers again in 2007, but he'll be hard-pressed to match his two interception returns for touchdowns as well as his 10 forced fumbles and 11 passes defensed.

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