In a tradition folklore says began when Abraham Lincoln spared the life of "Jack," a gobbler his 10-year-old son, Tad, befriended in 1863, several U.S. presidents have pardoned a turkey just before Thanksgiving. Last year, President Obama rescued Apple, a 45-pound white turkey, from the butcher's block. This week, a pair of Butterballs from Minnesota are expected to win a permanent vacation to Mount Vernon.
If the feathered friends are named "Hillis," "Johnson" or "Mike," spurned fantasy owners are hoping the Commander-in-Chief won't offer clemency.
All-Turkey candidates Peyton Hillis, Chris Johnson, Mike Williams, among others, deserve to be stuffed, cooked and smothered in gravy. Each, who had high expectations entering 2011, have underwhelmed massively, causing nothing but heartache for those that invested in them.
[Related: NFL Week 11 Least Valuable Players]
With trade deadlines in most leagues expired, many fanatics, especially those in shallow formats, face a tough decision: Cut a player prized on draft day for an upstart like Kevin Smith or hold steady hoping the underachiever will eventually wake up from his tryptophan-induced coma?
Here are the unfortunate fowls that make up this year's All-Turkey team.
Michael Vick, Phi, QB
Rank Difference (Draft day to current (in points/game and by position)): -6
Remaining Schedule: NE, at Sea, at Mia, NYJ, at Dal
Forgive or Forget: Forgive. Though he hasn't been a complete bust, Vick, crazily taken No. 1 in thousands of leagues, has definitely failed to live up to mammoth expectations. Now handicapped by broken ribs, he, like the Eagles collectively, is covered in uncertainty. Still, he's run the ball with classic explosiveness and consistency, averaging 59.4 rushing yards per game. His dual scoring ability combined with Philly's porous defense should benefit his totals down the homestretch, especially in potential shootouts against New England and Dallas. However, because of his hazardous style and the Eagles' poor pass-blocking, he remains a significant injury risk. But, outside the Jets and Cowboys, he has a rather favorable schedule. The Pats, 'Hawks, and Dolphins all rank inside the top 15 in fantasy points allowed to passers. If Jeremy Maclin rebounds quickly from a separated shoulder and DeSean Jackson actually plays like someone who wants to get paid, he should finish as an upper-tiered QB1 in 12-teamers during the most critical portion of the season.
Chris Johnson, Ten, RB
Rank Difference: -23
Remaining Schedule: TB, at Buf, NO, at Ind, Jac,
Forgive or Forget: Forgive. Wildly inconsistent, Johnson has experienced more peaks and valleys in recent weeks than Herman Cain in the polls. When matched against meek competition, he, for the most part, has resembled the dynamite, multipurpose rusher everyone expected him to be. In Week 10, for example, Captain Quick trounced the Panthers for a season-high 174 total yards and a touchdown. But remove that effort from his resume and the former rush king is practically a pauper. Sunday's woeful 28 yards on 15 touches in Atlanta reaffirmed his beggar status. In total, he's only surpassed double-digits in a game four times, one less time than part-timer Ben Tate. However, despite his seemingly incurable case of suckitis, it would be wise for owners to forgive CJ. His remaining slate is downright delicious. Since Week 6, Tampa (1), Buffalo (4), New Orleans (7) and Indy (2) all rank inside the top seven in points allowed to rushers. Despite the cool performance in Hotlanta, Mike Munchak is still confident the ground game is finally coming together. If the Titans O-line can merely move hills instead of mountains the rest of the way, Johnson will be a key cog on many championship rosters. Stay the course.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pit, RB
Rank Difference: -12
Remaining Schedule: at KC, Cin, Cle, at SF, StL
Forgive or Forget: Forgive. Mendenhall, one of the elite producers in virtual pigskin last year, has become the T.G.I. Friday's of fantasy, a painfully mediocre product that doesn't offer much satisfaction. Like the aforementioned Johnson, the Steeler has managed just four 10+ point fantasy games this year. More surprisingly, he's eclipsed 20 carries only once in nine games. His reduced role along with a murderous schedule, nagging injuries and ineffective offensive line have crippled his fantasy value, though the rusher would probably tell you a government conspiracy is to blame. No doubt it's been a disappointing season for the ex-Illini, but he still could save face. With Ben Roethlisberger ailed by a broken thumb on his throwing hand, Bruce Arians, who's called "pass" 54.9 percent of the time this year, may adhere to a more conservative approach. Upcoming clashes against Cincy and the league's stingiest run defense, San Francisco, are daunting, but Kansas City, Cleveland and the Lambs aren't. The three teams combined have surrendered 4.7 yards per carry and 125.8 rushing yards per game to RBs this season. Deck the Mendenhall.
Mike Williams, TB, WR
Rank Difference: -48
Remaining Schedule: at Ten, Car, at Jac, Dal, at Car
Forgive or Forget: Forget. Regurgitated cranberry sauce. That best summarizes Right Coast Mike's forgettable season. Though 13th at his position in targets per game, he ranks outside the top 50 in per-game output. Josh Freeman is partially to blame, but, similar to Roddy White, a nasty case of the dropsies combined with poor execution inside the red zone best explain the Buc's horrific sophomore slump. On the year, he's posted just a 54.2 catch percentage. After his stirring 7-83-1 performance at Green Bay Sunday, Williams owners may feel giddy about his rest of season prospects. But his best game of the year was more a byproduct of Green Bay's sketchy secondary than the receiver rediscovering his mojo. Expect him to crawl, not sprint, to the finish line. Unfavorable matchups with corners Cortland Finnegan, Chris Gamble (twice), Derek Cox and Terance Newman are in the offing. According to Pro Football Focus, each corner ranks inside the top 25 in overall coverage. Three months ago it would've seemed nutty, but Williams' 14.3-point tally Week 11 was likely his zenith. Tab him WR4 material in 12-teamers moving forward.
Roddy White, Atl, WR
Rank Difference: -23
Remaining Schedule: Min, at Hou, at Car, Jac, at NO
Forgive or Forget: Forget.White may be the presence of all colors, but in fantasy it's devoid of points. Routinely lost in the shuffle, the popular early round pick simply hasn't been himself this season. To explain his sharp decline, analysts have tossed out theories ranging from a hidden injury to the impact of Julio Jones. But, according to the not-so-Hot Roddy, "dropped balls" and a collective lack of "chemistry" on offense are to blame, a true bunch of Mularkey. Both assessments are accurate. White has one less botched pass through 10 games than he did in 16 last year. And Mularkey has indeed struggled in the play-calling department. With the weapons Atlanta has, its an offense, which ranks 16th in the league in points per game, that should be in the upper-echelon alongside scoring giants Green Bay, New Orleans and New England. In Week 11, White picked up the slack with Julio in street clothes, hauling in seven catches for 147 yards, both season highs. Facing a depleted Minnesota secondary Week 12, he could again post standout numbers. But his slumbering side could reappear in future battles against Houston, Carolina (White: 5-2-21-0 vs. Panthers in Week 6) and Jacksonville. With next week the exception, bank on him being more of a back-end WR2 than sure-fire WR1 the rest of the way.
Antonio Gates, SD, TE
Rank Difference: -7
Remaining Schedule: Den, at Jac, Buf, Bal, at Det
Forgive or Forget: Forget. All Antonio wants for Christmas: a personal foot masseuse. Plagued by nagging foot injuries the past couple years, Gates has only occasionally flashed the dominate, All-Pro skill set that once terrorized defensive coordinators. It's fair to assume he will never play at full-speed again. Still, a 75 percent Gates is better than most tight ends. However, the Bolt hasn't played up to his No. 1 TE billing. He's only trotted out of the tunnel seven times this season, reaching the 10-point mark thrice. Gullible owners may jump back on the bandwagon after his 4-64-1 line in Chicago, but, entering Week 11, no defense had given up more fantasy points to TEs than the Bears. Of his remaining opponents, only Buffalo and Jacksonville stimulate the senses. Denver, Baltimore and Detroit all rank in the top seven in fewest points allowed to oversized targets. Philip Rivers will continue to line-up Gates in the crosshairs roughly 6-8 times per game, but when weighing the schedule and the unpredictable nature of foot flareups, he's far from a slam dunk must-start in 12-teamers.
MOST VALUELESS TURKEY
Peyton Hillis, Cle, RB
Rank Difference: -14
Remaining Schedule: at Cin, Bal, at Pit, at Ari, at Bal
Forgive or Forget: Forget. What a train-wreck. The Madden Cursed running back, distracted by contract issues and crippled by a balky hamstring, is this year's unanimous MVT. All due respect, when healthy, Hillis was fairly productive netting 10.2 points per game. But he's only seen action in four contests this season, the last time in Oakland five weeks ago. Pat Shurmur is optimistic his workhorse will return to the field at some point this season, but, even if that happens, the plowshare is completely untrustworthy. Chris Ogbonnaya, coming of his second consecutive 100 total-yard game, has filled the starter's shoes admirably. Montario Hardesty, who could suit up Week 12, will also rack a generous touch total once active. Hillis, when ready, regain the starter's role, but he's no guarantee to record the most touches week-to-week. Even with a substantial workload, he may only yield substandard results. Two dates with Baltimore, the third unfriendliest run D to RBs, and one with a much improved Pittsburgh defense (3.6 ypc to RBs since Week 6) are frightening. So are his odds of re-injury. At this point, the popular early round pick should only be rostered in leagues 14-teams and deeper. Carve him up.
Other Gobblers: Shonn Greene, NYJ, RB; Jermichael Finley, GB, TE; Vernon Davis, SF, TE; Reggie Wayne, Ind, WR; Chad Ochocinco, NE, WR; Felix Jones, Dal, RB; DeSean Jackson, Phi, WR.
Follow Brad on Twitter @YahooNoise.
Image courtesy of US Presswire
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