The unpredictability of fantasy football is, among countless other
things, what makes it such an entertaining activity. Every year,
there are players that fall short of expectations and players that
come from nowhere to put their names on the fantasy map. It’s
a fascinating process and one that keeps us coming back for more
each season. Some will struggle, some will shine. The idea, of course,
is to have less of the former and more of the latter. Here’s
a list of five who I think may shine in 2013 and five who I think
Stafford, QB – DET: Stafford’s second-round ADP from
last year has plummeted to the sixth round this year in standard
12-team leagues. Sure, his numbers from last year were putrid, as
his touchdowns were sliced to less than half—from 41 to 20. Keep
in mind, though, that Calvin
Johnson was tackled five times at the one-yard line last year
after hauling in a Stafford pass. A half dozen other times, other
players were stopped inside the five. Is that poor quarterback play
or simply buzzard’s luck? You decide. Additionally, the Lions lost
all of their complementary receivers, leaving Johnson as the only
option last year. Indeed, he’s a good ‘only option’ to have, but
at some point the lack of supplemental players on offense takes
its toll on the team—and in this case, it was Stafford in particular.
While Stafford may not reach the 41-touchdown plateau from 2012,
there’s a stronger chance he won’t scrape by with just
20 touchdown passes like last year. His production should fall somewhere
in the middle, and those kinds of numbers can bring you tremendous
value in the sixth round. I expect Stafford to have a nice bounce-back
season in 2013.
Luck, QB – IND: I heard on television recently that fantasy
owners should be cautious of Luck this season because his new offensive
coordinator, Pep Hamilton, who served in that capacity while Luck
was at Stanford, has a tendency to rely more heavily on a balanced
attack. They say that the bulk of Luck’s production last year came
while the Colts trailed in games and had to pass a lot simply to
get back in contention. Personally, I believe that’s digging way
too deep into what a player’s fantasy worth is. I just don’t think
playing with an improved defense should negatively affect a QB’s
fantasy value the way some are predicting. Can the dude play or
can’t he? That’s the question we should be asking. And Luck can
The Colts fortified their receiving weaponry, bringing in Darius
Hayward-Bey. He didn’t do much in Oakland, but I believe the improvement
at quarterback that he will experience, coupled with the fact that
he will be more of a secondary option in the passing game, bodes
well for his chances to integrate himself into what I think will
be a prolific passing offense. Luck is going a full round after
Stafford, which to me seems about right. I believe next year at
this time we’ll be talking about Luck knocking on the door of top
5 fantasy QB status. Get him cheap this year while you can.
DeMarco Murray is the ideal RB2 with RB1
Murray, RB – DAL: Murray opened last year with a 131-yard
outburst against the New York Giants, and everybody rightfully
expected a solid season. He didn’t crack the century mark the
rest of the year, for a variety of reasons. For starters, the
offensive line had some struggles, and the team at times put the
running game on the shelf for long periods during games. This
led to the Cowboys having the second fewest rushing attempts in
the league in 2012. In comes new offensive coordinator Bill Callahan,
who vows to give the offensive line his undivided attention while
focusing more on the rushing game.
These changes are assets to Murray’s chances this year. His injury
history is well documented, but it can’t go unnoticed that the
Cowboys’ running attack began circling the drain last season when
Murray was sidelined. Murray can serve you well as a high-end
RB2 or low-end RB1 in the third round.
Bowe, WR – KC: After his breakout season of 2010, in
which he hauled in 15 touchdowns, Bowe has been a fantasy disappointment.
His eight touchdown receptions over the past two seasons have
soured many fantasy owners’ opinion of the seven-year vet. But
with Andy Reid now orchestrating the Chiefs offense—he and his
pass-heavy philosophy—Bowe is poised to regain his stature as
a productive, consistent fantasy WR.
Reid never met a pass play he didn’t like, and we’ve seen what
he can do with a big, physical receiver at his disposal (see Terrell
Owens’ numbers from 2004-2005). I’m not equating Bowe to T.O.,
but I believe Reid will take a different approach in the passing
game than he did with the fleet-footed, smaller, quick receivers
he had in Philly. I expect the passing game to be centered on
Bowe, and he should be money in PPR leagues as a result. Leverage
Bowe’s recent tumble down the cheat sheet during draft day to
nab him as your WR2.
Brown, WR – PIT: Brown has played second fiddle to
Wallace each of his first three years in the league. But now
with Wallace in Miami, Brown has a chance to be a really productive
player at a bargain price on draft day. With Wallace slowing getting
acclimated to the team early last year after his holdout, Brown
put up solid numbers in the meantime. He had 36 catches in the
first six games, and while the touchdown totals where less than
desirable (only one during that stretch), he was a solid option
The show is now Brown’s. Ben
Roethlisberger (who himself can be had on the cheap this year)
will rely on Brown to be a valuable component in the passing game.
Certainly, Brown doesn’t have the long speed that Wallace has,
but his crafty route running and courage to go across the middle
will endear him to fantasy owners and Steeler fans alike.
Freeman, QB – TB: Freeman threw for more yards and
touchdowns last year than at any other time in his short career,
but sometimes the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Yes, his
4,000-plus yards were notable, but keep in mind that 11 quarterbacks
topped the 4,000-yard mark in 2012—the most in history. And sometimes
applying the simple eye test on players can show you all you need
to know. Freeman at times appears skittish in the pocket, and
for a 6-6, 240-lbs quarterback, that’s not admirable. Further,
only three other quarterbacks had a lower completion percentage
than Freeman’s 54.8. He is, however, getting back several key
offensive linemen who missed time last season, and his receivers
all came back intact, but I’m not as high on Freeman as others.
His 13th-round ADP is about where I’d pick him, but I’d always
be extremely hesitant to put him in my lineup. He does nothing
for me; maybe he does something for you. If so, take him. I’m
staying away at all costs.
Vick, QB – PHI: I think we are seeing the decline of
one of the most electric fantasy QBs ever. Vick has struggled
mightily since his out-of-nowhere 2010 season, in which he threw
for more touchdowns (21) and rushed for more touchdowns (9) than
in any other season. Even with the quarterback-friendly offense
designed mostly by Andy Reid over the last couple of years, Vick
nonetheless struggled with turnovers and overall inconsistent
and spotty play.
Now enters supposed Wonder Kid Chip Kelly and his fast-break offense.
Vick has won the starting job, beating out Nick Foles, but the
fact that the competition was even a competition should be enough
to give even the most ardent fan of Vick some pause. Vick’s decision-making
and his careless protection of the football make him a complete
shell of his former self. Those facts, coupled with what may be
a season-long quarterback controversy—should Vick play or should
Foles play?—puts him on my "Do Not Draft" list.
Wallace, WR – MIA: Wallace was a feast-or-famine player
last season; in seven games he tallied 44 yards receiving or fewer
while he reached at least 94 in four others. Pittsburgh, of course,
has a very capable quarterback that Wallace teamed with to haul
in 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He now has in Miami…shall
we say, a not-so-very-capable quarterback in Ryan
Tannehill. How he meshes with Tannehill remains the question,
but if last year is any indication, there could be hard times
for Wallace in 2013. No Miami wideout or slot receiver had more
than a single touchdown reception for the season; in fact, tight
Fasano’s five touchdown catches led the team.
While Wallace is superior to any receiving threat Miami had last
season, the dearth of complementary playmakers on the roster should
concern Wallace owners. Some may view Wallace as a one-trick pony
capable of only running go-routes. Others may see him as a square
peg/round hole fit in Miami. Whatever your view of the speedster
may be, it should not go unnoticed that he’s in a different situation
than the previous four years in Pittsburgh, and that ain’t a good
thing from a fantasy perspective. Let Wallace give someone else
a headache this season.
Gore, RB – SF: Imagine how great Gore could have been
had he not suffered two blown-out knees in college—injuries, if
you remember, that helped pave the way for Clinton Portis and
McGahee at the University of Miami. I love Gore’s grit and
tenacity and I feel he really hasn’t gotten the appreciation he
deserves. All that being said, Gore turned the dreaded 30 years
old in May. While much of what talking heads banter about relative
to statistics and their link to performance is speculative, this
30-year-old running back thing is real.
The Niners have done a solid job managing Gore's carries; only
once in his career has he gone beyond the 300 mark. Now, with
multifaceted quarterback Colin
Kaepernick and the young legs of LaMichael
James and Kendall
Hunter adding additional running threats, Gore may not be
asked to carry the same kind of load he was expected to before.
Consequently, those limited opportunities will obviously affect
his fantasy output.
Mendenhall, RB – ARZ: Pittsburgh moved on from Mendenhall
after his return from injury at the end of the 2011 season was
less than exciting. Arizona is now relying on him to ignite a
running game that finished last in the league in 2012. The Cardinals'
upgrade at quarterback should be an asset to Mendenhall in the
running game—at least that’s what conventional wisdom suggests.
However, since his breakout season of 2010, Mendenhall has done
little to prove that he can be the bell cow for a full season.
There were even whispers in Pittsburgh about his toughness—about
whether or not he can play through the typical NFL bumps and bruises.
Mendenhall’s lack of game-breaker ability and his often timid
style of running between the tackles are signs of an average outlook
heading into 2013.