This week, as promised, I will discuss some players on the bubble of being a keeper or non-keeper. For a refresher, the formula I use to determine whether a player is keeper-worthy is:
Keepers = (Reliability + History) – (Liability + Present value)
Granted, since this is the first time I am using this formula publicly, I am mainly doing it to test the waters so to speak, to gain feedback. Of course, there is no such thing as an “exact” science in fantasy, but what I am trying to do with this formula, is provide a base upon which all readers of this post can see that I am attempting to provide the best advice on who is keeper-worthy. Before we begin, ask yourself two questions. 1)Is a breakout player with no history worthy of keeping? 2)Is a player who had been consistent in the past and disappeared this season, trustworthy going forward? The answer to both, I’ll let you guys ponder upon for a while, and provide an answer at the end of the post next week.
Alright guys, it’s been a great fantasy season, and congratulations to those who won their league, or at least placed 3rd in their leagues (I finished 3rd in one league, and won another). I will name 5 players from each position; QB & RB this week, and WR, TE, & IDP next week, who are on the cusp of being keepers. After this weeks QB and RB discussion, I will briefly provide 3 names at QB through IDP whom I like or would avoid in week 17 for those who still have the playoffs ongoing.
Portrait/Illusion of a Keeper
Nick Foles: 2012: Foles looked like a career backup, with Vick the starter until Matt Barkley is ready to start. 2013: After Vick goes down, Foles struggles for a game or two, then goes dynamite, and is on the verge of having the Eagles in the playoffs.
History: There’s not really any history here, so we’ll go to reliability.
Reliability: Seems to be the Eagles QB going forward, and has developed nice chemistry with his receivers in a short period of time.
Liability: Hard to gauge as defenses really haven’t had time to adjust to his style of play. How he fares against defenses next season once they have an opportunity to game plan for him will go a long way in determining his value.
Present value: Top 5 QB if he played the whole season, and has a ridiculous TD:INT ratio to begin. With DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, and LeSean McCoy all viable receivers, Foles has a multitude of options. It will be interesting to see how things change once Jeremy Maclin returns next season.
Andrew Luck: The Stanford product and Colts franchise QB has had an up and down season, with 8 games of 0 or 1 passing touchdowns, but also seven games in which he has thrown at least 2 TDs and had 0 or 1 interceptions.
History: He seems to be improving across the board from his rookie season (2012). He should be a perennial top 7 fantasy quarterback going forward in 2014, as he develops more chemistry with his young receivers.
Reliability: Developing some reliability most weeks, but still needs a consistent WR1, and struggles against better passing defenses. Look for Luck to work on finding a reliable WR1 going into next season. If Wayne is back, Luck has his man; if not, it remains to be seen who will step up.
Liability: Seems to be minimal as of now. Luck has an advanced understanding of opposing defenses and schemes, great pocket awareness, and poise on the field, and that will be true going forward as well.
Present value: Fringe top 10 QB this season, but as his receivers get more experience and the run game in Indianapolis improves, Luck’s value will thrive.
Robert Griffin III: Had a great rookie season until he tore his knee up in week 15 of 2012, costing him all of training camp. He entered this season as the starting QB for the Redskins, but didn’t look the same as he did last season before his injury. Essentially, he was rushed back, and needed more time off
History: Let’s put a question mark here for now, as it’s hard to evaluate his history. If his knee issues clear up, and he can get fully healthy and regain some of his explosive ability, his numbers should rebound next season.
Reliability: Early 2014 will be very telling as to whether or not he’s a trustworthy fantasy option. On one hand, if he is fully healthy and gets over holding the ball too long, taking sacks, and making bad decisions, he’ll be trustworthy. On the other hand, if his surgically repaired knee impedes his mobility any next season, and he can’t put pace on the ball, he could be doomed for the bench.
Liability: His surgically repaired knee many times over. He had knee concerns coming out of Baylor, and after another surgery after week 15 of 2012, the concerns only mounted more.
Present value: The Redskins benched him for the final 3 games in hope of giving him an extended off-season. Chances are he’ll come into 2014 in better shape, and a better decision maker than in 2013. Monitor him in training camp, however.
Matt Ryan: For starters, the whole Falcons team was filled with injury and under-performance. Julio Jones was lost early in the season with a toe injury, Roddy White and Steven Jackson both missed time, and Matt Ryan is having his worst statistical season since 2009 (sophomore season). In other words, Ryan was an anemic fantasy option for a great portion of the 2013 season, but injuries also played a huge role there. 2014: Ryan should have all his weapons back and healthy, minus Tony Gonzo (retirement).
History: Stats seemed to be on the upswing until things went completely south for the Falcons this season. He had 32 touchdowns in 2012, and seemed to be continuing on the upswing to becoming a household name in fantasy circles. Then SPLAT this season.
Reliability: As long as he gets Jones, White, and Jackson all back and healthy in 2014, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t post 30+ touchdowns, and once more be a reliable week to week fantasy asset, but a slight dip in interception totals would be nice.
Liability: Even with having his WR3 serve as his WR1 for most of the season, he still was able to execute damage control and limit his turnovers some (14 interceptions, 14 games). This season should serve as his floor going forward. He’ll always post between 10 and 15 picks in any season.
Present value: Barely inside the top 15, and looking like a non-keeper, but what would have happened had his receivers been healthy all season? Hard to speculate, as that wasn’t the case, but he’d probably be a top 10 option.
Verdict: KEEPER (Good buy low option)
Matthew Stafford: Probably a surprise appearing on this list, but this could be a tumultuous off-season for the Lions, who very well could have a new head coach before the Super Bowl. The concerns here with explicitly Stafford are his trends and lack of reliable WR2. Stafford also has a tendency to force the ball. 2011 is beginning to look like an outlier.
History: Will always throw for over 4,500 yards, but history also tells us 20+ interception seasons are coming. He was free to throw whenever he desired under Jim Schwartz, but that may change with a new coach coming.
Reliability: Calvin Johnson. As long as he has MegaTron as his primary receiver, he’ll always have a pretty nice TD total, as the guy is virtually unstoppable. Needs a consistent WR2 to have a shot at reversing his interception trend since 2011.
Liability: Will the new head coach allow Stafford to throw at will, or will there be more designed runs to keep defenses more honest? Chances are the liability here will be a slight decrease in pass attempts, at least until he finds a second reliable receiver, and a one-dimensional pass offense.
Present value: As far as MegaTron can jump and reach. Seriously, if you take MegaTron away, the Lions would be doomed in the pass game, as Reggie Bush would have to be the go to guy. Stafford is currently an accurate passer, but monitor the offense going into 2014, as major changes could be coming with Jim Schwartz apparently headed out.
Ray Rice: One of the most reliable backs since 2009, Rice has fallen off a cliff, as the Ravens offense has struggled this season. He has a dismal 645 yards through 15 games, with 3.1 yards per rush attempt and 4 touchdowns.
History: Looking at history, one would be inclined to believe that this season was a fluke and he’ll be back to his normal stud self next season. Owner beware: Just examine Flacco’s numbers this season, and his lack of a true WR1, and you’ll see that Rice could continue this sub-mediocrity.
Reliability: Rice has been absolutely unreliable the whole 2013 season. Owners are left kicking themselves in the shins after wasting a high pick on him, wondering where the Rice of old went. Alas fantasy owners, this may be the real Rice until the pass game improves.
Liability: In accounting, there’s an equation known as debt/equity, and if we were to incorporate Rice’s season into the equation, we’d get a liability that’s many times the equity. In other words, Rice was god-awful this season, and slightly above average is seeing the glass half full next season. In 2014, do not be surprised to see Bernard pierce getting more touches, and overtake Rice if Rice’s numbers continue at his 2013 clip.
Present value: 26; That’s his current player ranking. Most fantasy owners are glad their fantasy seasons are over, so they no longer have to pull their eyes out over Rice’s weekly numbers.
Chris Johnson: Johnson has four weeks of less than 10 fantasy points, and only one week of over 100 rushing yards. If you focus on rushing stats, you see a decline from 2012-2013; However, looking at 2013 receiving stats, you see something surprising: Four receiving TDs.
History: 2009 is the outlier, but if you wanted to predict what Johnson will do, based upon history, you’ll get 1200-1350 yards and 5 rushing scores.
Reliability: Trust him more with Locker at the helm than Fitzpatrick (though he’s been surprisingly solid at QB). Johnson is going to get you 1200 yards rushing, and 5 scores, but his point per reception (PPR) value hinges upon the ability of a more mobile QB, and qualified WR1. If Locker is the QB from day 1 in 2014, draft him higher in PPR leagues, but his value in non-PPR leagues may not change if Fitzpatrick is still the signal caller.
Liability: The risk here is Johnson regresses some, and the four receiving scores turn to 1 or 2. However, seeing his floor in 2014 with Locker healthy, the liability is somewhat minimized, and his rushing stats return to the 1250-1400 range. The offensive line is paramount here to keeping Locker healthy.
Present value: C.J. is a top 10-12 RB, but the offensive line needs to be able to create space for the speedster to run. In 2014, expect a shade more rushing scores and yards with Locker playing QB, although the receiving scores are likely to decline.
Verdict: KEEPER (great sell high candidate as well).
Zac Stacy: Starter since week 5, Stacy has been a reliable RB option, especially since week 9, with 7 rushing scores. Going into 2014, unless an injury sidelines him, Stacy is going to be the lead back, with suspect backups at best.
History: This is Stacy’s rookie season, but if college at Vanderbilt was any basis, Stacy should be reliable, with an above average yards/carry going forward (5.225 yards/carry in college). The potential here is a top 10 running back in the near future.
Reliability: Being only a rookie, it’s hard to judge reliability, but so far, Stacy seems to be on the upswing to be a consistent fantasy contributor. With four weeks of 100+ yards going into the final week of the season (against SEA who he put up 134 yards on 26 rushes in week 8), it’s safe to assume Stacy will continue to mature and run hard into 2014, as he seems like an ideal low to the ground running back.
Liability: As long as he’s healthy, his downside should be limited to very few quiet weeks in 2014 as the frontline starter, as long as injuries don’t creep up on him. The only concern going forward could be his lack of use in the passing game, but his rushing should make up for that.
Present value: Had he been starter for the whole season, it’s feasible that he could have eclipsed the 10 rushing yard, 1250 yard plateau. A breakout season is very feasible for 2014 with the physical back he is, and a healthy Bradford back at quarterback.
Giovani Bernard: The jitterbug out of UNC entered the season as BenJarvus Green-Ellis’s backup, but the stats say Bernard should have been starter since day 1. Bernard averages a full more yard per carry than BJGE and is the vastly superior receiver of the two. With the latter in the final season of a contract, the backfield appears to be Bernard’s.
History: As with any rookie, the only history we have to go on here is his rookie season stats. If college was any indication, however, Bernard should post respectable yards per carry averages and total rushing yards.
Reliability: For PPR leagues, it’s hard to find a more reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield than Bernard this season. Nothing suggests that his utility will diminish, so he looks to be a dual threat back going forward.
Liability: Hard to say as of yet, but the only major concern with him coming out of college was he may not have the body to take the weekly pounding that running backs take in the NFL. Thus far, no ill effects from the carries and catches he has to date, so the liability seems to be curbed.
Present value: Ray Rice 2.0. Bernard may not ever top the receiving stats that Rice had in his better years, nor have the body to hit the holes like Rice, but put your money where your mouth is here and expect Bernard to be one of the premier PPR backs going forward. Those in non-PPR settings, scale him back some in your rankings.
Ryan Mathews: Alas, it wouldn’t be fit to end any discussion on keepers without Ryan Mathews rearing his head. The last few weeks of the season, Mathews has looked keeper worthy, unlike earlier in the season, where he seemed to be merely running at a wall and falling. This makes it hard to judge him going forward.
History: Mathews is gonna miss games every season due to a tweaked ankle, knee, or other lower extremity, thus making it hard for him to be an every-down back. If he could consistently post solid running numbers going forward, he could be a nice option in most formats, with his PPR value slightly lower.
Reliability: The running back of two halves. The first half of the season, Mathews couldn’t hit a hole if it was a mile wide, and found himself in a virtual carry split with Danny Woodhead. However, coming down the stretch, Mathews reminds us of the no hesitation, hard-hitting runner we saw back at Fresno State, with virtually three 100-yard performances the last three weeks.
Liability: Injury and inconsistency concerns. Mathews battled clavicle issues in 2012 (2 broken clavicles), and some ankle dings earlier this season. The concern with Mathews, however, is can he stay on the field, and not disappear when healthy? If he enters 2014 like the first half, he’s a fringe option, but if he goes about blowing through holes like a dynamite through rock, like he has lately, he’ll be a top option.
Present value: Depends upon the owner, and their patience with him. He’s playing like a top option right now, but could revert at the drop of a pin. Chances are he’ll be on the field for 15 games next season, and produce in most of the games, just temper expectations. Pick your poison in other words.
Verdict: NON-KEEPER (great sell high candidate)
Players for Week 17:
Nick Foles (START): Rivalry week with a trip to the playoffs on the line. Foles is playing out of this worldly great right now. A soft Dallas defense should do nothing to slow the high-flying Eagles.
Andy Dalton (START): Going up against a Ravens defense that just got blown up like Harry’s head in Home Alone 2, Dalton should continue the victimization of the Ravens pass defense this week en route to the Bengals clinching the AFC North.
Colin Kaepernick (SIT): Kaepernick’s 2013 season has been very mixed with 10 weeks of under 200 yards passing, but only 8 picks. The good news is he can also hurt opposing teams with his legs. The Bad news? The Cardinals are on tap, and they are hungry for a playoff berth and will hound Kaep.
Eddie Lacy (START): Bears-Packers, you know what this means! Lacy is gonna run over the Bears again, leaving only Cubs on the field when he’s done. Lacy is for real, so get him in yo lineup.
Edwin Baker (START): Baker and the Browns go up against a worn out, rag dolled Steelers rushing defense. Baker is a sneaky option in PPR leagues, and should vulture a score in this one, making it three straight games with a rushing score.
Jonathan Grimes- (SIT): Trusting a Texans running back these days is the equivalent of trusting kids to only take one piece of candy on Halloween. Grimes is only starting against the Titans, as the Texans are out of options. Don’t be a fool this holiday season.
Robert Woods (START): PPR formats should look at Woods this week. With two top receivers out for the Bills, Woods is WR1 and will be targeted heavily against the Patriots. Even with weak QB play and a run heavy offense, Woods should be able to find some holes against the Patriots.
Jarrett Boykin (START): The Packers and Bears will be brawling this week. It remains to be seen where Boykin will be in Rodgers’s progressions in his return, but look for Boykin to get a healthy dose of receptions versus a Bears defense that just got torched by the Eagles last week. Is there risk associated with Boykin? Yes, but Rodgers seems to hit all his receivers consistently.
Larry Fitzgerald (SIT): If you look at week 6, you’d think Fitz is a good start against the 49ers. Don’t kid yourself. The 49ers are not going to get beaten a second time by Fitz. His numbers are on the decline, so tread softly with him going into next season.
Tony Gonzalez (START): Entering his final game as a tight end, expect Gonzalez to go out with a bang and score against a league-top Panthers defense. Enjoy the Hall of Fame, Tony!
Ryan Griffin (START): Griffin is quietly posting quality fantasy numbers the last 2 weeks. Look for that to continue versus the Titans, as the Texans continue to be tight end friendly for fantasy purposes.
Jason Witten (SIT): Kyle Orton is likely going to start for the Cowboys with the season on the line this week against the Eagles. With Witten not being targeted as much, and the Cowboys likely going run-heavy against the Eagles, money says Witten will have another quiet week. Even if Romo does start, he’ll be so immobile that he’ll have trouble putting pace and spiral on the ball.
Leodis McKelvin (CB) (START): McKelvin is not only a serviceable corner for passes defensed, but also for his usage in the return game. Those in need of secondary help, play McKelvin for his passes defensed and his explosive ability in the return game.
Michael Bennett (DE) (START): Bennett seems to be the most reliable option of the Seahawks defensive ends the past few weeks. With a run heavy Rams on tap to end the season, Bennett will get his share of tackles, and a sack this week.
David Hawthorne (LB) (SIT): The problem with Hawthorne is he doesn’t net enough sacks or tackles, and his every other game stuffs aren’t often enough for fantasy purposes. In the final week of the NFL season, leagues still ongoing need consistency or upside. Hawthorne is neither.
Thanks once more for tuning in this week, and look for WR, TE, and IDP portion of the Portrait/Illusion of a Keeper ranks next week. Have a great rest of the holidays, and don’t forget to tune in for the baseball season here. As always, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Twitter @MetalhammerBen for anything fantasy related, or leave it in the comment section here or on reddit.