As promised from last week, I will conclude the initial rankings of Portrait/Illusion of a Keeper, and then show you readers that when your offense decides to shank you, your defense can kick in, and win you your match up. Last week I unveiled the QB and RB portion of the rankings, and while no one is going to agree with my putting Matthew Stafford on the list, I will stand by my ranking as he is NOT a keeper. Who knows what the new head coach will bring? Hell, if ya want I’ll gladly argue on any player you want and then show you a better keeper, or perhaps a better sleeper option. Back to the present though. Of the two offensive positions I’m ranking this week, receiver is by far the more open of the two because the position is so deep. However, TE is essentially Jimmy Graham…and the rest. Defensively, there are only two or three names you should consider as keepers in MLFF leagues, and if you are in deeper leagues, I’ll do you a favor & go to 5 instead of just three.
Keenan Allen: The rookie was arguably the most valuable rookie receiver this season, and quickly ascended to WR1 in a pass heavy offense. The injury woes that plagued him in college are behind him, and he seems set for next season
History: With no real “history” to look on, let’s just examine his stats this season. Allen had 7 weeks of 5+ receptions, and 8 weeks of 4 or fewer. This suggests that he will produce big games some weeks, but disappear others.
Reliability: Directly tied with his being a rookie, Allen should be a reliable option going forward so long as Rivers doesn’t suck next season, and continues to be a top 10 QB. If not, Allen could fall outside the top 25 receivers. He’s a great route runner, and is very explosive, which should bode well for him in 2014 and beyond.
Liability: Philip Rivers bipolarity in the past few seasons, and opposing defenses ability to adjust to his style of play. The Rivers issue was touched upon earlier, and the opposing defenses issue is likely the lesser of the 2 evils, as Allen is a cunning receiver and will find ways to get open, even against top corners.
Present value: Finished the season as the 18th rated receiver, but more than 71 receptions going forward would and should be nice. He is a great option in dynasty leagues, and with some other top names falling off, look for Allen to go early in drafts next season.
Larry Fitzgerald: Fitz has got to be the most frustrating big name receiver to own as he has a garbage man for QB almost every season these days, and the emergence of Michael Floyd is an ever-present threat to his value. Fitz is gonna get 85+ receptions every season, but the trouble is, a lot of weeks, it will seem like he just laid down on the turf and got run over by a cement truck.
History: Well, let’s see: From 2007-11, he topped 1,000 yards receiving every year, with several 1,400 yard seasons, but since then, he hasn’t. The 10 scores were nice this season, but unless the Cardinals get a better QB, or Fitzgerald signs elsewhere (FA), he’ll continue to be hard to predict.
Reliability: Ol’ reliable hasn’t been ol’ reliable the past 2 seasons. True, the emergence of Michael Floyd helps keep defenses honest, but eventually, it seems as if the Cardinals will only be able to maintain 1 stud WR with their current QB situation. Who do you trust? Me, I like the higher upside receiver. Fitzy will enter 2014 as WR1, but Floyd will continue stealing receptions from Fitzgerald going forward.
Liability: While it really isn’t fair to label Fitzgerald a ‘liability,’ what owners worry about is the touchdown total. Is the 10 scores flukey, or for real? Chances are it is flukey, and he’ll see his scoring numbers dip going into 2014. If Fitz stays in Arizona, is it possible that both Floyd and Fitzy can both be fantasy contributors? Yes, but not likely.
Present value: Larry is currently a top 20 option, so there is some value there. Be concerned, however, as, let’s be honest Palmer over-played his age this season, and it’s highly unlikely he’ll maintain that next season. If Palmer goes down, the Cards are left with Beavis and Butthead at QB, and whoever is QB will quickly vanquish most of Fitz’s value. It’s in owners best interests that Fitz goes elsewhere. Even Cleveland looks to have a better QB than Arizona.
Marques Colston: Colston was very surprising in a bad way this season. After 4 straight seasons of 1,000+ yards receiving he failed to dpi so this season, and halved his touchdown production from last season. Weeks 5 to 8 he completely went M.I.A. off the radar, but then finished strong weeks 14 to 17.
History: He is likely to miss a game due to a nagging injury, but the good news is, if he can snap out of the funk he was in for almost half the season, he’ll return to being a top 15 option in a pass heavy offense. Brees’ WR1 should return to 1,100 yards next season, and have a scoring rebound.
Reliability: Owners found themselves debating whether or not to trust Colston for a good chunk of the season, and early on, they would have been best served if they did bench him. Don’t worry though, 50 bucks says Colston returns to his domineering ways next season, and he returns to being Brees’ faithful receiver.
Liability: Fairly limited, despite the disappointing season. Stills is your classic deep threat who will emerge as the Saints WR2, eventually (next season), and Lance Moore, honestly is a shaky WR3 as he doesn’t contribute, and misses games. This leaves Colston firmly planted as the Saints WR1, unless they sign another big name receiver.
Cordarrelle Patterson: After producing extremely inconsistently the first 11 weeks of the season, Patterson came on like purple lightning in a bottle. He may not have seen many receptions, but over the last 5 weeks, Patterson posted 3 receiving and rushing scores apiece. Minnesota seems to have found their WR1 headed into 2014.
History: The best history we have on him, is his career at Tennessee (2012), where he managed 4 receiving and 3 rushing touchdowns. The more proper term for Patterson is ‘offensive juggernaut.’ He served that role in Tennessee, and will repeat that role in Minnesota.
Reliability: His value will be slightly more in non-PPR leagues, as PPR leagues are often dominated by reception-heavy receivers. Nonetheless, PPR or non-PPR, look for Patterson to continue his emergence as a legitimate play making threat heading into next season. Those leagues counting return yards should grab him earlier than normal.
Liability: His pure lack of steady receptions. The weeks he doesn’t bust a big play all over opposing defenses he’ll likely hurt your team. A steady number of receptions per game should emerge early on for Patterson in 2014.
Present value: Intrigue. His present value is one of the most dynamic play makers in the NFL. If Adrian Peterson misses any games next season, Patterson could find himself starting as he played RB as well at Tennessee. Tab Patterson early next season, and watch because the Vikings are bound to take the reins off Patterson next year, and let him explode.
Vincent Jackson: Jackson finished as the 16th rated receiver, but if you take away his performances against the Peter Griffin’s of pass defenses in the Falcons, Eagles, and Jets, his stats don’t lie. He was well-below average outside those 4 games, with a game high of 98 yards and only 2 touchdowns.
History: Jackson’s pattern is real easy to follow over his career: he is going to get 1,100 receiving yards and 8 scores in a sixteen game season. The issue is, this season would have been abysmal had it not been for 4 games against god awful pass defenses. The truth shall relinquish itself in 2014.
Reliability: It doesn’t matter who the QB is, if you draft Jackson you’re going to get 1,100 yards receiving, but there could be cause for concern if Tampa’s other WRs and their RBs can’t stay healthy and produce. Jackson was to Glennon as MaegaTron was to Stafford this season. Take away either receiver from his QB, and those offenses would stagnate.
Liability: Average and above pass defenses. The question is how can he produce against the average and above average, to stingy pass defenses. Anyone can score against Swiss cheese. Thus his liability is consistency across the board, and the ability to find ways to get open when his owners need him most. High risk/reward these days.
Present value: Shaky at best. Despite another 1,100 yard and 7 score campaign next season, if he disappears against all but the worst defenses, is he really a receiver you want on your team? Suit yourself, but I’ll be letting someone else take that risk.
Antonio Gates: After an illustrious career, the mileage on the tires is taking its toll. Once hands down the best tight end in the business in his heyday, Gates is fading into the sunset as the shadows fall upon his career.
History: Before this season’s surprising rebound (77 receptions), Gates’ numbers had been on the decline (injuries also to blame) as his age crept northward. Next season may be his last starter-worthy season as the Chargers seem to have his heir on the roster: Ladarius Green.
Reliability: You could do worse than making Gates a middle round pick, just don’t take him too early. He will net you 600 yards and 5-7 scores next season, assuming Green doesn’t grab the horns and run with the job. Green is still raw, so still trust Gates going into 2014.
Liability: He re-injures a toe, his age will expedite catching up to Gates, or Green emerges as the top TE in San Diego by mid-season. If any of those things occur, then Gates value will quickly plummet as well. For now, as long as he’s healthy, Gates’ downside should be somewhat limited.
Present value: Top 10 option. Gates is still a solid option, so enjoy the production most weeks. His downside is fairly limited, but grab Green as a handcuff if you draft Gates.
Rob Gronkowski: Will Gronk ever get healthy these days? Forearm and back surgeries cost a chunk of 2013, and then when he finally sheds the rust, BAM! He tears his ACL/MCL and has season ending surgery after week 14. When he is healthy, he is the only TE that can keep up with Jimmy Graham’s absurd pace.
History: When healthy, there is no stopping the truck. With the tight end duties all his, when healthy, Brady just feeds the beast. Troubling though, is the numerous surgeries he’s undergone the past year. He is becoming the modern-day definition of ‘walking surgery.’
Reliability: If you trust he’ll be fine going into training camp, and won’t get injured next season, shoot him up your draft boards, but the wiser option is to try to get him through stealth in the draft. We all know what Gronkowski is when healthy, and it’s a top 2 TE, and a very reliable week-to-week fantasy option.
Liability: He can’t stay healthy, and injuries continue to plague him going into 2014 and beyond. His body is his own worst enemy, and how many more bones or soft tissue can he wreck before he’s officially a walking injury in the NFL?
Present value: Impossible to predict with this bevy of surgeries. One hopes this is the last surgery he needs for a couple of seasons, but it isn’t looking that way. Before the draft next season, ask yourself, how much do you trust Gronkowski to stay healthy, and how much risk can your team handle, and still be a contender? I’ll try to nab him, but after I have a solid offensive core and TE, and can afford to risk it.
Delanie Walker- The Titans finally produced a fantasy-worthy TE! The physical specimen Walker was surprisingly reliable in his first season out of the shadows of Vernon Davis in San Francisco.
History: Historically, the Titans have squelched all relevancy out of tight ends, using them as mainly blockers, but Walker is a different type than Tennessee’s used to. The downside is the Titans don’t use Walker as often in the pass game next season, and he blocks more. However, that’s unlikely. Walker has great hands and is tough to tackle, boding well for him and owners.
Reliability: After the big names fly off the board, Walker appears to be one of the better options, and should contribute most weeks. Trust Walker and the pass offense more with Locker at the command, and if things break right for Walker, a top 8 season could be on tap next season.
Liability: Touched upon earlier: Tennessee reverts to their old ways and use Walker as a blocker in the pass game. One other threat to Walker’s value: Taylor Thompson. Thompson is also a raw, physical specimen, but Walker appears to have established himself nicely in the pass game, so don’t fret too much.
Present value: Walker was a border top 10 option, and with Locker QBing the whole season, he would have cracked the top 10. His numbers should only improve some more next season, although 75 receptions is likely his ceiling. Enjoy the production, and buy low, if possible.
Jordan Cameron: Cameron had a rough season, but that’s more a product of an ever-changing QB situation and virtually no run game after Trent Richardson went to Indianapolis. Even though Cameron failed to live up to expectations, he still posted 917 receiving yards and 7 TDs. Hopefully 2014 won’t be as tumultuous at QB for the Browns, and Cameron rebounds.
History: After Graham and Gronkowski, Cameron was emerging as the third elite TE. If he can get a steady presence at QB, Cameron should continue to be a top 4 option, with the potential to be only behind Graham. As his days from USC and first 2 years with Cleveland showed, he is a huge target and difficult to rip the ball from.
Reliability: Tough to say with sheer inconsistency at QB, but his baseline is the 6th rated QB, and his ceiling is a top 3 TE, so he’ll be reliable, even if his QB situation continues to be in major limbo. All he needs is an average QB to be an elite option at TE.
Liability: He doesn’t seem to be much of a liability, outside of a few goose egg weeks, but when he’s on, he’s gold. Just monitor the NFL Draft and offseason in Cleveland, as things are going to be changing. Cameron’s (and Flash Gordon’s) Christmas present: New QB.
Present value: 6. In other words, you’re going to get production out of Cameron even if Delhomme or Favre was his QB. The only question is how many completions to interceptions will the QB throw? Draft Cameron early, and he should thrive as a top 3 TE next season.
Martellus Bennett: Bennet appeared poised for a breakout year early on, but then he hit the wall against washington (1 reception, 7 yards, TD), and only managed 3 games above 60 yards receiving, and 1 score. He’s talented, but when he went south, his whole season did as well.
History: With his 3rd team in 6 seasons, Bennett is a tease. He has the tools to be a top 10 TE, but he needs to be more involved in the pass game before he can move up the chains. If you watch him during games, he moves well for his size (6’6″ 265), but his hands, sometimes, are an issue.
Reliability: When he is on, owners love starting him, but it occurs all too inconsistently for him to be a weekly option. He’s only entering his 2nd season with the Bears in 2014, so an improvement across the board is likely. For now, rely upon him in favorable match ups and bye weeks.
Liability: His usage in the passing game going forward after the emergence of Alshon Jeffery. Over the past 2 seasons (NYG-CHI) Bennett has caught 64.4% of passes thrown his way (improved from 2012-2013), but his value is contingent upon his signal caller targeting in the red zone since he doesn’t see many targets between the 20s.
Present value: Bennett finished the season as the 10th ranked TE, but he would have fallen outside the top 20 if you don’t count the first 6 weeks of the season. Hope that Jay Cutler trusts him in the red zone, as the between the 20s pass game belongs to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. 2014 will define Bennett’s value; if he’s utilized in the red zone, he’ll be a borderline top 8 option, if not, he’ll fall outside the top 15.
J.J. Watt: OK, OK, we get it. Watt is going demolish opposing QBs at all costs. The sack monster cannot be denied–only slightly slowed. His version of a down season is 80 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 recovered fumbles. The scary thing: His sack total will rebound some next season. If you have this truck, he is one of the 2 defensive names to consider for keeps.
Luke Kuechly: The second defensive player to consider keeping. The sacks are going to come, just a matter of when with him. His upside could be damn near 200 tackles, and 7 sacks. As it is, Kuechly posted 156 tackles and 4 interceptions. It could be argued he’s the best defensive player to own with 320 tackles in his first 2 seasons. That’s for you to judge though.
Lavonte David: David played like Goliath down the stretch, finishing with 145 tackles, 6 sacks, and 5 picks. Absurd! If you want to make a case for a 3rd defensive player as a keeper, it’s David as he is Da Man in Tampa Bay. He’s behind Watt and Kuechly, but one more season like that and he’ll be on the same level.
Robert Quinn: Going forward, Quinn and Watt may be locked in a ridiculousness contest: Who can be the nastier of the 2. In his own defense, Quinn was dynamite in 2013 with 19 sacks, an absurd 7 forced fumbles, and 2 recovered fumbles. His tackle clip should only rise as he gets quicker off the defensive line. It’s not out of the question that Quinn challenges Watt for top DE duties going into next season as he has more than held his own among defensive ranks.
Karlos Dansby: Los was the top defensive player in MLFF leagues, posting 121 tackles, 6 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 2 defensive scores. He may not be a keeper, but he should definitely be one of the top 5 defensive players taken in any draft as the Cardinals defensive anchor. Even with Daryl Washington back full-time next season, Dansby will dominate and post another top 4 LB season with a nice mixture of tackles, sacks, and picks.
OK, that’s a wrap for the initial keeper rankings going into next season. Now to answer (or attempt to provide an answer) the questions I posed for you guys and gals last week: 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 1) is it depends on the offense, and the pedigree of the player. If the player will be a focal point in the offense and get the ball a ton, then chances are he is worth the risk of keeping (see Cordarrelle Patterson). The answer to the second part of the question (2) is it is very risky to trust those players often times, but go with your gut. Before you decide, look at how the offense is structured, and if there are any threats to touches for that player. Especially with running back, be careful as one bad season can sometimes mean time-split next season if there is a worthy backup, or if the team drafted an heir. The second question is definitely more difficult to answer, however.
Defense Doesn’t Win Championships?!?!?!?!!?
How many readers don’t think a solid defense can help you win? If you are among those readers, then I will quickly show you how wrong you are.
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The reason I won my 3rd place in my match up in Major League Fantasy Football 3 was not because of my offense. My offense pretty much walked into a latrine and took an enormous dump! My defense saved me. Look at 4 players in particular on defense: Kuechly (LB), Dansby (LB), Sherman (CB), Boykin. COMBINED, those 4 players netted me 79 points. So defense does matter, it can win or lose you a match, and it will in the playoffs.
Thanks for a great year, and don’t forget to tune in for baseball, continue tuning in for Kevin Bell’s basketball, and I’ll be back after the Super Bowl to share tidbits on the game.