Happy Wednesday readers! Hopefully you had a tremendous weekend and have eventful plans on the horizon. One of the best parts of releasing on a Wednesday is the shear positive nature of Wednesdays. I’ve always had this thing about Wednesday, though some of my Wednesday love was due to it being Laserquest practice night. Yeah, I said it. Wednesday in general represents optimism and a positive feeling. For those 9-5’ers, Wednesday is that day of the week when we can start looking forward to the weekend. Monday’s are Monday’s so they don’t count, but Tuesday’s are just brutal. You know you have 3 more days until you can sleep in and relax. Wednesday, though, is getting over that hump and seeing the light of Saturday! This week, we’re going to talk about having faith. Faith, as a concept, is an interesting thing to me. The very nature of faith is something that I’ve spent countless hours discussing with a variety of friends. Faith, by definition, is easy to grasp but the logical portion of my brain struggles with the idea of just blindly believing in something. I look at people who have faith and feel a mixture of curiosity and envy. That isn’t to say that I’m a person who lacks faith, it’s just hard for me to turn myself over to a belief without scientific or statistical merit. There are, because I’m an admitted hypocrite, some things in life that I do have faith in. I have faith that my friends will always be there for me. I have faith that the people who love me will always love me no matter what crazy shenanigans ensue. I have faith that the view is well worth the climb when it comes to some difficult situations. There are certain aspects of life where we just believe regardless of what logic tells us. In those instances, we turn off the brain and listen to the heart for better or for worse. Voltaire once said, “faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.” I kind of like that quote, and it certainly rings true to the subject of fantasy football. Please allow me to elaborate.
When it comes to choosing the top players in each position, it doesn’t take a great deal of faith or thought. Obviously Adrian Peterson is the number one running back, Calvin Johnson is the WR, Jimmy Graham at TE, and Drew Brees as the top QB. With those players, and other players of their stature (ie: the best), we find ourselves in the comfort zone. We know those players are going to produce based on statistical output and consistency; so having a belief in their ability to produce is less faith, and more data driven knowledge. The true fantasy champion, however, knows when to get out of the comfort zone, and take a chance on a player who may be slightly undervalued. Below, I would like to share four players whom I have immense faith in producing this season. These aren’t going to be your number 1 players in each position, and some may not see weekly play. However, having them on your roster will an asset as opposed to a detriment.
Toby Gerhart – I’ll preface this by saying I’m a diehard Vikings fan, so there is a bit of being a Homer for this selection. Gerhart was a standout running back in college at Stanford. He was an All-American, winner of the Doak Walker Award (top college running back) and runner up to Mark Ingram in Heisman voting. To fact, he finished only 28 points behind Mark Ingram and had he won the prestigious award, we could have been having a very different conversation about Gerhart. No one expected him to have a breakout career as the number 2 back in Minnesota, but it was anticipated that he would be a fine complimentary back to Peterson. Gerhart has been used as a 3rd down player, as a blocking back, or to spell Peterson on occasion. Gerhart has enjoyed a modicum of success with the Vikings, but was never able to show his full abilities. He comes to Jacksonville as the number one guy with a huge chip on his shoulder to prove that he can carry the load. Gerhart is only 27 years old with very little wear and tear on his body. The one downside is the 31st ranked offensive line in Jacksonville. My feeling on Gerhart could change, depending on who Jacksonville drafts as their overall selection next Thursday night, but have faith in Toby Gerhart. This is my steal of the fantasy draft.
Chris Johnson – While most people will scoff at the notion of Johnson being a major player in Fantasy this season, I need to point a few things out about this polarizing player whom most have written off as a bust.
1. Chris Johnson finished #9 in fantasy points for running backs last season.
2. He achieved these numbers despite playing for a team who didn’t care for him, and a mediocre overall offense.
3. He now plays for a NYJ team which finished 5th last season for overall rushing attempts. This is not going to change anytime soon, especially considering their off season acquisitions. Yes, they signed Decker but I have next to no faith in him having a great season.
4. The inclusion of Michael Vick (let’s be honest, he’s starting for the Jets) will open up a plethora of options for Chris Johnson to be explosive. Running Backs with scrambling quarterbacks typically excel in the offensive scheme as it allows them more options at scoring points.
5. Don’t believe the Chris Ivory hype. Ivory won’t make 12 games.
Chris Johnson still has elite speed and the ability to score on any play. He was successful in Tennessee despite never having a threat at QB. Johnson is a lock for 1,000 yards and 6+ rushing touchdowns per season. This isn’t even factoring in his ability to pass catch and scramble for yards or points. While I don’t believe that Johnson would necessarily be considered a sleeper, I do know that a wide range of the pros are down on this guy and projecting him as a low end RB2 or a high RB3. Personally, I wouldn’t suggest having him as your primary back, but I believe him to be a solid RB2 with low RB1 upside. Have faith in CJ2K this season.
Ben Tate – Ben Tate represents another player whom may not be perceived as a sleeper, but he is a player whom I have immense faith in being a borderline top 10 player at his position. Much like Johnson, Tate fits into that high upside RB2 who has the potential to be a top 10 back. Tate is currently being ranked 19-24 on most lists, but I would put him around 13 in positional ranking. Ben Tate may be best known as, “That guy you handcuff to Arian Foster”, but he’s put up very solid numbers when given the opportunity. When given the chance (2011 and 2013 mainly), he’s averaging 820 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tate will go to a Cleveland Browns team which is now out of the “rebuilding mode” and into the “It’s time to win” mode. The Browns boast a top 15 offensive line, and have one of the top LT’s in the business in Joe Thomas. In Cleveland, Ben Tate is the guy. He won’t have to worry about losing his starting spot when another player returns, and he will be paired with an even better version of Andre Johnson (Josh Gordon). Even if the Browns don’t’ take a rookie QB in the draft, Brian Hoyer showed huge potential in the passing game, which will open up more options for Ben Tate.
Cordarrelle Patterson – Of any unproven WR, Patterson represents the best option to be breakout player of the year. His rookie season was eventful, despite being saddled with Christian Ponder and Matt Cassell. Patterson had a rather pedestrian first half of the season, but truly broke out in week 11 of the 2013 season. The Vikings seemed to learn the best ways to utilize the uniquely talented rookie from Tennessee. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner first act with the Vikings was to implement 10 plays specifically for Patterson. Turner has expressed Patterson’s unique skillset and hopes to make him a feature point of the offense. Turner has already promised to go away from the power run game to preserve Peterson’s body, as well as focusing on the Harvin 2.0 skillset of Patterson. A potential downside to this prognostication of greatness is the injury risk that Patterson represents. Any time you have a dynamic receiver who is also used as a returner, you set yourself up for the possibility of injury. Patterson has no history of major injuries, as is a solidly built player. The potential for Minnesota to draft Johnny Manziel also increases the value of Patterson as a high scoring, fantasy monster due to the upside of having a quarterback with mobility. To be honest, anyone but Christian Ponder will represent a vast improvement for Patterson, though the most indicative statement of his upside is the offensive coordinators feelings towards him. If you need another sell, look at what Turner was able to do for Josh Gordon last year in Cleveland. Patterson is the real deal.