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“Sauer Notes” Oldies but Goodies: The Under-Appreciated

This week we will take a gander at some older players who may get overlooked in drafts this season.  Everybody gets excited about the young talent that has flooded the league in the past few seasons, and rightfully so.  These players are names that have been around for quite some time and have had stardom in their past.  Although their better days may be behind them, there still can be significant value when targeting these players late in your draft.  There may not be any immense upside with the players listed below, but what you can find is consistency and high-floor type picks.  As Mike discussed in Five Running Backs Who Will Prove To Be A Draft Day Steal , you can not win your draft in the first round, yet, you can easily lose it if your picks do not hit.  These are some players that you should key in on, that not many people will ponder in the later rounds, to help supplement some of the high-upside risks you may be taking.

 

Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last season, was a forgettable one for the veteran.  Only 11 percent of his fantasy points came from scoring touchdowns, and he had his worst finish since becoming a fantasy commodity early in his career.  With that being said, he still finished as the WR33 in a PPR scoring system.  He finished as the WR16 in 2013, and WR12 in 2012.  Yes, he is going to be one year older this year (32), but that’s not like Reggie Wayne signing a deal, or Randy Moss talking about a return.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors for V-Jax’s down season.  You will see most of it was not of his own doing.  The atrocity that was the Bucs’ quarterback situation last year only led to 56 percent vjaxof V-Jax’s targets to be catchable, according to ProFootballFocus.  Furthermore, he saw 15 targets in the end zone last season, and only finished with two touchdowns.  That is a 13 percent conversion rate. We can definitely expect these numbers to improve with a more stable QB situation in Jameis Winston, even if he is a rookie.

Bucs’ OC Dirk Koetter also wants to play Jackson from the slot more this season.  Jackson is a monstrous target, alongside the other trees that are Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Mike Evans.  This move should get Jackson more looks as he will be matched up more with nickel corners, linebackers, and safeties.  The move serves to be beneficial for Jackson’s fantasy value in 2015.

You may be thinking, yeah all of these numbers are well and good, but Mike Evans is the guy there.  Well, not so fast. Koetter had plenty of success making two WRs relevant in Atlanta with Julio Jones and Roddy White.  In 2012, Roddy White finished as the WR9 with Julio ending up finishing at WR11.  Last season, Julio finished as the WR6 and Roddy White ended the season as WR21.  There will be plenty of numbers for Jackson to accumulate alongside Evans, and both will do just fine.

Currently, Jackson’s ADP is hoovering around the seventh round, and penciled in at about WR30.  In this range you can draft the likes of Larry Fitzgerald or Desean Jackson.  To me, V-Jax has just as much upside as these two players, if not more, with a way safer floor.  Envisioning a scenario where he finishes somewhere around 70/1000/6 is not out of the question, and that’s sure-fire WR2 numbers.

 

Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints

Indeed, another WR at the wrong end of 30, playing on the same team as the proverbial shiny-new toy in Brandin Cooks.   Although he has had a career plagued by injury, he also has been the model of consistency.  Lets take a look at what we are talking about here.

2014:  59/902/5

2013:  75/943/5

2012:  83/1154/10

2011:  80/1143/8

2010:  84/1023/7

Remember, the Saints’ traded away Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills.  This is going to open up over 200 targets to the Saints still on the roster.  Only three times in Colston’s career has he not gone over 1,000 yards, 2013-14 being two of them with Graham still in the fold.  Now with him out of the mix, Colston could be a candidate to return to that plateau.  marques

Since Drew Brees joined the Saints in 2006, he has always had one of his WR/TE catch at least 8 touchdowns.  Colston was that guy for five of those seasons.  This is an enticing stat, as Brandin Cooks is not a prototypical red-zone target, whereas, Colston standing at 6-foot-4 fits that frame better.  Brandon Coleman who has been impressive during camp this year is also a big-bodied receiver, but Brees will probably feel more comfortable going to his former security blanket in Colston when they get close to the goal.

At his 10th round ADP, Colston is a guy I’m willing to take over any of the talent that is floating around in that respective area.  Yes, he is getting old. If healthy, he can return to the fountain of youth and put up WR2 numbers, but is better suited to be your WR3/4 on your depth chart.

 

Stevie Johnson, San Diego Chargers

Why so serious? Well because he came from a run-first offense,  sub-par QB play, and a crowded WR corps in San Fran, to elite QB play and wide-open opportunity.   It seems as if people have written of Stevie way too early in his career.

If we date back to 2012, Stevie was coming off three consecutive seasons where he had no less than 76 receptions, 1,000 yards, and 6 touchdowns.  Those are all easily WR2 numbers.

After an injury plagued season in 2013, he was traded to the 49ers where he joined the likes of Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Llyod, and Vernon Davis.  As I eluded to before, in the run-first offense with a QB in Kaepernick who struggles with consistency, there was no room for Stevie to become a viable fantasy target.  stevie

We see a major juxtaposition in his situation for 2015.  He will be catching balls from an elite QB in Phillip Rivers, and joins an under-performing cast of WRs.  Keenan Allen, who is coming off a major sophomore slump, is primed for a bounce-back, aging veteran Malcolm Floyd, and Antonio Gates who is suspended for the first four games, are his competition for targets..  We must also note, Eddie Royal, former slot man, left for Chicago this offseason.

Chargers’ QB Phillip Rivers had the second highest completion percentage of his career last season (66.5%) and is willing to spread the ball around (four players finished with at least 52 receptions). With Royal gone, 91 targets are now up for grabs this season.  Coincide that with the notion that Gates will miss the first four contests, and we may see a bevy of targets heading Johnson’s direction this season, especially early on.

It would not be surprising if Johnson matched and surpassed Royal’s stat line last year of 62/778/7.  If Allen continues to regress from his outstanding rookie season with the hole that Gates will leave for the first four games, I could envision a scenario where Stevie finishes more along the lines of 70-75/1,000/8.  With an ADP of 127, 51 among WR, he could become an absolute draft day steal.

 

Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins

He’s a not so ‘oldie’ (28), and coming off of a not so ‘goodie’ 2014 season.  Let’s be realistic, he won’t duplicate his breakout 2013 campaign. In 2013, Garcon caught 113 passes and recorded 1,346 receiving yards with five touchdowns. Those 113 receptions were actually tops in the NFL. He was PPR gold that year. Last year, he only caught 68 passes, with 752 receiving yards and scored three touchdowns. That’s just over half of the passes and receiving yards he recorded the year before.

So which Garcon will we see this year? Based on his track record, his production should fall somewhere in between. For one thing, Jay Gruden has already said he is determined to get Garcon more involved, according to the Washington Post. The QB situation should be more stable this year, and if  RGIII is able to resemble anything close to a capable passer, then Garcon could be in business.garcontraffic

Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay appeared on 106.7 The Fan’s Grant and Danny, and had the following to say about how the team plans to utilize Garcon in 2015:

“Well, one of the things we did this offseason, when you really go back and evaluate it, is we were able to switch DeSean to the X position and Pierre to our Z. When you talk about the skill set you’re looking for from a Z, a physical receiver that’s a good a blocker in the run game, he can slant routes, some of those intermediate and short routes, and he also has to be physical to run some of those intermediate deep in-breaks. That’s where Pierre’s greatest strengths are.”

The hope here is that Garcon can exploit defenses from this position, and also that it will be playing to his strength as a run blocker. This also means that Garcon will be on the field a lot, even when the Redskins are focused more on running the ball. It’s still extremely early, but McVay says Garcon has looked strong in OTAs, and that he looks poised to be much more heavily targeted in the passing game than last season.

Part of the problem last year was also the acquisition of Jackson. Between adding a new primary receiver, whom the coaches saw as interchangeable with Garcon’s skill-set, and the QB carousel between RGIII, Cousins, and McCoy, it’s easy to see how Garcon did not perform as well in 2014.

If all the stars align for Garcon in 2015, , he can easily exceed his draft day value, an ADP of 104 (WR44). In an honest opinion, with his change of position and playing closer to the line opening up more targets, I do not think it’s too far-fetched to see Garcon have a better statistical season than Desean Jackson.

 

Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

The 33-year-old veteran, who has not missed a start since 2006, has been as consistent as they come in terms of the not-so-deep TE pool.  Since the 2006 season, Witten has an average stat-line of 83/935 with 4.7 touchdowns.  Those are some pretty hefty numbers for a shallow position.  He won’t put up numbers like the Gronks and Grahams of the world, but he is a player that will not have you scrambling to the waiver wire every week to find a fill-in.

Witten had a down year last season due to the Cowboys extremely effective run game. With DeMarco Murray gone, that effectiveness will most likely decrease, which will push the Cowboys to throw more and give Witten a boost again this season.  Defenses will also be rolling coverages towards stud WR Dez Bryant, which will help open up the middle for Witten.  witten

In the past, Witten has been Tony Romo’s go-to guy, and although he may not return to being that guy with Dez garnering that label, Witten is about as reliable as they come.  Getting him in the 9th-10th rounds, your getting a player who may not finish in the top-5 at his position like we used to see, but he is a player who you draft and feel confident about plugging him in on a week-to-week basis.

I really like the idea of taking Witten as your first TE, and then grabbing a high-upside type flier in the later rounds.  Players like Tyler Eifert, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Eric Ebron, Richard Rodgers (especially with the unfortunate Jordy news), or Kyle Rudolph, just to name a few.  If you are not drafting Gronk in the first or early second round, Witten is a guy you should keep in mind, especially in PPR leagues.

 

 

Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

Here we find ourselves with a player coming off of his second ACL tear in his career.  That, coinciding with his age, have his current ADP at about the 15th round, or even waiver wire material.  Let’s not be so quick to judge the wiley-old vet.

When Palmer was on the field last season, he could hang with the best of them. He never threw for fewer than 240 yards in a game, including his Week 10 bout against the Rams where he would suffer a season-ending injury early in the fourth quarter. In the five games that he completed, he threw for 2, 2, 2, 2, and 3 touchdowns against just 2 total interceptions. Not bad numbers for a quarterback everyone seems to think is washed up.

Through his first five games in 2014, Palmer was on pace for a 4,400 yard, 35 touchdown, 6 interception year, and his extrapolated 319.4 fantasy points would have ranked him as the sixth best quarterback, just 0.6 points behind Drew Brees’ totals. Even if we take into account his injured Week 10 game into these projections, his extrapolated numbers of 4,336 yards and 29 touchdowns would still have had him sitting as the eighth best quarterback in the league. While definitely impressive, these numbers actually would not have been too far off from his 4,274 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2013.carson

Beyond this, Bruce Arians’  propensity to call for the big play gives Palmer huge upside. Last season, exactly one-fifth of Palmer’s pass attempts went 21 yards or more beyond the line of scrimmage. Compare this with known deep ball aficionados Aaron Rodgers, Big Ben, and Matthew Stafford, whose pass attempts in this range accounted for 9.2%, 10.4%, and 8.8% of their throws, respectively.

Moreover, 6 of Palmer’s 11 touchdowns actually came on throws traveling farther than 20 yards down the field. Despite his age, it’s clear that when he steps onto the field Carson Palmer still has immense upside and can finish as a QB1.  The big IF, is if he can stay healthy. If he does, weapons like John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, and Michael Floyd will be extremely happy they are fetching passes from guys not named Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas, or Ryan Lindley.

That’ll do for this weeks “Sauer Notes,” stay tuned next week to see what our team has in store to help you win some fantasy championships this year.

Find me on twitter: @zaksauer

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(Click the BLUE link below to listen live)

Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday August 30th from 11-1pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Sports Show sponsored by the Sports PaloozaRadio Network. Call in live at 646-915-8596. This week we will discuss the offenses of the Giants, Saints, Chargers, Raiders, and Jets. Defensively we will discuss the Rams, Vikings, Texans, Dolphins, and Bills. If it’s fantasy football relevant we will discuss it.

Our line up of guests this week include Davin Joseph former 1st round pick and two-time Pro Bowl guard, Coach Jeff Nelson of White Hall H.S. in PA, and Zak Sauer who is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com and the co-host of our Tuesday night football show beginning on September 15th from 8-10:00pm EST.
If you can’t make it to the live airing you can always download the podcast at I-Tunes or Google Play stores. Search for “Sports Palooza Radio Show”. Android owners download “Podcast Republic” and then search on podcast republic for “Sports Palooza Radio Show.”

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