By Joe Kilroy
Last week we took a look at a few players whose 2012 seasons have sent their dynasty value into a drastic decline. Now it’s time to focus on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Below is a list of players who either entered the year completely off the radar, or had seen their value trending in the wrong direction, providing their owners with fair cause for concern.
These are a few of the Dynasty Darlings of 2012.
Josh Freeman, TB: Freeman made a strong impression during his sophomore season as a pro when he threw for 25 touchdowns (to just six interceptions) and 3,451 yards. The 364 rushing yards he obtained were also of enough relevance to add a bit to his fantasy value.
When Freeman followed up on that season by throwing for just 16 touchdowns in 2011 (while nearly quadrupling his interception total) however, people began to wonder just how worthwhile a fantasy quarterback the former first round pick might actually be. Was he a number one option; or more a fallback player at the position?
Well, as we near the end of the regular season it appears Josh Freeman is showing that if nothing else he can be a low-end starting QB in fantasy leagues. With two games remaining he has already matched his career high in touchdown passes (25) and is on pace to throw for nearly 4,000 yards. And at just 24-years of age there is plenty of time for him to continue his progression as a starter in the league.
Other factors playing into Freeman’s favor is the fact he has more talent surrounding him on offense. The addition of Vincent Jackson has clearly played a role in Freeman’s yardage and touchdown totals rising. It has made fellow wide out Mike Williams a better utilized weapon in the Tampa Bay offense now that he doesn’t have to try and function as the team’s top receiver.
And then of course there is Doug Martin. The rookie has made a big impact out of the backfield, and that will only go to further help Freeman’s cause. There’s no question that the fourth-year player out of Kansas State is clearly trending in the right direction.
Other Notables: Colin Kaepernick, SF; Andy Dalton, CIN; Russell Wilson, SEA; Andrew Luck, IND; Robert Griffin III, WAS
Stevan Ridley, NE: Ridley isn’t an all-around back (he doesn’t get receptions), but he has come forth as the Patriots primary ball carrier following the off-season departure of Benjarvus Green-Ellis.
Heading into the season there was worthwhile debate as to how big a role Ridley would have in New England’s offense. People were questioning whether Shane Vereen (the higher selection of the two in the 2011 draft) would see most of the work out of the backfield and whether or not any New England back could be relied upon as a weekly starter given the way Bill Belichick handled the position in recent years.
As it turns out, Ridley owners really couldn’t have asked for much more out of the second-year pro. Sure, it’d be nice if he could get a meaningful number of receptions out of the backfield, but his touchdown totals go a long way in making up for that deficiency. And as the primary back in New England’s high powered offense he is a threat to punch one into the end zone every week.
When he doesn’t score there will certainly be times when he doesn’t come through with great weeks, but that simply means he should be valued as a mid-to-high end number two running back as opposed to one of the elite players at the position. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Knowshon Moreno, DEN: Moreno’s value heading into 2012 was pretty low to begin with and it only became that much worse when Denver chose to deactivate him for eight straight contests following their second game of the year. When Willis McGahee was lost for the remainder of the season in Week 11 however, it gave Moreno what might have been his last chance to prove he wasn’t a bust at the NFL level after being selected twelfth overall in the 2009 draft.
Since then Moreno has made the absolute most of his opportunity. He has played so well in fact that at this point it’s hard to imagine he won’t be Denver’s primary back heading into their 2013 quest for a Peyton Manning led Super Bowl title.
Moreno has carried the ball 20 times or more in four straight contests. He has also had 24 touches or better in every game during that same time span. And it isn’t simply the touches that have made Moreno a valued commodity as Denver gears up for the playoffs. He has surpassed the century mark and scored a touchdown in each of his last two games. He has also totaled more than 100-yards in three of his last four starts.
If Moreno continues to play at such a high level while being the unquestioned primary option out of the Denver backfield there is a real chance he will be a Top 12 performer amongst running backs next year. His value has sky rocketed and dynasty owners that acquired him cheaply (or as a free agent) couldn’t be happier with the current outlook for his future appears to be.
Other Notables: Chris Johnson, TEN; Jamaal Charles, KC; Alfred Morris, WAS; Mikel Leshoure, DET
Randall Cobb, GB: As a late selection by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft dynasty owners had good reason to be intrigued by Randall Cobb’s fantasy potential upon selecting him in their own off-season drafts. The biggest question surrounding him was how long one would have to wait before Cobb got the opportunity to showcase his skills considering the talent Green Bay already had ahead of him at the wide receiver position.
Well, all that changed when Greg Jennings suffered an injury early in the year that forced him to the sideline for all but three of the Packers first eleven games. In his absence Cobb has gone on to catch 77 passes for 892 yards and 7 touchdowns so far this year. And even since Jennings’ return to action in Week 13 Cobb has continued to impress (he’s surpassed 100-yards receiving in each of his last two outings).
In PPR-leagues Cobb has proven himself as a can’t miss option every week. He’s more than held his own in non-PPR scoring formats as well. With Jennings set to be a free agent this off-season it seems there is little reason to think he will somehow reclaim his spot as one of Aaron Rodgers’ primary targets in 2013.
Regardless, Randall Cobb has quickly become one of the best young receivers to own amongst dynasty owners.
Danario Alexander, SD: Danario Alexander went largely unnoticed in both redraft and dynasty leagues alike, but he has been nothing short of spectacular (last week’s outing aside) since being initiated into the San Diego Chargers offense a few weeks back.
The third-year pro out of Missouri has shown flashes of brilliance in the past as a member of the St. Louis Rams, but never has he strung together a stretch of games like he’s done in San Diego. In Weeks 9-14 (a six-game span) Alexander recorded 33 receptions for 555-yards and 5 touchdowns. He was blanked last week, but don’t let that outing convince you he was just a flash in the pan.
The San Diego Chargers are in clear need of playmaker at wide receiver following the off-season departure of Vincent Jackson and it appears Alexander may be the man to fill that role within their offense.
The biggest cause for concern surrounding Alexander is whether or not he can shake of the injury bug. He has had numerous surgeries on his knees dating back to his days as a collegiate athlete, and as such many are skeptical as to whether or not he can hold up to the rigors of a career in the NFL. That skepticism may be justified, but his potential upside is worth the risk in my opinion.
The only other issue that may stand in Alexander’s way is the fact a new head coach will likely be in town next year. It’s doubtful a new coach would suddenly take out Alexander out of the game plan, but it could change the manner in which he is used. That should only be a minor concern however; as it stands to reason Alexander will remain productive one way or another as long as he remains healthy.
Other Notables: Dez Bryant, DAL; Josh Gordon, CLE; Demaryius Thomas, DEN; Eric Decker, DEN; James Jones, GB; Mike Williams, TB; Brian Hartline; MIA
Jermaine Gresham, CIN: There are a solid handful of tight ends that have made themselves relevant within the realm of fantasy this year, but one player who seems to be overlooked in that regard is Jermaine Gresham.
Gresham isn’t the flashiest of players, and despite having notable outings during the first two seasons of his NFL career there were more than a few of us who weren’t enthralled with his potential moving forward. After a slow start to the season (albeit only two weeks in) Gresham’s detractors were more than happy with themselves for not showing much interest in the Cincinnati tight end.
Well, now as the 2012 regular season winds down, we see that Gresham is in the midst of the best season of his NFL career. With just two games remaining the third-year pro has already set career highs in receptions (61) and yards receiving (699). He also has five touchdown receptions, which is just one off his career best.
Another telling sign when it comes to determining Gresham’s value going forward is the fact he has improved upon his reception and yardage totals every year he has been in the league. And by the time this season is complete, we may be able to say the same about his touchdown totals. His yards per catch have also risen in every season he has played so far.
At this point it seems to me Gresham is amongst the more undervalued tight ends within the fantasy community. He may never obtain elite status at the position, but he has proven himself as a worthwhile starter week-in and week-out this year for anyone that doesn’t possess one the more highly sought after tight ends.
Other Notables: Martellus Bennett, NYG; Dennis Pitta, BAL; Kyle Rudolph, MIN; Brandon Myers; OAK