Every year there are a few players who “turn it on” and “finally start to get it” towards the end of the season. Every year heroes are made in the playoffs. Sometimes the players flash in the NFL postseason (Jordy Nelson, 2010) and sometimes players flash in the fantasy postseason (Arian Foster, 2009). Both these players went from relative obscurity to fantasy studs in just a few games. In this series I’ll help us track the players who are starting to heat up at the right time.
This isn’t a perfect science (Vernon Davis, 2011 postseason vs 2012 regular season) but it is very useful to track these guys and get a jump on your league. Whether you’re looking to keep tabs on players this offseason, or are looking for trade and waiver targets, this list can help you make the right investments.
Let’s break it down, this week, we’ll be looking at the divisional round which brings some of the best offenses in football to the table:
Ravens at Broncos
This will go down as an instant classic; a double OT thriller that was tied at 7, 14, 21, 28, and 35. Although the game was awesome to watch from a football fans perspective, it also drew some serious interest from fantasy fans. If you’re in a return yardage league the player to take note of is Trindon Holliday as he had both the longest punt return AND the longest kickoff return in postseason history. If you’re in a league with a KR spot he will certainly win a game or two over the course of a season.
For standard leagues the most noteworthy performance was by Torrey Smith who burned Champ Bailey repeatedly to a tune of 3/98/2 on 6 targets. Another two passes should have been long TDs but Flacco and Smith just couldn’t connect. For Denver it was interesting to see Hillman lead the backfield in touches and yards. We all knew Hillman was going to take a while to get PT, but if the postseason is indicative of next season it’s worth making a move to see if you can land the rookie. Unfortunately he only managed 3.8 ypc which isn’t anything special, but that can be attributed to the Ravens’ defense and poor play calling by the Broncos as he was often used in short yardage situations.
Packers at 49ers
If the Ravens victory wasn’t exciting enough for you, you got another shootout in San Fran as the 49ers beat the Pack 45-31 in a very convincing victory. I’m not a Kaepernick believer (yet) but it was encouraging to see him pick himself up after the pick 6 he threw at the beginning of the game. Things like that are what coaches look for out of players and it was good to see that he was mature enough to handle an awful beginning to the first playoff game of his career. If you’re a Crabtree owner you can rejoice because he caught 9 of 11 for 119 yds and 2 scores. Crabtree continues to be peppered with targets, but it seems hard to believe he’ll keep seeing double digit targets. I view him as a high upside WR2. I’ve seen him go in the top 10 in mock startups, and if I could get that return on him I’d gladly take it.
For Green Bay it was another game where Rodgers “spread the love”, with five receivers getting 5 or more targets. James Jones and Greg Jennings both got a TD, but the receiver I was most impressed with was Finley. He caught 4 of 5 passes thrown his way and obviously felt he needed to prove himself to the Packers. Every time he touched the ball he fought for extra yards and his overall field awareness seemed much improved. I know there are two very distinct camps when it comes to your feelings on Finley, but I’m still a believer. At his current price I am targeting where possible.
Seahwaks at Falcons
Unlike the 49ers victory, it is hard to argue that the better team won this game. The Falcons jumped to an early lead (20-0 at halftime) but somehow found a way to be down with only 31 seconds left. With half a minute left Matt Ryan strung a couple of long passes together to take it to the Seahawks 32 yard line where Matt Bryant hit a game winning FG with only 8 seconds left. Even then it seemed like the Hawks still had a shot as a botched squib (onside?!?) kick left Wilson with a very short field. In the first real “rookie” move he made in the second half, he threw a short ball which kept the Seahawks out of Ryan Longwell’s range and forced an awkward hail mary pass which Julio Jones actually intercepted… it was just a weird ending all around.
The leading rusher for the Falcons was Turner who appeared to actually have something left in the tank. He ripped off an impressive 33 yard run and managed 7.0 ypc. I wouldn’t recommend paying much for him as he’s likely done after this year, but if you can trade a 3rd rounder I think it’s worth a shot. His value is a total toss-up right now with the Falcons draft plans unknown and Turner could have one more season in him. In regards to the passing game the story of the day was Zach Miller and Golden Tate who each recorded over 100 yards. I’m not going to fully on endorse Miller here because he’s consistently done nothing in the regular season, but taking a flier on him if he’s on waivers is worth a shot. Who knows how the Seahawks offense is going to evolve over the next season or two as Carroll allows Wilson to air it out more and more. I think all Seattle receivers are worth a speculative add because all their values are depressed right now, but they all have shown flashes. In terms of best possible bang for your buck I’m actually targeting Rice who showed some promise a few seasons ago, but recently has disappeared.
Texans at Patriots
Although watching Brady play is always entertaining, this game was the least eventful of the weekend. With a final score of 41-28 that might sound ridiculous, but it really never seemed like the Texans ever had a chance. Both teams stuck to what got them to the playoffs so there weren’t any surprises other than the sudden revival of Shane Vereen’s value. He looked downright explosive and dangerous when he touched the ball and ended up with 124 yards and 3 touchdowns. Particularly impressive were his hands as he hauled in 5 balls for 83 yards, one of which was a perfectly thrown and caught ball in the front corner of the endzone where he just burnt the corner. I have never been a Ridley believer (mostly to to BB, not the talent of the back himself) and so I take similar caution with regards to Vereen, but he’s obviously more dangerous than Woodhead and I could see him being used similarly. Although not an amazing option by any means I’m buying him if the price is reasonable as a “just in case” running back and seeing how the preseason is handled next year. I could also see the Patriots splitting him out wide which would give him some serious flex appeal.
Other than Vereen the stats were in line with what one would expect: lots of catches for lots of yards by Welker (8/13-131) with a healthy dose of Hernandez to boot (6/9-85). The Texans ran exclusively with Foster which put his season touches up to a ridiculous 391. I know I’m not the first to say this, but I think it’s time to sell Foster. It’s been a good run for him, filled with lots of receptions, yards, and touchdowns, but I just don’t see him standing up. Signs of decline were evident this season already and I only expect the signs to grow. I’m a Tate believer and am hoping to see him get his shot to lead a team not named the Texans in 2014, if you own him hold, if you don’t, acquire and hold.
I’d feel remiss if I didn’t mention that Devier Posey was looking great until an injury derailed him. In startups he’s going in the mid teens and I’d be sure to jump at the opportunity to draft him in the 13th/14th round. For a few years now fanalysts have been hoping a secondary receiving option would materialize in Houston, and I think that Posey is what we’ve been looking for.
That’ll do it for this weeks write-up! Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@BRonIsBoss) if there’s anyone you think I overlooked and I’ll be sure to keep an eye on him!