Written by Brian Luzier
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, starting with the Wild Card round:
Bengals at Texans
There’s been a lot of hype around the Bengals in the last year and a half due to the emergence of AJ Green and Andy Dalton. The team has gone from being down and out year after year to making the playoffs in back to back years… on the back of two sophomores! Unfortunately this game didn’t deliver much of relevance as the winning recipe for the Texans was a lot of Shayne Graham with a little Arian Foster sprinkled in.
Marvin Jones had a disappointing outing after an impressive end to his rookie season but is still worth keeping an eye on. Any receiver opposite AJ Green is going to get a lot of single coverage and if he and Andy Dalton can continue to progress he’ll be a solid WR3 by the end of next season. Owen Daniels led the Houston receivers, followed by Andre Johnson and Arian Foster. Move on, there’s nothing sneaky to see here.
Vikings at Packers
As if the Texans victory wasn’t boring enough, the Saturday night game was abysmal. With Ponder out the Vikes were led by Joe Webb (11-30 for 180, 1 INT, 1 TD and 7 for 68 on the ground). For their first series it looked like the Vikings might actually compete with the Pack, but that didn’t last long. Green Bay promptly figured out the Vikings offense and never looked back; the final score was closer than it deserved to be. Michael Jenkins actually led the Vikings receiving corps thanks to a garbage time 50 yard TD, but outside of that play the Vikings offense was anemic. AP only averaged 4.5 ypc. That tells you all you need to know about this game and this season for the Vikings.
Aaron Rodgers spread the wealth as usual with 10 GB receivers catching passes from him. The most notable thing to take away from the Packers side is DuJuan Harris continuing emergence. This guy has come on really strong lately and continued to impress with 47 yards on the ground (1 TD) and another 5/53 in the air. The Packers have been a team whose RB you wanted to avoid for the past few seasons but Harris is making me a believer. He’s absolutely worth a stash now to see what next year holds for him.
Colts at Ravens
Unlike the Packers victory, this game was actually closer than the box score makes it look. A couple of lost fumbles from Ray Rice (1 in the regular season, 0 lost) kept the Colts alive. Although no Colts got into the end zone their young offense continued to show flashes. Vick Ballard looked like the real deal bouncing some inside runs outside when the holes weren’t opening for him, but it would be nice to see some better receiving totals from Ballard before we can call him a “workhorse”. He’s consistently gotten the majority of their runs and he’ll be a solid RB2 for next season. If you can make a move for him now and need a RB I’d pull the trigger. This whole offense is going to keep improving and that should help him find some more room to run. Another young Colt, T.Y. Hilton, impressed as well. Hilton posted 8 rec for 66 yards. He was heavily involved in the game and it constantly seemed like he was inches from breaking away from the Ravens DBs. Like Ballard the window for getting Hilton on the cheap is closing but as Wayne gets phased out of the offense someone needs to catch passes and Hilton looks like he’s up for the challenge. I see him as a WR3 next year with a WR2 ceiling the following seasons.
For the Ravens there weren’t any surprises, but it was good to see Bernard Pierce look so good (13 for 103). When the Ravens took him in the 3rd round last year it had some people scratching their heads but it appears it was another solid move by the wizard that is Ozzie Newsome. Although his value is capped in the short term by Ray Rice he’s proven to be a top quality backup and I have no doubt he could tote the rock 20+ times if something were to happen to Rice.
Seahawks at Redskins
This was the most interesting and eventful game of the weekend: it was a battle of rookies with ups, downs, and injuries. From a fantasy perspective the most important takeaway from this game is the RG3 injury. While it’s possible he has an AP type of recovery the sad truth is that he likely won’t be himself until 2014. If you’re a true RG3 believer I think making a move now or in the middle of next season once he’s “healthy” but not playing well would be the right time. Fantasy owners have a short memory and after a down 2013 patient owners will reap the rewards from RG3. By now it should surprise no one, but Alfred Morris was playing like the player he’s proven to be week in and week out; a grinder that will take 2 feet for every one you give him. Garcon led the Washington receivers with a 4/50 line and appears to be a great WR2 for next season. It’s obvious RG3 trusts him and he’s been able to take advantage of soft coverages while teams are defending the ‘Skins rushing attack.
For Seattle there were few surprises. Marshawn went beast mode and Wilson looked spectacular- exactly what we’ve come to expect from the two this season. In addition to his rushing total (8-67) Wilson made himself known on Lynch’s TD run that sealed the game by outrunning Lynch and getting a crucial block downfield (Video). That kid has heart, wheels, skills, and most importantly balls. Not many QBs would (or could) replicate what Wilson did on that play. I think it sums him up perfectly, I really enjoy watching him play and I think he’s being overlooked right now. There’s still time to make a move on him before his value levels off with his production as a QB1 with top QB potential.
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.