By DFW Contributor – The Captain
This is the third release in a series of articles where I will be going division by division looking for a buy & sell on each team. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind: I will deal with players like stocks rather than focus on strategies. As a general rule, this will about production relative to ADP with a focus on players who will not lose value. Today we are highlighting the NFC North.
Green Bay Packers
Buy James Starks
There is no doubt that the Green bay offense is built around the passing game. But that doesn’t mean the running game gets ignored entirely. On the contrary, prior to his injuries Ryan Grant saw back to back seasons of 312 and 282 carries. Last season the backfield situation seemed a bit muddled, but no more. Grant hasn’t been re-signed and every report has been positive on Starks. His ADP is ridiculously low for a RB who is the clear starter right now, even being drafted behind RBs who are clear backups. Starks has already flashed some skills in both the rushing and receiving game. It is likely that the current owner is thinking back to last year to the hope they had and is willing to unload him on the cheap.
Sell Greg Jennings
I could probably recommend selling on any number of players in this offense, but I am settling on Jennings. I like Jennings plenty enough, but he is at his ceiling both in production and value. He is regarded as a top 10 WR and drafted off the board early. If you read my article last week you will see where I drew the comparison between Jennings and Colston and the very similar numbers between the two. Jennings isn’t an elite WR which puts him in the next tier. There is a pretty long list of WRs that have “top 10 upside” and while there is no doubt Jennings fits that description as he is getting drafted at the very top of that group. He’s someone you can trade for someone of lower value but similar production along with an upgrade to your team elsewhere.
Buy Percy Harvin
I will freely admit to not being on board with Harvin when he came out. Generally speaking I don’t care much for players considered “athletes” but Harvin has been maturing as a WR. His production has been steadily increasing and will continue to do so in 2012 as he has yet to even approach his ceiling. I’ve done pretty much a full 180 on him to the point where I have him rated as my #6 dynasty WR. I know that is a pretty lofty number considering present company but the bulk of the WRs in that territory have already demonstrated their peak numbers. Harvin hasn’t even hit 1,000 yards in a season nor had more than 6 TDs and is already scratching at the top 10. I foresee a point where he is a 90+ reception WR year in and year out with 1500 combined yards and double-digit TDs and sustaining that level for a long time. He is being drafted outside of the top 10 in the late 3rd/early 4th. There may be owners out there who still have concerns over his migraine issues or missed practices from the past that they are willing to undersell him. The irony is he has missed less time than the likes of Andre, Dez, Britt, etc.
Sell Adrian Peterson
AP’s value took a hit with the injury he sustained at the end of last season. But most of the spring reports have been positive and already have him running. There is talk right now about him starting training camp on the PUP but that isn’t the same thing as actually starting the season on the PUP. He will be ready for week 1 and most owners realize that. That said, he is now 27 years old and his workload has regressed every season since 2008. I expect AP to still be productive for another 2-3 seasons, however his value isn’t going to go up. He’s no longer regarded as the #1 RB in the league so the time has already passed to get peak value. But even if he produces big numbers this season, the likelihood of him moving back up even to the top 5 is pretty low. It may be a wiser course of action to wait right until the start of the season to move him or even once the year is underway but I would be keeping an eye out for that opportunity. Just don’t go chasing it and ending up underselling him.
Buy Jay Cutler
Cutler’s production has been all over the map, but the talent is there. My biggest concerns about him have never been with his ability but rather what he has been surrounded with. The offensive line in Chicago is just that – offensive. They are one of the worst in the league and let too many defenders run wild in the backfield. Couple that with a team that has been starting guys like Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett, Roy Williams, and Devin Hester…Cutler has been set up to fail even with the supposed genius of Mike Martz. One of the most important abilities you want to have in a WR is the ability to get open. It really helps to complete passes and avoid interceptions. The Bears have finally brought in two weapons in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery who have that ability. Cutler is going to be good for low-end QB1 production starting this year.
Sell Matt Forte
Putting the contract issues aside, I have just never been on board with Forte. He is a safe, borderline top 10 RB sitting at peak value. He was on his way to what probably would have been the best season of his career in 2011 until he was derailed by injury. He’s been a major contributor to the passing game and could continue to be so but I am expecting the game to go more vertical this year. The ineptitude of the receiving corps since Cutler arrived in Chicago has been evident and forced him to make a lot of short throws. The other interesting aspect here is that Forte’s touches had been trending down each year since he was a rookie. He also doesn’t score a lot of TDs which limits his production. For the first time he also has a very talented RB on this team with him in Michael Bush who will see plenty of playing time. For a RB getting taken in the mid-2nd round, I would want more for my money. As a general rule when he is sitting on the board as the best RB (based on ADP), I will draft another position or “reach” for an RB behind him.
Buy Mikel Leshoure
Leshoure is coming off a major injury sustained prior to his rookie season but is no more an injury risk than Jahvid Best or Kevin Smith. We’re throwing Smith out of any equation right off as in 7 games last season he had one good one. He is no significant threat for carries unless injuries occur. We also know what the Lions have in Jahvid Best. Throw out his one 88 yard run last season and his ypc average drops a full yard to 3.6. While up from his 3.2 number his rookie season, both are major red flags which will dictate that he is a better fit as a receiver out of the backfield where he has shown a lot of production. You’ll also be lucky to get 16 games from him. Enter Mikel Leshoure. I would be very surprised if Leshoure wasn’t handling the bulk of the carries soon after coming off his suspension. He is better suited to be the featured back. It is likely that this could turn out to be a full-blown time share, but you can get Leshoure in the middle rounds of the draft and a few rounds later than Best.
Sell Titus Young
I had a really hard time coming up with a “sell” for the Lions apart from potentially putting Calvin’s name here. But I would have expected too much of a negative reaction from the crowd that would probably leave their wives and girlfriends for him. I like Young’s skill set and I don’t really like the idea of recommending selling a WR who is so young and talented. However my concern is whether or not the production is going to be there on a consistent basis. He started 9 games his rookie season and the production was all over the map. He didn’t have any standout games and with Calvin in the fold he will never be the focal point of any game plan. The Lions also still have Nate Burleson signed for a couple more seasons and despite his age and average abilities, the two will share snaps. The real difference will ultimately be Ryan Broyles. Detroit should end up running a lot of 3 WR sets and I see Broyles being the 2nd most productive WR in that offense. And they also have Pettigrew. This is a great young offense but the ball is going to be spread out with Calvin being the focal point for the next several seasons. I just don’t think Young will live up to the expectations of many, though his ADP right now is pretty reasonable. For dynasty purposes he is a nice bench option to plug-in on a bye week for some points.