By Leo Paciga ( @FFHoudini )
Last article we spent some time taking a closer look at the AFC North. Today we’re going to focus on the AFC South and see just what opportunities the off season could present for dynasty owners.
Let’s get started with the main course, the AFC South……
The Guy to Sell
Reggie Wayne, WR - Let me start off by saying this…Reggie Wayne keeps proving me wrong every year. Every season I think I notice his skills starting to deteriorate, his already limited speed becoming even more limited, his ability to get off the line cleanly starting to fade away – and yet Wayne continues to put up solid fantasy football numbers on a weekly basis. This year, he really surprised me by appearing to be rejuvenated with Andrew Luck under center and completely refocused while dealing with the Chuck Pagano situation. I can’t argue with the numbers from this season, 195 targets is an insane amount and 106 receptions for 1355 yards is simply staggering production…..BUT…..Wayne will be 35 years old next November. At some point age will catch up to Reggie and the wheels will fall off. I’m betting they fall off rather quickly and rob his fantasy football owners of any chance to sell for some type of value. 2012 was the “perfect storm” for Reggie Wayne and even though he has a very young, talented QB throwing to him, I would take this opportunity to move Reggie Wayne and get some type of value back while you still can.
The Guy to Buy
T.Y. Hilton, WR - The one thing we all know about T.Y. Hilton is that he is FAST. Not only does he have superb long speed, but Hilton has that “quick burst” acceleration that surprises defenders no matter how many times they’ve seen that burst on game film. It’s that quickness that makes Hilton the perfect WR on the Colts to get over the top on coverages or split zone defenses that can sometimes get complacent or too comfortable. Hilton also developed a nice rapport with Andrew Luck as the season progressed and he seemed to become more comfortable with his route running and maintaining his speed both in and out of his breaks. Bottom line, Hilton has 4.3 speed, he’s just 23 years old and he already has five 100 yard games under his belt from his rookie season. While he may never become a target monster, Hilton certainly provides enough upside to make him a player I’m looking to acquire this off-season if the price is right.
The Other Guy to Buy
Dwayne Allen, TE - When the Indianapolis Colts drafted TEs in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the NFL draft last spring, many fantasy football experts envisioned Allen taking a back seat to Coby Fleener in terms of fantasy football production. After all, Fleener was Andrew Luck’s favorite target and college roommate while they both attended Stanford. Surely that type of chemistry would carry over to the NFL and Fleener would find himself the recipient of many Andrew Luck fastballs. Well, there was a problem with that theory…Dwayne Allen showed himself to be a more polished and well rounded TE than Fleener during their rookie seasons. Allen brings the whole package to the TE position; he has size (6’3″ 255 lbs), good lateral quickness and great hands. Allen is also very fluid running patterns, adjusts well to the ball and has the ability to snatch it away from defenders in mid air. Even more important than everything I’ve mentioned is Allen’s skill level when it comes to blocking. This kid hustles from snap to whistle and has a knack for setting solid blocks at the line of scrimmage or at the second level of the defense. Former Colt OC Bruce Arians is known for demanding a lot from his TEs since his offensive sets/schemes do not use a fullback and Allen proved he was up to that challenge during his rookie year. The Colts will continue to run multiple TE sets even with OC Bruce Arians moving on to Arizona and you can bet Dwayne Allen will continue to outshine teammate Coby Fleener along with many other young TEs throughout the NFL. Look, I know TE is a deep position when it comes to fantasy football and there are many options out there that are relatively cheap for your dynasty squad….but Dwayne Allen is a guy who caught 70% of his targets his rookie season and has a young franchise QB throwing to him. You really should look to acquire this guy before his price tag starts to match his upside.
The Guys to Buy
Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, WRs - Ok, we finally got to see what these youngsters could do with a below average NFL QB once Chad Henne took over the QB position. Prior to Henne, all the Jaguar players suffered from Blaine Gabbert disease, a condition that results in extreme underachievement and poor production. I’d call the disease an “airborne” virus, but I’m really not sure any of Gabbert’s passes actually stayed in the air – or were on target long enough – to be considered “airborne”. Chad Henne took over as the QB for the Jaguars on week 10 of the 2012 season and in weeks 10 through 17 both Blackmon and Shorts averaged roughly the same statistics – just over 5 receptions and 80 yards per game and both players scored 4 TDs. I like Blackmon more than Cecil Shorts, but I listed them both here because the asking price for Shorts is going to be much lower than that of Blackmon. Justin Blackmon has some improving to do with his concentration and route running, but he has the potential to be a target monster in this league. He’s fluid, strong, tracks the ball well and does a nice job presenting a target for his QB even in traffic. He reminds me a bit of Michael Crabtree only I think Blackmon’s after the catch skills are stronger. In fact, I could see Blackmon having a similar career trajectory to Crabtree, taking a few seasons – and a solid QB – to mature into a PPR machine and a weekly fantasy WR #1. Cecil Shorts, on the other hand, offers value based on his asking price. If Jacksonville brings in a QB upgrade in 2013, Shorts is a WR that will offer weekly production with his ability to get deep and create space against opposing zone defenses. Again, I’d prefer to acquire Blackmon, but Shorts comes with a less expensive asking price and he’s a WR that you can try to add as an additional piece in trade negotiations.
The Veteran to Buy
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB - One of the most interesting things about dynasty fantasy football is the “value pendulum” that swings back and forth on certain players as their careers progress. Last off season, I was a strong proponent of selling MJD due to four factors – the looming contract holdout, the off season knee surgery, the mounting workload (MJD averaged 361 touches a year between 2009 and 2011) and the whispers of a “bone on bone” condition impacting that surgically repaired knee. Move ahead to this off season and I’ve changed my stance on Maurice Jones-Drew as that value pendulum has started to swing in the opposite direction. My guess is that MJD now realizes holding out isn’t the answer for a new contract and that he’ll report to camp on time, healthy and in shape. I’m also pretty sure his poor production in 2012, a lingering foot injury and his age (he’ll be 28 this March) will drive down his price this off season making him a valuable acquisition for teams ready to make that title push in 2013. I’ve seen MJD going in the mid to late 3rd round in some recent dynasty start ups (early 4th round in one draft) and coming off a year with only 100 touches, MJD should be healthy, rested and poised to have 2/3 solid years of production – the last 2 potentially with a new team. I won’t overpay, but if MJD is getting drafted around guys like DeMarco Murray, Stevan Ridley and Chris Johnson, then his price has hit a point that appeals to me for the 2013 season.
The Guy to Sell
Owen Daniels, TE - Owen Daniels is coming off a season in which he scored a career best 6 TDs and recorded 104 targets. He was basically the 2nd, 3rd and 4th options after Andre Johnson in the Texans passing game week after week. Daniels isn’t flashy, but he’s consistent and he racked up 62 receptions for 716 yards in 2012. He’s also easily replaceable in the world of fantasy football TEs and you’re much better off trying to move the 30 year old TE for whatever you can get while you have a small window of opportunity. Target a team in your league that might have a weakness or lack of depth at TE and see if you can possibly acquire a late round rookie pick for Daniels.
The Guy to Buy
Ben Tate, RB - Tate was everyone’s off season darling at the end of the 2011 campaign when he was coming off a season that included 175 carries, 942 yards and 4 TDs while backing up one of the top rushers in the league in Arian Foster. 2012 wasn’t as kind to Ben Tate as he struggled with nagging injuries (toe) and poor performances. In fact, Justin Forsett seemed to supplant the inconsistent Tate as the primary back up to Foster mid way through the season, a testament to how poorly Tate played. I think, however, Tate’s poor performances can be attributed to two factors – never quite being healthy while battling through injuries and losing his patience as a runner when he finally did get on the field. Tate has always shown top end skills when it comes to quick burst, power and balance, but what he improved upon in 2011 was his patience letting the plays (and lanes) develop in front of him. I think both of those issues can be easily fixed with an off season to get healthy and watch some game film. There is no doubt in my mind that once Tate studies the film from 2011, he’ll see how much being patient helped his productivity and he’ll be back to being a solid contributor in 2013 even with Foster acting as the lead back once again. Take this opportunity to go calling on the current Tate owner, especially if the Tate owner in your league is not the Foster owner (a Foster owner will be less likely to trade Tate). You just might find the asking price is pretty cheap after Tate’s disappointing 2012 season.
The Guy to Sell
Chris Johnson, RB - Earlier in this article I talked about adding an aging Maurice Jones-Drew, but I’m certainly looking to sell Chris Johnson. Johnson’s game is defined by his elite speed and predicated by his unique ability to get “skinny” and explode through a crease while maintaining that level of speed. Yes, Johnson did exhibit that signature burst on occasion this season, but more often than not, he appeared pedestrian and hesitant. This season Johnson avoided contact – contact he would normally just burst through – and instead tried making spin moves and stretching plays to the sidelines, giving defenders ample time to corral him. In fact, I’m pretty sure Johnson was one triple salchow away from making the 2013 U.S. figure skating team. What I see from Chris Johnson is a RB that is simply declining and I think 2013 will bring more of the same at an even more alarming rate.
The Guy to Buy
Kenny Wright, WR - Kendall Wright finished his rookie season with 64 receptions, the second most by a rookie WR in Titans history. He also added 626 yards and 4 TDs to his stat sheet for 2012. For being only 5’10 and 196 lbs., Wright has the ability to play bigger and much more physically than his size would suggest. Wright is like the “Anti Chris Johnson” when it comes to contact because Wright actually seems to enjoy initiating contact and running through tackles after the catch. Kendall Wright also does a nice job tracking the flight of the ball and adjusting his patterns while the ball is in mid air – a huge plus if we’re talking about Jake Locker’s inaccuracy at QB. Wright has all the skills to develop into a WR #1 in this league and with a full off season under his belt and the questions surrounding Kenny Britt’s future with the Titans, I think you’ll see Wright refine his game and be utilized all over the field starting in 2013.
The Polarizing Player
Kenny Britt, WR - Well the off season has started once again with a bang for the poster child of “America’s Most Wanted”. While it looks like Kenny may have avoided direct involvement with this latest incident, I’m not even going to go into details on the latest “Britt-capade”. The question with Britt comes down to just how much off season indigestion can you stomach before you simply surrender? Britt has tremendous talent and the ability to be a top producer when it comes to fantasy football, but we always seem to be pitching our FF tents in the land of unfulfilled promise. 2013 is the final year of Kenny Britt’s current contract, so while he might not be back with Tennessee in 2014, he will be playing the 2013 season for a new deal somewhere. Will playing for a new contract be enough incentive to keep Britt motivated and focused? Well, if you think the answer is yes – and you can stomach the risk – then this off season presents the perfect time to buy Mr. Britt. Most owners have had enough between the never ending parade of off field incidents, the knee surgery, the ankle issue and the relatively poor production in 2012. I think Britt represents a great deal of value at his current price and with a whole off season to get healthy – I said “get healthy” NOT “get arrested” – he’s the one WR out there that you can get at a bargain price that could have top 5 WR value. To me that’s worth the risk, but I seldom play it safe.
Well, that’ll do it for the AFC South breakdown. You may or may not agree with my analysis on the players mentioned above, but hopefully you’ve at least enjoyed the article. I encourage everyone out there to take the time to research players, watch some film and continue to actively improve your dynasty rosters. The tools and opinions provided here at DFW can certainly help take your teams to the next level.