By Leo Paciga ( FFHoudini )
Last article we spent some time taking a closer look at the AFC South. Today we’re going to focus on the AFC East and see just what opportunities the off season could present for dynasty owners.
Let’s get started with the main course, the AFC East……
New England Patriots
The Guy to Sell
Wes Welker, WR - It’s hard not to like Wes Welker even though he plays on a team everyone loves to hate. Welker’s workmanlike demeanor makes it seem like he is always overachieving regardless of his past accomplishments. We’re talking about a WR who stands a mere 5’9″, weighs only 185 lbs and yet manages to top the 100 reception mark in a season as routinely as Kenny Britt gets questioned by police. Over the past 6 seasons, Welker has averaged an impressive 112 receptions and 1,200 yards each year and even though he turns 32 this May, Welker still looks like he’s got some gas left in the tank. So why, with such great numbers, is Wes Welker a “sell”? The reason is because Welker played 2012 under the franchise tag and now finds himself heading into 2013 without a contract. There’s already been some bad blood between Welker’s agent and the Patriots front office from previous negotiations and it looks like these new contract talks will be tenuous at best. If I own Welker, I’m trying to get value for him while there’s still a small chance that he’s a Patriot in 2013. Once it’s clear that Welker has to move on to a new team, a new system and a new QB, there’s a very good chance his trade value will drop and his production could take a serious hit too – and that’s a chance I don’t want to take.
The Guy to Buy
Shane Vereen, RB - Shane Vereen showed us a glimpse of just how talented he can be with his playoff performance against the Houston Texans. Vereen finished that game with seven carries and five receptions for a total of 124 yards and three TDs. Let me say that again…..that’s 3 TDs and 124 yards on 12 touches. Vereen has always had talent, he’s a naturally gifted “cutback” style runner and what’s impressive is that he doesn’t lose much speed or power during his change in direction. The biggest issues for Vereen have been staying healthy and the trust factor that already exists between Tom Brady, Coach Belichick and RB Danny Woodhead. Well, Danny Woodhead is a free agent this off season and with Vereen’s surge at the end of the year, it’s very unlikely the Patriots bring Woodhead back in 2013. The thought of a Stevan Ridley/Shane Vereen backfield in 2013 has to be a very pleasant notion for the Patriots and there will be more than enough opportunity for both RBs from a fantasy football perspective. I’ve always thought of the Patriots backfield as an under appreciated source of FF production and Vereen – currently carrying a cheaper price tag – has the strength and potential to take over the lead back role in New England, especially if Ridley continues to leave the ball on the carpet.
The Polarizing Player
Tom Brady, QB - Tom Brady is a “polarizing” player, but only in the sense that he can be both a buy or sell target this fantasy football off season. If your squad needs an infusion of youth or you’ve decided to blow things up and start rebuilding your roster, then Brady could be a valuable commodity. On the other hand, if you’re going to fine tune your squad for a title run in 2013, then Brady could be the weekly anchor you’re missing at QB. The bottom line with Brady is that he is going to produce solid numbers once again in 2013 regardless of who is playing WR. You could line up Desmond Howard, Charles Rogers and Freddie Mitchell – once Freddie got done thanking his hands for “being so great” – and Brady would still throw for over 4,000 yards and 30 TDs. The downside is that “Mr Bundchen” will be 36 years old this August with only two years remaining on his current contract. If the Patriots don’t resign Brady, he’ll be a 38-year-old free agent QB after the 2014 season….and that’s something you don’t want to risk on your dynasty squad unless your championship bound in 2013.
The Guy to Stash
Julian Edelman, WR - Mr. Edelman is also a free agent this off season, but the likelihood he re-signs with the Patriots is pretty high. As for the talent he brings to the table, Edelman is a “knock off” version of Wes Welker and while he isn’t quite as quick or crafty as Welker, he could still be very successful as the full time slot receiver for the Patriots in 2013. Edelman is a guy I would pluck off waivers if he’s available or get as a “throw in” when negotiating a trade this off season. He could pay major dividends – especially in PPR leagues – if Welker walks and Edelman finds himself lining up in the slot every Sunday in 2013. The possibility of getting high end production for a bargain basement price equals a dynasty win every time.
New York Jets
The Guy to Buy
Stephen Hill, WR - Stephen Hill ended up in the worst possible situation for a raw, unpolished WR coming out of college. He found himself on a team that simply didn’t have the right combination of coaching to help improve his technique or enough veteran leadership at WR to help Hill transition to the NFL level. Hill is an extremely talented athlete, but he needs to work on some major inconsistencies when it comes to route running and catching the ball with just his hands (not his body). Hill’s inexperience at route running is really his biggest handicap and until he improves in this area, he will never be able to really capitalize on his truly impressive athletic abilities. It’s not often you can acquire a 6’4″, 215 lb WR with the wing span of an albatross and the leaping ability of a kangaroo on Red Bull, but in this instance you can probably get Stephen Hill for pennies on the dollar due to the fact he’s on the Jets. I doubt the Jets will be able to get the best out of Hill and his immediate future may certainly look bleak, but I’m buying Hill as cheap as I can. I’m hoping that either the Jets clean house after 2013 and bring in a coaching staff than can help refine Hill, or he moves on to a team that can bring out that elite upside.
The Guy to Sell
Shonn Greene, RB - When we’re talking about selling players for fantasy football reasons, I’d really like to put every single player on the Jets roster (not named Hill) in this blurb. The Jets are a collection of poorly coached players with no clear direction, no focus and no identity on the offensive side of the ball. The best thing that could happen to Shonn Greene is that he takes advantage of the Jets salary cap issues and finds a new home this summer. Regardless of where Shonn Greene ends up in 2013, you’ll want to move him if he’s still currently on one of your dynasty rosters. Greene may be coming off a year in which he set career highs in carries (276), yards (1,063) and touchdowns (8), but he managed a career-low 3.8 yards per attempt (his first season under 4.0) and his 2.1 yards per carry after contact ranked him near the bottom of the league in that area. That’s a terrible indication that this so called power back is losing the most important aspect of his game – his power. Greene will be 28 this August and really doesn’t hold much FF trade value, but some NFL teams will come knocking on his door this off season – and if he lands in the right situation – you might just see an opportunity to capitalize if you’re quick enough.
The Guy to Buy
C.J. Spiller, RB - Most likely the time to get Spiller at a reasonable price in your league is long gone. I’m still a fan of trying to add Spiller even if it means over paying a bit for the speedy RB. Spiller’s acceleration is jaw dropping and the fact that he was under utilized last season in Buffalo means there is still room for upside with Spiller’s production. Everyone talked about the success of the “read option” this year and how it froze defenders, but Spiller’s quickness routinely “freezes” defenders that very same way and every time Spiller gets to the corner, it’s an automatic 8 – 10 yard gain. Hopefully the new coaching staff keeps talking up a potential time share with Fred Jackson again in 2013 and creates some concern among current Spiller owners……giving a few owners the chance to buy without paying a premium.
The Guy to Stash
T.J. Graham, WR – Graham played on almost 70 percent of the snaps in 2012, but only managed 31 catches for 322 yards and one touchdown. Graham’s strength is his straight line speed and unfortunately the Bills really didn’t take advantage of that speed on a regular basis in his rookie season. If T.J Graham continues to work on using his speed/quickness to create separation while running a regular route tree – he’ll have a chance to take a step forward and grow into a dependable option in the Bills offense. The best analogy I can make for Graham’s situation is this; it’s like trying to take an elite track star and utilize them in an obstacle course competition – the speed doesn’t always help. Sure there’s a lot of risk with Graham and his development, but his speed is something you can’t teach and for that reason he”s worth stashing on your roster and taking a “wait and see” approach.
The Guy to Buy
Lamar Miller, RB - Ok, if there is one player that is smack dab in the middle of the perfect scenario, the “Shangri – La” where talent, situation and value all intersect, it’s Lamar Miller. His dynasty asking price is starting to increase, but it’s still below market value for a RB with his upside and situation. Yes, Miller certainly struggled his rookie season when it came to pass protection and that led to a lack of playing time for the rookie RB. Miller was in on roughly 140 plays in 2012, reaching the 10 carry mark only twice in the nine games that he played. No way were the Dolphins going to risk their young franchise QB by playing a rookie running back struggling with the X’s and O’s on offense and with pass protection – even if Miller was averaging 4.9 yards per carry. So yes, Miller struggled in some aspects as a rookie, but the positives of Miller’s game far outweigh the negatives. Miller runs with exceptional balance and patience, allowing his blockers to open up the next level of defenders. He has good size and strength, runs with good pad level and has a nice burst whether he’s running downhill or sideline to sideline. Miller also has another gear that allows him to accelerate through holes or past defenders and he catches the ball very well out of the backfield or down field. The uncertainty of Miller’s immediate future comes down to 2 things; just how well he develops in year two with his pass protection and will the game slow down enough for him mentally. I believe both things will happen and Miller will become an electric running back at the NFL level in his sophomore season. Regardless of where Reggie Bush ends up, or what noise Daniel Thomas makes this off season, Lamar Miller is the RB to own in Miami as far as dynasty fantasy football is concerned. If you want to acquire him at a reasonable price, then you have to go and get him now.
The Other Guy to Buy
Ryan Tannehill, QB - Certainly Ryan Tannehill spent most of his rookie season in the shadow of a tremendous rookie QB class. While RG3, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson captured America’s hearts and attention, Ryan Tannehill quietly matured in relative anonymity. Don’t think for a second that Tannehill had a disappointing rookie season just because he wasn’t mentioned in the same breath as his rookie counterparts. Tannehill made solid progress as the year went on, figuring out when to use his athleticism to make plays and learning to make the proper pre-snap reads and adjustments. Upgrading the WRs in Miami will be the primary focus of the Dolphins front office this off season and that will only help with Tannehill’s development in 2013. Tannehill is a player that still has a some growing to do, but with a very high ceiling and a relatively low price tag compared to his fellow rookie QBs – he’s a player to target and add to your dynasty squad this off season.
Well, that’ll do it for the AFC East 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.