By Leo Paciga ( @FFHoudini )
Last article we spent some time taking a closer look at the NFC South. Today we’re going to focus on the NFC East and see just what opportunities the off season could present for dynasty owners.
Let’s get started with today’s fun filled adventure, the NFC East……
The Speedy Guys to Buy in Chip Kelly’s Offense
LeSean McCoy, RB – There are plenty of “Shady” owners out there still nervous and concerned about Bryce Brown’s emergence in 2012. If you own McCoy, relax….if you don’t own McCoy, make some inquiries and see how much his current owner is asking for him. McCoy turns just 25 this summer and he’s still one of the most talented backs in the NFL. Bryce Brown’s presence does not change how vital McCoy will be to Chip Kelly’s new offense in Philadelphia. McCoy’s game is built on a foundation of excellent vision, speed and agility. He sees the field better than most NFL RBs and he possesses the lateral quickness, agility and balance to take advantage of cutback opportunities that would normally be out of reach for most other running backs. Bryce Brown has a nice combination of size and speed and his involvement will help keep McCoy fresh during the long season. And yes, Brown will be a factor around the goal line, but between the 20’s McCoy will still be a formidable weapon for the Eagles. He’ll also be a weapon for your fantasy team if you’re lucky enough to have McCoy on your dynasty roster.
DeSean Jackson, WR – I’m sure 2012 was a season DeSean Jackson would like to forget. Jackson finished the year with 45 catches, 700 yards and 2 TDs and a broken rib in week 12 that left him sidelined for the rest of the season. Jackson’s 63.6 yards per game average and 15.6 yards per catch average were the lowest of his career since his rookie season back in 2008. And let’s face it, his feast or famine style has never really endeared Jackson to fantasy football owners looking for consistent performances week in and week out. Enter new HC Chip Kelly and his reputation as an offensive innovator and “mismatch” creating genius and all of a sudden Jackson’s future looks quite a bit brighter. In recent interviews Jackson has said that he’s spoken to Chip Kelly about his role in the offense and Kelly told him that he plans to use Jackson much like he used De’Anthony Thomas at Oregon. Now De’Anthony Thomas is a little more powerful than Jackson, but both athletes are fast, dynamic play-makers that offer home run potential every time they touch the ball. If Kelly truly plans to utilize Jackson’s quickness all over the field; then Jackson’s upside certainly outweighs his current value on the open market.
New York Giants
The Running Back Situation – Hype Train versus Blue Collar
David Wilson, RB – Yup, I admit it….I’ve been a conductor on the David Wilson hype train. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that all season long I had been encouraging dynasty owners to target Wilson before he forced his way out of Coughlin’s dog house. I wrote this breakdown at the end of January on the message boards here at DFW and I think it’s still applicable today:
What I see in Wilson is very similar to what I saw in C.J. Spiller back in 2010.
Spiller’s stats as a rookie
74 rushes, 283 yards, 0 TD’s
24 receptions 157 yards, 1 TD
44 KO returns, 1014 yards 1 TD (23.0 yard avg)
Wilson’s stats as a rookie
71 rushes, 358 yards, 4 TD’s
4 receptions, 34 yards, 1 TD
57 KO returns, 1533 yards, 1 TD (26.8 yard avg)
Not only are their rookie stats similar, but their development over their first seasons seemed to follow the same trajectory. Spiller had ball security issues early on in his rookie year and struggled in pass protection. The coaching staff lost some confidence in Spiller and it took a few fantastic special team performances on Spiller’s part to work himself back into the weekly game plan.
Wilson went through basically the same scenario….a few fumbles early on and some missed assignments in blitz pick ups and he was in Coach Tom’s dog house. It took some impressive kick-off returns (showcasing Wilson’s break away speed) to wipe the slate clean.
Seriously, Wilson has an amazing burst and gets to that top end speed very quickly….and he has a unique ability to maintain that high end quickness through his cuts. I also believe Wilson runs inside more effectively than Spiller. Honestly, I really think the folks who see Wilson as a 3rd down RB or a player destined for RBBC are really missing out with this kid.
I spent much of last season trying to acquire Wilson wherever I could, but his price/value has skyrocketed this off season to a point where I’m not sure I’ll be buying anymore. In fact, I actually started looking to sell him in a few leagues and capitalize on the recent value “spike”. Just last week I sold Wilson in one ppr league for Justin Blackmon and Josh Gordon in a 2 for 1 deal.
The key for Wilson in 2013 is going to be how much he improves in blitz protection and ball security this off season. If he shows progression in both areas then his ceiling is very high; if he doesn’t, then he’ll be part of a committee with a short leash regardless of his talent. As with most things in dynasty fantasy football, it comes down to upside versus value and Wilson’s price tag has simply become too expensive especially with the release of Ahmad Bradshaw. The Wilson hype train has picked up so much momentum lately it makes the train from the movie “Unstoppable” look like a Lionel model train engine. If you own him, you’ll most likely get some amazing offers for him this off season and that’s a great position to be in when it comes to being a dynasty owner.
Andre Brown, RB – With all the hype surrounding David Wilson, Brown is the now the value play for fantasy owners looking to invest in the Giants’ backfield. Before breaking his leg in week 12 against the Packers, Brown had shown some solid power and good vision, averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 73 attempts in 2012. Brown doesn’t run as violently as former Giant Ahmad Bradshaw and he doesn’t have the explosiveness of David Wilson, but he is steady and dependable – traits that hold value in a Tom Coughlin offense. If Wilson gets a case of fumblitis or if he struggles protecting Eli Manning, Brown will be the most likely beneficiary unless something changes dramatically before next September. Even if Wilson reaches his potential in 2013, Brown will still hold value as a TD vulture considering all 8 of his TDs in 2012 came from inside the 3 yard line. Brown is a blue collar RB that has seen his share of teams, injuries and disappointments; but at age 26 he seems to have found a home. As a restricted free agent, all signs point to the Giants bringing Brown back for the 2013 season and that means “blue collar value” for your fantasy football squads.
The Guy to Buy Before the Dust Settles
Rueben Randle, WR – In order to see Randle’s true value, lets first discuss the dilemma at WR for the Giants. Victor Cruz is a restricted free agent now (and an unrestricted FA next off season). There is very little chance the Giants will lose Cruz this summer since they can place a one-year tender on him. That gives the Giants the right to not only match another team’s offer, but also receive compensation if they let Cruz walk. So while Cruz may be a Giant in 2013, there could still be some serious trouble on the horizon. Hakeem Nicks will also be an unrestricted FA in 2014 and will demand some big money. Nicks is a WR with elite skills and top 5 upside if he could simply stay healthy. Since battling compartment syndrome back in 2010, Nicks has had a litany of lower body injuries culminating in 2012 with a fractured foot in May and a troublesome knee injury that required a recent arthroscopic clean up at the end of the season. How healthy Nicks will be in 2013 is anybody’s guess. On top of all that, WRs Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden are also free agents and Barden has already talked about finding a new home for 2013. That leaves 2nd year WR Rueben Randle as the WR most likely to benefit from the Giants upcoming WR turmoil. Randle appeared raw as a rookie, but his athleticism was evident while on the field and he actually reminds me of a poor man’s version of Hakeem Nicks. He has a nice combination of speed and strength and he also has great vision and strong hands. Randle should make a nice 3rd WR, manning an outside position with Cruz lined up in the slot for 2013. And if Nicks battles injuries once again this fall, Randle’s role could expand quickly – making him a prominent fantasy football contributor in 2013.
The Guy to Stash
Adrien Robinson, TE – Martellus Bennett is currently a free agent and so far there has been very little dialog between Bennett and the Giants. GM Jerry Reese referred to Robinson as the “Jason Pierre-Paul of tight ends” at the time Robinson was drafted and both Reese and Marc Ross have done a pretty solid job spotting talent. At 6’5″ and 265 lbs, Robinson is a big, strong TE with a nice range of athleticism. He’s still raw and needs work with his overall technique, but size, athletic ability and opportunity equal dynasty sleeper, especially if Bennett moves on. While it’s certainly not a given, Robinson could become fantasy relevant in 2013.
Take Him or Leave Him
Jason Witten, TE – Although he only found the end zone 3 times in 2012, Witten did haul in 110 passes – a career high for the 10 year veteran. With a solid QB in Tony Romo and a rising star at WR in Dez Bryant, Witten (under contract until 2017) is in a great situation to continue producing at a high level for the next few seasons. He makes a good TE to target/buy if you’re gearing up for a title run in 2013. Witten also turns 31 this May, so he makes a solid “sell” candidate if you’re looking at rebuilding or reloading your squad with younger players.
Coach, I’m hurt….again!
Miles Austin, WR – I was going to mention Austin as a “sell” in this article, but from what I’ve seen lately his value on the dynasty trade market has been gawd awful. Plus, I tweaked my hamstring just by typing his name so I’m going to move on to the next player.
The RB Conundrum
DeMarco Murray, RB – Murray is a player who simply personifies risk versus reward. The risk factor obviously pertains to the injury concerns that seem to get louder and louder as the missed games continue to mount for this RB. Murray dealt with a dislocated knee cap and a torn hamstring while at Oklahoma and his first two seasons in Dallas have been marred with a fractured right ankle in 2011 and a sprained left foot last season. When healthy, Murray has displayed a nice combination of power, speed and explosiveness. Murray also does a great job of “pressing the hole” and making his cuts at the heels of his linemen. That’s important for a RB because pressing the hole draws defending linebackers up to the line of scrimmage and away from any potential cutback lanes. If you usually practice risk aversion as a fantasy football owner then Murray probably isn’t the RB for you to target unless you’ve got an endless supply of Pepto Bismol handy. If, however, you’re a fantasy football daredevil when it comes to risk/reward and roster building then Murray may just have the value and upside you’re looking for in 2013.
The Diva who finally showed up
Dez Bryant, WR – I just wanted to take a second to say that I’m thrilled this guy finally starting living up to his enormous upside and potential in 2012. All of the Dez “haters” out there in FF land better hope he has another steel cage throw down with his mom this summer……or else 2013 could be pretty special.
The Guy to Stash
Dwayne Harris, WR – With Dez Bryant living up to his potential as a dominate WR in 2012 and Miles Austin recently reworking his contract to stay a Cowboy in 2013, Harris finds himself in a nice situation. Harris is currently penciled in to be the 3rd WR on a team with significant offensive fire power, making Harris the forgotten option while defenders focus on stopping Dez, Austin, Murray and Witten. Harris needs to work on his breaks and route running, but he’s solid in the open field and while he’s not a “burner” he still exhibits good balance and can change direction without sacrificing speed. We all remember the ridiculous numbers Laurent Robinson was able to put up as a 3rd WR in this offense in 2011 (54/858/11). I think Harris has the potential to be a sneaky play in 2013 and could even have a bigger role if Austin’s rubber band hamstrings act up again as usual.
Robert Griffin III, QB – Lets just call it “The Injury”. We all saw it on national TV as the Redskins battled the Seattle Seahawks in Washington during the 2012 playoffs. We witnessed the QB’s gutty performance in the mud, the questionable coaching decision to leave him out there and we all heard the silence that was so ironically deafening as RG3’s knee buckled in what seemed to be 15 different directions. RG3 is battling back from that injury, and by all reports, he seems to be ahead of schedule and making solid progress. Even Adidas has unveiled a new ad campaign declaring that Griffin is “All in for Week 1,” an indication that Griffin will be ready to play the first week of the season. Honestly, I’m not so sure I believe it. I’m obviously not a doctor, but week one seems slightly optimistic even after what Adrian Peterson accomplished coming off his knee injury last season. I will, however, say this….RG3 is a world class athlete and if anyone can make this a quick and successful come back, I’m willing to bet he can do it. He might not be 100% ready week 1, but he’ll be ready sooner rather than later and he’ll work hard enough to be the same dynamic player he was before the injury. I’m buying RG3 now from any owner that is worried about Griffin’s health and is willing to discount his price accordingly. My master plan? Well, I think RG3 is a super talented QB, but his style of play will lead to a very difficult career filled with some significant injuries so I don’t plan on keeping RG3 long term. I’d like to get RG3 now at a discounted price and then flip him via trade for increased value once he shows he’s regained his health and explosiveness. I’m a huge Griffin fan, but from a fantasy football perspective, I think it’s worth the risk to buy a rehabbing RG3 now and sell a healthy RG3 later – after a monster game. RG3 isn’t in my long term plans, but he’s a poker chip I’d like to cash in on…..I’ll just need a few elite games to get other owners salivating again.
The Torn Plantar Plate Poster Child
Pierre Garcon, WR – Garcon suffered a partially torn plantar plate in week 1 of the 2012 season. It was an injury that cost Garcon 6 games and caused his owners to curl up in the fetal position and lament what might have been. After two severely limited appearances in weeks 4 and 5, Garcon finally made his way back to the playing field in week 11. In weeks 12 and 13, we saw just how perfectly Garcon fits into the Redskins’ offense. Even at less than 100%, Garcon averaged over 5 receptions a game and almost 80 yards per contest between weeks 12 and 17. If you extrapolate the 2012 numbers of a gimpy Garcon over a 16 game season, it still amounts to 70 receptions,1012 yards and 6 TDs. Those are some pretty good numbers for WR playing at less than full speed – imagine what the numbers could look like if Garcon were completely healthy. It appears Garcon will avoid off season surgery to repair the partially torn ligament in his foot and he should be ready to go when camp opens this summer. I’m hoping the injuries to both Garcon and Griffin have left a few Garcon owners feeling some lingering disappointment and looking for a way out. I’ll be buying this Washington WR and I’m betting a healthy Garcon puts up great numbers in 2013.
Well, that’ll do it for the NFC 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. You can also reach out to me on Twitter @FFHoudini