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Mon, June 9, 2014

Fantasy Impact: Situations to target in 2014

Every fantasy winner finds value in the mid and late rounds.  Sometimes that value comes in the most boring of places.  Every year, every draft, I find a certain batch of players that my brain simply refuses to acknowledge.  You know the guys, the ones you don’t even see on your cheat sheet because they are either so underwhelming, injury prone, or so risky.  The way the NFL draft fell this year, I can identify a fair amount of situations I will not necessarily be targeting, but OK drafting because they present nice value for a starter with a clear role with young backups who should be productive in their absence without threatening the starting role.  The presence of each negatively affects the draft slot of both, and that is where the value comes in.

Now, what do all of these mean for your draft strategy?  Well, if you agree with any of these takes, plan on drafting that SITUATION and sloughing at that position early on (RB2 or WR2 in most cases) and fill your draft with proven talent, understanding you’ll get your team’s guy for that position later in your draft.  For instance, if you’re sold on Maclin/Mathews, then wait on your WR2 and feel free to pull the trigger on your QB or RB2 a around earlier than the rest of your draft competition. 

Jeremy Maclin – Of course he’s an injury risk.  But the Eagles put all their chips on him as he assumes the tantalizing D-Jax role in their offense.  And should he go down with an injury, a stomach bug, or fake cancer again, Jordan Mathews will be a PPR machine in that offense if he can grab the reigns.  Mathews’ role in the meantime appears to be as a slot receiver to get the hang of things.  By week 6 if Maclin goes down, he could be onto a Keenan Allen type of rookie year given the volume of reliable work he’ll get in the Chip Kelly offense.

Frank Gore – It has been YEARS now that people have said he’ll run out of gas, but now, while everyone has moved to the other side on Gore saying he’s old reliable, why not have this be the year that the wheels fall off?  Carlos Hyde is his no brainer backup who poses little threat to his role as of now, but is as versatile as they come, much like Gore in his early years. 

Ben Tate – Trust me, you’re not going to have warm fuzzies if you draft Tate.  But despite the injuries of last season, he played through most all of them.  Still, he’ll be beat up carrying the ball as much as they expect, and knocked down a peg because of the Josh Gordon absence, so I like his potential value as owners overlook him on those issues.  And I REALLY like his backup Terrance West, given his 40+ TD’s just last season in Towson.  West will have a role here regardless, but Tate’s presence pushes him down a bit, and if he gets the reigns, there would be a frenzy for his talents on the wire.

Doug Martin – The injury and production were cause for concern, but his backup Sims is worth owning and the clear favorite to assume production if Martin should struggle or find the IR again this year.  This one all depends on how far Martin falls in drafts, and with talk of RBBC already stirring, a fall looks imminent.  If we’re talking third round, I’m game.  If we’re talking 11th overall as ESPN has him ranked, count me out, too much risk for how poorly last season turned out.

Steven Jackson – I like him for a mini-bounceback (diminishing talent but he has the job) with room to run behind a better line and a dominant pass attack, and his backup Davonte Freeman will hit the ground running in his absence.  While Freeman is talented, I don’t see him as a threat to Jackson’s touches if Jackson is whole, given the big contract they gave Jackson two years ago.  They are proud enough to want to see a return on that investment, no matter how ugly the result has looked at times.

Stevan Ridley – His role should be reestablished and Vereen isn’t really competition here as he plays a different role, and both are obviously draftable.  The backup to Ridley’s role is James White, and he could have a great role in that offense if Ridley should cough it up again this year.

Victor Cruz – I’m onto his bounceback because of his new OC who has the ability to turn Eli around.  Victor’s slot role should resume with Odell Beckham, who looks pro ready and will fill the Hakeem Nicks role immediately. To quote from nj.com, “After looking back at each touchdown catch Cruz made since 2012, all but two have come from the slot. Even last year, when Cruz was forced into more frequent outside duty, three of his four scores came from inside.” 

Reuben Randle will be a nice find, and again, if I drafted him, I’d look to lock up Odell who would benefit in his absence.

Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders – Emmanuel Sanders finds a ready-made role for him in Denver.  And waiting in the wings is Cody Lattimer who may do a little more on the outside.  The rookie who is quite talented on crossing routes and slants will need some to get up to speed on the chemistry experiment that is Peyton Manning’s offense.  And while Welker was on the field last season, he was a touchdown machine, so I love him when healthy.  This quote comes from ESPN Insider’s Denver beat reporter Jeff Legwold: "[W]ith Wes Welker's concussion history and the team's desire for more offensive depth, Latimer can earn some quality snaps right out of the gate. Even with Andre Caldwell having signed a two-year deal with the team just before free agency opened, Latimer projects to be the No. 4 receiver in the rotation. ... [I]n good hands, proficiency in the kinds of routes the Broncos like to use -- particularly slants as well as wide receiver screens -- and a willingness to work and you have a player who should earn premium snaps in the upcoming season."

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