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We all know one of the most important tools in building a competitive dynasty team is finding value. Whether that is capitalizing on buy-low and sell-high opportunities, finding waiver wire gems or snagging the player unexpectedly falling in your draft the point is always to get the player with the most value for the lowest possible price. I’m going to look at three guys who lost value in recent years, but are climbing their way back to fantasy relevancy. These players may be available at a reasonable price for now, but if current play is any indication, their price may skyrocket by season’s end.
James Jones, WR GB
During the 2010 season, James Jones developed a reputation for having some of the slipperiest hands in football. While he tallied “only” eight dropped passes in all of 2010, the drops always seemed to happen at the worst times. Big play after big play seemed to be wasted due to his consistent inconsistency. His poor performances led many to believe he would be traded during the off season heading into 2011. However, Aaron Rodgers lobbied hard on his behalf saying, “He should be priority No. 1 and I mean that with all my heart. He really should be priority No. 1. We don’t win the Super Bowl without him and we need him.”
He was tied with Donald Driver in 2011 as the fourth most targeted player in Green Bay. He reeled in just 34 catches but managed to accumulate seven touchdowns meaning he scored touchdowns on a staggering 20.5 percent of his catches. Many deemed this fluky and unsustainable and to some extent it probably he is. He dropped ten percent of his targets in 2011 compared to 12 percent in 2010.
Enter 2012 and he’s a new man or at least he has a new set of hands. He has yet to drop a pass and is fantasy’s eleventh best wide receiver at the midway point. He has already totaled 53 targets which equals his average over the prior two seasons and already has seven touchdowns this season. Certainly the absence of Greg Jennings is boosting his numbers and Jermichael Finley’s vanishing act buoys his red zone targets, but there is no reason to think either of those things will change going forward. Jennings is likely to be with a new team next season and Finley has become borderline droppable in fantasy leagues.
I wouldn’t argue that James Jones is the best receiver in Green Bay, but his dynasty price tag hasn’t yet caught up with his play. Apparently he’s talking to himself before plays to stay focused and spending more time in the film room. Whatever he is doing, it’s working and Pro Football Focus lists him as their fourth most sure handed receiver this season. The touchdowns may slow down to an extent, but there’s no reason his production should drop significant with less competition for targets and more confidence earned from his teammates. Get him as a WR2 at WR3/flex prices and most likely it will pay off in the long run.
DeSean Jackson, WR PHI
Sometimes dynasty owners, including myself, get caught up in the moment. Players have up and down years and we make too much out of bumps in the road. Instead we should look at the player and what skills made them fantasy relevant in the first place. DeSean Jackson is a prime example.
Over a three year span from 2008-2010, he accumulated 3,124 yards and 17 touchdowns. Last season during his “down year” he still tallied more yards than Jeremy Maclin. Since coming into the league in 2008 he has been the Eagles leading receiver. Last season we watched him engage in a bitter contract battle with Philadelphia ownership. The dispute led to his pouting, quitting on routes and eventually being benched in a few games. Suddenly, everyone viewed Jeremy Maclin as the wide receiver to own in “The City of Brotherly Love.”
Some say he’s a one trick pony and all he does is run go routes all day. Early in his career that was true, but this season he seems to be running a wider variety of routes. Despite Michael Vick’s slump, he’s still on pace for career highs in yards and catches. The touchdowns still aren’t there and expecting double digit touchdowns from a guy his size seems foolish. However,1,000 yards and between five and eight touchdowns per season is more than respectable.
Bottom line here is the skills that made him a popular fantasy player in 2009 and 2010 haven’t diminished at all and he’s showing that this season. I’m not saying he’s definitely better than Maclin or that he’s a top ten dynasty option going forward. I am saying that no one is talking about him, he’s a big play waiting to happen, and we should look at his first three years more than last season. His circumstances are uncertain with a shaky quarterback situation, but if his skills are changing at all they’re improving. He’s an undervalued and possibly under priced dynasty receiver.
Sidney Rice, WR SEA
With only one big season, calling him a dynasty asset might be a stretch. Viewing him as a valuable option is based on his ceiling only. Shoulder injuries have derailed his career, but he’s still young and extremely gifted. He flashed his upside in 2009 with a monster season that saw him rack up 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns while catching passes from Brett Favre. Since then he’s yet to go over 500 yards or three touchdowns in a season.
Earlier this week, Rice said he feels the best he has for some time and offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, added that he thinks he’s regained Pro Bowl form. He doesn’t have Favre throwing him the ball anymore, but quarterback Russell Wilson has shown promise early on. His numbers indicate he is indeed starting to feel better. Over the first four weeks of the season he averaged just 33 yards and .25 touchdowns per game. However, over the last three games he’s up to 56 yards and .66 touchdowns. Not earth shattering by any means, but the trend is promising.
I’m not recommending you go pay WR1 prices for him, but if you can get him for a draft pick or an unproven prospect the upside should be very tempting. Seattlelacks a true option outside of Rice to take over as their primary receiving option. We’ve seen what he’s capable of and if he manages to stay healthy he could become an elite option. Don’t expect much for the rest of this season, but out the three guys in this article, he has arguably the highest ceiling. His play is trending up, but his price tag will likely begin trending up soon also.