In this weekly column, I explore some young players who haven’t made much of a consistent impact to date. Some players may be available on your waiver wire, some may be available via a cheap/moderate trade. This week I’m going look at Cleveland Browns wide receiver Greg Little, Green Bay Packers tight end DJ Williams and Jacksonville Jaguar Jordan Shipley. Acquiring any of these players could decide how well your dynasty/keeper team does for the next few years. I will focus on their most recent matchup to draw the majority of my insight.
Greg Little, WR CLE
Little has taken the back seat to rookie receiver Josh Gordon for most of the year. However, in the second game against the hated Steelers, the second year wide receiver from North Carolina stepped up his play. All three of his receptions went for first downs. The first was a clutch seven yard catch on third down that extended a drive. Little skied high to get the ball and caught it a yard above the defender. His second catch of the day was a 20+ catch and run where he grabbed the ball in stride and fought for extra yardage. The most important reception he made was a designed drag route in the back of the end zone. He barely kept the ball in play with a nicely timed jump and dragged both feet down before falling out-of-bounds.
When you watch Little play, the first thing that you see is his ability to get away from defenders. Because he was a former running back, he is good at making sudden cuts while maintaining his balance and keeping his eyes down the field assessing the defense. Little can go from a dead stop to a fast run in a few short steps and has the leg drive of a running back to power through arm tackles. This second year receiver is good at finding the ball in the air, adjusting his body to make the catch and has soft hands to secure it.
Little is still a bit raw with his routes and is not an asset in the running game yet. In time, he should polish up those concerns. His 2012 numbers (53 receptions for 647 yards and four touchdowns) are down from the year before (61 receptions for 709 and two touchdowns). When looking at the numbers, please consider he received 28 less targets while his average yards per catch and touchdowns both went up. I would be more than happy to have Little as a WR3-4 for the next five to seven years. The coaching and quarterback situations should work themselves out.
DJ Williams, TE GB
Williams, among all of my suggestions, is the most speculative add. He might be the TE3 of the Packers on the current depth chart behind Jermichael Finley and Tom Crabtree depending on the day and situation. It is looking like the Packers may part ways with Finley after the season and Crabtree plays more of a hybrid blocking FB/TE role (not so good for fantasy). Williams’ two targets for zero catches against the Vikings won’t excite you; heck, his seven catches for 57 yards for the entire year is even less impressive.
While he isn’t great at anything, Williams brings a good skill set to the Packers receiving corp. He is a good receiver who tracks the ball well and catches with his soft hands, not his body. For a tight end, he plays more like a wide receiver when he shows enough elusiveness to get away from tacklers, find good down field lanes, and has enough power and balance to break a few tackles. Williams has to work on setting up defenders to create enough space between them, so he can catch the ball cleanly and needs to clean up his route running. He has also lined up as a fullback and attempted to block without much success, so he needs to improve that area if he wants more playing time.
As a dynasty owner, I would want Williams as a TE3-4 because there are many questions about his role. If Finley stays on, he will probably not see a huge uptick in production until 2014. That is ok to wait on if you have deep rosters, but not really an option in shorter dynasty rosters.
Jordan Shipley, WR JAX
Shipley had a very wild year. He started off the preseason with the Bengals and then was cut. He got picked up by the Jaguars after they dealt Mike Thomas to Detroit. The wide receiver did not make his way onto the field until Week 12 when he became Jacksonville’s WR3 and started to help out as a returner. Shipley lined up mostly in the slot and his first target of the day was a good one, a five yard slant, for a touchdown. The defense did not account for him on the play and he took advantage. Despite not playing much in his three-year career due to injuries, the wide receiver showed a lot of resolve catching passes in traffic between two defenders. Jacksonville was using him as an extension of their running game by having him mostly run quick slants and out routes.
There were a few occasions that you could see his athleticism on display. Shipley had a Matrix type movement during a return where he was at a 45 degree angle and kept moving forward, unfortunately for him and the Jags, that play came back due to a holding penalty. After a hard-fought catch, he got shoved out-of-bounds, then hurdled the bench to avoid crashing into it. He missed out on a beautiful one-handed grab across the middle, but I doubt if Justin Blackmon would have been able to bring in that reception. Shipley showed good ball control as he took a few nasty shots to the body and kept control of the ball.
I’m not sure if Shipley will be more than a WR7 on your dynasty team, but there is a sprinkle of hope with his play in the wide-open Jags organization. He finished the game against the Titans with seven receptions for 51 yards and the before mentioned touchdown. In the last six games, he chipped in 23 catches for 244 yards and the one touchdown. Shipley is still young and if he stays healthy could be worth holding.