A year ago at this time, Michael Crabtree was someone who very few dynasty owners coveted. After being a top rookie pick a few years prior, he had failed to impress during his first three seasons in the NFL. When Crabtree fully recovered from a lingering foot injury and enjoyed a change at quarterback, the years of owner frustration were finally rewarded. Unfortunately, many owners who initially invested in Crabtree were not rewarded with their patience because they traded him away before he finally broke out – that frustration allowed many to take advantage of the situation and acquire a future top wide receiver at a very small cost. Of course, Crabtree’s situation has changed for the worse now, but you get what we’re saying here. Even with the recent injury news, his value is is much higher than the low investment owners had to pay for him at this time last year.
It happens every year.
A player who was previously seen as a bust, washed up, or just underwhelming will break out with a big season that completely changes the overall opinion of them. The purpose of this article is to provide a few examples of players who have the potential to allow you to take a very small investment and turn it into a vital piece of your team.
Disliking any of the players listed below is completely understandable, but remember, Michael Crabtree was the WR40 drafted in start-up dynasty leagues last season.
Santonio Holmes, WR NYJ
Why you hate him – Since his breakout season with Pittsburgh in 2009, Holmes has been a bust with the Jets. In those three years, he has only averaged 3.8 receptions and 55 yards per game. He was suspended for four games in 2010, struggled with consistency in 2011 (along with having a rocky relationship with Mark Sanchez), and finished last season on IR after suffering a Lis Franc injury in week four.
Why you should love him – While Sanchez is officially listed as the starter for 2013, there is little doubt Geno Smith will be starting sooner, rather than later. As we’ve learned in recent years, rookie quarterbacks tend to heavily lean on a single receiver in many situations, leading to unexpected and impressive numbers. We’ve seen this consistently over the past few seasons, as we’ve seen a large number of rookies quickly gain starting roles. Cam Newton (Steve Smith), Andrew Luck (Reggie Wayne), RG3 (Pierre Garcon – although injured through much of the season, he was clearly the top target by a wide margin when healthy), Andy Dalton (AJ Green), Ryan Tannehill (Brian Hartline), and Christian Ponder (Percy Harvin) all made quick connections with their top receiving options.
Make no mistake, Santonio Holmes is not at the same level of any of those receiving options, but he is the clear top option in New York and should make for a competent receiver for Smith to lean on. With a current dynasty ADP of 158, the risk is minimal, while the reward could be quite large.
Tony Gonzalez, TE ATL
Why you hate him – He’s old.
Why you should love him – He’s one of the best tight ends in the NFL. One of the most common mistakes I see dynasty owners make is passing up the present for the future. While acquiring the trendy rookie or up-and-coming younger player is something most owners hope to accomplish, there is something to be said for taking advantage of aging players who others are giving away for pennies on the dollar. While it’s probable this is his final season (it’s all but guaranteed he’ll be out of the NFL after next year), he offers elite level production for minimal cost.
While he may not be the best option for a team in the process of a rebuild, he should be an immediate target teams that are playoff contenders. Based on current trades, he is being valued at the level of a second round pick (and lower in some cases). Rather than gambling on a second or third tier rookie in a relatively weak class, give up the pick for someone who is essentially guaranteed to give you a weekly advantage at the tight end position. It’s also worth stating he’s only missed one game in his entire career, so the injury risk is minimal.
Mark Ingram, RB NO
Why you hate him – There is no denying Ingram has been a fantasy (and NFL) bust over his first two seasons in the NFL. In addition to having limited carries in a crowded New Orleans backfield, he’s been fairly unimpressive with the opportunities he’s received.
Why you should love him – He’s getting better, and he’s still young (23). Last season, he started off the year with limited carries, averaging just 6.5 per game and managing only 3.4 yards per carry. Over the second half of the year, his carries increased to 12.75 per game with an average of 4.1 yards per tote.
It was clear as the year progressed that Ingram was beginning to earn more playing time and as the playing time increased, so did the production. While it’s fair to say the New Orleans backfield is still risky to invest in, his only true competition for carries at this time is Pierre Thomas. Darren Sproles is still in town, but his role is almost entirely within the passing game.
Ingram’s current ADP places him number #89 overall (#31 at the running back position), which makes him a gamble worth taking.
Jonathan Stewart, RB CAR
Why you hate him – For years, fantasy players have been frustrated by the Carolina Panthers running game. Most owners agree Stewart is extremely talented, but being forced to compete with DeAngelo Williams, Cam Newton, Mike Tolbert, and other assorted players causes his value to take a huge hit.
Why you should love him – The patience could pay off. While DeAngelo Williams will play for the Panthers this season, it is almost certainly his final year with the team. Although Newton and Tolbert eat into the running back usage in Carolina, Williams is the only player on the team who truly keeps carries away from Stewart.
While many in the fantasy community are confused by the Panthers unwillingness to allow Stewart to take over a workhorse role in Carolina, the simple fact is they have two very talented options. When Williams is cut after this season for financial reasons, it will leave just Tolbert (their fullback) and newly draft pick Kenjon Barner as the secondary options with the team. On the surface, Barner is just another headache for investors in the Carolina running game, but his signing is actually quite good for Stewart owners. By picking Barner, the Panthers likely drafted the future replacement for DeAngelo Williams. Unlike Williams however, he is much less likely to take significant number of carries away from Stewart, since he will likely fill more of a backfield receiver/third down option – this sets up a situation next season where Stewart is likely to receive the bulk of first and second down carries, while Barner is the third down back. While Tolbert could be used in short yardage situations, his role as fullback will limit him from being used significantly at running back. Cam Newton obviously takes a few carries away, but only a small number of his runs are by design. A vast majority Newton’s rushing attempts are from passing situations.
In short, Stewart is still a year away from adding a significant amount of carries per game, while his cost is the lowest it’s ever been. His current ADP is #65, but based on a number of off-season trades, he seems to be available for a significantly smaller investment. It’s worth the time to make a offer to his frustrated owner to see what his cost would be. The price may surprise you.
Josh Freeman, QB TB
Why you hate him – After a promising start to his NFL career, Freeman has disappointed his owners over the past two seasons. In addition, Mike Glennon was picked up by the Bucs in this year’s draft, who could present future competition for the Tampa Bay starting job.
Why you should love him – Defense creates offense, and the Tampa Bay defense is significantly better. With the signings of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, along with drafting Johnthan Banks and getting Mark Barron back from injury, the NFL’s worst secondary from last season has the potential to be one of the best this year. As a result of this much improved secondary, and in turn a much improved overall defense, the Bucs will likely have better field position in nearly every game. They should also cause more turnovers. Touchdowns are king when it comes to the quarterback position in fantasy football, and the improved overall defense will give Freeman an opportunity to have the ball on the opponents side of the field more often, leading to more scoring opportunities. With Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, and Doug Martin out of the backfield, the extra scoring opportunities are almost guaranteed to lead to more passing touchdowns for Freeman.
On top of all of this, it’s worth noting Freeman had his best statistical NFL season last year following the signing of Vincent Jackson. With a year of working together under their belt, the connection between the two should be even stronger. Freeman is currently being drafted as the QB20 in start-ups. Let others overspend on backup quarterback options, while you invest very little to grab Freeman.
What are your thoughts on the players I’ve mentioned in the article? Leave a comment below or locate me on twitter (@dereksdaycare) to share your thoughts on who you think could be this year’s version of Michael Crabtree.