The profound letters “N, F and L” don’t just stand for National Football League. In a sport where circumstances change faster than Oakland’s projected week one starter, the acronym NFL is given a secondary meaning: Not For Long. This means we can’t take anything for granted. It wasn’t long ago Mark Ingram was a consensus top three pick in rookie drafts or Aaron Hernandez was considered a lock for top tier tight end production. Sometimes the changing circumstances are due to unpredictable events, such as the season ending injuries, but in many cases the drastic change in player values come from expectations. Whether its anticipating a player’s situation or analyzing their skillset, the perception and expectations of players are key factors in identifying their future values.
Dynasty owners have to be a step ahead of the game in realizing what the perception of the player is now and what it will be in the future. It is with this mentality I share with you my thoughts of some of the current perceptions of players now, and what I am anticipating for the future. Some may be bold – but with risk comes reward. At the end of the day, you have to trust your instincts, be able to act on them and put yourself in a position to win.
Not For Long…
1.)…will Hakeem Nicks be a Giant.
Following the 2013 season, Hakeem Nicks’ five-year rookie deal expires. Over the last several years he has been part of a strong one-two punch in the Giants’ passing game. His accomplice, Victor Cruz, was just rewarded with a six-year, nearly $46 million contract. Nicks certainly has the talent of a top receiver, but following the 2013 season, the Giants’ front office will be debating whether it’s worth it to pay another wide receiver a heavy contract.
Nicks made his demands for a new contract clear with his no-show from early preseason activities. He claimed it was unrelated, but upon arrival to camp, he seemed to be playing at half speed to avoid any injury that would impede his payday. His injury concerns are real. Over the last couple of years, Nicks has nursed injuries to his knees, groin and hamstrings. He has actually never played a full season in his four year NFL career. Coach Tom Coughlin has openly questioned Nicks’s drive and it’s clear the head coach has been annoyed with and expects more from his top wideout.
While his preseason actions may be forgiven with a big season, his late arrival and slow acclimation may have hurt his own cause. It has given emerging sophomore Rueben Randle an opportunity get some valuable reps. Randle has been one of the major highlights of the Giants’ camp and a player whose value is breaking out in dynasty leagues.
No one is questioning Nicks’s talent or upside, but it will come down to whether its worth it to pay his heavy contract demands given his injury history with Reuben Randle waiting in the wings – and I don’t see the Giants giving in. I think if Randle steps up as expected, they let Nicks walk. At the most I think they franchise tag him giving Randle one more year to develop.
2.) …will Danny Amendola be drafted as a late WR2.
Wes Welker’s departure to Denver undoubtedly left a major void in the Patriot offense. Dynasty owners haven’t been so quick to anoint Danny Amendola as a lock to fill his production, as evidenced by the latest DLF ADP data where he is locked in at #44 overall. This is up over a round from last month, but still doesn’t reflect his WR1 upside in his new role.
A large part of this perception is due to his injury prone label. Over four seasons in the NFL, Amendola has played 16 games just once. During this season he amassed 85 receptions, and that was with Sam Bradford behind center. With Patriots’ legend Tom Brady he has the opportunity to easily eclipse this total. In preseason games, Amendola showed great chemistry with Brady, and was targeted early and often. I’d be surprised if Amendola didn’t surpass 100 receptions this season. After a few high reception total games with over 100 yards, injury concerns will fade and Amendola will become a WR1 asset.
3.) …will Emmanuel Sanders be starting in Pittsburgh.
Emmanuel Sanders is currently listed as number two on the depth chart behind draft classmate, and later round pick, Antonio Brown. In their rookie season, Sanders had more opportunities due to his higher draft pedigree and subsequent expectations. By their sophomore campaign Brown emerged as the clear number two option in Pittsburgh after Sanders failed to impress. This year the Steelers went after another wide receiver in the third round, which is a clear indication they don’t believe Sanders is the long-term answer as their second receiving option. Similarly built rookie Markus Wheaton is a much more talented option than Sanders. He’s a smart player who offers top end ball skills and burner speed.
Wheaton was late to camp due to Oregon’s graduation date, but is catching on fast and turning heads. Sanders will be given the starting position to open the season, but it won’t be long before Wheaton surpasses him for the second receiver slot across from Antonio Brown.
4.) …will Cordarrelle Patterson be watching from the sidelines.
During the entirety of the draft process, Cordarrelle Patterson’s name has been associated with the tagline of “boom-or-bust” and patience. Despite his first round draft pedigree, Patterson will not open the season as a starter. His sits behind Jerome Simpson on the depth chart and it has been a common perception he’ll be brought along slowly.
It may take time for him to develop into a full player in the NFL, but do not mistake this for meaning he’s going to be watching from the sidelines. Following Percy Harvin’s departure to Seattle, the Vikings are missing a dynamic playmaker at receiver. Patterson may not be a Harvin clone, but he offers similar athletic ability. While Patterson certainly has to work on his game to become a well-rounded NFL receiver, it is likely the Vikings will manufacture touches for him similar to the way they did for Harvin. The coaching staff wants to get the ball in his hands, get him comfortable in the offense and develop his assets on the field.
Simpson is not a special talent, and it won’t be long before the Vikings realize having Patterson on the field will open up the entire offense. He likely won’t be a reliable fantasy play anytime in his rookie season, but Patterson’s unique talent level will make sure he consistently finds the field.
5.)…will Jeremy Kerley be considered a late round flyer.
Despite leading the Jets in all receiving categories last season, Jeremy Kerley is still being drafted as the #78 wide receiver according to DLF’s August ADP data. This equates to nearly the seventeenth round, squarely between Terrance Williams and Nick Toon.
This valuation is largely due to the inept quarterback play of Mark Sanchez and reflects the poor direction the Jets front office has been moving in. Last year, however, the Jets had the same problems and Kerley still managed to emerge and record 56 catches for 827 receiving yards. Compared to the second ranked Jets receiver in each category, this nearly doubled the number of receptions and is over three times as many receiving yards.
His competition is far from reliable. Santonio Holmes, a notorious locker room cancer, is listed as the first wide receiver. His work ethic is once again being questioned as he is being accused of milking his foot injury and being unwilling to take the field. Stephen Hill is a known project player, so it will be interesting to see his development after another year, but Kerley was the one consistency in the Jets offense last year.
Despite the fact head coach Rex Ryan has two years remaining on his contract, if the Jets face-plant again this year there is a good chance the organization could make some major changes next offseason. The coaching staff, quarterbacks and entire roster could be put on notice. I think Kerley will continue to be the one true consistent piece of the Jets’ receiving game and become recognized as their wide receiver one. He has the potential to be one of the few pieces taking the next step with an organization that may very well undergo a complete overhaul in the near future.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisR124.