Cupid’s arrow has struck four of our partners here at DLF and the results are in! This is the time of year where we all re-evaluate our love for certian players we have or are targeting. For this group, we each have a player who we love a little more than most other dynasty owners.
In honor of Valentine’s Day (click here if you need a last minute gift for the Mrs.), we present to you four players we seem to be smitten of on this special day.
Eric Dickens (DLF_Eric)
Kendall Hunter, RB SF
I’ll admit it…I’ve been in love with Hunter since his sophomore year at Oklahoma State when he broke out with a 6.5 YPC average and showed the ability to run inside. After an injured junior season, he again showed he could be a full-time back at the college level. After being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft, the question still remains if he can do so at the pro level.
With Frank Gore approaching 30 and showing obvious signs of wearing late in the year, I look for Hunter to emerge as his replacement, possibly as early as 2012. He’s often compared to Ahmad Bradshaw, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Ray Rice, likely due to their similar size. He reminds me most of Rice, not only because of size, but also because of his ability to run between the tackles for tough yards while not having great top end speed. He also has similar exceptional balance and lateral movement, often creating holes for himself.
There are plenty that question his ability to be an every-down back, but breakouts by Rice, Jamaal Charles, and LeSean McCoy recently have dispelled that some. I expect to see him prove his doubters wrong in 2012.
Editor’s note: Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) of Draft Breakdown has a more in-depth scouting report of Kendall Hunter here.
Ken Kelly (DLF_KenK)
Mario Manningham, WR FA
After his amazing Super Bowl catch, Manningham is much more of a household name. However, unlike David Tyree, this is not going to be the last you see of Super Mario.
Like Eric with Hunter, I really fell in love with Manningham when he was playing collegiately at the University of Michigan. In his three years in Ann Arbor, Manningham posted 137 catches, 2,310 receiving yards and scored 27 touchdowns for the Wolverines. What I saw was an explosive player who every defense had to account for on any given play.
Manningham’s professional career has seen its fair share of ups and downs. In his four years with the G-men, Mario has posted 160 catches, 2,315 yards and 18 touchdowns. His career was highlighted by what was thought to be a breakout 2010 season where he posted an impressive 60/944/9 line after Steve Smith went down with an injury.
The problem Manningham has always had has been inconsistency. If you watch the Giants play regularly, you’ll see him routinely drop passes and have mental lapses. That, combined with some nagging injuries, opened the door for Victor Cruz to take over as the permanent starter in New York.
Manningham flashed again in the playoffs, scoring in each of the Giants first three playoff games. If he has finally turned the corner and is healthy again, he could be a solid option for a team next season. The Giants likely won’t re-sign him now that Cruz is entrenched opposite Hakeem Nicks. Teams like Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Houston, Cincinnati, the New York Jets and a host of others could show interest. If he lands in the right spot, he could become a viable WR2 next year.
Ken Moody (DLF_KenM)
Vincent Brown, WR SD
It may not be love at first sight with Vincent Brown. He’s a 3rd round draft pick from a small college program (San Diego State University) who is entering his second year in the NFL, buried behind two established WR’s in Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd. But considering the excellent athleticism and timing he flashed in his first season, and the possibility of increased playing time, the loveometer is definitely trending up for this talented young wide-out.
In college, the 5’11” Brown was a two-time first team Mountain West Conference selection, and in 2010 he was one of the nation’s leading wide receivers. Brown showed his skills in his first season as a Charger by making several acrobatic catches, while displaying excellent body control and a determination for getting after the ball. He needs to work on the usual things rookie wide receivers need to work on – consistency, reading & running routes, and establishing timing with his QB. But he had a very promising rookie campaign, especially considering the strike-shortened training camp. Another season to practice with Rivers and learn the offense will certainly erase many of his shortcomings.
Perhaps the biggest factor in determining his near-term value lies not with Brown, but with his teammate Vincent Jackson. Jackson’s contract is up this season, and VJax is looking for the payday he’s been waiting for since 2009. Rumors are the Chargers believe they can find a suitable replacement for Jackson for a much smaller price, and they are willing to let Jackson hit the open market. If he does, there will be a long line of teams interested in courting him. Assuming Jackson leaves, and my bet is that he does, this creates a great opportunity for the “other” Vincent to see a much more significant role moving forward, regardless whether the team signs another wide receiver to replace Jackson.
Do I think Brown will be another Vincent Jackson? No, of course not. But I do see him having upside as high as a solid WR2 in the next couple years. And that’s some potential anyone can love.
Jeff Haverlack (DLF_Jeff)
Jonathan Dwyer, RB PIT
It probably defies all reason, but isn’t that part of the allure – being the coach to draft a player and watch him blossom into the next great player? Welcome to my love affair with Jonathan Dwyer.
On draft day, 2010, Dwyer was dogged by a nasty rumor that suggested he had failed a drug test. In the end, the failed drug test was due to a mistake made when Dwyer’s ADD medication wasn’t entered on the exemption list. Nontheless, his stock never recovered and Dwyer fell precipitously. He suffered the same fate in most every fantasy draft that followed.
What’s odd about my excitement for Dwyer is that it didn’t start while he was still running over defenders at Georgia Tech. In fact, I was underwhelmed by Dwyer as a first round fantasy selection, believing that there were too many questions about his work ethic, speed and NFL skill-set. But as Dwyer began to fall in our rookie draft, my research rose. Beyond the back-to-back 1,395 yard seasons and combined 26 touchdowns in those same two years at Georgia Tech, I began to see his NFL potential. A big, bruising, between-the-tackles runner with good vision and more lateral agility than would be expected from a back of his size, I selected Dwyer enthusiastically with a pick early in the second round.
There was little doubt that, at least at the time, Dwyer was a reach and a player who would require a lot of time before being afforded any chance to start. One piece of information was key in my selection of him – his age. At the time of the draft, Dwyer was only 20 years old. At the start of the 2012 season, he will be recently-turned 23 years old. But what’s different about 2012 is that Steeler’s starter Rashard Mendenhall is likely to begin the season on the PUP list and number two back Isaac Redman is set to open the season as the starter. Dwyer is likely going to see at least a handful of touches that he can use to prove his worth. Factor in the possibility of an injury to Redman and Dwyer could see time as a starter. Either way, my sights were not set on Dwyer as a 2012 producer when I drafted him. Instead, I invested the pick with the expectation that Dwyer would get his shot at a relatively young 24 years of age.
Is Dwyer the deepest of deep-sleepers? Yes. Is he a long shot to ever land a starting gig? Yes. But is he mine while his future unfolds? Yes!
So, what player do you love a little more than most other dynasty owners?