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 or moderate trade. Acquiring any of these players could decide how well your dynasty or keeper team does for the next few years. I will focus on their most recent matchup to draw the majority of my insight.
Dexter McCluster, WR/RB KC
First off, I apologize I did not give him a concrete offensive position. He has typically been listed as a wide receiver, but he plays a bit of running back and returner, too. On a team that is almost devoid of offensive talent, he is a sneaky playmaker. Defenses concentrate on Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe, but spend little time worrying about the sprightly McCluster.
In his recent Thursday night game against the Chargers, he played everywhere with mixed results. He was effective early as their wildcat option. This initially caught the defense by surprise as he converted two first downs in this role. His explosion between the tackles put the San Diego front seven on their heels. He was gliding through defenders avoiding any direct shots to his body. This is important in McCluster’s case as he is a diminutive 5′ 8″, 170 lbs (these measureables might be generous). His stat line of four carries for 17 yards won’t win you any fantasy titles, but Charles did get injured in the fourth quarter. Number 22 was effective filing in Charles before, so there might be more to see in the running game if the injuries persist.
In the passing game, McCluster was primarily lined up in the slot. He requires a free release to use his quick twitch, speed and agility, to get space between him and the defensive back. His two receptions for 17 yards was a bit disappointing on six targets; however, both receptions went for first downs. His small stature does not do him any favors while he is running crossing patterns in the middle of the field. McCluster took a big blow to the head when he was trying to look a pass into his hands. I initially thought that he was knocked out of the game.
On his only deep target of the night, he had beaten his coverage; however, he suffered from the quacking (lame duck) of Matt Cassel’s poorly thrown ball. The Chiefs were fortunate that the pass was not intercepted. On perhaps his second worst play of the night, McCluster allowed a pass to bounce off his out-stretched hands and fall into reserve linebacker Demorrio Williams’ clutches. Williams rumbled 59 yards for a touchdown for the Chargers. Disaster struck again when the young playmaker was called upon to return a punt towards the end of the fourth quarter. He muffed that punt which led to the Chargers running out the clock.
He may never be more than a WR4/RB4. Keep in mind McCluster has been quite serviceable in the past as he accounted for 844 yards and two touchdowns last year on 160 touches. Those numbers do not take into consideration what he could do in the return game. So far this year, he only has 29 receptions for 258 yards and one touchdown with seven carries for 37 yards and two fumbles. After this game, he may be available for dirt cheap or sitting on the waiver wire. Take a chance as the Kansas City defense is so porous that he will get plenty of opportunities.
A Trio of SD WRs
I know some may say it is hard to get excited about this third year receiver who has bounced around the league in very little time. Remember Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal had their chances this season and did next to nothing with their opportunities. Their combined injuries led to the signing of Ajirotutu. To say he is a raw receiver, is quite an understatement. In the two earlier years of NFL action, he accounted for 14 receptions for 266 yards and two touchdowns on 25 targets. Much of that production occurred against the Houston Texans in Week 9 of 2010 were he had four receptions for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
This is a total flyer pick as he got one target in the game with only four days on the team. His 28 yard reception on Philip Rivers’ first target was a great catch. Ajirotutu scooped the ball at the last second to keep it off the turf. He played a good amount of snaps for a guy who hasn’t been in a Chargers (or any other NFL uniform) for over year. He showed effort blocking down the field as well. I added him to two of my dynasty teams less than 30 minutes before the game started. I want to see what he looks like in a week or two.
Each of his three catches ( 61 yards total) were memorable. Alexander got separation against his cornerback on an 11 yard route and caught the ball at its highest point in the first quarter. His second reception was a quick slant that he took 30 yards, but if not for a stumble, would have resulted in a 45 yard touchdown. The turf monster jumped up and stole it from him! He worked well with single coverage as he took his last target of the night straight up the middle for 20 yards.
This is a very talented, but very injury-prone wide receiver. I saw a tweet this week that implied Alexander had the knees of an actual bee. Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing? Not in his case as he played in 16 games over the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the Rams. If you combine all those healthy games, he had 46 receptions for 737 yards and three touchdowns on 97 targets. Those aren’t high-end WR3 numbers, but they are definitely worth a stash on a deeper dynasty roster.
If your dynasty league does not have an injured reserve spot, he might be un-rostered. Thanks to a broken ankle in the preseason, Brown has not gotten to dazzle the fantasy world yet this year. The Chargers were ready to make this local young talent a featured weapon in their offense. He is probably one of the least flashy NFL receivers that have ever put on a helmet. When healthy, Brown runs very precise routes . He tracks the ball well, makes great adjustments in the air, and is highly aware of his surroundings. His run blocking could certainly help the sagging Chargers offense.
Brown’s ability to get separation, get away from defenders, balance, field vision, and power still need work. It is concerning that he has not started practicing at the time of this writing. There have been several reports indicating that his ankle is not fully healed. Although he may not help you win a dynasty league this season, his skill set might be beneficial to your team in 2013 and beyond. I feel his upside could be close to the WR2 mark in a pass-heavy offense. The scary question to ask is “will he be returning to a high-powered offense?” If Norv Turner and A.J. Smith are gone, who will replace them and what will the team look like? I’m willing to invest in Brown regardless of how that pans out.