In this weekly column, I explore some young players that 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.
Marcel Reece RB, OAK
To some, my inclusion of Reece will be troubling. He is a fifth year player, but he has only accumulated statistics since 2010 when he became the starting full back for the Raiders. He was a receiver/tight end for the Washington Huskies which makes his transformation into a starting running back even more surprising.
Reece is an imposing 6′ 1″, 255 pound mound of power. He is an extremely effective straight ahead runner. This battering ram is not great at reading his blockers, but he overwhelms the defense with his size and strength. In a move that reminded me of Rashard Mendenhall (not in a good way), he turned his back to the defense as he pushed the pile like he was squatting the three defensive linemen in his way.
The juggernaut kept going, showing second and third effort with tacklers on his feet and back. When this runner gets a head of steam, he is very difficult to bring down. Reece shows tremendous balance, determination, and will on his runs. With an almost uncanny sense, he knows when to break a play outside and uses a great stiff-arm to create separation between himself and the defenders.
He may even be more imposing as a receiver. Reece was split out wide on some long yardage situations. He has some of the softest hands of any running back and showed some sweet moves in the open field. It isn’t often that you see a 255 pound running back hurdling defensive backs, so I tend to take notice of that skill and determination. Even when he was lined up at running back, he was effective running wheel routes, getting separation between him and linebackers. Reece is a willing pass blocker and is getting better at it. He did have the maddening play against Cincinnati when he let the ball bounce off his hands into the open arms of a defensive back.
To say he has stepped up during Darren McFadden’s absence is an understatement. Reece has accounted for over 100 yards of offense in his last three games while McFadden has been ailing. He finished his game against the Bengals with 15 carries for 74 yards and four receptions for 29 yards on seven targets. His touchdown total has been unimpressive, scoring only once. He has run for 225 yards on 48 carries so far. In the passing game, he is a big asset with 41 receptions for 447 yards and that single touchdown on 55 targets.
Reece should continue to receive the occasional three to six carries even when McFadden returns. He is one of their best receiving threats and should continue to see at least five targets a game. The true question is when will McFadden returns and how healthy will he be. I’m not convinced the former first round pick will be ready for his full workload anytime this season. Keep Reece as an RB4 on your dynasty roster as he can fill in nicely for an oft injured back on a team with limited offensive weapons.
Colin Kaepernick, QB SF
As far as small school second year quarterbacks go, Kaepernick was more ready for the NFL than I thought. He is very adept at the little things – he does a great job selling handoffs to freeze the defense and knows when to get rid of the ball when the pocket is collapsing around him. There is no fear to check out of a pass play and scramble for whatever the defense gives him. I really like the way he steps into his throws and is always moving forward. The young quarterback shows a lot of command by throwing the ball where only the receiver can get to it on the sidelines and/or over the correct shoulder. On his rushing touchdown, he fooled the Saints front seven into believing he handed the ball to Frank Gore seven yards away from the end zone. He glided like a gazelle through three would-be tacklers on the way to pay dirt without being touched.
One of his most promising characteristics is the ability to hit his receivers in stride with the ball. This helps everyone’s yards after the catch, because the receivers don’t have to wait for the ball get to them. Alex Smith, however, struggles to throw the San Francisco receivers open which results in less yardage after the catch. There seems to be real chemistry between the second year quarterback and the receivers as he seems to make subtle hints and they respond to him. On his passing touchdown, he bootlegged and found Gore in the flat for the six yard score.
Even though Kaepernick had a lot of positive plays in New Orleans, he did make a few mistakes. As often happens with young quarterbacks, he got confused by a defensive coverage and called a timeout to make sure. On a few of his runs, he carried the ball like a loaf of bread. The signal caller needs to do a better job securing the ball once he is running. He needs to ease up on a few of his short passes as it looked like he was always trying to rifle the ball. Kaepernick let a bad snap get in his head as his confidence buckled then he ended up throwing an interception. It appeared that he didn’t think the defensive back could get into position to make a play on the ball.
In his second start, he had a good statistical day with 16 completions on 25 attempts for 231 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Kaepernick added 27 yards and on the ground with a score on six carries. On the year, he has completed 64.8% of his passes for 680 yards and three touchdown passes along with the aforementioned pick. He is a monster on the ground with 31 carries for 216 yards and four touchdowns so far as well.
I would buy Kaepernick in any dynasty league that I could as a QB2. I’m not sure he will ever be elite, but he could also be a good dynasty quarterback committee candidate. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh seems to love this kid and will give him every opportunity to be productive and he has a great supporting cast around him with Gore, Kendall Hunter, and Vernon Davis as well as a dominant defense.