There are two kind of individuals reading this right now, the kind that were prematurely knocked out before reaching the fantasy Super Bowl, and the kind that are nervously preparing for the biggest fantasy game of the year (perhaps their lives). After years of torture, failure, and flat out disappointment, I finally managed to reach the Super Bowl round in each of my 4 leagues. While I’m concentrating heavily on this week, I can’t help but already look forward to 2014 in each of my dynasty leagues. No matter if you got knocked out or are still in play for 2013, the one thing we all have in common is wanting to properly reload and retool for next year. Let’s go through some names you may want to either pick-up or trade for in the near future.
RotoBaller's 2014 Fantasy Football Dynasty Targets
Robert Griffin III - RGIII? Didn’t he get benched? Didn’t he struggle all year? Yes and Yes. Which is why this is the perfect time to buy low on RGIII. Will he be as good as Andrew Luck in real life? Probably not. But when it comes to fantasy football, RGIII has the potential to be a top 5 quarterback for the next 5-8 years. He’s going to have an entire off-season not to rehab, but to strictly focus on how to improve his game. Dual threat QBs are enticing to own in fantasy. If we take a look back at 2012, RGIII averaged over 50 yards rushing per game to go along with decent passing numbers. This year after his surgery, his rushing attempts per game dropped a staggering 25%. Look for a nice bounce back year from the Redskins' franchise quarterback.
Cam Newton - Speaking of dual threats, Cam Newton is easily my favorite QB to own in dynasty leagues. In the three years since he has joined the NFL, Newton always manages to finish in the top tier group of fantasy quarterbacks. Halfway through this season, Newton became the only QB in NFL history with 50+ passing TDs and 25+ rushing TDs in any three-year span. Take a close look at his offensive weapons--there isn’t much to brag about. He has never had the privilege of having an elite player join the huddle alongside him. Imagine if Newton had a Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, or a Brandon Marshall to throw too. Newton’s already high efficiency would go through the fantasy roof and then some. Next year will be the final year of Cam’s rookie deal, meaning Carolina is either going to get him some new toys to play with, or he is going to sign elsewhere. Everyone knows Carolina will do everything in its power to keep their “Superman”, and surrounding him with some weapons is the way to seal the deal.
Russell Wilson - This second year wonder is on the verge of leading the Seattle Seahawks to securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Many questions surrounded Wilson even after his spectacular rookie year. Would defenses adjust to him? Would he be able to adjust back? It didn’t help that Wilson was one of the few QBs in the league that didn’t break the 6’0” barrier. Wilson appears to be the exception to the rule along with Drew Brees. We can use a bunch of dragged out sayings like “don’t judge a book by its cover”, or “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” But at the end of the day one saying stays true; “numbers don’t lie.” Seattle being a run first team hasn’t stopped Wilson from putting up solid numbers. Wilson has thrown for 50 touchdowns and rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in his first two seasons. As a bonus, he will hopefully have a healthy Percy Harvin next year to go along with what already is a prolific offense.
Gio Bernard - An explosive rookie that broke into the scene this year. Some were surprised that Bernard was the first running back taken in the 2013 NFL Draft. Given his frame, many experts doubted that Bernard could be an every down back, as well as a goal line back. Bernard already has 8 touchdowns this season and the Bengals have shown that they trust him in all sets. Gio currently ranks as the 11th best running back in PPR scoring. One has to take into account the timeshare he’s been splitting with the sluggish BenJarvus Green-Ellis (BGE) all year. Even with that timeshare, Gio finds himself knocking on the Top 10 door. The Bengals know what they have now. Bernard will be the lead back going into next year and beyond.
Christine Michael - Remember this name folks. Currently listed as the 3rd string running back for the Seattle Seahawks, Michael is one move away from bursting onto the fantasy football world. Even though he hasn’t really gotten the chance to play much this year, he showed a few flashes during the preseason with 27 carries for 186 yards (6.89 YPC). Former NFL scout Matt Williamson predicts Michael will be a "total stud and true every-down running back" by 2016. I’m here to tell you it could come a lot sooner than that. As a Marshawn Lynch owner myself, I made sure to select Michael in my dynasty league’s rookie draft. Besides the fact that Lynch is due a good amount of money over the next two years, he is also dealing with a DUI case that could cost him to miss a few games next year. You never know if Seattle decides to cut bait with Lynch--and even if they don’t, Michael is one injury away from showing what he’s got.
Marcus Lattimore - Probably would have been the first running back selected in last year’s draft if it were not for the gruesome injury he suffered late in 2012. The San Francisco 49ers are playing it safe with Lattimore, giving him the entire 2013 season to focus solely on rehabbing that knee. But make no mistake, the plan is set. Lattimore is the team’s future star running back, and is surely to takeover after Frank Gore’s tenure is finally finished. The question is when? Gore has been on a steady decline for a few years now. The 49ers could decide to mix in Lattimore early next year with Gore and create a 1-2 punch. It could be a very similar situation like the one we witnessed this year with the Cincinnati Bengals where they slowly phased out the older running back (BGE) as each week went on. Is the risk of Lattimore worth the reward? You bet.
Monte Ball - Is there any position in the football world that brings higher upside than being Peyton Manning’s running back? If you know one, please let me know. The second that Monte Ball was drafted, everybody who was thinking fantasy instantly became intrigued. His ADP rose by the day. Some leagues were taking him as high as a third round pick. Things quickly changed when rumors of a running back by committee started surfacing a few days before the season began. A couple of weeks later along with a couple of fumbles eventually dropped Ball to 3rd on the running back depth chart. While Knowshon Moreno was exceeding expectations, Ronnie Hillman began to struggle mightily. With time, Ball worked his way to second string, and is currently splitting the carries almost 50-50 with Moreno. Ball stands to be a strong candidate to become the full-time starter along with the goal line back in 2014. Give this rookie another off-season to work on his craft--the future is bright for Ball.
DeAndre Hopkins - Being a fan of the ACC, I got to watch DeAndre “Nuke” Hopkins several times throughout his college years in Clemson. Standing at a solid 6’1” accompanied with 4.4 speed creates a nice resume alone, but the aspect that gets undervalued the most is playmaking ability. Nuke has that “X Factor” about him. I would put his potential in that top echelon with the likes of Josh Gordon and DeSean Jackson when it comes to big play ability. In fact, for wide receivers with at least 45 catches on the year, Nuke ranks 4th in yards per catch (16.2). Only Calvin Johnson(17.9) and the aforementioned Gordon(19.8) and Jackson(17.0) rank ahead. Keep in mind he is doing this with a mess of a quarterback situation. The Houston Texans are on pace to claim the top pick in this upcoming draft. Look for a possible Teddy Bridgewater to Nuke Hopkins connection in 2014.
Terrence Williams - A name not many expected to hear much about in 2013. Williams entered training camp fighting to become the 4th wide receiver in the Dallas Cowboys depth chart. Williams had only collected 5 total catches throughout the first 3 weeks of the season. Thanks mostly to some injuries suffered by the Cowboys receiving corps, Williams began seeing his snap count rise each week. Weeks 5-10 Williams ended up not with 5 total catches, but with 5 touchdowns. Even though his production has gone quiet over the last few weeks, he has a great shot to start next year alongside Dez Bryant. With the often-injured Miles Austin being in the final year of his contract, the job is Williams’ to take.
Da’Rick Rogers- Who? An undrafted rookie receiver who was even cut by the Buffalo Bills in training camp? Yes and yes. Sitting at 6’2” and 217 lbs., Rogers is exactly what one would want a wide receiver to look like. Rogers, playing for the Tennessee Volunteers, led the SEC in receptions(67) and finished second in touchdowns(9) in 2011. Because of some off field issues, he was later kicked off the team. Rogers decided to go to Tennessee Tech in 2012 as opposed to sitting out a year. As expected, he dominated every aspect of the game and finished with 10 touchdowns on the year. Still, many teams were scared off by his previous off-field troubles--leaving the talented WR undrafted. The Colts decided to take a chance on him and started him week 14. What did Rogers do in his first taste of NFL action? How does 6 receptions, 107 yards, and 2 touchdowns sound? Yup, pretty enticing to me too. The Colts receiving core is in a flux. Reggie Wayne(35) is recovering from an ACL tear and is literally on his last leg. T.Y. Hilton, though talented, is not a #1 WR. Rogers is going to have an opportunity to become a major piece of this offense for years to come. Oh, did I mention his QB happens to be Andrew Luck?
Cordarrelle Patterson - It looks like the Vikings finally realized they should play Patterson more often. Ever since week 12, where Patterson saw his snap count rise a drastic amount, the Vikings record is (2-1-1) while averaging over 30 points per game. Before then, the Vikings were carrying a miserable (2-8) mark for the season. They are using him to some extent how they used Percy Harvin, (kick returns, rushing, receiving--any way that gets him into some open space. Accompanied with 4.33 speed, he has already managed to record at least one touchdown by kick return, receiving, and rushing. Minnesota is all but certain to draft a quarterback this upcoming draft; hopefully one that will be able to use Patterson’s explosive skill set correctly.
Jordan Reed - Armed with the three things that any pass catcher could ask for-- great hands, speed, and route running--rookie tight end Jordan Reed has flashed the potential to become a matchup nightmare against any defense. It wasn’t till week 7 that we really saw Reed breakout. Reed recorded 9 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. By week 10 he had the whole football world on notice, and was already being projected as a top 3-5 tight end in redraft leagues. Sadly, Reed suffered a concussion week 11 that he still hasn’t been able to get over. While his 2013 season appears to be over, keep a close eye on his health over the off-season. If he comes back healthy in 2014, Reed has the potential to be the 3rd best tight end in fantasy football.
Tyler Eifert - Contrary to many of the names I mentioned above, Eifert was a well-known commodity entering the 2013 season. Being the Cincinnati Bengals first round pick, Eifert had a lot of people keeping a close eye on his play. His upside can only be limited by one thing: splitting time with Jermaine Gresham. Gresham, also a former first round pick, had been the Bengals starting tight end since 2010. Never quite living up to the hype, Gresham’s future with the team seems to be up in the air. Even though Gresham’s contract is set through 2014, the Bengals are poised to give Eifert every chance to earn that starting job for himself.
Zach Ertz - The second tight end taken in the 2013 draft, Ertz finds himself in a fantastic position. Being a part of the Philadelphia Eagles explosive offense, Ertz looks primed to become a star in the NFL. While Ertz is technically sharing time with fellow Eagles tight end Brent Celek, Ertz is without a doubt the more explosive player. Ertz has demonstrated a lethal combination of athleticism and efficiency throughout his first season. He’s become a bigger piece of the offense in the second half of the season; hauling in 4 impressive touchdown catches. The sky is the limit for this talented rookie.