It seems like the majority of the fantasy lineup questions I am asked come down to this: Who should I start?
Player A: A highly skilled, blue-chip NFL player in a time-share or system that limits his strength (think C.J. Spiller with Fred Jackson in his way last year, or Jamaal Charles during the later Larry Johnson years).
Player B: A lesser-skilled NFL player who finds himself starting not due to ability, but by the process of elimination. (The Jackie Battle and Jerome Harrisons of the world).
I tend to think that over a large enough sample size, skill and pedigree win out over opportunity and situation. I pose the following hyperbole: In a one-game playoff, would you rather want 12 carries from Adrian Peterson, or 25 carries from Jackie Battle? Exactly.
Below are some NFL players, some of which I feel have outstanding skillsets and pedigree, and are poised for a breakout. These are players to target in your 2013 fantasy football drafts, who should be drafted way ahead of their ADPs (average draft positions). Conversely, there are some players listed who, due to age and declining skillset, seem overvalued in fantasy drafts. These are players to avoid in your 2013 fantasy football drafts.
Draft Day Targets - 2013 Fantasy Football
Trent Richardson: Will Finish 2013 as the #2 Fantasy Running Back
Owners of Trent Richardson reading this are shaking their heads right now. Keep reading. I owned him last year and he was SEEMINGLY disappointing. This is great news for anyone looking for a draft day value. Richardson embodies the term "freak of nature." At 228 lbs., and a 4.40 combine 40-yd. time, he has all of the physical tools necessary to satisfy being first on this list. For those analysts obsessed with "opportunity," he has Montario Hardesty, and Brandon Jackson waiting in the ranks-- hardly Murderer's Row. Make no mistake about it: Richardson is the face of the franchise (not Weeden, who turns 30 in October), and the Browns know it. They're going to feature him much in the way the buccaneers featured Doug Martin, whom he compares very favorably with. Check out 2012 stats:
Doug Martin: 319 Carries 1,454 yds., 11 TD, 49 Receptions; Trent Richardson: 267 Carries, 950 yds., 11 TD, 51 Receptions
It's not that I am down on Doug Martin. I'm not. But it wouldn't be surprising if Richardson stays healthy and ends up with numbers like Martin's. We spoke about sample size earlier, and Martin's longest carry was 70 yds. compared to T-rich's 32. A handful of 70-yard runs would put T-rich right up there with the big three RBs.
Andrew Luck - Will Be a Top-5 Fantasy Quarterback
Last year’s #9 fantasy QB with 4374 yds. and 23 TDs, Luck also has sneaky speed for such a mammoth passer, with 255 yds. rushing and 5 TD. Tom Brady finished last year with 4827 yds and 34 TD. No question it was a monster season. If you compare the two, including Luck’s rushing numbers, the difference is just a couple hundred yds. and five TDs. Look for Tom Brady to falter a little this year with the loss of Welker and Hernandez, Gronk's health issues and an offense that is looking to balance it’s attack. Meanwhile, the Colts play in arguably the worst division in football and there is no evidence to suggest that is changing this year. Indy also bolstered their run game with the acquisition of Ahmad Bradshaw, who should provide for clearer throwing lanes for Luck.
Luck will have a better year than RG3, Kaepernick, Newton, Ryan, and Wilson. REACH FOR HIM!
Draft Day Avoids - 2013 Fantasy Football
Wes Welker - Will Finish 2013 Outside the Top-30 Wide Receivers
Welker will be a high draft pick this year, just as he has been in recent years. My advice to you is, STAY AWAY. The scrappy WR who has won the hearts of fantasy owners and New England fans alike is getting old. Keep in mind that Welker has only had success in Belichick's system-- during his time in Miami, he was an absolute non-factor. Welker was Brady’s go-to guy in New England. The same will not be true with Manning. Welker will likely be the third or fourth option with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker out there. Both WR are younger and more skilled. Look for Denver to balance their offensive attack with the addition of draft pick Montee Ball. That is never good news for pass catchers. Manning’s favorite pattern to throw to is the seam, and Welker has rarely ran that pattern in his career.
Players who will finish the year with better fantasy stats:
- T.Y. Hilton - Breakout rookie year, one of Luck’s favorite targets, and will continue to be. Draft early
- Denarius Moore - Freakish 4.2 speed and top target for a team always playing “catch up”
- Cecil Shorts - Monster rookie year, also on a team always playing “catch up.” YES PLEASE!
Larry Fitzgerald - Will Finish Outside the Top 25 Wide Receivers
The perennial high pick in every draft will disappoint again this year. Fitz has been on the decline for a couple of years now, and I expect that trend to continue. The buzz in fantasyland is that Carson Palmer will reinvigorate Fitz. When did Carson Palmer become anyone’s savior? The last WR that benefited from Carson Palmer’s “elite” skills was Chad Johnson circa 2006. Fitz will be blanketed all season with double- (and sometimes triple-) coverage because frankly, the Cardinals have no other options. Their complete lack of a run game spells disaster for Fitz. Expect Palmer to be rushed and sacked a lot while skipping balls at Fitz's feet.
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