For an in-depth explanation behind the categories below, please visit the prelude to this dashboard series here.
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Every so often as a detective you’ll encounter a case that involves a guy that has been chewed up, spit out, and left for dead. His wife left him, he lost his job, and he just lost a gasket along the way. There isn’t a guy out there that fits this mold more than Tony Romo right now from a fantasy perspective. Erratic play, bad coaching, and a roller-coaster ride of a season has left Romo for dead. Depending on the scoring format, he averaged around a low-end QB1 in terms of total points, but you never knew when you were going to get the performance you needed.
- Tony Romo is a great target because his perceived value has plummeted. If you’re a team that’s on the cusp and just needs a nudge at QB, go ahead and get him for cheap.
- Scott Linehan, the newly acquired Offensive Coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, is not afraid to the throw the rock. More importantly, he’s going to throw it when it’s opportunistic to do so and not set Romo up for failure like the previous play-caller did. It can only get better from Jason Garrett.
- I bet you wouldn’t guess that there were 20 other quarterbacks that threw more interceptions than Romo in 2013…Romo had an INT rate of only 1.9%. Game losing INTs in the NFL don’t have extra weight against your fantasy team. Couple that with 31 TDs, and Romo hate has gone too far.
- If you currently roster an up-and-coming guy like Ryan Tannehill or plan on targeting Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel in the draft, Romo will continue to produce points for you as a low-end QB1 bridge while you develop talent on your roster.
- You can also pair him up with a guy like Philip Rivers and simply play the matchups. Let your league’s hate for him play into your advantage.
“How beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken,” Tennessee Williams, author of the famous play “The Glass Menagerie,” said as he described the emotionally broken characters in the play. The parallels between the collection of little glass animals in this play, the characters they symbolize, and how I feel every time I watched Demarco Murray run this year are arguably the same emotions other fantasy owners share as well.
You can’t help but wonder if his punishing running style is going to send him back to the training room any given Sunday. Murray earned an “injury-prone” stripe after a foot sprain and a sprained MCL. Many owners had given up hope at this point, but Murray returned from his sprained MCL to finish out the year on a high note. If not for the injury history, Murray would be the third best running back to own in all formats in my opinion behind only LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles.
- Sometimes as a fantasy owner you have to take risks on guys like Murray. When he’s on the field, he does everything so well between the tackles, as a blocker, and out of the backfield.
- I know this is a bold statement and surely to be taken out of context, but Demarco Murray has a style of running that takes after Adrian Peterson. It’s a delight to watch him run, and he has more than enough ability to take over games.
- He’s the type of player that if you sell him, you’re not going to get as much in return as you should for a player of his caliber. Another year under his belt, and he’s a 25 year old running back that only carried the rock 217 times. Only Andre Ellington and Donald Brown had higher yards/ attempt metrics.
- Murray could have had a few additional games with even more ridiculous production had Garrett not stopped running the ball for reasons that we will never understand. He had 5 games above 20 ppr points and it would have been closer to 8 had any other coach been calling plays.
- He finished the season as the 6th best scoring back even after missing a couple games, and he should have been able to outperform even Marshawn Lynch. What more do you want from a 25 year old running back heading into the 2014 season?
- It’s fair to say that this injury tag is also fresh in the minds of his fantasy owners in leagues in which you don’t own him. Put a feeler out there, kick the tires, and talk down the asking price by stating the obvious.
- Target him right before your rookie draft if you have an abundance of picks when those picks are of highest value. You can build around Murray. Just grab Lance Dunbar along the way.
We all failed as Gumshoes in 2013. Every last one of us. There are certain things that we can’t see coming, but it doesn’t change the end result. Not a single detective would have been able to follow the clues behind what happened with the New York Giants. The backfield sustained a career altering injury, the offensive line was atrocious, and Eli Manning was just lost all year long without any help from his talented wide receivers.
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I never in my entire life thought that I would ever wish to see bad salsa moves from Victor Cruz more than in 2013. He fell off the radar as a sure bet to put up a minimum of 15 points every week heading into the season to finishing the season as a start/sit quandary alongside the likes of Rishard Mathews and Andre Holmes.
- Cruz isn’t a big-bodied jump ball receiver that is going to make the acrobatic highlight reel plays, but he’s so smooth in the slot and slips away from corners much like how we’ve seen Antonio Brown take his game to the next level.
- He’s always a mismatch for defenses as he continues to get used inside where a safety can’t keep up with him and there are few corners that can man him up and contain him the entire game.
- I’m not making any adjustments to his value going forward. It was a perfect storm for Cruz topped off with a concussion and a knee injury requiring a scope. His recovery is going well and he’s on pace to be back in time for OTAs.
- Whether or not Hakeem Nicks returns, Cruz is till the top option in that offense. What happened in 2013 may potentially open a buy window for a contending team that would not have existed prior to the let-down season.
- Ben McAdoo, former quarterbacks coach of the Green Bay Packers, was hired as the new Offensive Coordinator for the G Men after Kevin Gilbride retired and avoided an eventual scape-goat firing.
- McAdoo comes in with plenty of check marks on his resume to be able to fix whatever was ailing for Manning, and he’s also bringing his own hybrid of the west coast offense with him. I think this style might actually take away from some of the long-play potential that we were accustomed to seeing with Cruz.
- Having said that, the up tempo offense is going to bring a higher snap count, and more opportunity for consistent production from Cruz horizontally. It’s going to be fun for McAdoo to be able to leverage Cruz much like Randall Cobb was beginning to get used in Green Bay.
- If you’re an owner of Cruz on a team that isn’t primed to win this year, wait until after he produces for a couple weeks and then cash in.
- Cruz had a career worst year since he became a starter in 2011. While 2013 was his worst year, 2011 was his best year. In fact, he started in only 7 games in 2011 vs 13 in 2013.
- In just over half of games started, he eclipsed 82 receptions, over 1500 yards, and 9 TDs. All of Cruz’s stats should be able to realize an increase across the board given the expected change in tempo.
- Here’s his 3 year average below, which shows that he should still be treated as a high end WR2 at minimum with WR1 upside for another 3 years before he starts to fall off a 30 year old WR cliff:
*Source – Pro Football Reference
More Hard Evidence Notable Names across the NFC East:
Pierre Garcon – Not too many fantasy owners were high enough on Pierre Garcon, and I didn’t understand why. He’s the only viable option in Washington with nothing behind him – at all. Just by shear target volume alone Garcon was a shoe-in to be a bonafide WR1. This isn’t going to change next year, and I expect Garcon to keep this value going forward.
Nick Foles – Foles shot up the fantasy board with his mistake-free play leading a team that has the highest snap count in the league. Chip Kelly came in and really pushed his agenda forward, and it’s lovely for our fantasy teams. The up-tempo offense he runs and the talent around him will help to keep him a potential top 5 option for years to come.
Alfred Morris – Jay Gruden isn’t going to let Alfred Morris go to waste going forward. He isn’t a sexy PPR pick at all, but he should get enough work going forward to keep him involved in the low-end RB1 high-end RB2 category going forward. I trust Jay Gruden will get Roy Helu more involved in 2014, but this will help to make Morris’ touches more effective in early-down situations.
Unlike the Eli Manning story, Robert Griffin III is the case that prompts a detective to scream and shouts and throw his empty Dixie cup with drips of old crappy coffee smacking the police chief in the forehead because he knows there isn’t enough on the accused to bring him in garnishing silver bracelets. “I’m telling you, he’s not healthy! He says he is — and you want him to be healthy, but he’s not going to do himself any good! The team is going to suffer because of it, and we could be hurting his long term value! We paid a ransom for this guy, and we need to remember that before we rush him back.”
Something tells me that’s exactly what Mike Shanahan said from the very start, but Dan Snyder wasn’t hearing any of it. Shanahan took a lot of media heat for pulling RGIII out at the end of the season. “What’s the point now? We all saw he should have done this from the start.” It goes much deeper than that what was revealed on the surface. Nevertheless, RGIII has reluctantly been getting that knee healthy since week 13, and he’ll be more than ready for the start of the 2014 season. and he’ll get back to producing fantasy gold for your teams under Jay Gruden and his very balanced offensive system.
- Jay Gruden led the Cincinnati Bengals to the 6th best team in 2013 with 26.9 points per game. I will take the opportunity to state that he did this in spite of Andy Dalton, who was surprisingly the 5th best fantasy QB in total points for the season.
- While Dalton made some nice plays throughout the season (I have to still give credit where credit is due), he does not throw the ball with much zip, and he was notorious for the throwing the ball exactly where the ball should not have been throw, much like Matt Schaub in 2013.
- It’s very easy for the critics to talk about all the things RGIII did wrong this year, but the only thing anyone should have ever said is simple – they should have said exactly what San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks said: “He shouldn’t be playing. Everybody can see it.”
- In spite of playing with a “repaired” knee after ligament damage, RGIII still managed to end the season as the 19th best QB after finally getting benched week 14.
- If you extrapolate his 13 games to 16 games, his 17.66 points per game would have been good enough for 282.58 points.
- This would have put him right above Colin Kaepernick as the 10th best fantasy quarterback in 2013.
- Look, not everyone is Adrian Peterson. NO ONE, is Adrian Peterson. The Predator doesn’t have anything on Adrian Peterson. Not even Chuck Norris has anything on Adrian Peterson – that just happened.
- If you tell me that a QB is going to return too early from injury, have 1 viable starting WR to throw to and still come out with those numbers, that’s an accomplishment in my book. RGIII is a sure-fire top 5 fantasy QB in 2014.
Coming into 2013, I watched a lot of tap on Terrence Williams, and I felt like the fantasy community was collectively valuing him pretty much exactly where he should be valued. He was getting drafted in the 2nd round of rookie drafts closer to the 1-2 turn, and that’s exactly where I was willing to draft him. He isn’t elite in any facet of his game, but since watching him play I’ve felt that he does everything well: Williams is a big-bodied WR that does a good job in his routes and does an even better job of boxing out the defender. He has good hands and can bring the ball in away from his body, but he isn’t going to wow anyone with any level of break-away speed.
What I was looking for from Williams was a nice landing spot that would be able to off-set his lack of elite-level talent that would be able to make the most of his well-rounded talent at the NFL level. That’s exactly what we got when he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
- This off-season as I’ve begun to watch tape on this year’s rookie class, I actually have come to view Terrance Williams as a poor man’s Jordan Matthews.
- These two guys are strikingly similar with their overall physical nature, route running styles, and ability to box out defenders and catch the ball in traffic. Neither of these guys have that break-away speed you would hope to see in a prospect.
- Having said that, Matthews seems to be able to do everything just a little bit better than Williams. For that reason and for the simple fact that he has great football in his genes, Matthews is going to go at least a round earlier than Williams did. His ability to make the difficult catch is what sets him aside from Williams.
- It’s going to be a blast this year with early mock results showing that Matthews is being valued everywhere from 1.2 – 1.11 so far, and we have more than a handful of wide receivers at a high level of talent.
- After all of this, one certainty remains: Miles Austin does not look like he will be back in Dallas. No longer while we sit in front of our Samsung TVs wondering why Terrence is sitting on the bench while Miles ineffectively attempts to run a route.
- As Jason Witten ages, Williams is going to be asked to step up his game another level and stay involved in the Linehan led offense which is primed to put up fantasy numbers from a heavily weighted pass-game. This is a great situation for Williams to be an easy WR3 with low-end WR2 upside.
Just when we finally get the diamond in the rough, Jordan Reed goes down with a concussion. To make matters worse, he attempts to get back on the field below the radar and still experiencing concussion symptoms. The Washington Redskins coaching staff spotted the symptoms and pulled the plug. This is a good story of the league getting one right.
Every fantasy owner is now wondering just how deep this rabbit hole travels and is Jahvid Best waiting at the bottom. We’re all going to have to wait and see what transpires come OTAs and more importantly when players put the pads on. Reed was a rookie that had plentiful potential as a pass-catching, route running, Hernandez-like prospect but somehow managed to fall to the 4th and 5th rounds of rookie drafts everywhere. For the price most paid for him, you have to stick this out because the upside of Reed on the field is extreme.
- Many owners acquired him for a large price once he came on, and in this scenario they’re even more pot-committed. His talent as an x-factor that cannot be covered by a linebacker or a safety is undeniable. You have to stick this one through and hope for the best.
- Reed spent the first third of the season splitting time with head-case Fred Davis before the coaches realized the Reed was the real deal, and it behooved them to keep him on the field. Reed caught 45 balls in only 9 games.
- With a full season under his belt he would have been the third best tight end in terms of total receptions. Extrapolating his yards, TDs, and receptions makes him a top 5 tight end – as a rookie.
- I appreciate that many out there are adamant in their hatred of extrapolation, but it doesn’t deny the fact that had he stayed on the field this is what his numbers realistically would have become. With respect to the opposing argument, if extrapolation nets Reed into the low-end TE1 range tops, then I’d be willing to walk.
- I can’t get over the fact that his upside is that great. With the tight end position already a difficult position to conquer and everyone looking for the next Jimmy Graham, I’m sticking around to hopefully get another Aaron Hernandez type player in my lineup.
- I’m that fantasy owner that will typically take that risk and shoot for the stars, but I’m not doing so without a back-up plan.
Other Forensic Notable Names across the NFC East:
Jerrel Jernigan – Jernigan really came on late for the G-Men when nothing else was able to click. He is a very shifty guy that is extremely effective in the slot game. With Nicks more than likely getting a “show-me” deal in another uniform, the path is potentially clear for Jernigan to stay on the fantasy radar.
Rueben Randle – Rueben Randle hit the scene early and often in the end zone in 2013 and slowly fell off the map. You had to depend on that touchdown for fantasy production, so you never felt good starting him. I really loved Randle coming out of college, and I actually thought he reminded me a bunch of Hakeem Nicks. I think a break-out year is soon underway…
Hakeem Nicks – The aforementioned Nicks has a lot to prove, and he didn’t do a great job accomplishing this in a contract year, as he already has an injury tag stigma to overcome. He didn’t help matters with reports coming out that he was repeatedly fined for being late to meetings. Doofus. Nicks has all the talent in the world, but he isn’t helping his cause. I can see Nicks getting traded in leagues for a second round pick. Then again, he could sign with the Carolina Panthers or the New England Patriots and turn it all around…
Zach Ertz – I admittedly missed the boat on Ertz and don’t own him anywhere. I was so busy having a man-crush on both Tyler Eifert and Travis Kelce that I let Ertz go to other teams in the range he was getting drafted. Even though we all knew what Chip Kelly loves to do with Tight Ends, I thought it would be hard to get on the field with Celek in front and Vick not liking Tight Ends. I also didn’t believe in Nick Foles enough to be able to supplant Mike Vick this early. Everyone has crow to eat at some point. Here’s mine. I love the outlook for Ertz moving forward.
Sometimes you fall in love with a player and you’ll do anything to make sure he’s on your team. Once you make a decision like this, you’ve emotionally invested in that guy, for right or wrong. I drafted Adrien Robinson wherever I could in 2012 – I really had high hopes for him to be the next Antonio Gates. Unfortunately, injuries have derailed his start-up career, and now he’s going into year 3 on the Giants roster. I was one of the guys that was absolutely disgusted by the Giants Free Agency signing of Brandon Myers in the off season.
- Myers benefited with the Oakland Raiders from plenty of garbage time underneath coverage along with Carson Palmer not having many healthy options year-round to target.
- It was a very underwhelming desperation play by the Giants, and they felt the pain of not re-signing Martellus Bennett.
- It doesn’t appear that Myers is going to be in a Giants uniform next year, yet he belongs on any roster in the league – as a second tight end. As of today, the Giants don’t have any other good prospects on the team at the position.
- It would be foolish to think it will stay this way, and I trust the G-Men will kick the tires on the likes of Brandon Pettigrew or Fred Davis. Neither of them make you excited, but I can actually see Pettigrew going into New York and being fantasy relevant as high-end TE2 with low-end TE1 upside.
- I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Pettigrew would be better for the Giants than Myers was. The upside play, however, is Adrien Robinson, and I’m still hanging on for dear life that the JPP of Tight Ends will come into camp healthy and ready to hit the ground running.
Unlike Robinson, it was difficult for me to get a good read on Gavin Escobar coming into the league. He seemed to flash greatness at times with great overall hands with an ability to stretch the seam, but he would also fall off the map at times. He had an up and down history in Sand Diego St and didn’t come into the NFL on a high note. The Dallas Cowboys sure saw something in him when they surprisingly took him in the 2nd round.
In my opinion, there were better options still on the draft board at the tight end position. I liked all of Vance McDonald, Travis Kelce, and Jordan Reed all more than Escobar and was very surprised by the selection. Kelce would have been the perfect fit for the Cowboys in my opinion, but what do I know.
- Escobar looked lost early and often when given the chance to run some routes. He started out by running the wrong routes, and Tony Romo was visibly upset at Escobar at times.
- Escobar did come on toward the end of the season and even made a few highlight-reel plays we knew he was capable of but never saw on a consistent basis.
- Jason Witten seemed to be aging on a per-game basis this year. He was more than serviceable in your lineups, but something just isn’t there anymore. He doesn’t seem to have that fire any longer and desire to keep playing.
- Once a player starts to proactively talk about retirement, it’s time to cut back, salvage the value you can get for him, and move along.
- Escobar is the Cowboys version of moving along, and he’s going to get increased opportunity to prove that he can be the heir-apparent to Witten. He has many things to polish in his game – basically everywhere, but I’m bought-in at this point to him being able to take on the task.
- His upside is limited at this point while Witten still suits up, but expect the pendulum to start to swing in Escobar’s favor over the course of the next two years.
The Hard Evidence Demarco Murray run-down serves as segue into this section, as you have to still take note of what transpires in the backfield behind Demarco Murray. None of the back-up running backs in Dallas were rosterable unless you were in a deep dynasty league with 25 or more roster spots. If I am choosing one Dallas running back not named Murray to award a late round stash in deep leagues to wait and see, I’m giving the nod to Lance Dunbar. He has experienced his own injuries to try and work through himself, but he is clearly the best overall talent on the roster in my opinion.
- The Cowboys drafted Joseph Randle in the 5th round last year, and this typically seems like decent value. There was nothing about Joe Randle, however, that made me excited about his prospects in the NFL regardless of the team and situation to land. He doesn’t have great burst, he didn’t look too seasoned out of the backfield, and he wasn’t a better than average blocker.
- There were a lot of names I liked more than Randle if the Cowboys were going to take a crack at another running back. Notable names – Zac Stacy!, Mike Gillislee, and Benny Cunningham. Can you imagine Khiry Robinson in a Cowboys uniform?
- The Cowboys may still stick with Randle as the first back-up, but it sure seems like Dunbar is the best back. He runs with force for his size, he’s more than capable out of the back-field, and fights for extra yardage. He’s deceptively shifty and can cause damage when he gets in the open field or second level.
- I think the Cowboys know that Dunbar is the best-rounded back as well, but it’s a matter of whether or not Dunbar can stay healthy in his own regard.
- These are deep players I’m speaking about, so don’t give up a lot of value for Dunbar. I’m sure if you’re a Murray owner in a deep league there’s a great chance Dunbar is sitting there for the taking if you so desire.
Other Circumstantial Notable Names across the NFC East:
Cole Beasley – Beasley isn’t going to wow anyone with top speed or hone-run threats ability, but with Miles Austin potentially leaving town and Terrence Williams moving full time on the outside, there will be a larger role carved out for Beasley in 3 Wide/ 1 Tight End sets and should be able to help out in a pinch. He’s only going to be a deep flex option in ppr leagues, but are there still any other types of leagues out there?
David Wilson – Wow – just wow. Yes, I put David Wilson in this section. I am at the point in which I’m treating Wilson as an afterthought. It pains me to type this, but I just don’t see how a running back in today’s NFL with Spinal Stenosis is going to be able to stay healthy and not be at large risk to do even more damage. I’m no doctor but suffer from degenerative disc disease myself, and I just don’t see how a player with stenosis (which in many cases is a larger cause for concern) can manage to stay in the league long term. Wipe away your tears and move on. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I’m not sticking around to find out.
Leonard Hankerson – I feel dirty typing this one, but Mr. Hanky seemed to start to grasp some the concepts of being a wide receiver in the NFL before going to down for the year with a LCL and ACL tear and after I already gave up deep dynasty hopes. According to Rotoworld, there is talks of him possibly moving inside with Santana Moss no longer on the team. I’m not sure if his skill will translate inside, but he’d be a potential mismatch with a 6’2” 205 lbs frame and would get increased work in the offense. I’m sure the Redskins will look to solidify their WRs via free agency or the draft, but as of right now he’s the next option after Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed, and he’s shown of late he’s matured a little.
* Physicality, draft, and college data researched on www.NFL.com
* Player data and contract information researched on www.Rotoworld.com