For an in-depth explanation behind the categories below, please visit the prelude to this dashboard series here.
NFC West – Hard Evidence
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As a start to this article and dynasty NFC West run-down, I began to write some words about Russell Wilson and my stance on him from a dynasty perspective. As I started writing about opportunity and looking into what it would take for Russell Wilson to be an elite top 5 quarterback every year, the next thing I knew I created an entire article on him. Bottom line – I’m holding onto Wilson and waiting for him to get another 4.81 drop backs a game. Found out more here.
Last year in rookie drafts post-NFL draft Zac Stacy and Christine Michael were both coming off the board back-to-back, and it came down to the potential upside of Michael vs the path to opportunity for Stacy. I mainly chose Michael personally from an overall talent perspective, but Stacy is no slouch in his own regard as he’s a bruising back that can run between the tackles and keep pressure off the quarterback as a blocker. There were 3 camps of fantasy owners with regard to the St. Louis Rams, and it was a very difficult situation to peg down as Jeff Fisher wasn’t exactly giving us anything we wanted to hear to gain insight into the backfield initially.
Going into the year, I suspected that Stacy would be the eventual early down runner much in the same vein as Fisher’s new Eddie George type toy that didn’t exactly share all the characteristics of Eddie George, but he could handle the bulk of the work and still be effective as a pass-blocker and target out of the backfield. Much to my dismay, Daryl Richardson earned the early gig. It wasn’t long before he became injured, couldn’t get back on the field, and Stacy ran away with the job.
There is a growing presence within the fantasy community that thinks the St. Louis Rams will opt to draft another impact running back this year, hence limiting Stacy’s upside and making him a fantasy commodity with short term value. I am not in this camp, and I don’t see any reason why the Rams don’t leverage their early picks to build up the offensive line, bring in another top-threat wide receiver, and bring in another strong piece in the secondary to keep pace with the lock-down defenses of the NFC West.
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- Stacy earned his keep with sheer volume in his rookie season carrying the rock 250 times and getting targeting 33 times in spite of missing the last 3 game of the season.
- His YPC came in just under 3.9, however his yards after contact/ attempt was a very respectable 2.4 and good enough for 14th in the league. On the surface this seems average at best, but we all saw diabolical circumstances for the rookie, and he had to lead the team through ultimate adversity.
- Out of the 5 starting offensive linemen for the Rams, only 2 of them finished the season as starters. Harvey Dahl missed 7 games with a torn MCL, Scott Wells broke his fibula and missed a handful of games, and the line was never able to gel with Chris Williams hurting the line more than helping by allowing 28 QB hurries and hurting the run by way of aiding to an overall anemic pass game.
- If this wasn’t enough, The Rams had to play out the season with Kellen Clemens, Tavon Austin, and Austin Pettis. The wonder-hit Jared Cook let everyone down with his inability to run the right routes and remain a constant in the pass game. You can’t ask for a rookie running back to do any more lifting on his shoulders than Stacy did for the 2013 Rams.
- While there is concern with Jake Long’s late season torn ACL and MCL heading into 2014, we already know what the floor looks like. His value meter is pointing up for me, much in the same vein of Le’Veon Bell – just not quite at the same level.
The Minnesota Vikings did what any team would have had to do after the 2012 season and traded their disgruntled superstar to the highest bidder, and the Seattle Seahawks found their missing link in an offense that desperately needed another playmaker with Sidney Rice never on the field leaving the team without a true number 1 wide receiver. Not even getting Harvin back until the big game, the script was down-right dirty, and they didn’t even use him as more than an X- factor type player on offense and special teams. Harvin proved all of his doubters right for the time being as another one bit the dust once again, and Harvin sustained a hip injury that kept him out all year.
According to Dynastyleaguefootball.com early dynasty ADP, data so graciously given to us by Ryan McDowell, Harvin is going as the 44th overall pick in dynasty start-ups. You can say that the risk of owning him is built into his ADP, but getting a player of this caliber in the 4th round is an absolute steal, and it’s a perfect buy-window for owners to snag Harvin. At 5’11”, 184 lbs, Harvin is far from the prototypical 1A receiver, but his 1st round draft pedigree speaks for the talent he possesses within his frame. Many are down on him not only because of his size and injuries, but also because of his landing spot to a team that has been predicated on stout defense, hard hitting, and running the football.
- This shouldn’t be a brain-buster for anyone, but Harvin will only be 26 years old heading into the 2014 season, and he has plenty of football left in front of him.
- In 2011 (prior to his fall-out in Minnesota), he put up a staggering .60 points per opportunity, only behind Jordy Nelson that year. While his depth of target was only 5.9 yards, he caught 74% of the balls thrown his way. Let’s not forget his 345 rushing yards that season as well.
- As an indirect correlation, Golden Tate had an aDOT of 10.8, and Doug Baldwin had an 11.9 in 2013. When Harvin gets on the field next year, we’re going to see his average yard per reception increase over 2011.
- Tate accounted for 22.90% of the pass attempts last as the defacto WR1, and achieved a .41 PP/Opp. If you were to hypothetically plug Harvin’s .60 PP/O in place of Tate, you would increase Tate’s total PPR points from 186.4 to 222.0. This would be good enough to insert Harvin right behind Edelman in the total points ranks.
- This is when I ask myself a few questions. If Harvin played the entire season as the 1A receiver, would he have increased that 22% of targets? Would he have achieved more receptions given his horizontal game? Would he have been able to stretch the defense more than Tate or Baldwin? Would he have increased the yards after the catch? With nothing other than instinct based on talent to go on, my answer would be yes to all of the above.
- Sidney Rice is not likely to be with the team next year, and both Tate and Baldwin are free agents. I expect the Seahawks to bring in another big bodied receiver to fill that Rice void, but Harvin should be able to take his game (and Wilson’s) to the next level. His upside is as a WR1, and I’m not wavering off of that.
- As Chad Parsons said “You have to go into the eye of the storm…you have to go where everyone is fearfully running away.”
More Hard Evidence Notable Names across the NFC West:
Marshawn Lynch –
Go ahead and ride him for another season as a contender, but realize there is much risk here. We still don’t know the outcome of his off-field shenanigans, and his trade value may decrease every day from here on out depending on how this off season shakes out. While he’s still signed for another 2 seasons, I don’t think there’s a chance in hell the Seahawks keep Lynch beyond 2014. He’s due $5 million plus $500,000 in bonuses this year. In 2015, he’s due $5.5 million plus a whopping $2 million in additional bonuses. For a team that has more than enough free agent dilemmas coming up, there’s no need for the 12th man to throw any more skittles on the field at that price when they have budding talent waiting in the wings.
Larry Fitzgerald –
Much like the scenario above with Lynch, Fitzgerald is a player at the dynasty crossroads. It’s often difficult deciding whether or not it’s worth it to off-load elite level aging players or ride them into the sunset to help win a championship. Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) wrote a compelling piece about the age of decline for positional players, and Fitzgerald certainly fits the bill as a 31 year old receiver in 2013. Not only is he combating the age factor, he’s also battling the growth of one Michael Floyd (more to come in Forensic Evidence)…
Vernon Davis –
Such a freak of an athlete, Vernon Davis provides you the edge over majority of teams from the Tight End position every single week if you’re not the Jimmy Graham owner. Outside of his week 16 injury in 2013, Vernon Davis only had 2 games throughout the year with 5 PPR points or less; long gone were the days of 2012 in which we started Davis every week of the regular season only to see him own the field from a receiving standpoint in the playoffs.
At 30 years old, he’s still under contract through 2015, and his physical nature is so far ahead of pretty much everyone at the position that even if he take a step back, he’ll still be more athletically gifted than majority of the league at the position. If the San Francisco 49ers do decide to let him walk in a couple years, you could make the argument that his value could increase until he retires given the amount of time the 49ers keep him on the line to add value as a blocker in the run game. His age does not concern me at all, and he’s still a main-stay for 4 years in my opinion.
* Player data and contract information researched on www.Rotoworld.com