James Morris hails from Rio Rancho, NM and has been playing fantasy sports for just over 15 years. Not only does he write the Bengals fantasy section, but he also does the Miami Dolphins fantasy section. Crossing over, Morris writes the fantasy sections for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA. Just send him an email and he will reply back the same day with your answer. Or, find him on Twitter (Fantasyguy23) and get all your NFL news before it hits the national media.
Another Christmas comes and goes, as does another fantasy football season. While some leagues are still playing through Week 17, the vast majority held their championship game in Week 16 due to so many starters either playing limited minutes, or not at all. I know from your emails and messages via social media that many of you made the playoffs, with a good portion even making it to the championship game. I even had one faithful reader that was a fantasy rookie, but made it to the title game thanks to my help and advice all season long. There’s no better way to start off your fantasy career than to taste success out of the gate!
In my final article for the 2013 NFL season I will review the fantasy studs, as well as the fantasy duds from this season. All points and rankings will be from NFL.com. We’ll see who lived up to the hype, how my sleeper and bust picks panned out, and who most likely killed any shot of their team winning a fantasy title when their owner wasted a draft pick on them. So, buckle your seatbelt and hang on, because it is about to be a ride filled with highs and lows from the fantasy season!
Stud: Ryan Tannehill – Dolphins: I bet you that you didn’t know Tannehill was the 16th-best fantasy QB this season. That’s right, his 230.26 fantasy points ranked him right behind Nick Foles, but in front of Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers. For a guy projected by NFL.com to be the 29th-best QB in fantasy football, finishing 16th is a nice way to pay back the three percent of fantasy owners brave enough to draft him. Tannehill isn’t on the QB1 radar just yet, but those in 2QB leagues or people wanting a quality backup will want to give him a long look in the draft.
Dud: Michael Vick – Eagles: If you remember, I had Vick as my QB overvalued pick in the preseason fantasy draft article, so it is no surprise to me that he is in this spot. Vick entered the season as the Eagles starter, but that lasted all of five games before he was replaced by Foles. Vick was projected to be right around the 12-14 range for fantasy QBs, and finished the season with 1,215 passing yards, 306 rushing yards, 57 total TDs (five passing, two rushing) and three INTs. His 101.00 fantasy points still ranked him above Matt Schaub, but Schaub was never expected to do much in fantasy terms. Vick will head into free agency near rock bottom in terms of value, and has said he is willing to resign in Philadelphia as a backup.
Sleeper: Jay Cutler – Bears: Cutler was my sleeper pick heading into fantasy drafts, and he did not disappoint prior to his injury. NFL.com had him projected as the 24th-best fantasy QB in the preseason, and in eight of the 10 games in which he played he put up QB1 numbers. Yes, he got hurt and wasn’t any help in the second half of the season, but nobody drafted him to carry their team anyway. He will enter next season firmly in the QB1 rankings.
Bust: Michael Vick: Already covered.
Stud: Knowshon Moreno – Broncos: Moreno has never been more than a flex option in fantasy football terms, but he changed all that this season with Peyton Manning at the helm. Moreno averaged 101.5 total yards per game this season and scored 12 touchdowns for owners lucky enough to draft him. All totaled he finishes as NFL.com’s No. 4-ranked RB heading into Week 17, not bad for a guy NFL.com projected as their 72nd-best RB in the preseason! I do think, however, that he will be overdrafted next season because of his numbers this season.
Dud: Arian Foster – Texans: Foster was a top 3 pick in the draft with Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin, but finished 42nd among RBs this season after playing just eight games and having back surgery. From 2010-12 Foster averaged 318.7 carries and 53 receptions per season, and still got in another 121 carries and 22 receptions this season before getting hurt. Foster turns 28 years of age next August and his body is already breaking down from the massive workload the Texans have put on him. I don’t really see any way he hits my draft rankings next year as an RB1 to be honest.
Sleeper: Lamar Miller – Dolphins: Miller was someone most fantasy experts and columnists thought would have a breakout season, but that never really came to fruition. Miller finishes as the 39th-ranked RB as he averaged just 10.7 carries and 42.4 yards per game this season. In order for people to draft him as anything higher than a flex option next season, he will have to separate himself from Daniel Thomas this summer and enter 2014 as the undisputed starting RB.
Overvalue: Maurice Jones-Drew – Jaguars: MJD was drafted at the end of Round 2, which I predicted would be too high. While he did do reasonably well after the Jaguars Week 9 bye (74.92 fantasy points in six games post-bye compared to 62.10 fantasy points in 8 games pre-bye), he still finished ranked 20th for fantasy RBs this season. When looking at the overall picture, MJD gave owners back mid-fifth round value for their second-round investment. No matter where he lands this offseason, the days of MJD being a fantasy stud are obviously behind him.
Stud: Alshon Jeffery – Bears: Jeffery was one of the guys I told people to look out for in the preseason, and he did nothing to disappoint. He started off slowly with just 104 receiving yards on 13 receptions in the first three games, but then exploded for 73 catches for 1,237 yards and seven touchdowns over the next 12 games. He finished the fantasy season ranked seventh for WRs, and was an absolute steal with an average draft position somewhere in the final rounds of the draft.
Dud: Randall Cobb – Packers: Cobb finishes on the dud list only because he was injured after six games. He started off hot, racking up 16 receptions for 236 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers first two games. However, he saw a noticeable drop in production in Games 3, 4 and 5 as he totaled 13 catches for 142 yards and no touchdowns. With just five games under his belt this season (Week 4 bye), Cobb owners saw their third-round pick sent to the waiver wire after he was placed on Injured Reserve. The good news is the lack of numbers weren’t due to injury, although I do think defenses figured him out after the first two games. I’m not sold on him as a third-round pick next season right now.
Sleeper: Cecil Shorts – Jaguars: Shorts was someone I felt good about heading into the draft because all the news and information out of Jacksonville was positive with regards to Blaine Gabbert. What we quickly learned is that Gabbert is a pure bust in every sense of the word, and the QB problems in Jacksonville were more than Shorts and the Jaguars could handle. He was able to finish as the No. 42-ranked WR, making him a solid fourth WR for those bye week or injury replacements. He will enter next season right where he finished this one: in the No. 4 WR range for draft purposes.
Overvalue: Tavon Austin – Rams: All I heard from those big-box Web sites was Tavon Austin this, and Tavon Austin that, which was a HUGE red flag to start with for me. The reality is that very few rookies hit the ground running in any sport, and Austin had little chance to succeed given the Rams offensive problems. He finished the season with 40 receptions for 418 yards and four TDs, but those touchdowns were split into two games where he scored twice in each. The Rams have problems all over the field, and I wouldn’t want to waste a pick on a guy like Austin next season unless there are some major changes in St. Louis’s offense.
Stud: Julius Thomas – Broncos: Manning showed us once again that he can take a no-name player and make him a stud. Thomas was drafted in the 13th round (on average) and gave owners back late fourth-round value, which is amazing considering he is a tight end! Only Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis did better than Thomas this year. NFL.com didn’t even have a projection for Thomas, but they did for Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen. He will be a hot commodity heading into next season if all stays the same in Denver.
Dud: Ed Dickson – Ravens: I almost didn’t even want to put this down because I couldn’t believe that anyone picked Dickson to be worth owning in any … ANY format! But, I then realized that NFL.com projected Dickson as their No. 5 TE this season, ahead of guys like Thomas, Davis and Jordan Cameron (my sleeper pick). Dickson finished the season with 25 catches for 273 and a touchdown. His lone TD came in a game where he totaled just eight receiving yards on his two catches, meaning there wasn’t a single game he was worth playing this season. This is another reason why I say to never listen to those big-box Web sites when they give fantasy advice because it seems like they are just throwing darts at a dartboard.
Sleeper: Jordan Cameron – Browns: Yahoo projected Cameron as their 12th-best TE, while NFL.com projected him as their 18th-best TE. Instead, he finished the season ranked No. 5 for TEs thanks to his 75 receptions, 848 yards and seven touchdowns. I knew Cameron was going to be a steal, so I drafted him in just about every fantasy league I attended. It is a little alarming that he missed the final two games of last season with a concussion, and will miss the final two games of this season with another concussion. But, I think his days of fantasy sleeper are behind him with TE being such a thin fantasy position.
Overvalue: Antonio Gates – Chargers: It pained me to put Gates on the overvalue list because I not only grew up in San Diego and could see the stadium from my house (Murphy Canyon Navy Housing), but I actually have a signed jersey of his from when I wrote the Chargers fantasy section a few years ago. His 73 catches and 841 receiving yards were not bad at all, but the three touchdowns hurt because he has averaged nine touchdowns a season from 2004-12. He did finish 10th on NFL.com for TEs, but was a headache to play after Week 4 because he didn’t score again until Week 11 and his yardage totals varied wildly. I’ll be honest and say I will have Gates on my Do Not Draft list next season.
Stud: Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs were drafted on average as the 10th defense off the board, which is a steal considering they finished No. 1 by 20 points on NFL.com. They started off better than they finished up, scoring single digit fantasy points in three of their final six games, and losing points one of those six games. But, games against the Redskins and Raiders in Weeks 14 and 15 helped owners either win playoff games, or make it into the playoffs. They will enter next season as a top-tier defense if no major negative moves happen in the offseason.
Dud: Houston Texans: The list of what went right for the Texans this season is much shorter than what went wrong, but I had no idea the defense would be as bad as it was. They finished the season dead last on NFL.com for fantasy defenses, after being drafted as the fourth defense off the board and projected as NFL.com’s No. 1 overall defense heading into the draft. Embarrassing for whomever made these projections for NFL.com.
Sleeper: Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins defense finished the fantasy season ranked 13th, just outside of the starting defensive ranks for fantasy purposes. The Dolphins defense had some big games this season for fantasy owners, notably those against the Browns, Ravens, Bengals and Jets. They should be able to build off what they did this year as they head into next season, and I think they could finish in the top 10 if Dion Jordan and the other 2013 rookies can progress like I think they can.
Overvalue: Pittsburgh Steelers: I knew the Steelers defense was overrated heading into fantasy drafts, yet they were drafted in 96 percent of leagues out there. While some teams do draft two defenses, from my experience most owners take just one and pick one up when they need a bye-week replacement. The 96 percent is alarming considering they finished 21st for fantasy defenses this season, with Weeks 6, 12, 15 and 16 being the only weeks they were truly worth playing. Sure, one could say they helped out when you needed them most in the fantasy playoffs, but did anyone expect them to hold the Bengals to 20 points and recover a fumble in Week 15 after giving up 34 points to the Dolphins the week before? My bet is nobody played them in Week 15 unless they truly had no other options.
Well, there you have it fantasy football nuts, the highs and lows from the 2013 season. I was about 85 percent accurate in my picks this season, and my sleeper and bust picks turned in a healthy 90 percent return (Lamar Miller being the only miss). It has been an amazing season and I truly enjoyed talking to all the great Bengals fans. Thank you all for reading the articles and trusting me with your fantasy advice this season. I hope you enjoyed playing fantasy football as much as I’ve enjoyed talking with so many of you about it, and I look forward to doing it all over again in 2014!
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