by Bobby McMann
Whether you are getting a jump start on your re-draft prep for next summer or playing in a keeper/dynasty format, playoff football is about more than which team wins the Super Bowl. You need to be looking for value, and on the playoff stage stocks can be volatile. Case in point: Colin Kaepernick last season. He took over for Alex Smith towards the end of the regular season and had an exceptional playoff run, leading to a soaring 2013 stock. Potential 2014 breakout talents like Giovani Bernard and Zach Ertz have been eliminated, but there are plenty of value trends to keep an eye on as we head into the offseason. The spotlight will be on in each of the seven remaining games…who’s stock will rise up?
The Broncos offense has been a well-oiled machine all season long and the playoffs figure to be no different. There are plenty of established Fantasy studs here, but keep an eye on Montee Ball’s usage and performance. Keeping Peyton Manning upright figures to be a top priority and that means we could see more of Knowshon Moreno, but Ball is the future of this backfield. While he did not have the impact many expected this season, 2014 could be a very different story. Even with his average skill set, he could be a high upside RB2 if he can grab hold of the starting job this summer. Another player that will be heavily monitored this offseason is Eric Decker. The 26-year-old is an unrestricted free agent and will command big dollars on the open market. Keep a close eye on this situation, as he may be leaving Denver for greener pastures.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
One of the breakout stories of 2013 was rookie receiver Keenan Allen. The 21-year-old Cal product racked up over 1,000 yards, 71 receptions and 8 TDs in 15 games. His dynasty value is already trending way up, but a big playoff performance could further boost his stock. Ryan Mathews tapped into his vast Fantasy potential with a solid RB2 performance this season. He is not the type of talent that can be relied upon because of constant injuries, but he is a valuable role player. If he finishes off this season with a whimper against the Broncos, he could be a decent buy candidate in the offseason. Antonio Gates is not getting any younger and Ladarius Green is primed for a bigger role. Green will be no more than a TE2 with upside entering 2014, which makes him an intriguing stash player.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
LeGarrette Blount is playing like the best RB in the Patriots backfield, which makes Stevan Ridley’s long-term value suspect. Ridley certainly has the talent to be a major contributor to your Fantasy team, but he might need a change of scenery. If Shane Vereen can stay healthy, he will be a huge PPR asset. He should be a major component of New England’s offensive strategy during the playoffs and has the ability to make owners forget about his injury history. There is an opportunity for Kenbrell Thompkins to boost his profile with fellow rookie Josh Boyce on IR and Aaron Dobson questionable for Saturday’s action. The only immediate future certainty in the Patriots receiving corps isJulian Edelman. Not only did Edelman have over 100 receptions this past season, he also has the smoothie game on lock.
Andrew Luck was already a top dynasty QB, but his stock is on helium watch after Saturday’s performance against the Chiefs. He has the talent to unseat Aaron Rodgers as the most sought after QB in dynasty by the end of next season, if not sooner. While T.Y. Hilton may not profile as a WR1, he certainly has Top 15 potential because of his playmaking ability. It would not be a surprise if the Colts added a big target in the draft. Still, Da’Rick Rodgers could emerge as a solid WR for Luck. He has way more upside than Griff Whalen, who is more of a situational talent. Coby Fleener has not capitalized on the opportunity presented to him this season and his stock is in danger of falling. Not sure thatTrent Richardson’s stock could get any lower than it is right now. Be aware of summer fluff pieces about how comfortable and beastly T-Rich looks after being with the Colts for a full offseason with the team. He is a very risky long-term prospect, worth only a speculative acquisition. Donald Brown has flashed for just about the first time in his career. He is a change of pace type at best.
Russell Wilson is an excellent NFL QB, but is he an elite Fantasy QB? He is a highly efficient passer with a knack for throwing TDs and racking up extra yards on the ground. He is only 25 years old, and despite his size he still has plenty of upside for Fantasy purposes. Because of that, he is a franchise QB in long-term formats even if he lacks the ceiling of Andrew Luck or Colin Kaepernick. It is not likely we will see much, if any, of Christine Michael, the Seahawks rookie RB and future Fantasy stud. Use that to your advantage and acquire him wherever you can this offseason. Will Percy Harvin make an impact? His value has dipped, but a big postseason could fix that in a hurry. Golden Tate is playing for a payday as a free agent after the season.
For the second postseason in a row, Niners QB Colin Kaepernick is increasing his keeper league value. Photo Credit: Football Schedule
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
What is the deal with the Saints RB situation? Long-term, the answer may not be on the roster. Mark Ingram had a big performance on Saturday night against the Eagles, but he is far too inconsistent and limited to be anything more than a Flex player. Pierre Thomas had an impressive season, even if he offers little long-term appeal. Darren Sproles is not worth buying into anymore in dynasty leagues. The two most intriguing prospects are rookie Khiry Robinson and potential Sproles replacementTravaris Cadet. Robinson was impressive last week, but does not figure to get more than a handful of touches, especially if Pierre Thomas is active. On the receiving side, Kenny Stills is more one-trick pony than reliable Fantasy asset at the moment. While Nick Toon will likely not even be active this week, he is one to monitor this offseason.
The Panthers more than any other team in the playoffs lack offensive firepower. Cam Newton is just about flying solo out there. Brandon Lafell is a replaceable talent, Steve Smith is just about done and the running game is anybody’s guess. Jonathan Stewart has all the talent in the world, but cannot stay on the field long enough to use it. Kenjon Barner is worth a stash in deep leagues because of his playmaking potential. The Panthers desperately need to surround Newton with some young, high upside talent this offseason. If they can manage to even win one playoff game, it will be thanks in large part to their franchise QB and top-notch defense.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Just like he did last January, Colin Kaepernick is reminding everyone that he is an elite talent with limitless Fantasy upside. His first full season as a starter was filled with inconsistency and struggles. Even in an “off” season, he had over 3,000 yards passing, 500 yards rushing and 25 TDs with only 8 INTs. If the Niners make a run once again, you can expect Kaep’s value to climb back up. With the success of Kaepernick comes big numbers for Michael Crabtree. Now healthy, he continues to flash an excellent rapport with his QB. He will be a WR1 next season. Kendall Hunter is only going to get a few touches as long as Frank Gore remains healthy, but he could be in line for even more of a workload next season. That is, if he is not passed over by ultra-talented Marcus Lattimore.
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