FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

The Pick-up Joint: Week 14
John Tuvey
December 4, 2012
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Sleeper Keepers for 2013 Video - Featuring John Tuvey

So maybe the 2012 season didn’t work out quite as you had planned. Through no fault of your own, games over the final month of the season mean little or nothing to this year's bottom line. What better way to get a jump start on turning the tide for 2013 then by stocking your dynasty team with some hidden gems? While others are myopically focused on the “win now”, you can build a base for your future. With that in mind, here are a handful of under-the-radar options to consider.

QUARTERBACKS

Alex Smith, 49ers
Maybe he reclaims his starting gig from Colin Kaepernick, but probably not. Instead, Smith bides his time as a good soldier until the offseason—when his agent strongly pushes for a trade. There are definitely teams where Smith would represent an upgrade at quarterback, and he’s demonstrated enough competence that if he lands in the right circumstance he could be a fringe fantasy starter in larger leagues. Unfortunately, the best-case scenario of Smith tossing to Larry Fitzgerald isn’t likely to materialize as the Cardinals are in the same division as the Niners. But stranger things have happened, and if that trade turns into a flat-out release instead…

Matt Flynn, Seahawks
Another NFC West team, another backup quarterback who could very well prosper with a starting gig. Flynn isn’t going to unseat Russell Wilson, and the Seahawks could recoup at least a portion of their investment by sending Flynn to a quarterback-needy club like, say, the Jets or Chiefs. The last time we saw Flynn he was throwing for 480 yards and six touchdowns; true, he’s not going to land in an offense like the Packers with receivers like Green Bay has, but a starting gig would at least be the first step to seeing if it was the system or if Flynn brings a little magic to the fantasy table..

RUNNING BACKS

Jahvid Best, Lions
Look, the chances of Best actually ever playing again are slim. But on the off chance he does, think of what he brings to the table. Best’s career average of 10.8 fantasy points per game would easily make him a quality RB2; the 14.3 he was averaging in 2011 prior to his season-ending injury would make him a borderline top-five back. His video-game moves would be a dynamic complement to both the Lions’ passing game and Mikel Leshoure’s power running game. Big, big if… but if it hits you’re golden.

Ben Tate, Texans
Gary Kubiak dialed back Arian Foster dramatically last week, but it may be too little, too late: Foster seems destined to cross the dreaded 370 carries mark that has historically led to problems the following season. In fact, if you factor in receptions and the inevitable playoff workload, 370 is a done deal. Sometimes the drop-off is just reduced productivity, but often times it’s an injury—and if that’s the case for Foster in 2013, it opens the door for Tate to get the work behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. You’ve seen what Tate can do with starter carries in Houston before; if the Foster owner is slow on the handcuff, you can stash him now and quite possibly find yourself in that position for an extended run next season..

Lamar Miller, Dolphins
Miami ranks fourth in the league in fantasy productivity out of the running back position, giving you an indication of what that offense wants to accomplish. And with Reggie Bush a free agent following the season, the Dolphins could team Daniel Thomas with Lamar Miller, their fourth-round pick in 2012. Miller was extremely effective early in the season when given change-of-pace carries, with 113 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. He’s a great speculative pickup, and since he’s had just four carries since the first month of the season there’s an extremely good chance he’s available in your league.

WIDE RECEIVERS

T.J. Graham, Bills
The Buffalo offense is going to run the ball and take some shots down the field—many shots, most likely, as the Bills tend to play plenty of catch-up. And with both David Nelson and Donald Jones RFAs this offseason, there’s an opening for the “shots downfield” gig opposite Stevie Johnson. Graham was a third-round pick in 2012 who has seen a couple targets a game, getting his feet wet as a rookie. In Ryan Fitzpatrick the Bills will get at least competent quarterbacking; all Graham needs to do is capitalize on the opportunity in front of him.

Alshon Jeffery, Bears
We’ve seen the rookie on a limited basis due to injuries—just one game and two catches since Week 5. But despite playing in only six games thus far Jeffery ranks second among Chicago wideouts in fantasy points. You already know Brandon Marshall will see somewhere between two thirds and three fourths of the targets in Chicago, but beyond that there’s a vacancy. When healthy Jeffery has been a clear-cut second option; rather than let him demonstrate that over the final month of the season and be a reasonably hot commodity next year, beat the rush and stash him now,

Kevin Ogletree, Cowboys (free agent)
All but forgotten since his monster Week 1, Ogletree has ceded WR3 duties in Dallas to Dwayne Harris. Ogletree is a free agent in the offseason, and there’s bound to be a team who sees that Week 1 film and gives Ogletree a shot as a starter. Wouldn’t hurt to stash him and see who that team is.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (free agent)
There’s no way KC brings back Bowe next season, and his recent cliff-dive in productivity—he hasn’t scored or topped 80 yards since Week 4—could very easily have landed him in the free agent pool. But this offseason he should still find teams interested in his services—teams with legitimate quarterbacks, teams who can make a big, physical, talented receiver on the under side of 30 a fantasy factor once again.

TIGHT ENDS

Jordan Cameron, Browns
Cameron is much more in the mode of today’s athletic, mismatch-creating tight ends than Benjamin Watson, who currently handles the bulk of the Browns’ tight end looks. Watson and Alex Smith, the third wheel in Cleveland’s tight end mix, are both free agents this offseason; odds are they don’t return, leaving all the looks for Cameron. There’s also the potential for a new administration in Cleveland; be it Jon Gruden—with a tight-end friendly West Coast approach—or Chip Kelly—with an up-tempo attack bound to feature an athletic tight end like Cameron—the change would be a boon to Cameron’s fantasy value.


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