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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Receivers Movin' Up - Week 16
Tim Van Prooyen
December 22, 2009
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Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Movin’ Up

Breakdown: The season of fantasy football is coming to an end in many leagues.  With that in mind we realize that, minus the opportunity that may arise due to injury, the players with something to bring to the table this fantasy season are pretty much well known to all.  Therefore our perspective must change a bit, leading us to look beyond just this season but to next season as well.  Whether for keeper league purposes, trade purposes, or whatever other purposes may be pertinent, we’ll be taking a weekly look at players and situations that fantasy owners should be aware of in order to be on top of their game moving forward.

Mike Wallace (PIT) – In the past few years, few teams have been able to boast a third receiver with any real fantasy value.  Sure, Arizona’s Steve Breaston comes to mind, as does Jabar Gaffney when he was with New England.  Bobby Engram in Seattle may even be a candidate.  Other than that, for the most part, there haven’t been many that you could count on having semi-decent production as a whole.  Well, it would appear that you can start thinking about adding Wallace to that mix.  As a rookie, in an offense dominated by Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and the running game, Wallace has, quietly, amassed 609 yards on just 34 catches, and tossed in five touchdowns to go with them.  Those numbers are better than some number one receivers on some teams and better than a lot of number two guys.

So, what does the future look like here?  Well, the four primary players at receiver in Pittsburgh are all under contract for another year at least, with Ward – the senior guy – under contract the longest, through 2014, so it would appear that the setup is likely to stay relatively the same for a while at least.  However, there has been plenty of talk the past couple years of Ward losing a step (though it doesn’t seem to be affecting him any if he has) and at 33 he’s not going to be getting any younger.  This likely will allow the team to continue to increase the role of Wallace, who already looks to be ahead of Limas Sweed on the depth chart, as time moves forward.  With Holmes and Ward both crossing the 1,000 yard marks, the 609 yards Wallace has amazed make an even bigger fantasy flag.  This is a team that will be throwing the ball a lot in the future, and Wallace will make a solid fantasy receiver for another year or two before becoming a very good fantasy receiver before too long.

Jermichael Finley (TE) (GBP) – Were it not for missing almost four weeks in the heart of the season, Finley would be competing with the likes of Dallas Clark, Jason Witten, Vernon Davis and Antonio Gates as one of the best tight ends in the fantasy world.  Early on in his second year he’d had a couple of nice games, but had also been pretty much overlooked a couple of weeks as well.  However, since his return, Aaron Rodgers has targeted Finley more than any other receiver on his team.  Not only has this been a boon for owners in PPR leagues if they’ve been fortunate enough to start him, but it has given the Packers a much needed boost at a position they have been lacking at for some time.  His size and ability make him one of the hottest tight end fantasy prospects in the league going forward.

With his nine catches yesterday Finley now has 48 on the season…over just 11 games…for 562 yards and four touchdowns.  His numbers for the last five weeks, 31/302/3, if projected out over a year, would put him in the 90 reception range, the 900 yard range, and the 9 touchdown range.  With Donald Driver edging toward the twilight of his career, Aaron Rodgers is becoming very comfortable with Finley very fast, and that comfort level looks like it could produce very nice things for Finley down the road.  It is well within the realm of probability to expect Finley to be among the league leaders at TE in fantasy scoring next season.  Don’t wait to grab him, as it may already be too late.  He’ll be a great pick up to give yourself a leg up at a very shallow position.

Brian Hartline (MIA) – I’ve been watching the receiver situation in Miami for a few weeks now, trying to get a read on how things might break out next year and beyond, and where the value will lie.  Davone Bess obviously is a factor going forward, but his free agent status next year could put him somewhere else.  Tedd Ginn, Jr., seemed to be in line to be the primary guy late last season, but he’s dropped off considerably.  Greg Camarillo, while solid, seems to have limited upside from a fantasy perspective.  Then I had to take into consideration the way Chad Henne spreads the wealth around to his receivers, on a team that is primarily a running team to begin with.  This inevitably means that, in general, none of the receivers are going to be studs, but some will still have some fantasy value, the fantasy owners just have to figure out which ones those will be.

Enter Hartline.   It has become my opinion that the receiver on the Dolphin’s team that has the best fantasy upside moving forward is Hartline, and here’s why.  When you have a bunch of receivers getting about the same amount of action from a reception and yardage standpoint, you have to look elsewhere for what sets them apart.  So, when I started looking elsewhere I notice right away a very, in my opinion, telling statistic.  Of the four primary receivers, only three had caught a touchdown on the season.  Two of those, Bess and Ginn, had each caught one.  Hartline, on the other hand, has three.

Now, I realize that five touchdowns aren’t much, so don’t get too bent out of shape, but understand where I’m coming from.  This is a running team first, and will remain so in all likelihood for some time.  Most of the team’s scores will be on the ground.  That said, a few, by default, will come through the air.  So, who will get those scores?  Right now it looks like it will be Hartline.  Will it remain that way?   Tough to say, but the fact that the numbers look that way now says a lot.  Henne, a first year starter, has already gained a healthy report with Hartline.  In his first game in week four, the only touchdown Henne threw was to Hartline, a rookie.  Anyone who knows football knows how these things can work, and often do.  Hartline is definitely the receiver Henne looks to first when in the red zone – where all three of Hartline’s touchdown catches have come.  That, in my book, tells the story fantasy owners need to know.  If you want to bank on a Miami receiver long term at this point in time, look no further than Hartline.

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