Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Breakdown: The season of fantasy football is coming to an end. 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.
Andre Caldwell (CIN) – Caldwell has had an up and down season, not too unlike the type of season Chris Henry used to have with Cincinnati just a couple of years ago. With the untimely death of Henry, the third receiver spot on the Bengals team is securely in the hands of Andre Caldwell. While he was little known going into this season, his name has become more common as the season has worn on. However, it isn’t what he did this season, necessarily, but what he is likely to do next season that makes him a receiver of interest to fantasy owners.
The two primary receivers for Cincinnati are Chad Ochocinco and Laveranues Coles, both of whom will be 31 when next season starts. While this isn’t really ‘old’ for receivers, many do start showing signs of age in that ball park. Ochocinco probably won’t have much trouble, but Coles, who isn’t really a game breaker anyway, is the more likely to start losing playing time sooner rather than later. Caldwell, who had a couple of pretty sweet outings early in the year, will be entering that semi-magical ‘third year’ for a receiver in 2010, and will be one of the top ‘break-out’ candidates in all the preseason publications next year.
As he’s had a quieter second half, he’s probably available on the waiver wire of most leagues at the moment, and now would be a very good time to pick him up and use him as a deep hold over for keeper league owners. He has two more years left on his current contract, and at the age of 23 as of this writing, he’s likely to become a fixture in Cincinnati for years to come and, barring any strange occurrences, could develop into a 1B role or better (think T.J. Houshmanzadeh before departing for Seattle) to Number 85 as early as late next season, but early the following season at the latest.
Jordy Nelson (GBP) – Donald Driver is gradually – and with a ton of fight – moving into the twilight of his career. He’s not done yet, but his best days are behind him. The team is full of youth and will be bringing on one of the young receivers currently backing up Driver and Jennings in the near future. This battle has been raging most of the year in all reality, between Nelson and James Jones. Jones has, statistically, had the better season, but it is Nelson who many think has the inside track on the number two receiver role as Driver begins to give it up over the next year or two. Driver will be 34 when next season starts, and he’ll be a free agent after the 2010 season, as will James Jones. Nelson, on the other hand, will be 24 and isn’t a free agent until 2012, so he’s got the leg up in those areas as well.
One of the key reasons many see Nelson in the driver’s seat here is the connection he seems to have with Aaron Rodgers. At two inches taller than James Jones, the 6-3 receiver is quite the target out there, and he’s got the size to go with it at 217 pounds. He’s a menacing figure that most cornerbacks can’t keep up with. He’ll be entering his third season next year, and should, barring injury, have a firm grasp on the number three role in Green Bay, with the number two role in sight. Jones has had his chances, when healthy, but has not firmly planted himself in the third receiver role, and while he has big play ability, it is Nelson who seems to be the more ‘clutch’ guy when Rodgers is looking for help. The bottom line, regardless of which one pulls ahead, they both have upside, but Nelson just seems to have a higher ceiling when you add in the intangibles.
Brandon Pettigrew (TE) (DET) – Pettigrew is on the IR right now, but that simply makes him a prime candidate for picking up and stealing for next season. In most leagues a tight end is required, and while we’re in a time ripe with solid tight end options, there still aren’t really twelve that are all on equal plane, or that are even really start worthy in most leagues. However, Pettigrew is on his way to being one and should be one of the fifteen best as early as next season and possibly top ten the year after. Here’s how I get there.
The Lions went into this season with a rookie quarterback, rookie tight end, third year receiver, second year running back and rookie receiver (drafted in the third round from Penn State – Derrick Williams) as the ‘core’ of their future offense. There is a lot of talent there, as we’ve either known (Calvin Johnson) or have since found out (Matthew Stafford). As is usually the case, young talent takes a while to get used to things in the NFL and gel with the players around them. When there is little or no veteran presence, it can take even longer, but when both are rookies, they tend to grow together, and this is what was just starting to happen when Pettigrew was injured in week 12, ending his season.
A huge presence and great blocker, he was just beginning to show his full ability as a pass catcher as well. One needs only look at his stats over his last three full games this season to see what should be a foretelling of future greatness. Fifteen catches, 165 yards and two touchdowns over that span would project to about 80 catches, 875 yards and 11 touchdowns over a full season, excellent stats for a tight end in any scoring system and even better in PPR leagues. Of course, those might be high end numbers, but even if a second receiver emerges in the next year or two, Stafford has already shown that he has a nice connection with Pettigrew and will use him regularly, especially in the red-zone. So, if he ended up with 50-60 catches, 600-700 yards and eight touchdowns, that still wouldn’t put him in bad company, and certainly wouldn’t hurt your fantasy team.