2013 was an odd year for fantasy football, but no more odd than any other year. It's like a Nor'easter, people forget how bad the snowfall was the year before, but somehow we soldiered on, and 2013 was no different. I'll take a look back at the studs who carried your team to championships, the whiffs that derailed your fantasy locomotive, and some surprises for 2014, as well as a first blush look at the incoming rookie class. So spike that eggnog, it's story time with Uncle Rummy...
The Stud Boys
Fans of MTV's old game show "Remote Control" might remember Adam Sandler's cameos, most memorably as the amorous "Stud Boy." In this case, the stud boys on your fantasy team were near bulletproof, bringing you high double digit goodness every week and carrying your sorry arse single handedly.
Josh Gordon - Despite missing two games to start the year due to a suspension, Gordon kept the hapless Browns from being a weekly cream puff for opponents. He had down weeks (by his standards) in weeks 15 & 16 (blame Campbell), but still managed to post solid numbers. His production was all the more amazing, considering that Weeden, Hoyer and Campbell were his quarterbacks. Gordon is a prime example of an athlete at WR elevating his QB play.
Jamaal Charles - Charles surprisingly went off the board at the #7 pick on average, but handily was the most impactful RB in fantasy football. His inexplicable week 15 production made people think they were looking at a Calvin Johnson stat line (8/195/4TD & rushed for a 5th). He even managed a solid game vs. Indy in a losing effort in week 16. That kind of magic is what fantasy dreams are made of, my friends.
Peyton Manning - More of a Stud "man" at this point with his advanced age. Most thought overpaying for Peyton was a bad idea, but boy were we all collectively wrong. Peyton dominated 3/4 of the fantasy season and only saw a slight wane after Wes Welker and Julius Thomas missed time. He faced a proud Texans defense in week 16, but still managed to break Tom Brady's single season TD record of 50. Just another day at the office for Pey-Pey.
The winner is...
Jamaal Charles - His 59 PPR points in week 15 is the stuff of legends. He got you to the big dance, didn't make you pay for a drink, and let you take home his private limo. JC Superstar indeed.
The Sons of Bums
No, I'm not talking about Wade Phillips, but rather players you invested a tidy sum for, either in the form of a high-ish round pick, or a big chunk of auction capital. Injuries, usage, ineffectiveness, it doesn't matter. They let you down like a step-dad who comes home drunk on your birthday and face plants into your birthday cake. Let the Bum Fights begin!
Rob Gronkowski - Injuries, I know, but so what? It's become a yearly worry for Gronk, and his recovery is not Adrian Peterson-like. Gronk gave you a few sexy weeks before falling to an ACL injury just weeks prior to your fantasy playoffs. Usually we give players a pass for injuries, but moving forward, Gronk's overall health is a concern. You drafted him as high as round 2, and while waiver wire TEs likely saved your bacon in a volatile TE year, Gronk was somewhat of a wasted pick.
David Wilson - Yet another "star on the rise" who was ineffective when he did play, or fumbling his way (again) out of a starting role. His season ending back injury (stenosis?) is another reason to be concerned in 2014. His flash at the end of 2012 was just that...a flash.
Trent Richardson - Ryan Grigson has done a solid job as GM of the Colts, but offering up a 1st round pick to Mike Lombardi in exchange for the underperforming Richardson is one of the biggest heists in recent memory. Late round RBs were vaulting into the top 25 this year, while overhyped laundry carts like T-Rich were being benched in favor of guys like Dammit Donald Brown. I'd expect he'll fall deep into most drafts next year, and I'd probably take a kicker before him...and I don't draft kickers.
The "loser" is...
Trent Richardson. Both in fantasy and reality. The Colts took a step back in team building, and you wasted a top ten pick on the slug. Fool me once...
The Streaming QB>The Late Round QB
With a nod to our buddy JJ Zachariason of @LateRoundQB
fame, he took "late round quarterbacking" it to a new level with his terrific podcast, "Living the Stream," and the accompanying strategy of streaming QBs. You know what? It paid off. A QB generally (outside of 2 QB leagues) only consumes a single roster spot, so unless you're in a league full of dinks who draft 3 QBs every year, it's the most plentiful and replaceable position on your roster. Several began as backups, making it an even deeper pool. The nominees are...
Kirk Cousins - Never mind the bollocks in D.C., the inexplicable QB swap of RG3 to Cousins in Week 15 was a boon to Pierre Garcon, as he posted one his best fantasy days of the season in week 16. Cousins degree of difficulty didn't ascend much against the vaunted Dallas defense. Cousins may have helped put you over the top in your fantasy championship.
Ryan Fitzpatrick - The once promising career (especially for fantasy) of Jake Locker looks to be going the way of Darren McFadden...lots of minimal flash coupled with weeks upon weeks nursing injuries. Fitzpatrick has been equally maddening over the course of his career, parlaying hot weeks into a big payday with Buffalo, only to end up as a backup in Tennessee. Lucky for Fitz, Locker couldn't stay healthy, and in return, he's been a boon to the fantasy value of Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker, especially in PPR formats.
Nick Foles - Vick goes down, and the once considered "bad fit for a Kelly offense" lights up the fantasy world in week 6 by throwing for 7 TDs. Foles is perfect for the Kelly offense with a quick release and a high twitch football processing mind. It's not sexy, but it's efficient, and not afraid to go downfield to players like DeSean Jackson. If you invested in Foles as Vick's backup in dynasty leagues, you're being rewarded handsomely on the cheap.
The winner is...
Nick Foles. Foles took over for the oft injured Mike Vick in week 6 and never looked back. It's living proof that Chip Kelly doesn't have a specific "system" QB, rather a QB that he can mold to fit into his system. Foles will likely finish the year as a top 12 option. Not bad for a backup you picked up off the waiver wire and rode into a week 16 championship.
Forget RG3, How about the RB2s?
We were big proponents of drafting high upside backup running backs in murky backfields (peep my Simple Plan pre-draft strategy
piece last August), and several players took over once given the opportunity. These are your true lottery tickets, i.e. the players you were wise to stash.
Zac Stacy - While a big percentage of the fantasy community was high on the likes of Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead, I was pounding the table for the tough running Stacy, who not only took hold of the starting job, but managed to be a solid RB2 despite facing a truly tough SOS for most of the season. Stacy battled through the wear and tear of a rookie campaign to a solid finish in the last half of the season.
Rashad Jennings - I wasn't a Jennings fan after watching him squander backup opportunities in Jacksonville, but he surprised me this year. Even though he battled through his own injuries, he was a top 5 RB play for several weeks, while McFadden sat burning a hole in most fantasy rosters.
Andre Ellington - Another 2Mugs favorite, Ellington had a depth chart of oft injured RBs to run over, as well as a odd perception by his head coach Bruce Arians that he was too small to be a lead back (the same frame as Jamaal Charles BTW). Ellington has quietly carved out a role as a high end PPR back, with big play ability.
And the winner is...
Zac Stacy- The numbers were very close between Jennnings and Stacy, but in the end, Stacy faced tougher matchups and had a bigger hill to climb as the RB3 on the depth chart.
The Next Man Up WR Award
Injuries happen, even to otherwise bulletproof WRs. But it doesn't help your fantasy team if you don't know what player will be heavily targeted in their wake. It's also a tougher position to gauge, due to game flow and defensive scheming, but if you hit in the right player? Boom. Money.
Harry Douglas - The man we dubbed "The Pharmacist" benefitted from playing the secure slot WR position when the Falcons lost Julio Jones early in the year. They also never had a healthy Roddy White until late in the season. Douglas was a top PPR play for several weeks, and was still not a bad PPR flex with a finally healthy Roddy White in tow.
Jarrett Boykin - Boykin stepped up after injuries to Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and James Jones pushed him up the depth chart and into the starting lineup. Boykin managed at least 6 catches in 7 of the 10 games he started, even with a difficult QB rotation while Aaron Rodgers was on the mend with a collarbone injury.
Keenan Allen - The rookie out of Cal was a 2Mugs favorite, and actually our #1 WR in this year''s rookie class. Allen had the likes of Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal, Danario Alexander and Malcolm Floyd ahead of him on the depth chart, and made a full MMA style chokehold on the starting job when given the chance in week 4. Since then, Allen is nearing a 1000 yard season and has 7 TDs.
And the winner is...
Keenan Allen. Allen is the future of this Chargers' offense, along with Ladarius Green, while the Antonio Gates' and Floyd's of the world fade out into the sunset.
The Sit Tight for Tight Ends Awards
If you drafted Jimmy Graham early, you looked like a genius the first 4-5 weeks of the season. Thereafter? Not so much. As teams schemed to stop him and a foot injury added to the mix, the tight end cliff flattened out to a valley of sorts. The Gronkowski injury pile only made drafting a tight end early seem as wasteful as drafting a QB in the early rounds (again, see the Simple Plan Draft Strategy from August). Like the Tony G advice from years earlier, we suggested you wait until round 9 and beyond, and even work the waiver wire to maximize your tight end value.
Julius Thomas - He was our late round binky in August, and quickly became Peyton Manning's red zone binky as well. The consensus was that Thomas' production would regress, but the fact that he was such an athletic mismatch in one on one matchups, his production stabilized and made him the Tony Gonzalez of 2013 for 2MugsFF.
Greg Olsen - Olsen has been a moderate floor/ceiling player for some time now. Not a bust, but not a player that will carry you each week. That changed to some degree, as Steve Smith started to show his age this year, though he was still as fiery as ever. Olsen has become Cam Newton's #1 target as of late, and was widely drafted in the 9th-11th round in most drafts.
Charles Clay - When Dustin Keller went down with a season ending ACL injury, the Mugs told you to run, not walk to your waiver wire and snatch him up. He had a down week 15 (a victim of the Patriot defense scheming to limit him), but has been a solid PPR TE for most of the season. It will be interesting to see what the Dolphins do at TE next year, since both Clay and Keller both effectively play the move TE position so well.
And the winner is...
Julius Thomas. Can't deny a guy who was a top 3 or even a top two option for most of the season at TE and widely went in the late teens or undrafted in fantasy drafts. That's value personified. Oh, and he caught Peyton Manning's 51st record breaking TD. How about that?
Now, for something a little more dubious in nature, the awards NOBODY wants to receive...
The QB that Even JJ Zachariason Wouldn't Stream
The winner? Eli Manning. Rings schwings! Eli had more giveaways this year than a light rock radio station. It's easy to blame his WRs, but Manning was so inaccurate, Rex Ryan mistakenly called him "his guy." Okay, I made that last part up, but Manning will finish 25th in fantasy scoring for QBs, and that's behind QBs who've missed games due to injury. It's high time the Giants consider giving Ryan Nassib a shot in 2014 and drafting another QB to light a fire under Manning's backside.
The Jerome Bettis For A Day Award
Matt Asiata. The Vikings 3rd string RB had his moment to shine when both the ever durable stud Adrian Peterson was held out with a foot injury and backup Toby Gerhart was also nursing a bad hammy. Asiata took 30 carries for a stunning 51 total yards. Thankfully he robbed three goal line carries for TDs as well, overshadowing his " Jackie Battle in a suit of armor" like yards per carry.
In a world where you have facial hair, or you're a woman, we thought we'd honor our scruffy NFL brethren. The nominees are...
Ryan Fitzpatrick - A Harvard grad, so that makes him a bit of a hipster of sorts, or in the very least, the tambourine player for Trampled by Turtles.
Brett Keisel - Still a monstrous mane of face pubes, but Keisel went overboard and actually trademarked his mug rug. No bueno.
However, the winner is...
Sean McGrath - The Chiefs 3rd string TE has a full on hairy chin strap peeking out on Sunday. A brown fuzzy toilet seat, a satchel of manliness if you will. It was so distracting, it prompted just about every announce team to comment on his Amish-ness. That's an impressive follicle fiesta, stubble trouble, well aged whiskery...well, you get the point.
The "We'd Like to See More in 2014" Award
Gio Bernard - Benjarvus Green-Speedbump got in the way of the elusive rookie catching fire, as the Bengals brass continues to carry a torch for the pedestrian Green-Ellis. A steady diet of 15 carries would do wonders for Bernard and your fantasy team going forward.
Ladarius Green - Fantasy cock-blocked by Eddie Royal and other scrubs, the Julius Thomas-like freak ability of Green merely flashed this year. Hopefully he will see an uptick in snaps as Antonio Gates' knees eventually shatter like chow mein noodles.
Justin Blackmon - If only Justin Blackmon wasn't be held back by...um, well, Justin Blackmon. That dude is a real dick.
And the winner is...
Gio Bernard. Let's hope the Bengals see the light in 2014 and make Benjarvus Soylent Green-Ellis the change of pace back that he should be...he's PEOPLE...he's PEEEEEOPLE!!!
But before I go...
The Early Dynasty Rookie Radar
It's crazy that the 2014 NFL Draft is only four months away, but the fantasy football beast needs to be fed 24/7, so I'll point out the not-so-obvious players I'll have on my fantasy draft board in the Spring. Let's boogie...
QB: Jimmy Garoppolo - The Eastern Illinois senior isn't the freakish total package like Teddy, or even a human highlight reel like Johnny Football, but Jimmy G makes all of the throws, has improved immensely over 2012, and could be this year's version of Nick Foles. By that, I mean he'll likely be drafted by a team that has a murky QB situation (think CHI, STL, HOU) and can challenge for the starting job by midseason by playing sound football.
RB: Carlos Hyde - The RS Senior out of Ohio State is this year's Zac Stacy, with a few extra bear claws on board. Hyde is a sound blocker, has a powerful first step, and keeps his legs churning after first contact. I don't expect any RBs to come off the board in round one, but Hyde will be one of the better values in the draft. More teams are growing wise to not overpay for RBs in free agency (i.e., SJax, TRich), and instead get the 4-5 year shelf life of an NFL running back via the draft. That makes the Stacy's, Ellington;s and Bell's more valuable to fantasy owners, especially in dynasty formats in year one.
WR: Jordan Matthews - Okay, admittedly not exactly under the radar, but you'll have to use your early rookie dynasty picks somewhere. Matthews is a quicker, more powerful Keenan Allen. Speed, size, hands, catch radius, YAC, Matthews is the real deal. Mike Evans might go higher in the draft, but I'm spending an early pick on Matthews.
TE: Eric Ebron - Jace Amaro is the bigger prototype who will be drafted higher, but Ebron is the more polished player in my opinion. He caught everything thrown his way (many of which were passes that were thrown behind him), never leaving his QB out to dry. He's a more willing and able blocker, who could see the field much sooner for his versatility as a hybrid TE than Amaro. Amaro is more of the classic inline TE. I'm biased, but I think Ebron could make an immediate impact in NE, who historically hasn't been shy about playing young TEs and making them a featured part of their offense.
That wraps up the 2013 fantasy season, stay looped with the 2MugsFF Podcast (returning January 8th), and be sure to follow @RyFo18
, as we turn our attention to the 2014 NFL Draft. Cheers and thank you for another successful year.