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The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks proved they were the best team in the league last year, but they also proved something that fantasy football owners could apply to their teams, and that is success comes from finding gems late in their fantasy football draft.
Editor’s note: This is part three of an eight-part series where we will look at each team’s receiving core by division and analyze which receiver will be the favorite for most targets So you’re telling me. As fantasy owners know, targets are a crucial part of success for fantasy receivers. This week covers the NFC South.
2013 Atlanta Falcons
Quarterback: Matt Ryan
Most targeted receiver in 2013: Harry Douglas (133)
Harry Douglas was the top wide receiver on one of the most pass-happy teams in the NFL last season. It shows you just how a team’s offensive philosophy can still produce fantasy worthy stats even if both starting receivers are injured.
The unlucky wideouts who contracted the injury virus in 2013 were Atlanta’s top two receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. White suffered from a high-ankle sprain and a hamstring injury, which limited him to his first season of less than 1,000 receiving yards since 2006, an incredible feat in and of itself.
Jones on the other hand, fractured his foot for the second time in his career in Week 6. His injury came shortly after he exploded for 580 receiving yards in the season’s first five games, dousing his potential career-year with a tub of gasoline and setting it ablaze.
Had both top receivers not gone down, Douglas would’ve remained a slot receiver, a spot where he was often productive from a change of pace and game plan standpoint but never accrued the kind of stats that would’ve garnered him significant fantasy appeal. A few unfortunate strokes of luck later, he upgraded himself to a reasonably reliable fantasy option, one that could produce at a high level and give fantasy owners steady doses of 70-80 yard efforts and even toss in the occasional 100-yard game.
At 6’0, 183 lbs, Douglas never expected to be utilized in an offense the way he was last season. Yet, even though he was undersized, he still produced. He finished with over 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career.
Douglas also benefitted from other situations as well. With Jones out for the year and White not finding his groove until later in the season, Douglas competed only with veteran Tony Gonzalez for targets at times, leaving him as the lone receiver in an offense that threw the ball the second most times of any team in the league last season.
So if Douglas was as successful as he was last year, it means monster fantasy potential for the now healthy Jones and White this year. Plus, with the bigger, less athletic Levin Toilolo replacing the retired Gonzalez, there will be less targets used on the tight end position and even more on the receivers. It wouldn’t be crazy to see close to 180 targets for both White and Jones and also some flirting with 1,000 receiving yards.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is still firmly entrenched as the team’s franchise guy, and as long as the offensive line holds up, the sky appears to be the limit for this offense.
What could’ve been
Before his injury last season, Jones was on pace for nearly 2,000 receiving yards. He recorded as many as 15 targets in one game and never saw less than nine in that five-game stint. His 14.1 yards per catch ranked among the best in the league.
What they’re both capable of
When you look at what they Jones and White did in the 2011 and 2012 seasons when they were both relatively healthy, you could see White was still favored in the offense. In 2012, White drew 143 targets to Jones’ 129. Jones edged White in touchdowns 10:7 while White beat Jones in receiving yards 1,351:1,198. During Jones’ rookie year in 2011, White dominated in targets with 181 while Jones ended up with just 96. White and Jones both record eight touchdowns that season.
Three years later, and we have a 32-year-old receiver in White while Jones entering the all-so-important third season of his career. White is now fully healthy, signed to a new 4-year, $30 million deal and is still one of the most respected route runners which allows his performance to defy his age.
Jones is 25 years old, coming off foot surgery after he fractured his fifth metatarsal in his foot, which is fancy doctor language for the area around the middle of the foot. Luckily, doctors have said the injury doesn’t lead to long-term effects. Jones saw his first game action since last October against Houston last Saturday. He caught two passes for 20 yards on four targets and even though he’s got some catching up to do, he’s still on pace to be ready for the regular season.
When it comes to who will get more targets, the answer is probably White. But it doesn’t matter so much as Jones is equally talented and equally utilized in the offense. They’ll likely trade off who gets the hot hand from week or week, which could limit one’s upside almost like a receiver-by-committee style of offense. Jones clearly has the higher ceiling, and White is old reliable. White is the better ADP value right now at No. 45 overall, but Jones could shatter records if he’s healthy. It’s a great problem for Atlanta to have, and if you’re a fantasy owner, you can’t go wrong with either of them.
Likely most targeted receiver for 2014: White
Projected targets: 160
Here are a few players whose fantasy stock has fallen during their recent preseason outings.
Sammy Watkins, WR Buffalo Bills
Going into the 2014 NFL draft, I considered Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins to be the best of a very deep group. After being drafted by the Buffalo Bills, I have some major questions as to whether he can be counted on as a fantasy option during his rookie season. However, my questions do not have anything to do with Watkins skill set, but rather with his quarterback.
Through two preseason games, starting quarterback E.J. Manuel displayed the same inconsistencies that plagued him during his rookie season. Manuel had multiple passes batted down, along with struggling on his accuracy (11/20 in first two games), and being been slow to go through his progressions. Going into his second season as the Bills starting quarterback, it is now or never for the Florida State product. With a running game centered around veterans, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, the Bills have a stable running game. With Manuel’s inconsistencies throwing the football and health concerns (11 games missed in 2013) it is a fair question if he can be the Bills quarterback of the future.
In May, the Bills mortgaged a piece of the future to move up in the draft and grab Watkins (2015 1st and 4th Round Picks). Watkins displayed everything you want in a no.1 receiver while at Clemson; speed (4.41 40-yd dash), acceleration (1.53 10-yd split), reliable hands (4.49% drop rate), and the ability to take any pass the distance. Watkins could be the most complete receiver to enter the draft since A.J. Green, and will be the focal point of the Bills passing attack in the future. However, as long as E.J. Manuel struggles with his accuracy (58.8% in 2013), and decision-making (11:9/TD:INT) there are legitimate concerns as to whether or not Watkins and the rest of the Bills receiving corps can be counted on to produce consistently for fantasy football owners
Value: Low WR3/High WR
Preseason Week 1: 4 Rec/14 Yds, 2 Drops
Jordan Matthews had been called the “star of Eagles camp” according to several Eagles columnists, getting a lot of time with the first-team offense. With the high praise coming from Philadelphia, it is concerning that Matthews flopped like he did in week one of the preseason. Matthews dropped two passes during the Eagles opening preseason game, showing scouts critiques about Matthews consistency catching the football have some validity.
This is not the first time there have been concerns about Matthews’ consistency catching the football. During his senior season at Vanderbilt, Matthews dropped 7.69% of the passes thrown his way. Even though Matthews struggled to catch the ball consistently, his production was unmatched (SEC All-Time Receiving Yards Leader).
With the departure of DeSean Jackson to Washington, there is a gaping hole between starters Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper as the Eagles slot receiver. With Matthews’ strong training camp, many consider Matthews the front-runner for the job. Matthews acknowledged his rough debut, stating, “Those were catches I should have definitely had,” adding “those are balls that I’ve caught before in games and in practices. That’s a basic concentration thing.”
If Matthews can bounce back from his rough debut, there is no doubt that he can serve value in the Eagles up-tempo spread offense. However, if Matthews continues to let balls slip though his hands, he may see his opportunities to contribute go with it. But it was just one game, after all.
Matthews bounced back in a big way in week two against the Patriots; reeling in 11 passes for a game-high 104 yards. This is a positive sign for the rookie wide receiver, showing that his two drops in week one were due to nerves rather than his concentration. Matthews can take hold of the Eagles slot receiver position with another solid performance in week three of the preseason. If Matthews does get the job, he will have immediate value in PPR leagues as a solid number four receiver, giving him extra value in PPR leagues
ADP: Mid 12th
Editor’s note: This is part three of an eight-part series where we will look at each team’s receiving core by division and analyze which receiver will be the favorite for most targets. As fantasy owners know, targets are a crucial part of success for fantasy receivers. This week covers the NFC South.
While success during the preseason does not guarantee fantasy success, there were a few players who made positive first impressions. While most of the starters will not play more than a series or two in the opening week, that does not mean fantasy football owners will not take note on how prospective players are perform. Here are four players who are on the rise after their first preseason game.
Editor’s note: This is part two of an eight-part series where we will look at each team’s receiving core by division and analyze which receiver will be the favorite for most targets. As fantasy owners know, targets are a crucial part of success for fantasy receivers. The second article covers the AFC North.