An unusual year in the NFL continues. Peyton Manning is banged up with ankle, knee, and leg injuries. Jay Cutler will undergo further testing on his aching lower body and a potential sprain. And the Titans believe quarterback Jake Locker may potentially be out for the season after suffering a Lisfranc injury in Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars. All this has great impact on your fantasy keeper league. Take a long look at what players may make logical targets for you, for the rest of the season and for your future as well.
Fantasy Football trade targets for keeper leagues:
Target: Arian Foster
Arian Foster’s year will be declared dead this week, when the Texans place him on season-ending injured reserve. The former Tennessee Volunteer will require back surgery sometime in the immediate future. Backup Ben Tate is in a contract year, and Cleveland has already expressed interest in paying to acquire him in free agency.
For the season, Foster has run 121 times for 542 yards and a touchdown, while making 22 receptions for another 183 yards and another score. Before the Colts game (when Foster left on the first series), he was on pace for 1,657.1 total yards. Foster is a three-time Pro Bowler who had completed three consecutive seasons of at least 1,600 yards of offense. But Foster has never started all 16 games in a season, and this year will be no different. And only once has Foster played in more than 13 games (2012).
In his first year in the NFL, Foster was used sparingly, having seen only 62 touches for 350 total yards and three touchdowns. But since then, the fifth-year veteran has averaged 371.7 touches for 1900.1 total yards and 15.7 scores per season. Foster started the season slowly, having not earned 100 yards in a game until week four. But he followed that up by gaining 162.3 total yards per game, over the next three weeks.
Arian Foster was the first fantasy player taken in 2012 re-draft leagues (when Adrian Peterson was returning from ACL surgery), and has remained a top three pick for three years in a row. His owner may need production for a playoff run, and his value is unlikely to be this low once he’s back in cleats. It’s possible that his perceived value could continue to drop through next August’s drafts. Keep an eye, but here is a great window of opportunity to buy low on this perennial workhorse.
Target: Victor Cruz
Victor Cruz just made three receptions for 37 yards against Oakland Sunday. The former UMass receiver has not breached the end zone since week four. That loss to the Chiefs was also the last time Cruz broke 100 yards. He began the season strongly, averaging 6.5 catches for 106.3 yards and a touchdown over the first four weeks.
Cruz is in his fourth NFL season, but earned no statistics in three games of action during his 2010 rookie season. He played only four snaps that year, without garnering a single target. Even a guy named Duke Calhoun saw significantly more action with the Giants that year, having played 46 snaps for two targets and a four yard catch.
Cruz quickly began making up for lost time. He played an incredible second season, reeling in 82 receptions from 131 targets, for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. The 6-foot slot receiver earned a Pro Bowl appearance in 2012 by making 86 receptions off 143 targets, for 1,092 yards and ten scores. Cruz is currently on pace for 94 catches, 1,354 yards and eight touchdowns. The slump isn’t likely to last forever. In the next four weeks, the Giants face the 20th, 31st, 27th, and 28th ranked passing defenses (Green Bay, Dallas, Washington, San Diego, respectively). Nothing is a cakewalk for this reeling franchise. Only two teams have scored less than the Giants this year (the Buccaneers and Jaguars), and they have a combined 1-16 record. Even if New York remains a bad offense for the rest of 2013, Cruz will be a great asset for your team moving forward.
Target: Ray Rice
Ray Rice has yet to break 100 yards this year. In fact, the 26-year-old back has not even reached 75 yards in a single game. Rice is rushing for an average of 2.7 yards per carry, his career worst by more than a yard. He only averaged 4.4 yards per carry in his career, but is surely a better back than his 2013 numbers would suggest. Rice is on pace for only 900 yards of offense. The Ravens have only two offensive lineman returning from 2012 (Marshal Yanda and Michael Oher), which may contribute to at least part of this epic slump for the sixth year back.
Starting in Rice’s second year in 2009, he has run for four consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. He has also never earned less than 1,600 total yards since his rookie campaign. During this great four year stretch, the former Rutgers player averaged 277.3 rushes for 1266.5 yards and 8.3 scores per season. He also earned 69.5 receptions for 610.0 yards and another 1.5 scores per year. That’s a combined mean of 1,876.5 total yards of offense per season, during those four years.
Rice may not bounce back this year, or until Baltimore improves their offensive line. But he is a starting running back, and one who has displayed great talent in this league. Few backs are able to produce consistently for a number of years, and Rice deserves much respect for his three Pro Bowl seasons. In fantasy re-draft leagues, Rice has been one of the top six players taken in all of the last four years. Expect general manager Ozzie Newsome to make a lot of moves this offseason to return Baltimore to competitive form. Now is the time to get in on Rice while his value is low. He has several years left on his tires.
Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, profootballfocus.com, footballguys.com, myfantasyleague.com, and ourlads.com.
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