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Fantasy Football Week 17: What We Learned

Every good fantasy football owner should become the leech and absorb the value seeping from the pores of the league’s most prodigious quarterbacks.

Drew Brees
Drew Brees

Dec 29, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New Orleans defeated Tampa Bay 42-17. Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Those whose rosters aren’t blessed with the presence of an elite quarterback must — and should — become unapologetic leeches.

We saw for the umpteenth time in the 2013 NFL season that it pays to stock your fantasy squads with guys catching passes and taking hand-offs from the game’s elite signal callers. Some fantasy assets on the Broncos, Packers, and Saints are very much hit or miss, but many delivered fairly consistently throughout this season.

I think the success of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, Knowshon Moreno, Wes Welker, Jimmy Graham, Pierre Thomas, Marques Colston (to an extent), Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb should lay out a sort of blueprint for 2014.

Don’t burn first and second round picks on the elite quarterbacks, but stockpile their teammates. A single fantasy owner in a 12-team league could’ve easily drafted three of Peyton Manning’s pass catchers and rode roughshod to a league title.

Become the leech. Absorb the value seeping from the pores of the league’s most prodigious quarterbacks. Drink it up.

Thomas and Decker finished 2013 as top-10 fantasy wide receivers. Welker was fantasy’s eighth highest scoring receiver at mid-season, and finished inside the position’s top-20 despite missing three and a half games. Orange Julius outscored every tight end but Graham. Moreno, amazingly, was fantasy football’s fourth highest scoring runner.

Pierre Thomas led all running backs with 77 receptions, making him a reliable force in point per reception (PPR) leagues. Graham, as you know, posted otherworldly numbers, averaging 18.8 fantasy points per contest.

Leeching from Rodgers paid big dividends before his collarbone injury, and Week 17 served as a bittersweet reminder of what could’ve been for Lacy, Nelson, and Cobb, who missed most the the season with a leg injury. Nelson, at midseason, was fantasy’s No. 4 wide receiver, on his way to an easy top-5 finish. Lacy finished his rookie campaign as a top-10 option despite facing a glut of eight-man fronts in Rodgers’ absence. I think he had top-3 potential with Rodgers at the helm for 16 games.

This is all to say that in 2014, as you obsessively prep for your drafts and target sleepers and avoid the game’s most overvalued commodities, it might be best to leech off of the game’s most reliable quarterbacks — guys who run offenses that bleed fantasy production. It seems logical enough, and maybe it is, but Week 17’s box scores offer a firm reinforcement of that lesson as we enter the darkest fantasy months.

  • Remember how much you hated Ryan Mathews after his flame-out of a 2012 season? I sure do. In fact, I wrote about just how horrendous Mathews was in 2012, unable to find a shred of hope even when cherry-picking the stats. Fantasy’s most hated man finished 2013 with 1,283 total yards, out-rushing Chris Johnson, Reggie Bush, and Knowshon Moreno along the way. His early season production — suppressed by the timeshare with Danny Woodhead — left Mathews on many waiver wires by midseason. He was a top-10 back in the season’s second half, averaging 4.5 yards per tote. I think Mathews is unique in that the hatred for him is so strong — so everlasting and full of fire — that a successful 2013 campaign likely won’t shoot him into the top two round of 2014. He could still be a value, thanks to the visceral dislike of the fantasy community at large.
  • Calvin Johnson has officially, at long last, been supplanted as fantasy’s top receiver. Josh Gordon, in a suspension-shortened season, outscored Megatron by seven points as Johnson missed Detroit’s season finale against the Vikings. Try to wrap your degenerate mind around this: Gordon, during his incredible 14-game run, averaged .36 fantasy points every single time he ran a pass route. I don’t use italics loosely, you should know. That is a mind-blowing number. Gordon won’t be the screaming value he was in 2013, but in 2014, watch your league mates draft three — maybe four — receivers over the Browns’ pass-catching beast.
  • Zac Stacy had a quietly spectacular rookie year, and one that could very well fly under the fantasy radar as drafts ramp up next summer. He’s far from a sexy runner, barreling over defenders and surviving on volume in an ugly offense, but Stacy should be considered a top back headed into next season. Forget his 15-carry, 15-yard Week 17 disaster in Seattle; the Rams’ rookie was on pace for more than 1,300 total yards had he been the team’s Opening Day starter. With some threat of a passing game — no sure thing in the offensive wasteland that is St. Louis — Stacy should see fewer eight-man fronts in 2014, and reap the benefits. The team sure wasn’t hesitant in force feeding the bowling ball of a back: Stacy had 20 or more touches in eight games this season. He could be the endangered Every Down Back next season.
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