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Fantasy Football Week 17: What We Learned

C.D. Carter breaks down the top fantasy football takeaways from the 2014 NFL season.

Russell Wilson

Probably any lessons drawn from Week 17 can be lumped into lessons from the season’s final weeks as takeaways that shouldn’t be forgotten in July and August, when we’re eying value, consistency, and reliability in our 2015 fantasy squads.

Instead of running down what Week 17 action means to your fantasy team — because, well, it means nothing to your 2014 re-draft teams — I’d like to use a slightly wider analytical lens and offer a sort of Cliff’s Notes version of the most valuable lessons from the 2014 season.

Coaching changes, personnel moves, and myriad other unforeseeable changes in the fake football landscape will certainly change the way we view players headed into the 2015 campaign, but many of the below observations should be shelved in the back of your degenerate brain throughout this long, cold time we call the NFL offseason.

    • Russell Wilson outscored Peyton Manning this season. Those are seven words I never thought I’d write in that sequence. Wilson as a top-3 fantasy signal caller was among my bold predictions that might’ve been crazy, though, in hindsight, I’m not sure how crazy it was as Wilson was clearly taking on a new and exciting role in Seattle’s offense this summer.

      Wilson finished 2014 with 854 rushing yards and a half dozen rushing scores — rushing production that harkens back to Michael Vick before he was old, beleaguered, and collecting a paycheck on the Jets’ bench. Wilson, thankfully, doesn’t come with the injury risk of every other running quarterback. He only had 42 more drop backs in 2014 than he did in 2013, and his efficiency remained spectacular: After scoring .58 fantasy points per drop back in 2013, Wilson posted the mythical .60 points per drop back this year. My 2015 crystal ball shows Wilson being over-drafted in re-draft leagues — particularly casual ones. But if you’re not into the concept of streaming quarterbacks and you want a signal caller who will be in the top-3 conversation in 2015 and beyond, Wilson is your guy. Just wait until the Seahawks find a big, fast pass catcher for Wilson. Here’s looking at you, Josh Gordon.

 

    • Travis Kelce finished as fantasy’s No. 6 tight end (in point per reception formats) despite being a part-time player for much of 2014. Kelce, who is far too big for safeties and too fleet footed for linebackers, was criminally underutilized in Kansas City’s ultra conservative offense. I think that could suppress his 2015 average draft position — a decidedly good thing for anyone who recognizes how efficient Kelce was in 2014. He ran fewer than 20 pass routes per game for most of the season’s first half, a mark below the 25 routes we look for in reliably productive fantasy tight ends. Kelce notched an astounding 2.25 fantasy points per target this season, a touch better than Rob Gronkowski‘s 2.14 points per target. Gronk, of course, saw 44 more targets than Kelce. There’s a lot of reason to believe Kelce can be an otherworldly fantasy producer given the chance to thrive in Kansas City. He won’t be the late-round flier he was in 2014, but his handful of disappointing fantasy lines shouldn’t dissuade fantasy footballers from going in on Kelce once again in 2015.

 

 

    • C.J. Anderson started seven games and finished as a top-11 running back. He was, in the end, the true heir apparent to the Peyton Sponge Effect that we assigned to the replacement level back, Montee Ball. Anderson, a fantastic pass catching back, a superb blocker, and a tough runner with patience and vision, is easily a top-3 fantasy running back in 2015 if all signs point to him as the workhorse in Peyton’s backfield. A fading Peyton Manning could — and has — been a boon for Anderson. It’s his offense; Peyton’s just along for the ride.

 

    • Larry Donnell was mostly a horrible disappointment after a couple nuclear performances in the season’s first half. Donnell had four or fewer receptions in eight of his final nine games of 2014. A lot of that, I think, has to do with the emergence of OBJ as the centerpiece of Big Blue’s offense. Giants beat writer Dan Graziano offered a nice little tidbit for fantasy owners last week when he wrote that Donnell could very well take the proverbial leap in 2015 as a much more prominent part of offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s offense. I was always intrigued by who might emerge in an offense drawn up by McAdoo, a tight end guru of sorts. Improvement to New York’s leaky offensive line will be important to Donnell’s emergence, as he presumably won’t be called on to block quite so often. Donnell might not be a steal, but I think he could be a top tight end value.

 

    • It was far too little, too late for those who invested in Eric Decker, but the season’s final three weeks reminded us that Decker can be a top-end fantasy producer when given the shot. He was targeted 24 times in Week 15-17, reeling in 19 catches for 344 yards and a touchdown against the Titans, Patriots, and Dolphins. Fantasy owners should take full advantage of the thinking that Decker is nothing but a product of Peyton Manning‘s offense and snag the big, fast receiver late in 2015 drafts. While we don’t know who will be throwing passes Decker’s way in 2015, we know that he can be a fantasy difference maker. Decker, after all, wasn’t a top-10 fantasy receiver in 2012 and 2013 by accident. In 10 2014 games that saw Decker get seven or more targets, he averaged 76 yards and .7 touchdowns, or 11.8 fantasy points. That’s not bad for having the heinous Geno-Vick duo throwing pigskins your way.
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