There are playoff fantasy leagues taking place across the country, but the bulk of players have shut ‘er down for the season. Thus we’ve started turning our attention toward next year as well.
What sleepers are going to take off in 2013? What stars from 2012 look like they might be on the downside?
Ryan Boser is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and he contributes to both LeagueSafePost.com and FantasyVictory.com. He’s also joined Zoneblitz.com on occasion to share his thoughts on fantasy football. We thank him again for sharing some time.
Zoneblitz: Who surprised you in a good way in 2012?
Boser: Alfred Morris’ top-three finish in carries, yards and touchdowns was probably the shocker of the year, especially considering that he did it for notorious running back shuffler Mike Shanahan.
I (and many others) really thought Frank Gore’s best days were behind him, and that San Francisco would be moving into a running back by committee situation this season. His borderline top-10 year was a pleasant surprise for anyone who snagged him in the middle rounds.
Recently buried on Denver’s depth chart, Knowshon Moreno’s late-season surge won many a title, and who knew Danario Alexander’s knees would miraculously hold up and that he’d become the best fantasy option in San Diego?
James Jones ranked 37th in yardage, which is probably about what we expected, but he led the league with 14 receiving touchdowns.
At tight end, Heath Miller’s career year could not have been predicted.
Zoneblitz: Who disappointed you in 2012?
Boser: Brandon Lloyd. I really thought he’d be a top-10 guy as Tom Brady’s preferred deep threat, but New England instead used him almost exclusively as a possession receiver, killing his value.
Michael Vick and Vernon Davis also buzz-killed a few of my teams.
Zoneblitz: Who are a couple young players you think might be ready to break out in 2013?
Boser: That’s a tough one, because so many kids already broke out in 2012. A few of receivers that jump out to me are T.Y. Hilton, Ryan Broyles and Mohamed Sanu.
At running back, if David Wilson and Ronnie Hillman can improve in pass protection this offseason, they’ll be fantasy factors for sure. Jacquizz Rodgers should finally get a fair crack in Atlanta.
Cleveland’s hiring of tight end guru Rob Chudzinski could mean big things for Jordan Cameron, as well.
Zoneblitz: What stars might be on the downswing in 2013?
Boser: Steven Jackson has logged 2,824 career touches, so he’s an obvious one to watch out for. Michael Turner is dead to me, and things aren’t looking good for Willis McGahee in Denver.
It’s hard to imagine Reggie Wayne or Tony Gonzalez duplicating their 2012 campaigns.
Arian Foster has seen his yards-per-carry and receptions decline in each of the last two seasons, but has masked these shortcomings with gaudy touchdown numbers. He’s racked up a lot of miles in a very short amount of time, so while he’s nowhere near the cliff, I think we’re at the beginning of the downswing.
Zoneblitz: Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson both had amazing seasons in 2012. How will each do in 2013?
Boser: Calvin Johnson’s 122 catches and 1,964 yards will be very virtually impossible to replicate, but his five touchdowns leave a lot of room for improvement. He’s still a surefire first rounder.
As for Peterson, considering that he didn’t even hit his stride until Week seven, anything is possible. He’s a genetically perfect specimen, and he has the determination, work ethic and strength-of-mind to match.
Zoneblitz: This year Ryan Mathews, Darren McFadden, Matt Forte and DeMarco Murray were among those drafted in the first couple rounds, if not earlier. They again disappointed to varying degrees with injury issues. Where do they stand in your earliest projections for 2013 drafts?
Boser: I haven’t started rankings yet, but they all have some major red flags. I probably wouldn’t consider Forte/McFadden/Murray before the fourth round, which means they won’t likely be on any of my teams. Whenever I get around to rankings, I’ll be typing Mathews’ name in red.
Zoneblitz: In 2012 there was talk of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham being considered with first round picks. What is your sense for where their average draft value will be in 2013 and are there any other tight ends that are going to enter this kind of elite territory?
Boser: While they both failed to live up to their 2011 numbers, they’re still on their own tier, with Gronkowski now cemented a half-step ahead of Graham. I think Gronk’s probably a solid second rounder, and Graham a late-second/early-third rounder.
Zoneblitz: RGIII, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson shook up real football as rookies in 2012. What are their fantasy prospects heading into 2013 and where do you see them being drafted?
Boser: We’ll have to wait and see on RGIII. Luck and Wilson will be in the same low-end QB1 tier, probably in the fourth/fifth round range. Second-year sensation Colin Kaepernick probably has to be in that same range, now, as well.
Zoneblitz: How has the top group of elite fantasy quarterbacks from recent years been shaken up by the rookies from the last two years?
Boser: They’ve certainly added a lot of depth to the position, but Brees-Rodgers-Brady have finished top-3 in each of the last two seasons. Nobody coming out in this draft will put a dent in the “elite” category in Year one.
Zoneblitz: What are a few free agency situations will you be keeping an eye on during the offseason?
Boser: Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe (although I think he stays in KC) seem to be the headliners at the moment.
Zoneblitz: Trent Richardson and Doug Martin were expected to contribute as rookies and they did. David Wilson started to emerge as the season played out. Alfred Morris came out of nowhere to become a fantasy standout. In what order do you rank those four and where do they stand on your draft lists heading into the offseason?
Boser: I view Martin as a borderline top-five pick, and T-Rich and Morris as guys you’d consider at the turn in a 12-team draft. It’s too early to have any solid feel for Wilson’s role.
Zoneblitz: With new regimes in Buffalo and Kansas City, what are you thinking on CJ Spiller and Jamaal Charles for next season?
Boser: Spiller seems like a nice fit for Nathaniel Hackett’s up-tempo offense, so his arrow is pointing in the right direction.
Andy Reid got big things out of dual-threats like Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy, so while he tends to occasionally ditch the run game, getting Charles the ball in space (he had just 35 catches this year) should more than make up for that. Both Spiller and Charles are first rounders.
Boser: That will be fluid well into the summer, but I could see some sort of hybrid theory this year.
As of January 13th, Quarterback is looking deep, so I’m waiting there. That’s where the certainties end for me.
I’d be willing to reach a spot or two on Calvin Johnson, and overall I think there are about five or six guys in those first two or three rounds who I’d feel really good about as my WR1. It’s a pretty gradual dropoff, though.
The running back crop looks to be about 10 to 12 deep before we get into that ugly risk-reward area (think McFadden, Chris Johnson, DeMarco Murray, etc.), and they’re going to go early, so I’d probably be leaning running back in round one by default.
Zoneblitz: Do big-legged kickers like Blair Walsh or Greg Zuerlein change the way you approach drafting kickers?
Boser: Not at all. Kicker and defense will be my last two picks.