Week 16: Player Upgrades
Is there a more deflating feeling than losing in the first round of the playoffs in fantasy football? There is no other way to describe it. It is one of the worst feelings you can have, knowing that there was nothing you could've done to prevent the loss. After watching my opponent's team mount a late comeback (headlined by the superhuman efforts of Matthew Stafford and LeSean McCoy) late on Sunday afternoon, I found myself looking back to earlier moments in the season that could have changed my team's fate for the better -- trades, wavier acquisitions that could have changed the outcome drastically.
In the end though, I felt as though I had done all that I could, it just wasn't in the plans of the fantasy gods this season. Now that the playoffs are over for me, I am pulling for all of you that are still alive in the playoffs. Win that title for me and all of the other fantasy owners that came up short in the playoffs this season.
This Week 16 edition of Player Upgrades takes a look at seven players whose fantasy stock is on the rise and should be targeted by fantasy owners either off the wavier wire or in a trade (if that is still an option in a keeper or dynasty league).
The same philosophy applies as last week. If you are going to lose in the playoffs, lose knowing that you put the team out there that gave you the best chance to win and that you don't have any regrets. I would much rather lose knowing I did everything I could to win than regretting a move I did or didn't make in my lineup.
Fantasy owners should be sure to check out all of the excellent strategy articles and customizable rankings here on FFToolbox.com (yes, I am a company man) as well as download the FFToolbox.com Weekly Podcast, available on iTunes.
In today's NFL (and in fantasy football as well), having an elite quarterback is the key to the entire equation. Despite having his ups and downs, Matthew Stafford has seen his stock rise significantly this season and has jumped into the conversation with the other elite fantasy studs at the quarterback position. Stafford is worth mentioning in Player Upgrades because of his performance last weekend, in which he led the Lions to an incredible comeback victory over the Oakland Raiders. Stafford completed 29-of-52 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns against the Raiders.
With a talented group of wide receivers at his disposal in Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and promising rookie Titus Young, the future is bright and all indications are that Stafford's fantasy stock will continue to rise next season; making him a worthwhile trade target in keeper/dynasty formats and a player to target next season, In the immediate future, Stafford needs to be in fantasy owners' lineups this weekend against the San Diego Chargers, despite the fact that the Chargers boast the sixth best pass defense in the league this season. Stafford has been too good lately to sit with a title on the line.
The hamstring injury has put a damper on the Felix Jones excitement for now, but the fact that Jones stepped up (rushing for 108 yards on a season-high 22 carries) this past weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' porous run defense earns him a spot in this week's Player Upgrades column. Jones has eclipsed 100 yards in back to back games and despite the hamstring injury, is a solid bet this weekend against division-rival Philadelphia (if he is 100 percent). According to the FFToolbox.com Matchup Analyzer, Jones has the ninth easiest match-up this weekend, with the Eagles surrendering an average of 20.9 fantasy points per game.
Jones' stock is on the rise due to his recent success, but his long term value is greatly diminished by the fact that he just can't stay healthy. The nagging injuries and the emergence of DeMarco Murray will hurt him in the end. However, with no other competition at the moment in the Cowboys backfield, Jones' stock is on the rise for the remainder of the season.
Every year, there is always a sleeper that comes out of nowhere in the fantasy playoffs that helps lead his fantasy owners to that elusive title. Fantasy owners looking for this year's title week sleeper should look no further than Stevan Ridley. I know, he's an incredible long-shot, a lottery ticket, a real swing for the fences move, but it could pay off for fantasy owners this weekend, here's why.
We discussed Ridley on the FFToolbox.com Week 16 podcast, which everyone should check out (yes, I am a company man), and the fact that we kept coming back to is that New England needs to start to establish a true running game if they want to have success in the playoffs. The most talented option in their backfield right now is Ridley, who ran for 65 yards on 11 carries and nearly scored a touchdown as well against the Denver Broncos.
With an easy match-up against the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots should be up late in the second half against their division rivals and will try to kill the clock with a guy like Ridley, establishing their running game in the process. Ridley has the potential to rack up major "garbage yards" this weekend. While they don't matter in the NFL, garbage yards count just as much in fantasy football; which is why Ridley is a super sneaky flex play this weekend in deeper fantasy leagues.
The evolution of Greg Little has been fun to watch in Cleveland this season. The rookie enjoyed his best game of the season last weekend with career backup quarterback Seneca Wallace under center, hauling in five passes for a season-high 131 yards and a score on a team-high nine targets. After two straight quiet games for Little, last week's outburst seems out of place somewhat; with Wallace under center again this week, it would not be surprising to see Little have a big game despite a tough match-up with the Baltimore Ravens. Fantasy owners in keeper and dynasty leagues should keep an eye on Little going forward as well, he's quickly evolving into the Browns' best wide receiver (which is worth something in fantasy football).
Lance Moore is the definition of a streaky player. He embodies a lot of the characteristics of the New Orleans Saints wide receivers: a solid all-around possession receiver with the ability to make a big play if given the opportunity, but the touchdowns will be sporadic and unpredictable. This past weekend, Moore lit up the scoreboard for fantasy owners when it mattered most, catching five passes for a season-high 91 yards and a pair of touchdowns. After scoring just three touchdowns through the first 11 weeks, Moore has scored five touchdowns in the last four games combined, causing his fantasy stock to rise tremendously.
Despite only one catch for 28 yards the last time Moore faced the Atlanta Falcons in Week 10, Moore is worthy of being in his fantasy owners' starting lineups this weekend. Moore is on a hot streak right now; and with the sixth easiest match-up this weekend according to the FFToolbox.com Matchup Analyzer (25 points per game), there should be enough fantasy goodness to go around for all of the Saints wide receivers for fantasy owners.
Torrey Smith has emerged as one of my favorite keeper/dynasty league targets going forward and has been mentioned in Player Upgrades on a number of occasions this season. Fantasy owners in those formats should look to acquire his services, because Smith just looks like a special player to me. He's a big-play gamebreaker with tremendous potential to grow into a solid all-around receiver (like Mike Wallace did with the Steelers) in the future.
This past weekend, Smith matched a season-high with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Smith has scored in back-to-back games and despite a very difficult match-up on paper with the Cleveland Browns (who have allowed the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season), Smith is worthy of a spot in fantasy owners' starting lineups due to his ability to make a big play and score at any moment.