2013 PPR Preview
Every year, point per reception (PPR) leagues grow more and more popular. This of course means that all players earn a single fantasy point for every reception. The benefit to such a scoring rule is that it provides more fantasy value to non-quarterbacks and to running backs who are also able to contribute as pass-catchers. Receivers who can move the chains via short and intermediate routes like Wes Welker or Jason Witten deserve recognition for their portion of the offense.
In this article, I highlight four wide receivers and one tight end who will catch more passes than they did a year ago and explain the reasoning behind the prediction.
WR Danny Amendola, NE - Solid/Safe Pick
The fantasy community's biggest concern with Danny Amendola isn't his skill level, New England's offense, or anything external to Amendola himself. What I mean is that the only knock on this Texas Tech alum is his brittle body. Amendola only played one game in 2011 and missed four more in 2012. Now that he is the only established pass-catcher on the Pats' roster, his fantasy potential is through the roof. Tom Brady will need to replace the production of Brandon Lloyd (currently a free agent), Aaron Hernandez (the No. 1 pick for The Longest Yard 2) and Wes Welker (now hitting the oxygen tank in the Mile High City with Peyton Manning). Amendola has been one of those guys who flashed his talent. In Week 2, he caught 15 of 16 targets for 160 yards and a touchdown. Just a couple weeks later, he had to sit out a month and never quite got back on track to close the season. While New England will undoubtedly turn to their running backs to offset their considerable losses on offense, Amendola is primed for a huge season. If he plays at 16 games, he will undoubtedly outscore his average draft position; however, that's a big if.
WR Larry Fitzgerald, ARI - Stud (low risk)
Before there was the current lovefest for Megatron, there was Larry Fitzgerald; a then-incomparable talent blessed with height, length, leaping ability, speed, strength and incredible hands. Unfortunately for him, the Arizona Cardinals fell off the proverbial cliff after their improbable run to Super Bowl XLIII. Since 2009, Fitz's reception totals have been on a steady decline. During his prime in 2007 to 2009, he scored 10, 12 and 13 touchdowns respectively. Last year? Four. Those numbers will be on the rise in 2013. The addition of Carson Palmer isn't actually the main draw here and neither is the development of second-year receiver Michael Floyd, who will undoubtedly garner more attention than he did as a rookie. Fitzgerald's bounce-back will be due in large part to the presence of head coach Bruce Arians. Last season, Arians did wonders for Andrew Luck's rookie campaign. In fact, Luck completed 65 passes for 20-plus yards, second-most in the NFL and only behind Drew Brees. He also finished tied for fifth with 11 completions of 40 yards or more. Now, this blurb isn't about how great Luck is, but these stats do illustrate that Arians' offensive scheme will look to connect with Fitzgerald downfield. Palmer will need to start working on his bicep curls and shoulder lifts so he can provide Fitz with all the work he can handle.
WR Pierre Garcon, SF - Solid/Safe Pick
As we should have learned in Pulp Fiction, Garçon is french for "boy." The Redskins, and by default let's assume I'm referring to Robert Griffin III, did an excellent job spreading the ball around. None of the Washington receivers had a particularly noteworthy or special season statistically. To their credit though, four different players had at least 38 receptions and over 510 receiving yards. Despite only playing 10 games, a few of which were played on a bum foot, Garçon led the team with 633 receiving yards. If we extrapolate his numbers out to a full 16 game season, he would have finished with 70 catches for 1,012 yards and six touchdowns. This would've made him a solid WR2. Now he's fully healthy and RG3 is a year wiser. Like many of his other deep-threat contemporaries like Torrey Smith and Mike Wallace, Garçon will have boom-or-bust potential on a week-to-week basis. If you can snag him as a flex, you're golden (considering his immense upside).
WR DeSean Jackson, TB - Solid/Safe Pick
It is always unfortunate when any player is injured. Jeremy Maclin (who has quietly put up respectable stats for his entire career) is now out for the season and while we all wish him well, there are fantasy ripples permeating throughout this offense. First and foremost, Maclin's injury will most greatly impact DeSean Jackson. Would you believe me if I told you that Jackson has never caught more than 62 passes in a single year and that he hit that total in both of his first two seasons? In the last three years, he has caught 47, 58 and 45 receptions, respectively. He has also missed eight games over that same stretch. Jackson peaked very early in his career and has struggled establishing a rhythm in this offense with Michael Vick under center. What's promising about this situation is that Jackson has very little behind him on the depth chart. Jason Avant and Riley Cooper are known names to fantasy diehards, but have accomplished very little in their careers. The Eagles are also still waiting on second-year wideout Damaris Johnson to step up and Arrelious Benn is a brand new acquisition, coming over via trade with Tampa. Given Jackson's lightning speed and after-the-catch moves, I expect Chip Kelly to use him on a lot of short routes and then occasionally on a deep pass to keep defenses honest. Jackson will skyrocket up draft boards in the short-term, so you might need to reach for him if you really want him.
TE Vernon Davis, WAS - Stud (low risk)
The Vernon Davis skeptics will point out that he is coming off one of the worst statistical seasons. That's a valid concern, especially when considering in his final six regular season games, the former University of Maryland tight end only caught a paltry six passes. The lack of chemistry between he and Colin Kaepernick during the regular season should be noted; however, 2013 is a new season with its own set of challenges. Necessity will breed fantasy success for Davis, who remains the 49ers' most athletically gifted receiver. The absence of Michael Crabtree is a big blow to this offense, especially since it appeared that the fifth-year receiver was finally coming into his own. That said, Davis did explode when it mattered. He caught 11 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown during the 49ers' run in the NFC Championship and Super Bowl. With Kaepernick having few other options besides Anquan Boldin at wide receiver, look for San Francisco to be a little more creative with their play-calling and use of Davis in order to create mismatches on the outside. The 49ers will stick with their bread and butter rushing attack more often than not, but given the tight end position's lack of dependable options for fantasy owners, Davis is an excellent value selection being drafted early in the sixth round.