Inside the Toolbox: Strong Finishers (PREMIUM PREVIEW)
Editor's intro: At FFToolbox.com, we offer many tools which provide our users with interesting and unique points of analysis. In this multiple part series, we want to take a closer look at why these tools are useful and what kind of information each tool offered over the years. Through this exercise, we will re-examine the past to find hidden truths today. To check out the STRONG FINISHERS tool over at FFToolbox, click here.
Looking for hidden value in 2014? Look no further than the guys that finished strong in 2013.
Continuity is an under-appreciated concept when it comes to predicting team and individual performance on the football field. Coaching tenures are short. Body wear and tear on athletes lead to short careers. The demand for winning now is entrenched into the culture of every organization. Complacency is never an option, thus the regular turnstile of players and staff alike.
As training camps open coast-to-coast this week, there are seven new head coaches aspiring to make their brand of football stick; a daunting task that is often a work-in-progress in assembling the proper roster that fits their system. In total, 18 current head coaches have led their respective teams for two or less seasons coming into this year.
Factor in roster dependency on free-agents, and you have multiple moving parts. Even with OTAs, training camp and preseason games, the end result is often less-than-stellar performances out of the gate. Coaches struggle to get rookies, free-agents and returning players on the same page.
Not exactly the perfect mathematical equation for fantasy owners looking to predict statistical output.
A player's in season evolution into a premier role, one that delivers an abundance of fantasy points, comes in many forms. Some players are drafted to be featured immediately. Others come to the NFL with raw physical abilities and are groomed slowly. Some are designated back-ups but are thrown into the spotlight as injury replacements. And others are just a product of a scheme that meshes well with their unique skill-set.
Fortunately, history confirms what the rational side of our brain already knows. Development takes time. In most cases, repetition breeds confidence and peak form generally comes after many trials and tribulations, sometimes late in the season.
In our study, we take a look at today's most relevant fantasy stars, and hone in on late season production that stood out when compared to their cumulative career at that point in time. In each case, finishing up with an exceptionally strong December was a precursor to breaking out the following year.
Drew Brees (2007-2008)
Drew Brees is one of only a few quarterbacks that earn his top-four round status year in year out. Brees' dominance is taken for granted, but if you have been playing fantasy football for over a decade, you surely remember Brees was a fantasy headache during his time with the San Diego Chargers. Brilliance and under-performance blended regularly while Philip Rivers waited to take over the reins.
Six years into his professional career, Brees joined forces with head coach Sean Payton in New Orleans and the tables were set for a breakout; but the explosion took some time as the Saints quarterback acclimated to Payton's system. For Brees' first season and much of his second, the peaks and valleys continued, and the stats mimicked his time with the Chargers. Through his first 28 games as a Saint, Brees averaged 270 yards passing per game; a bump up in yards, but the lack of three-TD performances curtailed his upside.
Then it all clicked in a three-TD Week 14 thrashing of the Atlanta Falcons. In a lost season that began with four losses, Brees closed out the year with 1,247 yards passing over the last 4 weeks. Brees surpassed 300 yards in all but one of his remaining games setting the bar high for the season to come.
What followed the year after was a 5,000 yard passing season, that came up 15 yards short of breaking Dan Marino's 1984 yardage record; a record that Brees would later go on to break in 2011. Brees threw for 300 yards 11 times and tossed 34 TDs en route to his true breakout year.
2013 STRONG FINISHERS FOR 2014
The beauty of strong finishers is that their breakout starts during the fantasy playoffs. For fantasy owners fortunate enough to have these beasts-to-be in their starting lineup, it can be the ultimate difference maker in winning a league championship. When the following year rolls around, it's easy to draft our new favorite hero ahead of ADP simply because they ran hot down the stretch. While chasing is not a recommended strategy, owning a player during a monster year is, so it's okay to remain loyal.
Here's a few strong finishers that generated December 2013 production that dwarfed their career averages. Also working in their favor is continuity in their role, coaching and supporting cast coming into 2014. It just may be their year.
Although some would argue that Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett didn't feature Murray enough, the Cowboys running back did see an increase in work down the stretch, answering some questions surrounding his durability. The young offensive line also hit its stride late in the year which bodes well for Murray to truly breakout in 2014.
|Murray Career (37 games)||
|Murray (Weeks 13-17)||
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