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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been outlining various value plays for fantasy owners, examining ADP data and projecting whether or not a player could potentially out-produce his current price. Red flags such as a checkered injury history or a turnover in personnel often drive a player’s price down. Buying at this discounted rate in hopes of a renewed surge in production can help fantasy owners stack their rosters and win their leagues. Here is a bounce back candidate at each position to consider heading into the 2015 season.
This time last year, hopes were high for San Fran’s bicep kissing QB. He had closed out 2013 with QB1 fantasy numbers and was the eighth highest-rated signal caller, according to Pro Football Focus. The franchise was aglow with optimism and fans were prematurely toasting in their yuppified new stadium.
The Chardonnay soon turned bitter, however, as the 49ers imploded, losing four of the season’s final five contests. Bound to the pocket, Kapernick struggled mightily, often panicking and missing his targets. With a new coaching staff and revamped offense, though, Kaep has the chance to put 2014 behind him.
Offensive coordinator Geep Chryst doesn’t exactly inspire confidence (remember the 2000 Chargers?), but his extensive experience as a QB coach does hint at an understanding of the position. The key will be focusing on Kaepernick’s strengths – namely his mobility and big arm – and restoring the young quarterback’s faith in his talents.
Adding legitimate deep threat WR Torrey Smith to the receiving corps should help open up the field for Kaepernick. Smith doesn’t have the surest hands, but he is fast and adds an element that Michael Crabtree lost post-Achilles injury. Furthermore, the addition of RB Reggie Bush gives Kapernick another solid weapon in the passing game.
Finally, the Niners defense is a mess. Kaepernick is going to have to pass to keep the team competitive. Whether or not the work he did in the offseason with Kurt Warner sticks, his passing attempts will go up in 2015. Add in a few rushing TDs and Kaep could finish the season in the QB12 – QB14 range. His current twelfth round ADP makes him a tempting value for owners willing to wait and take a risk at the position – especially if they pair him with another passer.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
ADP: 7.10 (RB36)
Durability issues have dominated the narrative surrounding much of Mathews’ career. Fake footballers have reacted accordingly, letting the upright runner’s stock fall to the seventh and eighth rounds. This year, however, the former Charger may be in a situation that helps him stay on the field for a full sixteen games.
Over a career that spans five years, Mathews was only able to accomplish the aforementioned feat one time, in 2013. That year he proved to be one of the best north-south runners in the league and finished among the top twelve fantasy producers at the position. According to Pro Football Focus, he racked up the seventh most yards after contact and averaged the tenth-most fantasy points per tote.
Despite playing in just six games last season, Mathews averaged 4.5 yards per carry. New head coach Chip Kelly noted Mathews’ talent and value, signing him as the team’s RB2 this past spring. Heading up an offense that has run the fourth and eighth most rushing plays over the past two seasons, Kelly has been vocal about wanting to use Mathews and Demarco Murray in a committee.
While Murray – who is seeing feature-back money – figures to receive the largest workload, Mathews is expected to see upwards of thirty percent of the touches. That might suit a player like Mathews, keeping his legs fresher over a longer period of time. Bolstering Mathews’ appeal is Coach Kelly’s football doctrine, which is heavily influenced by algorithms, dietary restrictions, and practice schedules that are designed to keep players on the field and off the IR.
Mathews has shown an ability to produce when healthy. Even with a reduced volume, he’s a solid flex-plus option. If Murray were to go down, he could put up RB1 numbers, making him an ideal value candidate to target in the middle rounds.
Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers
ADP: 4.11 (WR20)
In 2013 Allen burst onto the fantasy scene, closing out his rookie year with a 71–1,046–8 stat line. His presence was heartily felt in the fantasy community as he averaged over 10 fantasy points per game in standard scoring leagues and 14.9 fantasy points per outing in PPR formats. Ending the year as the virtual game’s WR17, Allen’s stock soared heading into 2014.
Unfortunately, Allen’s numbers regressed considerably in his sophomore outing. He dropped from 4th to 44th in Pro Football Focus’ WR ratings and finished the year among the bottom fifty fantasy receivers. A myriad of nagging injuries, sputtering quarterback play, and a rumored lack of focus contributed to this decline.
This time around, however, things are looking up for the Bolts. Both Allen and Rivers are back to full health and they’ve added a dynamic talent to their backfield in rookie Melvin Gordon. Allen has additionally toned up, reporting to camp at his rookie weight of 206 pounds. Another positive is the possession receiver’s apparent change in attitude and renewed commitment to the game, which has been talked up by his teammates and local beat writers. Plus, the absence of Eddie Royal and Antonio Gates’ suspension means there will be a good number of looks to redistribute. All of these factors point toward a return to relevancy for Allen, who has the potential to produce well above his current WR20 ADP.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
ADP: 11.10 (TE13)
Rudolph hasn’t played a full season of football since 2012. His 2013 and 2014 campaigns were cut short due to a laundry list of injuries that included a broken foot, a sports hernia, and a sprained knee. Back in 2012 when he was healthy, however, he posted nine TDs, which was second only to Rob Gronkowski’s eleven.
Admittedly, Rudolph isn’t an exceptional talent. But he does have size and hops, which make him particularly viable in the red zone. At a certain point with the tight end position, grabbing six points to save a week is all owners are trying to accomplish. Knowing that at 6-foot-6 and 229 pounds the former Domer excels in that capacity makes him an intriguing get in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.
Further buoying Rudolph’s upside is the presence of offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has coached up such talents as Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron. Yes, he was part of the equation last season, but due to the aforementioned injuries and Teddy Bridgewater’s learning curve, Rudolph wasn’t given a fair shake at fully incorporating himself into the team’s attack.
The talent surrounding him this season is also much better. Both Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson should stretch the field enough to provide Rudolph with room to operate over the middle. He’s far from a sure thing, but at a streaky position he presents tempting buy-low potential.
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