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Hidden Gems (WR)

Every year we spend our fantasy prep time pouring through periodicals and compiling statistics based off of “expert” analysis. And while this information is invaluable, we often times ignore the most important players to a championship team: The Bench.

Finding these hidden gems can be difficult but rewarding when your first and second round picks start experiencing the injuries that come with playing as often as elite NFL players do. We’ll examine who from the bargain barrel section of the drafts can help you when they inevitably enter the fray.

Surest Thing – Mike Wallace: Despite the appearance of a crowded receiver team, Mike Wallace is my surest bet amongst the late round WR picks based on his ADP (around 179!) Simply put, he’s hiding behind an unproven journey man in Kamar Aiken and a 35 year old Steve Smith Sr. and whatever mess at TE they decide to roll out (Maxx  is a competent NFL TE but he’s going to eat significant targets away from any of the players already mentioned, nor is Gillmore). If Aiken regresses and/or Smith Sr. misses time with injury, the speedfunchessy Wallace should find himself hooking up with the strong armed Flacco more and more often. For a late round pick, he offers the highest ceiling with the lowest floor.

Highest Risk Reward – Devin Funchess: Despite pedestrian numbers in 2015, Funchess showed that he could be a productive player in the NFL, and there are two sides to the coin surrounding the return of Carolina’s “main man” Kelvin Benjamin. The majority of fantasy players expect Benjamin to step back into his #1 role, and you’d be justified, but I expect there’s a decent chance that having extra time to work with Funchess will result in better numbers for a WR being drafted in the 12-14th round. Obviously with Cam Newton, there’s no
garuntee that skill player A performs the same week in and week out, as the play breaks down Cam’s on of the best in the game finding the open man. Still, the reward if he turns into Cam’s saftey blanket far outweighs the risks.

Big Ole’ Bust – Marvin Jones: Maybe it’s low hanging fruit, but Marvin Jones has the easiest road to ruin of any WR in the entire league. For starters, Matthew Stafford is is entering his 8th NFL season, and his attempts have dropped significantly as his mileage piles up. With Golden Tate proving he can carry the mantle, it’s highly unlikely Jones (who has no history in the NFL of carrying an offense) will step in and replace the departing Calvin Johnson. It’s more likely that Stafford adjusts his targets to Tate, Ebron, and Abdullah and Jones is left as the 4th or 5th player in touches.

Bonus – Chris Hogan: It’s easy to overlook the former Bill as he dons the enemies attire with New England this year. Why? Well, Gronkowski, Edeleman, Lewis, and Amendola to name a few. But the truth is that it’s highly unlikely the New England offense stays healthy, and each of the names just mentioned has a lengthy injury history. Hogan is a sure handed blue collar guy who is likely to slide right in and pick up where guys like Lafell fit (when he was productive). He’s being drafted in the final rounds of drafts, so feel free to take a flier on him.


Tom Brady’s 4 Game Suspension

garoppoloSo our fears were realized as Tom Brady received his punishment from the NFL for his alleged role in deflategate. Now understand that this could very well be lightened to 1-2 games, but for now we’ll operate under the assumption that Brady will miss weeks 1-4.

What this means for Brady:

Brady becomes the biggest guess in the draft at this point. Some will point to his historic (at the time) season in 2007 after Spygate. This becomes instantly relevant as you hear the news of how angry Patriots front office members are. Often you see a QB hand off up 25 points in the 4th… not a league-scorned Patriots team.  Could Brady be worth his pre-suspension ADP considering this?

I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Brady if he fell into the Joe Flacco / Colin Kaepernick range. I’m assuming Brady’s appeal will be met with some push back, so even if it stands at 4 games, I’ll take an angry Brady for the final 12 weeks knowing that he’ll be a stud in the playoffs.

What this means for Jimmy Garoppolo:

The man slated to take snaps under center in Brady’s absense is Jimmy Garoppolo. There’s an argument here that the Patriots are masters at hiding a QB’s deficiencies and planning to their strengths. When Matt Cassel stepped in for Brady in 2008, his regular season stats were Brady-esque despite not having nearly the football aqumen of the man he replaced.

A good way to look at Garoppolo is that he’s able to extend plays with his legs in a way that Brady can’t. He has plenty of sure-handed saftey blankets in Rob Gronkowski and Julien Edeleman, so I expect him to put up middle of the pack fantasy numbers. His legs may net you a good game or two ealy, but I’d caution drafting him unless your handcuffing for a Brady pick.

What this means for the rest of the team:

LeGarrett Blount (suspended one game himself) should have a good chance to carry the ball a lot in weeks 2-4. He’s the type of runner that gets better with volume, so having a Blount that’s rolling could help when Brady returns.

Rob Gronkowski shouldn’t suffer too much as they will likely scheme to him a great deal due to his size and ability to match up in the middle. Garoppolo attempted a ton of his passes Gronk’s way in the preaseason last year and I expect that to stay the same.

Julien Edelman is a volume receiver and he takes a bit of a hit if Garoppolo struggles. I expect them to use a lot of short and intermediate plays early so he shouldn’t suffer much.

Brandon LaFell is the player that sufferes the most on offense. Garoppolo threw a few nice deep balls last year, and LaFell showed he isn’t afraid to run and stick to his routes and take a hit. Still, I expect him to be too deep on the check down list to be of much impact until Brady returns.

What do you think about the fallout from the Brady Suspension?