Every year, the fantasy community will slap any underrated player who has a lick of potential with the “bargain” title. Soon all your friends, their mothers, and their little brothers tell you that said player is going to breakout and become a top talent at his position, potentially giving a late-round sleeper early-to-mid-round value. Remember how you drafted a ton of “bargains” only to end up watching them rot on your bench until you canned them four weeks into the season? I feel your pain as we all know how hard it is to find the needles in the fantasy haystack. The purpose of the “Breakout/Bust Ratio” is to offer odds on specific sleeper’s chances of becoming fantasy contributors or free-agent fodder.
Tim Tebow, QB, Denver
– Tebow is one of the guys everyone loves to hate as few believe that he will ever become something great in reality. Doubters say he has poor accuracy (Tebow completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes in his three starts last season) and many believe his collegiate success was a product of coach Urban Meyer’s system at Florida. Fortunately, his fantasy prowess relies mostly on what he can do with his legs. Tebow scored a rushing touchdown in each of his three starts last season, carrying the ball 31 times for 199 yards in that span. His four touchdowns and three interceptions in that span are alright, but the lack of accuracy makes Tebow look as one-dimensional as the Carolina Panthers’ offense. The man can run … pretty well I might add, but as soon as defenses slow him down, like they did to a
certain leader in fantasy points per game last season in standard leagues starting from Week 11, then one can assume that Tebow will lose his edge and have nothing left. His rushing will cough up the points in the beginning, but the well will dry at some point.
Breakout/Bust Ratio – 1/2
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina – Owning Williams last year was like owning a Porsche that got stuck in a mud pit. Great car, but the surrounding terrain was not conducive to driving. He’s an amazing talent who we now know will be once again playing for the same Carolina Panthers, who were the only team to average fewer than 10 points per game and 250 yards per game last season. Their offensive line will have strong, young talent, but having Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen as your main signal callers while Jonathan Stewart zaps away about 40 percent of Williams’ potential production spells nothing but disaster for him. Even the 2009 iteration of Williams (1,117 rushing yards, seven touchdowns) looks out of reach in these circumstances.
Breakout/Bust Ratio – 3/7
Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans – With Jeremy Shockey now destined to fade into obscurity playing for the Carolina Panthers (poor soul), Graham’s time has finally arrived in New Orleans. Towards the end of last season, the Saints discovered how valuable Graham can be as a red zone threat (four touchdowns in last three games) and there is no reason why the Saints would stop doing so in the new year. Awesome, right? Not so fast fantasy readers, as there are two sides to every coin. The other side of being a tight end “touchdown vulture” is that you are rarely needed in the offense outside of that role. In that same aforementioned three-game span, Graham only caught 11 balls for 70 yards. Take the touchdowns away and you are left with a guy who accumulated a total of seven fantasy points in non-standard leagues in his defining three-game stretch.
Being in that high powered offense means that he is a huge threat for a touchdown every game, but outside of that he is merely a short-yardage security blanket for Drew Brees. Factor in the fact that Graham will also be competing against Marques Colston, Robert Meachem and Lance Moore for targets and we are looking at a guy whose value relies almost entirely on trips to the endzone.
Breakout/Bust Ratio – 2/9
Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis – A quick receiver under 6-foot and 190 pounds who knows how to catch, return punts, run routes well, and excel in the slot all while coming from Texas Tech. Who am I talking about, you ask? It must be Danny Amendola since he’s the topic of this section, but all these attributes also apply to a certain Wes Welker. Welker hit it big when wide receiver genius Josh McDaniels worked with him in New England, and now McDaniels will get his greasy paws all over Amendola.
While you erase the horrible mental image that last sentence left, let me remind you that a fantasy nobody named Brandon Lloyd never had more than six touchdowns or 733 receiving yards in any of his seven seasons before starting most of the regular season games for a McDaniels-led team in 2010. The transformation was
2010 Jose Bautista-esque as Lloyd attained 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns, shattering his previous career highs by almost double in those two categories. Did I also forget to mention that Amendola is a third-year receiver who had 85 catches last season and plays with an already mildly impressive quarterback in Sam Bradford?
Being a Welker clone doesn’t come without flaws, though. Fewer than 10 yards per catch is expected along with a ceiling of five or six touchdowns. With all things considered, there is just too much upside here to pass up. Call me a crazy dummy who knows nothing about anything and everything about nothing but 110 catches, 1,000 yards, and five touchdowns is within Amendola’s grasp.
Breakout/Bust Ratio – 2/1
Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay – The only reason why people have this guy as a sleeper is because of how he ripped apart the Atlanta and Pittsburgh defenses in the postseason, much like how a
Blendtec blender shreds iPads. In all fairness, stepping up in the playoffs (when your team needs you the most) is a good reason to hype someone up in theory. Just because that same logic failed Shonn Greene last season doesn’t mean it will fail Nelson. The only thing stepping in the way of Nelson becoming a WR3 for fantasy, and his own team, is the similarly talented James Jones.
EDITOR’S NOTE: JAMES JONES HAS SIGNED WITH GREEN BAY
As of right now, it is unknown whether the Packers will re-sign Jones or let him walk. It is in Jones’ best interest to walk and gain more money and opportunities to breakout elsewhere, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers lobbied the organization to pursue Jones. It is also possible that Jones does not have a market for whatever reason and has no place to go but Green Bay. Who knows? What I do know is that Jones’ possible departure would leave a big-play threat like Nelson in single coverage every game, and since the Packers love running three-receiver sets, he’d see plenty of snaps without having to worry about surrendering his role to anyone else. Because his value is most reliant upon Jones’ presence, which is to be determined, his ratio can go either way for now.
Breakout/Bust Ratio – 1/1
Roy Helu, RB, Washington
– I understand coach Mike Shanahan’s shenanigans the same way a 5-year old understands metaphysics. Clinton Portis, Keiland Williams and Ryan Torain were all, at some point last season, the guy to own in this backfield. This year’s Redskins’ running back carousel nixes Portis, but adds Helu and Evan Royster to the mix. It shouldn’t surprise you if all of these backs end up starting at least one game this season. Right now, it seems like Torain will go in as the starter and see the majority (“majority” only meaning “at least 51 percent”) of the touches with the other 49 percent going to Helu and Williams. Helu’s chances of ending the season as the starter are decent in a Shanahan offense, since the guy starting at the beginning of the season rarely keeps that job throughout. Also, Torain is brittle … I mean
Greg Oden brittle. Helu is almost a Portis clone as he doesn’t quite have the same level of power Portis did in his prime, but he does seem to be a perfect fit for Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme.
Helu will probably run well in this offense and he will get a chance to shine at some point since Torain will get hurt, but Torain is no slouch (career 4.5 yards per carry) so Helu most likely won’t grab the job while Torain is active. The Redskins have Helu’s talent, Torain’s luck, and two other young backs in Williams and Royster. There are just too many moving parts in this backfield, and the biggest factor of them all – Shanahan – is a guy fantasy owners can’t trust. I’d rather avoid this backfield all together instead of being Shanahan’d later.
Breakout/Bust Ratio – 12/25
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit
– This guy showed us a very tasty sample size of how talented he was last season. His 535 passing yards, six touchdowns and only one pick in 96 attempts last year turned Stafford into fantasy gold for Weeks 8 and 9 of the season. I am a firm believer that 225 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions is a statline that he can reach and surpass on most nights, but his huge flaw is his inability to stay healthy. He’s only played 13 games in his first two seasons and now I’m kicking myself for using the Greg Oden joke too early. He’s still somewhat of an unknown in fantasyland and considering his talent and his improving surrounding talent, there’s not much preventing this kid from being a Top 10 quarterback if he is on the field. I might regret wanting to draft somebody who’s easily broken body makes him riskier than crossing
this bridge on a blind elephant, but I feel like the pros slightly outweigh the cons in this circumstance because Stafford is the real deal skill-wise.
Breakout/Bust Ratio – 7/5
Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami
– The Dolphins’ tailback situation is looking a lot clearer now that Reggie Bush is officially a Dolphin. Coach Tony Sparano has finally acquired the scatback to complement his bruiser. While Bush will probably see more carries as a Dolphin than he ever did with the crowded New Orleans backfield, Thomas figures to still see 225-plus carries. Don’t go in expecting too much from Thomas, though. Coaches today feel that overworking a rookie tailback is not the right way to develop their skills and only leads to more harm than good. Remember all of the Ryan Mathews-hype last season and how he was supposed to be a feature back? Remember how that turned out nine starts and a 158 carries later? Let’s not forget the Knowshon Moreno hype in 2009. Not only did his backup, Correll Buckhalter, outperform him on an almost game-by-game basis, but he failed to amass 1,000 rushing yards on 247 carries. Don’t fall for the hype when it comes to rooks, ladies and gentlemen!
Breakout/Bust Ratio – 11/14
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis
– The “Youngest Show on Turf” did well to acquire plenty of new toys for Samuel through the draft. Tight end Lance Kendricks and wide receivers Greg Salas and Austin Pettis will all serve as more help for a young quarterback who has a lot of underrated receiving talent at his disposal. He is now in a more quarterback-friendly offense run by Josh McDaniels and will come into this season with his head held high after a stellar debut season. Combine that with a squishy-soft schedule after Week 8 and we have a recipe for fantasy success. The only Top 16 passing defenses the Rams face after Week 8 are the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15 and Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16, which are ranked 14th and 12th, respectively. Hopefully you’ll be drafting Bradford as a QB2 so you won’t have to worry about starting him in the fantasy playoffs. He won’t win you a championship, but it looks like he can fuel a second-half playoff push.
Breakout/Bust Ratio – 3/2