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Fantasy 411 – Week 17

Entering the season,
Zac Stacy was buried on the St. Louis Rams’ depth chart behind Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead. After barely seeing the field in the first four weeks, Stacy took over as the starting running back in Week 5 against Jacksonville and proved worthy of the role. After a couple of average games, Stacy shredded the vaunted Seattle defense with 134 yards on 26 carries.

Stacy is a rhythm back, who gains momentum as the game goes on and he piles up carries. The Rams are a young team who will have an early draft pick thanks to the Washington Redskins, and they will look to build around their nucleus and Stacy figures to be the centerpiece. Owners who were able to snag Stacy were rewarded down the stretch as the rookie eclipsed 100 yards three times and found the end zone seven times in the Rams’ final seven contests. In limited duty, Stacy will likely finish the season as top-20 running back and will be poised to build off that in 2014.

A few days before the regular season began, there were rumblings out of Denver that
Knowshon Moreno had nosed his way in to the starting lineup. Fantasy pundits acknowledged that Montee Ball was the more talented back, but Broncos head coach John Fox has a track record of leaning on his veterans. Moreno not only held on to the starting job in the league’s most explosive offense, he proved worthy of the spot. Moreno was valuable in pass protection and as a receiver, hauling in 55 passes through Week 16.

Ronnie Hillman shrunk under the spotlight and Ball struggled with fumbling problems all season long. The Broncos lightened Moreno’s role down the stretch to keep him fresh for the playoffs, so his fantasy production took a small slide. Moreno should be on your radar next season, but he will not match this season’s output, and the Broncos will have an entire offseason to correct Ball’s ball security issues. Don’t overpay next season for this season’s stats.

Many fantasy owners were scared away by the two-game suspension that
Josh Gordon was staring at to start the season. They shouldn’t have been! Gordon turned in a fantasy season to rival all the wide receiver studs, despite playing with a quarterback carousel that included Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer. The Browns only have managed five rushing touchdowns through 16 games, so they have done very little to keep defenses honest, but none of those factors could keep Gordon from producing. He immediately made his presence felt with a 10-catch, 146-yard performance in his Week 3 debut. Owners who were clawing in to the playoff picture could have Gordon to thank after he turned in a historic four-week performance starting in Week 11, where he racked up 774 yards and five touchdowns. Going in to next season, Gordon’s off-field antics seem to be the only thing that can stop him from again turning in elite fantasy stats.

The book on
Alshon Jeffery coming out of South Carolina in the 2012 draft was that he had gained weight, didn’t work hard and got by with his natural gifts. After a rookie season that fell short of expectations, Jeffery seems to have turned the corner this season. With Brandon Marshall to mentor him, Jeffery emerged as a dependable wide receiver. Jeffery was up-and-down in the early going, but he really clicked with Josh McCown while Jay Cutler was sidelined with injuries. The Bears will have a lot of questions surrounding their quarterback situation next season, as they sort out what to make of Cutler and coach Marc Trestman’s offense, but Jeffery should continue to mature and grow and will be an early wide pick on draft day.

We have been down this road before with big, athletic, but inexperienced tight ends with a basketball background. Entering the season,
Julius Thomas was getting a lot of attention as the next Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham, and he did not disappoint. Even though injuries and a huddle full of offensive weapons slowed his production, Thomas emerged as a dependable option at a muddled position. Thomas will be a trendy pick next season, and while many will warn of his dependence on touchdowns (he has 12 through Week 16), the lack of depth at tight end will make him a valuable commodity on draft day behind Graham.

See you next season!

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