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Keeper Value – Wide Receiver Fever

As discussed before, there are a few aspects that need to be taken into consideration when drafting in a keeper league that you don’t need to in a seasonal league. Such factors like the individual players age, his team situation, his past production, injury history and even your personal draft spot. But, given the fact that I don’t know your personal draft spot, we’ll just concentrate on past performance, age and team situation.

Past performance isn’t limited to just last season. Judging someone specifically on one elite season or one injury season could be problematic. Examples of both would be Jamaal Charles and Michael Turner. Charles has only had one fantasy relevant season, granted it was among the runningback elite. That would be the stat factor. His offensive line is old and tired, the quarterback play is inconsistent, the passing game is not a real threat and on top of it all, the team brought in ex-Jet Thomas Jones to split carries. That would be the team situation. Charles’ age and/or carries are not really a true concern due to his inexperience at the pro level. He hasn’t been overused, yet, like the

Kansas City
runningbacks before him, Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson. That would be the age factor.

Now, let us apply the same measurements to Turner. His stat line from last year is among the middle of the runningback pack. We’ve seen in the past though, his ability to have MVP-type seasons with huge rushing totals and touchdowns. He is getting older, but due to the fact that he missed a large portion of last season and the fact that he was splitting carries with LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles for so long in San Diego, his carries aren’t as big of an issue as it could be for his age. And, his team situation seems to have youthful upside with Roddy White and Matt Ryan mixed nicely with veteran pose with Tony Gonzalez and Michael Jenkins. Weighing everything out you would have to come to the conclusion that Turner is the more valuable player. Like I said earlier, Turner’s stat line was still middle of the pack even though he missed considerable time. He didn’t have as many carries as the season before and therefore should be fresher. He is the unquestioned runningback whereas Charles isn’t. Turner’s offensive situation is great, whereas Charles’ situation is fair at best. And Turner’s numbers over an entire season eclipse Charles’ numbers. So in the end, three for three of the grades go to Turner.  

But, Turner versus Charles isn’t our main event. It’s just a sample to establish how players are judged. The purpose of the matchups is to examine players ranked extremely close together. The real matchup would be Turner and Frank Gore, but that’s an article for another week. This time, it’s all about wide receiver competition. We’ll examine two of the top five projected wide receivers and see who comes out on top.

Ladies and gentleman! Stepping into the ring, in the red-and-white trunks, Larry Fitzgerald, and his challenger, in the silver-and-blue trunks, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. Let’s try to keep the gloves up and no punches below the belt. “LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE! …”

Punches Landed: The upside outlook on
Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald is perhaps the best receiver in the NFL in terms of catching the football. Fitzgerald is pretty much a lock to catch anything thrown to his side of the field. He has Braylon Edwards’ size mixed with Andre Johnson’s hands. Fitzgerald is also arguably the best red zone wide receiver in the league. He’s not a speed burner, but he’s incredibly physical. Fitzgerald can outmuscle and outjump any corner back in the league. Yes, that includes you too, Darrelle Revis. The addition of last year’s first-round selection, Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells, should make defenses respect the running game more, hopefully opening up more passing opportunity. Fitzgerald had yet another elite season last year. Being in the top of the league in touchdown receptions and yardage is becoming an annual milestone for No. 11. Fitzgerald showed in the Cardinals’ playoff run two seasons ago that he can go from great to untouchable at any given moment. Fitzgerald is also lucky enough to have one of the better offensive coaches in the league calling his plays in Ken Whisenhunt. Look at the numbers Whisenhunt got out of Hines Ward all those years over in

Pittsburgh
. And, to say that Fitzgerald has more ability at receiver than Ward is like saying that a Corvette has more horsepower than a Civic.

Another aspect that gives Fitzgerald bonus points is the division in which he plays in. Six games a season he gets to play against the St. Louis Rams, the Seattle Seahawks and the

San Francisco
49ers. Thought the 49ers defense is starting to shape up, they certainly don’t fall into the same category as the New York Jets or Baltimore Ravens. Additionally, No. 11 doesn’t have elite cornerbacks to play against within the division. He should be able to impose his will on his division foes six games out of the 16 total. And, due to the fact that the divisions don’t change, you can count on him to play against this weak competition every year until they learn how to play defense.  And, judging by what I currently see from the Seahawks and Rams as of late, that could take a while.

Sucker Punched: The downside outlook on Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald has found himself in a situation he’s never been in before … alone. His All-Pro soon-to-be Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner decided that enough was enough (take note, Brett Favre). Warner was known for being able to throw the long ball with the best of them. Just ask Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. That being said, that big arm is no longer on No. 11’s side. Fitzgerald will go from working with a gunslinger to working with a burger flipper. Leinart will step in as the new face under center. And, instead of bringing a rifle for an arm with him (like Warner had), he’s bringing a shotgun. Meaning, his shots are good when up close, but it just doesn’t cut it from long distance. The Cardinals could be transitioning into an offense with a brand new look. They’ll have to change their game plan to utilize Leinart’s ability to be accurate, but also his distance inabilities. This would mean more possession type of receptions. That could mean more quick out and curl routes versus post and go routes.

Not only has Warner called it quits, but Fitzgerald’s longtime number two receiver is now the number one guy in

Baltimore
. This could lead to Fitzgerald seeing more coverage this season than ever before in his career. Anquan Boldin made defenses game plan for him and drew coverage every down. However, Boldin is now flying with a different flock, the Ravens, and the Cardinals don’t seem to have an immediate replacement. Early Doucet and Steve Breaston are in the mix, but neither will help out Fitzgerald as much as Boldin did.

The last big knock against Fitzgerald was also mentioned previously as a benefit. This could truly swing either way depending on what transpires. There is the possibility that the combination of Leinart’s arm and the addition of Wells could lead to the Cardinals focusing on the running game more than ever before. If the Cardinals stay true to the run and play smashmouth football, that would lead to a decrease in Fitzgerald’s overall stat line. Whisenhunt did get Ward years of good numbers, but he also made Willie Parker into a notable fantasy player. If he can turn Parker into a hands-down starting fantasy runningback, then the possibilities for Wells are endless. Whisenhunt will be able to work with first-round draft pick talent, whereas Parker was an undrafted talent. If Wells bursts onto the scene, then Fitzgerald could see a decline in value.

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