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Players to Watch for 2013 – Conference Championships

And then there were four. It is truly down to crunch time in the NFL playoffs and the final four is set. Can the Patriots hold off the Ravens in a rematch of last year’s conference championship? Can the Falcons solve the riddle that is stopping San Francisco’s new look read option offense?

It will be an exciting weekend of NFL action next Sunday and there are names to examine as potential 2013 fantasy studs and sleepers. For the dedicated fantasy owner it is never too early to start formulating ideas and strategies for next season’s draft and here are some interesting names to keep in mind while enjoying the conference championship games.

Torrey Smith, WR, BALTIMORE: Smith lit up the Broncos last weekend to the tune of three receptions for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns. More impressive was the fact that he was consistently beating Denver’s top cover man, Champ Bailey, like he stole something. The damage was mainly done in the first half, as Smith would haul in only a single pass in the second half for seven yards.

Last Saturday’s game was a nice snapshot of Smith’s season 2012 season. Up and down numbers littered with eye-popping catches followed by stretches of ‘is he even on the field?’ moments. He has the size and speed, coupled with a strong-armed quarterback in Joe Flacco, to be a top ten fantasy wide receiver. The inconsistency factor on a game-to-game basis can be maddening for Smith owners. It will be worth watching closely next week to see if Smith can deliver big again and just what that could mean for his 2013 prospects as a top fantasy wide receiver.

Colin Kaepernick, QB, SAN FRANCISCO: Wow! The record setting performance that Kaepernick put up against the Packers last Saturday was simply amazing. Over 445 total yards and four touchdowns vaults him into the conversation of being a top ten fantasy quarterback heading into 2013, maybe even top five. Kaepernick finished the regular season with 1,814 yards passing as well as another 415 yards on the ground with 15 total touchdowns against five turnovers. That was enough to put the dual threat QB out of Nevada on the map as a potential top-15 fantasy quarterback and his post-season performance is enhancing his value even more.

This kid is has the potential to lead all of fantasy football in scoring for 2013 by a wide margin. He can make all the throws and has a deceivingly fast long stride that propels him into the second and third levels of the defense before they have time to react. He’s also showed the smarts to slide at times, as well as get out of bounds before taking a hard hit. Kaepernick is fantasy gold for next season and the main reason to watch him the rest of this post season is to make sure he stays healthy.

Delanie Walker, TE, SAN FRANCISCO: The versatile Walker has been a jack of all trades type of player for San Francisco over the years but had a rough game against the Packers last week, managing to haul in only one of the five targeted passes he saw for 17 yards. It was a disappointing performance as he had a couple of early drops and was a non-factor as the 49ers rolled over Green Bay. The 49ers have not utilized the tight end position very much since handing the reins to Kaepernick, but when they have, Walker has been the young quarterback’s favored option.

Walker has seen four more targets than teammate Vernon Davis since Kaepernick took over in Week 11 and has caught 15 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. By comparison, Davis has 13 receptions for 188 yards and one touchdown in that same time frame. Seattle tight end Zach Miller lit up the Falcons defense for eight receptions, 142 yards and a touchdown on Sunday and it will be interesting to see if the 49ers choose to attack that weakness in the Atlanta defense as well. Walker is a free agent after this season and just how much Kaepernick looks his way next week may give us a clue as to whether or not he remains by the Bay for the 2013 season. If he’s allowed to walk then monitor where he lands as he can be a sneaky good sleeper option at TE for 2013.

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