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The Feeding Frenzy: Hunting for Value

Now that a majority of fantasy drafts are just around the corner, one word I like to preach is “value.” There are a lot of players I want on my fantasy team but not all of them represent value on draft day.

I love guys like Julio Jones and Dez Bryant, but the fact is the hype machine on those two has reached such a fever pitch that you almost have to overpay to own them now. While I’m not saying they aren’t worth a third- or fourth-round draft pick, there isn’t a lot of value in selecting Jones over his teammate Roddy White, considering White is coming off back-to-back 100 reception seasons and led the NFL in targets last year.

While some players’ average draft position (ADP) goes up throughout the summer, I like to find the guys who offer the most value in drafts. Those players that offer fantasy owners the most bang for their buck.

Below are five players I feel offer good value based on where they’re currently being drafted compared to how I believe they’ll perform this season. I used ADP information from based on 12-team points per reception leagues.

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego, Round 6 (Pick 65)

A lot of people believe Rivers is starting to decline, but I just can’t buy it. I came into last season thinking Rivers was an elite NFL quarterback, and I’m not ready to change my opinion of him after one subpar year.

I can’t explain why Rivers threw so many interceptions in 2011. Some of his passes seemed to sail on him. The Chargers insist Rivers wasn’t injured, so I’m not sure if it was a mechanics issue or just a bad stretch for him.

I like the addition of Robert Meachem, and Vincent Brown is my top fantasy sleeper for 2012. I think he’s going to be a stud. So I believe Rivers has the weapons around him, and, remember even in a down year, he still threw for 4,624 yards, just 86 fewer yards than the season before when he led the NFL in passing yards.

So, basically, his decline is all about throwing seven more interceptions? Talk about a perfect example of perception taking over reality. Did Rivers have a great season in 2011? Absolutely not, but I don’t think it means he’s necessarily on the verge of some sort of long-term nosedive either.
I’m also not worried about the Chargers losing Vincent Jackson. I think he’s one of the most overrated players in the NFL. A report came out recently claiming that nine of Rivers’ 20 interceptions were on balls intended for Jackson. That’s not surprising. If you watched those two last year they didn’t look like they were always on the same page. A majority of Jackson’s production (31 receptions, 658 yards, eight touchdowns) came in five games, so I don’t really view Jackson’s departure as a huge loss.

Sometimes quarterbacks have a year where for some reason they turn the ball over more than usual. Both Drew Brees and Eli Manning had 20-plus interception seasons in 2010 and responded by bouncing back with big seasons (Manning won his second Super Bowl and Brees broke Dan Marino’s 27 year-old single-season passing yardage record).
I expect Rivers to follow suit and rebound from his average 2011 campaign. I just can’t close the book on him because he threw a few more interceptions than normal. If you’re looking to wait on drafting a quarterback, Rivers is a steal in the sixth round.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, New England, Round 6 (Pick 66)

In my opinion the Patriots are going to use Lloyd a lot like Green Bay uses Jordy Nelson. You know, I see a lot of experts telling me how Nelson’s numbers will go down this year. They talk about targets and number of plays. They use math and long division to make their argument, but what the thing math doesn’t tell you is that in an offense like the one the Packers run, a receiver doesn’t need a ton of targets to be successful. It’s not the quantity of opportunities, it’s the quality.
Quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are always trying to get receivers singled up in man coverage, and when they do they take shots down the field. That’s why a guy like Nelson can be so productive without being on the field for every snap. It’s because Rodgers is so good at exploiting man coverage, as is Brady.

Now Lloyd isn’t going to see a massive number of targets in New England with all the other options in the passing game. What he is going to do is see a lot of single coverage with defenses focused on stopping Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, as well as give Brady a much-needed deep threat on the outside.

I predict Lloyd will lead the NFL in yards per reception this year. He may only catch 60-65 balls but 1,000-plus yards and 10 scores are almost a lock in my mind with the way he’s going to be used in New England’s offense. That’s not bad production for a receiver going in Round 6.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati, Round 9 (Pick 108)

Gresham was one of my top rated tight ends to ever come out of college, and I like this to be his breakout fantasy season.

The problem for fantasy owners is that while Gresham is a good receiver, he’s also an exceptional blocker, and that’s how he’s been used by the Bengals at times during his first two seasons. However, I believe that’s about to change.

People keep wondering who will emerge as the second option in Cincinnati’s passing game after A.J. Green. I think the guy is going to be Gresham. In his first two seasons, Gresham has caught 52 and 56 passes but he’s been used primarily on shorter routes. He does, however, have the ability to get down the field and create mismatches for opposing defenses if given the opportunity.

I see Gresham being used more as a vertical threat this season, which means his yardage total will increase. I still like to wait on a tight end, so Gresham is the guy I’m targeting in my drafts this year. I’m projecting 70 receptions, 700 yards and eight scores for him. Based on those projections I obviously think he’s well worth his Round 9 asking price.

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