2013 NFL Draft - Veteran Value Decliners
No event on the NFL calendar directly affects a team’s roster hierarchy as much as draft day (or more accurately, draft days). While much of the focus is centered on how the league’s annual talent infusion will positively impact various teams and players as we approach the 2013 season, there is a significant subset of veterans who stand to lose quite a bit of value over the next week.
The vast majority of NFL starters do not have much to worry about as we head into the draft, and neither do their fantasy owners. However, as we will see below, there are a number of fantasy depth players who may be faced with increased competition, decreased opportunities, and all-around less comfortable situations as a result of the aspiring professionals their teams target this Thursday night and in the days that follow.
While none of the following names are likely to make or break a fantasy roster in 2013, their owners need to be cognizant of the fact that many are on the verge of suffering a hit to their value – either directly or indirectly. Those in dynasty leagues, especially, will want to explore whether or not they can shoehorn them into a larger trade and squeeze a bit of profit out of them before the draft kicks off. The clock is ticking loudly.
Michael Vick – The ninth-highest scoring fantasy quarterback in 2012 until getting knocked out of a Week 10 game against Dallas, many view him as a strong 2013 sleeper candidate. Aside from the great unknown of whether he will thrive in new head coach Chip Kelly’s offense, Vick will also need to contend with other variables. With rumors of a rookie quarterback, like Geno Smith, on the horizon in Philadelphia, the soon-to-be veteran free agent will be sharing more valuable preparatory snaps than just the ones taken by signal-calling competitor, Nick Foles. Throw in the ever-present injury concerns on top of a pitiful 53.3 accuracy percentage while under pressure (25th in the NFL), and another quarterback being groomed to take over his huddle is the last thing Vick’s fantasy value needs.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis – The Bengals like the Law Firm’s steady production, pass blocking, and ball security. They also have their eye on drafting a more explosive backfield option. Nobody’s idea of a shifty back, Green-Ellis ranked second to last (to the glacial Shonn Greene) in our Elusive Rating among backs that saw at least half of their team’s rushing attempts, with a paltry 15.9 number. Out of 278 handoffs (eighth most in the league), only 10 of his runs went for 15 or more yards. Even Michael Turner busted a higher percentage of his attempts. His 0.44 Yards Per Pass Route Run ranked 49th, and last, out of all backs who saw at least 25 percent of targets. The 19th-highest-scoring fantasy running back will have a hard time duplicating that mark if his high volume of touches are reallocated in 2013.
Vick Ballard – The Colts are rumored to be in the market for a big-play running back who can help on passing downs, an area in which Ballard has limitations. His 23.6 Breakaway Percent ranked 18th among backs with at least half of their team’s rushing attempts (25 total runners). Ballard’s 0.88 Yards Per Route Run placed him 40th at his position, and his 92.4 Pass Blocking Efficiency ranks 48th (both on at least 25 percent of snaps). Add to that a pass-heavy offense, continued questions both along the offensive line and on defense, and it does not paint a picture of a ballcarrier that will be worth his ADP of 25th at his position if Indianapolis picks someone for him to split carries with.
DuJuan Harris – Just being on the field to take handoffs or pass targets in the Green Bay offense is reason enough to land on fantasy rosters, but will Harris consistently be that guy in 2013? His Points Per Opportunity, during his four regular season games, makes it appear that he is less ordinary than he actually is. Harris’ Breakaway Percent was well below even Ballard’s (13.4, albeit in limited snaps). The Packers have been linked to Eddie Lacy, among other runners, to finally give them a consistent back that will complement quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ passing attack – which would result in less wear and tear on their franchise passer.
Chris Givens & Brian Quick – St. Louis’ pair of prospective starting pass catchers will have to deal with additional competition for repetitions if predraft rumors are to be taken seriously. Clemson wideout DeAndre Hopkins recently visited with the Rams for the second time, the very same thing that preceded their drafting of Quick just one year ago. Tavon Austin has also been heavily mocked to St. Louis of late. Added to free agent import Jared Cook and leftover sleeper Lance Kendricks, who form a potentially potent two-tight end set, things may get a bit crowded here. Both Rams receivers have drawn plenty of fantasy interest this offseason, but by the look of things that buzz is about to have the brakes pumped on it to a degree. And here we thought that the six games against NFC West defenses was their main worry.
Jarius Wright – The Vikings will very likely select at least one of the gaggle of well-regarded wideouts early in the draft. That will leave Wright with more competition for the, to this point, less-than-reliable passes fired from quarterback Christian Ponder’s general direction. With Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph commanding the lion’s share of the Minnesota offense’s targets, it is far less than likely that Wright will get enough of an opportunity to produce meaningfully in 2013 – despite a whiff of intrigue about his potential, in some fantasy circles. Considering the fact that this is and will remain a run-based offense, Wright owners are looking at a decidedly limited production ceiling.
Jordan Cameron – One of the offseason’s top sleeper tight ends is rapidly approaching non-sleeper status due to his increased notoriety. However, Cameron’s rising value stands to take a crushing blow if the Browns select one of several athletic tight ends available to them this week. New head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have a history of drafting and developing tight ends, presenting a double-edged sword for Cameron. His potential stems in large part from his coaches’ emphasis on the position, but if they want to grab their own piece of clay to mold, Cameron’s stock will rapidly do an Enron. Whispers of the Browns bringing in competition for quarterback Brandon Weeden does not exactly help, either. Few things are as disruptive to the gelling of an offense as appreciable snap-splitting in practice.
The draft also promises to make life a bit more difficult for other fantasy regulars around the NFL. The Bills are very likely to select a quarterback to compete with Kevin Kolb, and aside from Kolb himself, it may hinder the production of wideout Stevie Johnson – at least in 2013. DeMarco Murray will have a new backfield mate, as the Cowboys attempt to fill the modest void left by the departing Felix Jones. Murray has yet to show he can withstand the rigors of a full NFL season, it still remains to be seen whether or not their pathetic offensive line will be properly addressed, and Dallas has displayed a willingness to split carries in the recent past. Tight ends have been mocked to Pittsburgh, Washington and Atlanta – and although none of Heath Miller, Fred Davis or Tony Gonzalez are candidates to lose their starting role, a decrease in targets will have a definite effect on their fantasy rankings at a crowded position as the league-wide movement toward two-tight end sets continues.
Speaking of the Steelers, it stands to reason that they will be grabbing a wideout to help their questionable depth at that position. Newly re-signed Emmanuel Sanders is only on a one-year deal and the fantasy buzz surrounding him after the failed restricted free agent bid by New England might have his value a bit overinflated, all things considered. Popular fantasy pass catcher Ryan Broyles is likely to come back to a more crowded Lions receiving corps when he recovers from an ACL tear, as it would be an upset if Detroit does not spend an early round pick on a receiver. Tandon Doss and Jacoby Jones will no longer be playing second fiddle to Anquan Boldin in Baltimore, but it is probable that the Ravens will be looking to bolster the position this week – taking some of the sleeper shine off of their incumbent wideouts.
At this time of year it is far more exciting to think of all of the new possibilities that the influx of collegiate talent will offer the NFL. However, the other side of that coin is the opportunity cost that will need to be paid by returning veteran starters – and the resulting effect of this value realignment in fantasy circles.