January IDP Breakout Performances
Once the chaos of the 2014 regular season subsides, there is always a large exhale among the fantasy community. Some choose to ignore the subject until the spring rolls around. Others, however, begin their work right away, peeking at various statistics and developing their list of potential steals that they’ll pounce on in August.
However, some of the progress you make can crumble right in front of you through the unrivaled platform of the NFL postseason. Even if it’s just one or two plays, great playoff games can resonate in the minds of fantasy owners all the way through the offseason and into the 2014 draft. If you had your eye on an obscure player in 2014, and he breaks out in the playoffs, he’ll go from a late-round flyer to a sought-after commodity. Similarly, someone you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) necessarily consider could use January to play his way into your thought process come draft time.
Who are some of the unheralded defensive players who utilized the playoff platform to launch themselves into the list of relevant fantasy prospects for next season? And more importantly, will their increased stature be warranted? Here, I take a look at three players who may have seen their value surge to levels no one expected after the regular season ended.
Jamie Collins, LB, Patriots
Leave it to Bill Belichick to spend a second-round pick on a linebacker who spent his senior season on an 0-13 team. With only two games of 40 snaps or more to his name, Collins seamlessly slid into Brandon Spikes’ vacated starting role and became an impact player in the playoffs. He stole the show in the Colts game, registering six tackles, a sack, and an interception. And of the 16 defensive players to register a grade in the Broncos 26-16 lashing of the Patriots, Collins was one of only three players to register a positive PFF grade (+1.9).
So where does Collins’ status stand heading into 2014? It’s no secret the Patriots like him, but that doesn’t guarantee a successful fantasy campaign is on the horizon. If the Patriots allow Brandon Spikes to walk, which is expected, then a permanent starting slot should be opened for Collins. With the return of Jerod Mayo looming, a trio of Dont’a Hightower, Mayo, and Jamie Collins could anchor a solid Patriots defense next season.
The athleticism of Collins should allow him to become a fixture in the Patriots lineup, and matchups against the aerially inclined NFC North (as well as Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Philip Rivers) should further increase his value heading into 2014. Unfortunately, those who were shrewd enough to have Collins on their list of late-round steals back in December will have to invest a much higher pick in him than anticipated.
Melvin Ingram, LB, Chargers
Contrary to Collins, Ingram would have piqued more interest this August based off the fact he was projected to have a breakout year before he suffered a torn ACL in May. Amazingly, Ingram was able to come back by Week 14, albeit in a limited capacity the rest of the season.
Less than eight months removed from ACL surgery, Ingram played just 57-of-81 snaps against Cincinnati and still had a major impact. He caused problems for the Bengals offensive front all game and then corralled a crucial interception to stone a potential Bengals comeback.
The Chargers are brimming with confidence after an unexpected playoff appearance was one-upped by a dominating playoff victory. They will likely continue to infuse the defense with more talent through free agency and the draft, and a full offseason without rehab for Ingram could make for the breakout year many were expecting in 2014.
Terrance Knighton, DT, Broncos
Knighton’s combination of girth, catchy nickname, and key plays have cast a spotlight on him even before he stars in the Super Bowl. “Pot Roast’s” popularity should only continue to surge on Super Bowl Sunday, considering he will be playing a crucial role in trying to control the epicenter of the Seahawks offense, Marshawn Lynch.
Knighton is a rock solid player who serves a specific purpose on the Broncos defense. And that purpose, while being tremendously valuable to the team, is in a part-time role. Knighton had the second fewest amount of snaps of PFF’s top-10 defensive tackles.
Should we expect this to change in 2014? Probably not. Knighton’s emergence will make some consider selecting him higher than he should go, but his track record of being a part-time player extends back to his days with the Jaguars. Ultimately, Knighton’s value to the Broncos in 2014 will far exceed his value to your fantasy team.