Players to Watch During the 2013 Offseason
As we transition our way to 2013, we always want to get the jump on our competition. While it’s still far too early to discuss round values, sleepers, etc, there are definitely players to keep your eyes on as we approach free agency, the draft, and positional battles in OTAs and camps. Here are a few names to keep in mind before the hype train potentially hits.
Lamar Miller, RB, MIA: Reggie Bush is likely gone from Miami in free agency, and according to beat writers in Miami, Daniel Thomas isn’t much of a consideration for the lead back role, which makes sense. In 2012, Thomas had a pitiful -6.0 PFF rating, which included weak peripherals like 3.6 YPC, 2.3 YCo/att, and a missed tackle clip of less than 10%. By comparison, Miller had a 4.9 YPC, 2.7 YCo/att, and a missed tackle clip of about 12%. Thomas was also nothing special in the receiving game, grading out negatively in that department. The Dolphins were said to like Jonas Gray who was injured in 2012, but for now, Miller has the inside track for decent volume on an improving Dolphins offense. Just keep an eye on Jake Long as well, as the Dolphins may end up with a new left tackle as well.
Michael Crabtree, WR, SF: Some people know how well Crabtree performed once Colin Kaepernick took over the QB spot, but I’m still surprised at how many people were in the opposite camp and unaware of Crabtree’s stellar end to the season. From Weeks 1 through 8, Crabtree had a 39/440/3 line. From Weeks 10 through 17, Crabtree had a 46/665/6 line. Over a full season, that line becomes 92/1330/12, which easily puts Crabtree in the upper echelon of receivers. Crabtree also had more YAC and significantly more yards per catch with Kaepernick as his signal caller. Crabtree hasn’t slacked off in the playoffs thus far either, with lines of 9/119/2 and 6/57/0. Barring injury, Crabtree is looking like a solid WR2 next year with upside, and a great dynasty asset for owners who patiently held onto him.
Daryl Richardson, RB, STL: While his overall PFF rating doesn’t stand out, Richardson had some positive things going for him in 2012. One, he leapfrogged early round rookie Isaiah Pead as a 7th rounder and saw significant playing time behind Steven Jackson. Jackson is now a free agent, and while Richardson’s situation is obviously completely different depending on SJax, he should still be draftable in most leagues. Richardson saw nearly 100 carries on the year, yet registered a solid 4.8 YPC, 2.8 Yco/att, and an 11% missed tackle rate. At worst, Richardson will see carries behind a running back with significant wear and tear. At best, he could be part of a committee or a semi-feature back with touches in the teens on a weekly basis.
Bilal Powell, RB, NYJ: It seems like Joe McKnight will never be a workhorse in the NFL, and Shonn Greene could well be on his way out in New York. Powell may not see feature back carries, but it’s clear the Jets need to vary something up in their offensive philosophy, and perhaps Powell is part of the puzzle. It’s worth noting that every Jets o-lineman except Matt Slauson graded out very well in run blocking, so it’s not a question of talent up front. Powell actually played more passing snaps than Greene as well, so if the Jets do go with a vertical attack, he has the chops to be in a pass catching role. While Powell will never be the most elusive guy in the world, his bruising style and decent savvy in the passing game make him a player to monitor this offseason.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, PIT: We know that if Mike Wallace leaves, Antonio Brown is a volume beneficiary. However, Sanders may be a more under the radar beneficiary as Wallace’s 116 targets get divvied up between the Pittsburgh wide receivers and tight ends. Sanders had 69 targets in 2012, and it’s not unreasonable to think that as he (hopefully) improves, that number could turn into 95 or so as the 2nd or 3rd receiving option on his team. His 64% catch rate isn’t unsustainable given that many of his snaps came in the slot. While he won’t be a big touchdown guy, he’s certainly worth monitoring for PPR folks, as last year’s numbers extrapolated to 95 targets would have equated to roughly 60 catches and 865 yards on the conservative side.
Jared Cook, TE, TEN/FA: For a guy with the measurables and potential that Jared Cook has, he’s sure disappointed a lot of owners in recent years. However, it’s interesting to note that while a guy like Nate Washington ran 563 pass routes, Cook ran only 376 despite his talent. As a result of this and some inconsistency on his part, Cook had a down year. To a savvy owner though, buying low is much better than buying high, and that could be Cook’s situation this year. If he ends up on a new team, Cook could potentially be utilized more consistently with a more consistent QB. Reuniting with Jeff Fisher in St. Louis wouldn’t surprise me at all, and as Cook may be drafted as a TE2, he’s well worth a flier just because of the aforementioned athleticism and 6’5″ frame.