Jermichael Finley is an enigma. When he is playing, there aren’t many tight ends with his skill set. He’s 6’5″”, 247 with great speed, hands, and the athleticism to make acrobatic catches. It’s almost unfair because he’s far too quick for linebackers and far too powerful for defensive backs.
Yet, he has been plagued with injuries throughout his career. You would think that with just 82 catches for 1051 yards and seven touchdowns in three seasons wouldn’t translate into a desirable fantasy tight end option. However, you’d be wrong. We’ve know the potential of a monster campaign is there. That’s why you see him high on most fantasy football tight end rankings lists.
The risk isn’t in owning him. The tight end position has become deep enough where you could find a suitable replacement if he gets hurt again. The risk in who you pass up on to get him. You could be passing on Jason Witten, Vernon Davis, or Dallas Clark to take Finley. I have him ranked third behind Gates and Witten, but I appreciate why someone would take the safer route with Davis or Clark. I can also appreciate if someone wanted to wait even longer and go to the next tier of tight ends.
There are a lot of factors to consider. What running backs, receivers, and quarterbacks are available. If you want an elite quarterback and the options are starting to get thin, you may want to hold off on drafting a tight end. If you already took some risks (Michael Vick, Brandon Lloyd, etc.), you may want a safer option.
In Weeks 2-4 last year Finley had at least 100 yards or a touchdown. He closed out 2009 averaging 67.4 yards over his last five games with four touchdowns. Then he went off in the playoffs to the tune of six catches for 159 yards.
I do believe that Finley could turn in a magical season if he stays healthy. If you’re a risk taker, Finley could be your guy. Just be prepared to strike early if you want him on your squad.
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Boser’s Tweetbeat – Sifting through the hashtags to bring you the hottest trending Twitter topics in the Fantasy Football industry.
By Ryan Boser
ADRIAN PETERSON VS. ARIAN FOSTER
That didn’t take long. The debate for the rightful No. 1 pick in next season’s redraft leagues has already materialized. After compiling 18 touchdowns and 2,218 combo yards last year, Arian Foster did more than enough to earn the top billing for me. However, Adrian Peterson backers certainly have a solid case — he’s finished as a top-5 fantasy back in each of his first four seasons. His most productive year was 2009, with 18 scores and 1,825 combo yards. It’s no coincidence that it was the only season he’s lined up behind a quarterback better than Shane Falco. When Brett Favre struggled to move the chains in 2010, Peterson saw less scoring opportunities and got a preview of what’s to come in 2011. In addition to the probable lack of a passing threat, Peterson’s patty-cake offensive line does him no favors. Moreover, the Vikings’ offense will be in transition under new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, with a (potentially) shortened offseason program to acclimate. Peterson cleaned up the fumbling issues last season, and he’s dispelled early-career injury concerns. He’s the best running back in the NFL, and I consider him a safe, worthy top-3 selection.
Arian Foster’s only done it for one year, but while some see this as a negative, I see it as fresh legs. Sure, things likely would have been different had Ben Tate stayed healthy last season. Instead, Foster emerged as a bona fide superstar, and Tate will enter 2011 as a redshirt rookie coming off a severe ankle injury. Gary Kubiak will return (by the skin of his teeth) with his zone-blocking scheme that fits Foster perfectly. He’ll have plenty of incentive to lean on the 2010 NFL rushing king — the pitchforks are sharpened and the torches are ablaze in Houston. Unlike fellow breakout back Peyton Hillis, Foster finished very strong, and had no problem shouldering a heavy workload. With Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson forcing defenses away from the line, Foster will again have plenty of room to operate, and it’s a safe bet that the No. 3 Houston offense will spend a lot more time in the red zone than the No. 23 Vikings. The versatile Foster is built for fantasy use, and at the end of the day, I think his situation trumps Peterson’s talent.
THE FINLEY EFFECT
After a relatively slow start last season, Greg Jennings rebounded for a career year (76/1,265/12). It’s no surprise that his surge coincided with the ultra-talented Jermichael Finley’s season ending knee injury. While everybody seems to agree that Finley’s return will cost Jennings some looks in 2011, experts are split on the degree to which it will effect his production. In early mocks, I’ve seen Jennings drafted anywhere from third to eighth among receivers. Those bullish on Jennings will cite that the geriatric Donald Driver is clearly on the decline. They’ll argue that Aaron Rodgers’ magnificence can accommodate a top-level tight end, support an elite wide receiver, and part the Red Sea. I’m finding myself on the other side of the argument. Donald Driver’s decline was more than offset by the progression of James Jones and Jordy Nelson. The two had inconsistent moments, but the numbers don’t lie — they combined for 151 targets, 95 catches, 1,261 yards and seven scores. Jones’ status in Green Bay is on uneven ground, but Nelson appears ready to take the next step even if Jones departs.
That brings us back to Finley. He’s an athletic specimen who’s literally open on every play, and with Jennings working downfield routes, Finley’s typically open quicker. The two have played exactly 16 full games together in the last two years, giving us a nice round figure to work with. Jennings’ production in the pieced-together season has been disappointing — 59/1,035/6. Coincidence or not, those numbers would’ve ranked 20th in standard scoring among receivers last season, one spot ahead of Braylon Edwards. I won’t go so far as to say he can’t be a No. 1 fantasy receiver, but unless Finley is sidelined again, I’ll have a hard time trusting Jennings in that spot.
Believe it or not, china doll Matt Stafford is at the center of heated draft discussions. There’s an aggressive assembly that views Stafford as a low-end QB1 with top-10 upside. Then there’s me and my red marker. I get it, Stafford has the blue chip pedigree, and he’s shown some promising flashes in his first two seasons. He has an upper echelon receiver in Calvin Johnson, and a decent set of secondary pass catchers that includes Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, and Jahvid Best. You could even recklessly extrapolate his 2.5-game 2010 sample size into a mouth-watering 45-touchdown, 3,424-yard fantasy feast. Stafford certainly appears to have all the skills to excel in the NFL, except one — the ability to stay on the field. Yes, that’s a skill. Brett Favre wasn’t just the luckiest guy in the league for the last two decades. And it’s not like Bob Sanders habitually walks under ladders. Where there’s smoke there’s typically fire, and Stafford’s sending off more signals than Bear Grylls.
As a result of knee damage and three injuries to his throwing shoulder, Stafford’s missed 19 of 32 career games (59%). His offensive line has improved in protection, but quarterbacks inevitably get hit, especially in a division with Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, and Jared Allen. I don’t necessarily disagree with the premise that Stafford has top-10 potential, but he shouldn’t be drafted that way. Until he can correct his horrific rate of DNP’s, I see him as a mid-to-low level fantasy QB2.
I’ve recently had the pleasure of partaking in a series of 2011 mock drafts with a group of around 25 fellow industry writers, analysts, and amateur comedians. We’re using a slow draft format with several drafts going on simultaneously, and this first series is strictly PPR. It’s been a blast, and with about a dozen mocks in the books, we’re beginning to accumulate some early ADP knowledge. There have been a few interesting nuggets that have jumped out to me. The momentum of Aaron Rodgers’ outstanding postseason run has propelled him past Michael Vick for top quarterback honors. There appears to be no consensus top wide receiver. And if you’re high on Josh Freeman, Jamaal Charles, and Hakeem Nicks heading into next season, join the club — their stocks are soaring.
The “Draftmaster” series is organized by Jim Day of FantasyFootballWhiz.com, and with the help of Pro Football Focus’ Mike Clay, here’s a first glimpse at our early results. If you’re a strong drafter with interest in participating in the Draftmaster series, feel free to reach out to Jim Day (@Fantasytaz) on Twitter for more information.
That wraps up my first installment of “Lester’s Tweetbeat.” Be sure to check back here in two weeks for the latest insider buzz circulating throughout the Twitterverse.
Ryan Boser has contributed writing and analysis for FantasyVictory.com, KFAN AM 1130′s Fantasy Football Weekly program, and numerous other fantasy football outlets. Ryan’s own website, Out of My League, covers both fantasy football and the Minnesota sports landscape.
The Packers enter the year as one of the most explosive fantasy units in the NFL. They have studs at QB, RB, WR, and TE. If you want a Packer on your team this year you’ll have to get ‘em early.
Fantasy Playoffs Schedule: Moderate
They should open the playoffs with a bang against the Lions even though it’s on the road. Things get tougher though as they travel to New England and come home to face the Giants. You’ll want to roll with Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, and Jermichael Finley regardless of the match-up. You’ll have to make a decision on Ryan Grant and Donald Driver.
Five Star Fantasy Options
Aaron Rodgers – He’s my pick at the #1 2010 fantasy QB. He not only piles up passing numbers, but has rushing yards and TDs that put him over the top. He has so many weapons to choose from.
Four Star Fantasy Options
Ryan Grant – Somewhat quietly ran for 1253 yards and 11 TDs last year. He added 25 catches for 197 yards. Grant scored six TDs in the last four weeks.
Greg Jennings – TDs were down (4), but he managed to catch 68 passes for 1113 yards. Not a bad year, but I’m certain he can do much better.
Jermichael Finley – Very athletic TE that is a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. He’s big and physical, but has the speed and athleticism making him a tough cover for secondaries and LBs alike. Finley had 55 catches for 676 yards and 5 scores and really made noise down the stretch averaging 67.4 yards and 0.8 TDs in his last five games. He really stepped it up in the playoffs grabbing six passes for 159 yards.
Three Star Fantasy Options
Donald Driver – Despite finishing slow Driver had 70 catches for 1061 yards and 6 TDs last year. He’s 35 and had surgery on both knees. Time will tell if that will help or hinder is 2010 production. I’d take him as a WR3, but would prefer him as a WR4 at this point.
Packers Defense/Special Teams – They play the Lions and Bears twice, which could account for 10 INTs or more. They also play the Bills. Unfortunately they face Minnesota twice, the Eagles, the Jets, the Cowboys, the Falcons, the Patriots, and the Giants.
Two Star Fantasy Options
James Jones – He’ll need an injury to become a factor, as well as improved hands. He can be used as a spot starter in favorable match-ups. Last year against Detroit twice, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay he had 198 yards and 4 TDs. If Driver’s knee become an issue, his value will increase dramatically.
One Star Fantasy Options
Jordy Nelson – Nelson is even farther down the food chain, but does have good hands. If given the opportunity he can contribute. Until then, he should remain on the waivers.
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This week’s topic:
Jermichael Finley went bonkers late in the year. He notched 70+ yards in four of the last five and scored four of his five touchdowns over that span as well. Fact or fiction for 2010?
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Absolute fact. The only thing that will hold him back is injury. He’s a huge target (6’5″, 247) with great speed and athleticism. His body is very fluid as he’s able to make adjustments to the ball. He also possess soft hands.
He’ll be just 23 next year and he’s already formed a great rapport with Aaron Rodgers, who’s easily one of the top tier fantasy QBs. The ageless wonder Donald Driver has to slow down at some point, which should open up even more opportunities for Finley.
He was a beast down the stretch and Arizona could not check him in the playoff shootout. I currently have him as my 5th ranked fantasy TE, and I think he actually may move up the more I process his explosiveness.