Another interesting week is in the books. Some stars have fallen to earth, and some are continuing to shine. The Chip-Tempo Offense showed disdain for the tried-and-true statistic, time of possession—and history paid them back on Sunday. Though the Eagles put up 511 yards of offense, while passing for 428, they held the ball for a measly 19 minutes and 43 seconds. While holding the ball more than twice as long as Philadelphia, the Chargers had enough time to outscore Philadelphia 33-30.
Anquan Boldin returned to reality, catching only one pass on four targets. Eddie Royal hasn’t matched his five scores in a season since his rookie year of 2008. He already has five touchdowns in 2013. Six quarterbacks have already logged a 400-yard performance in this young season, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Colin Kaepernick, Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick, and Philip Rivers. Only eight running backs have earned 100-yard games to date.
More surprises are certainly in store over the next 15 weeks. But let’s stay focused on where to head for week three of your keeper league.
Buy Ben Tate
This is Ben Tate’s contract year. Surely, Tate will be expecting a Michael Turner type of contract offer in the 2014 offseason. Turner, previously trapped in San Diego behind perennial league-leading rusher LaDainian Tomlinson, left for Atlanta’s offer of six years and $34.5 million.
Of course, possibilities always remain for a general manager, like former Panthers’ GM Marty Hurney, to go off-script and invest over $80 million in his backfield. Few expected DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to remain teammates after their contracts expired in 2011 and 2012, respectively. With two big, new contracts, the Panthers have suffered, and Hurney is without a job today.
The Texans’ GM, Rick Smith, may be somewhat more cautious in his movements. He succeeded Charley Casserly at the position, a man famously criticized during his time with the job. Many believed Houston should have drafted Vince Young or Reggie Bush with the first overall pick in 2006. Casserly was emphatic in his selection of Mario Williams, and may have been vindicated by the results since his departure. Though none of the players remain on his original team, the Young and Bush supporters were clearly incorrect in chastising Casserly.
It would seem reasonable to expect Smith to tread more gingerly in his steps moving forward. The team has been reliant on the run (no pun intended), with great need for help in the passing game. Though Foster’s YPC has steadily declined since his breakout year of 2010 (from 4.9 to 3.7), it would seem unconventional to offer a large contract to the backup, Tate (career 5.3 YPC), who has not a 1,000 yard season to his resume. Tate is likely to be offered big money to go somewhere else, sending his keeper value through the roof. Gary Kubiak has also continued to mention the need to provide Tate a larger role in the offense through 2013, meaning he could retain solid flex value through the remainder of the season. Snag him now at flex value before news spreads of his future RB1 value.
Sell James Jones
After being held to zero catches on two targets in week one, James Jones was found early and often on Sunday’s game against Washington. Aaron Rodgers threw to Jones 12 times for 11 catches and 178 yards. For a receiver in his seventh year, and sixth with this starting quarterback, how reasonable is it to expect a sudden breakout season? Rodgers has plenty of weapons.
Look at the 2012 results, when former lead receiver Greg Jennings was limited to just five starts. Jones was able to register his best season to date, amassing 64 catches for 784 yards and 14 touchdowns during his 15 starts. Granted, those 14 scores were impressive, leading all receivers in the NFL. But Jordy Nelson wrangled 15 touchdowns in 2011, to be followed by only seven in 2012. Add in the competition from third-year wideout Randall Cobb, who caught eight scores last year on 80 catches for 954 yards. Like many elite passers, Rodgers has demonstrated a willingness, or even proclivity, towards spreading the ball around the field. There may be as much reason to expect Jones to lead the Packers in touchdowns as Cobb or Nelson. Jones just completed the monster week two performance. Sell high.
Hold Steven Jackson
In March, Atlanta invested $12 million on a three-year contract with free agent Steven Jackson. The former Ram was expected to bring fresher legs than his predecessor, Turner. Though Turner had averaged a career low of 3.6 YPC last season, he hadn’t missed a game since 2009. Jackson is already ruled out for this Sunday, and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks from a thigh injury.
In a keeper league, Jackson is going to hold great late-season value as a 2013 rental starter. Teams pushing for the playoffs who are in a position to buy will be eager for a player of Jackson’s RB1 value, if available on the trade market. Wait for Jackson to return and begin producing good numbers again. At that point, or closer to the trade deadline, he should easily be able to fetch top dollar in future assets for your team. Steady as she goes.
Stats and contract data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and spotrac.com.