The spotlight today will be on three receivers. Two are teammates and one is a potential NFL trade target. All three are among the most physically gifted wide receivers in the league.
Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle both weigh in at 208 pounds, with Nicks at 6-foot-1 and Randle at 6-foot-2. Randle is only beginning his second season, while Nicks is in his fifth. But for keeper fantasy purposes, the two face exciting upside possibilities in 2014.
Nicks is in the final season of his five-year $12.5 million rookie contract. Nicks has flashed great athletic ability during his time with the Giants, but has never produced very impressive numbers. He set two career highs in his second season, catching 79 passes for 11 touchdowns. The North Carolina flanker earned 1,192 yards as a personal best in 2011. His numbers have steadily declined, and only once has he started as many as 15 games.
Nicks bears much respect and value within circles of fantasy and real football fans alike. Perhaps this value is somewhat overstated. After four seasons, he has averaged 11 starts for 64 catches, 932 yards and 6.8 scores. For an NFL offense’s top target, these are pedestrian numbers more befitting of a team’s second or third wideout. In addition, maybe the most underrated stat in sports is durability. It’s why Emmitt Smith is disrespected in barroom debates, and how C.J. Spiller and Darren McFadden have retained high fantasy value in 2013.
But Nicks has all the motivation in the world to perform this year. If he can show great numbers by season’s end, he may demand a respectable contract in 2014 free agency. Plenty of teams are lacking at wide receiver talent this year. Maybe some team would even be forward-thinking enough to make a move for him before the October 29 trade deadline. Either way, Nicks’ 2014 landing spot has the potential to improve his fantasy value drastically.
Eli Manning doesn’t create the kind of aerial attack that yields fantasy studs at the receiver position; he’s only averaged 3,503 yards per season. Nicks could become a WR1 in 2014 if he can suit up for a more productive passing team, like Detroit, New England, Philadelphia, Carolina, San Diego, Houston, or Cincinnati. Having just been shut out without a single target against the Panthers in week three, Nicks’ season total comes in at only nine catches for 197 yards. This is an ideal buy-low situation for a keeper owner fixed on the player’s 2014 upside.
The key focal point with Rueben Randle is the general rule that NFL receivers usually do not break out with great results until their third season. 2014 will be Randle’s third, and an important year to consider for his value moving forward. Randle has the size and ability to be a more impactful player in this league. Through three games he already has ten catches for 155 yards while coming off the bench as the third wide receiver.
Strong and successful fantasy owners are aggressive fantasy owners. Seeing value early is an important skill, but taking advantage of those beliefs is even more crucial. With Nicks potentially on the move, and with a benchmark third season ahead for Randle, the stars are aligning for a great 2014 season. Buy Randle now for next-to-nothing. His owner should have no expectations for much 2013 value. Adding Randle would solely be an investment in the years to come.
Josh Gordon (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) just put up excellent numbers for his season debut in week three. After serving a two-game suspension for substance abuse, he suited up this week to catch 10 balls for 146 yards and a touchdown. This was on the same Cleveland Browns team that just traded Trent Richardson to the Colts, and was pronounced dead on arrival Sunday. Tell that to Minnesota, who lost 31-27.
It was said by many, and assumed by more, that GM Mike Lombardi and the Browns were tanking their 2013 season for a good shot at the number one overall pick in the upcoming draft. This week, coach Rob Chudzinski said the team was “going to leave all the options open” at the quarterback position. Cleveland sold their best player for a draft pick, and then chose to announce an extended trial period for untested backup quarterback, Brian Hoyer. It would be more than reasonable to assume the team is creatively attempting to lose games while learning what they have at each position.
In the reporting flurry that followed the Richardson deal, teams have begun inquiring about the cost of several different Browns players. Cleveland, caught giving the unfortunate impression they are having a fire sale, began denying the availability of specific Browns players. The good news is, Gordon and fellow receiver Greg Little are two of the players Cleveland is offering on the trading block.
Some consider Gordon one of the more talented receivers in the NFL. Like Randle, Gordon will also be heading into his third season next year. Though Randle may be promoted to a starter by staying put, Gordon is already a starter who could be dealt to a new city before the 2014 draft. In typical sell-high fashion, the Browns would be well-served to move Gordon now, following a big performance. Moreover, there are a number of teams in dire need of receiver help, including some serious playoff contenders. Gordon’s fantasy value in Cleveland is probably already at its ceiling. With new surroundings, though, the possibilities are great. A bold, risk-taking keeper owner would aim for Gordon now, before he switches uniforms.
Stats, information, and contract data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, and spotrac.com.