It's the end of the season, and all of my fantasy teams are done, and they are all losers. It is a sad time.
There are some fantasy leagues that are still going, and some quotient of players who are still figgerin'. For them, The Ticker returns for Week 17, trekking through the waiver wire for some expanded thoughts on some of the options. This week, The Ticker is divided into four categories:
Stocks I'm buying - Lightly owned players (50 percent or fewer of Yahoo! leagues as of Monday evening) who I believe will be productive in Week 17
Stocks I'm not buying - Lightly owned players who some think will be productive, but I disagree
Stocks I'm selling - Widely owned players who I'm out on for the finals
Stocks I'm not selling - Widely owned players who might have struggled in Week 16, but who I think will be fine
Deep futures market - Just like my traditional Futures Market, but looking to 2014, these are lightly owned guys who might not have a lot of value now, but who could rise up the ranks down the road.
But maybe you're like me. Maybe you're eliminated, and reading "Hey, I think Tom Brady is good" doesn't really help you in anything. For you, dear friend, I have included bonus Easter Eggs this week! I have a few stories about some of these players, and I have included short grafs with those stories in their blurbs. The Ticker is informative and interesting!
Also, I'm definitely going to write about Kyle Orton. The question is just how long I can hold off.
Read on, be interested and informed:
Stocks I'm buying
Miller has had exactly one catch in each of his last three games, with only his touchdown on Sunday salvaging his value. Dude has 32 yards in three games. That's rough. But those three games were against the 49ers (great defense), the Giants (the team let off the gas super early), and the Cardinals (he got a touchdown, just like every tight end does against them). With Percy Harvin still off the field, and wide receivers Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, and Jermaine Kearse all being varying degrees of inconsistent (with Baldwin's zero-point showing Sunday breaking his hot streak), Miller is the most reliable pass-catcher Russell Wilson has. Against the Rams in Week 17, I think he ought to be decent.
I COULDN'T WAIT ANY LONGER IT'S KYLE ORTON HE'S GOING TO START A FOOTBALL GAME OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY I'M SO EXCITED. Sorry. Had to do it. Kyle's delightful. I don't even really know how I started liking Orton, but at this point I'm sure he's one of the most underrated quarterbacks ever. To this day, I have argued against the Orton-Cutler Bears-Broncos trade, even if my arguments are at least as emotional as they are rational. Yes, I'm wearing by Orton jersey as I write this.
Okay, real talk, he's perfectly suited to be an NFL backup, the kind of guy who, if the starter gets hurt, the team isn't devastated having to start him. With the team knowing that Orton is the choice all week - as opposed to Tony Romo being a late scratch - there's plenty of time to get him the practice reps, and against an Eagles defense that - Sunday's dominance aside - is pretty far from great, Orton could be a fine play. Basically, what I foresee is Orton playing just well enough Sunday to get a starting job in Cleveland or Oakland or Minnesota or something next season (yaaaayyyy), at which point he'll be exposed as still a great backup.
Domenik Hixon, WR, CAR (0 percent)
Hixon is the keystone for one of my favorite NFL what-ifs, and I never get to write about it, so I'm putting it here. Sorry for the tangent, but screw it, it's Week 17. At the start of the 2011 season, Hixon, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham were the Giants' three wide receivers. After the team lost in Week 1, Hixon made a spectacular diving catch in Week 2 - and came up with a torn ACL, ending his season. That meant the team went to ... Victor Cruz, who at the time had as his only claim to fame a huge preseason game a year earlier. A week later, in his first real game in the NFL, Cruz went for 110 yards and two touchdowns, en route to 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. The Giants used him as their top receiver all the way to a Super Bowl title. So what if Hixon doesn't get hurt? Sure, Cruz's talent shines through eventually, but the Giants barely made the playoffs that year; if Cruz doesn't have his 110-and-2 in Week 3, maybe they lose that game and don't even make the playoffs. Do the Patriots win the Super Bowl? How much more famous are Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? Is Tom Coughlin unemployed now? Is Eli Manning throwing the ball in Tampa Bay or Houston now? I mean, there's no way to know, but it's always amazed me how much could change if Hixon's ligament was just a little stronger.
Anyway, 2013. Football. Steve Smith hurt his PCL Sunday, meaning he's likely out for Sunday. Ted Ginn Jr. and Brandon LaFell have proven over and over that they aren't WR1-capable. Hixon caught the team's winning touchdown against the Saints Sunday, and it's easy to envision a scenario where he becomes the top target in Week 17. Maybe he carries the team to a Super Bowl title. Call it karma.
Jerrel Jernigan, WR, NYG (0 percent)
Oh! I didn't even plan this. But speaking of karma, with Cruz ailing the last couple weeks, Jernigan has led the Giants in yards both games, catching 13 balls for 147 yards and a touchdown in the time. There's so little to be happy about with this Giants team, that I think they'll keep throwing to Jernigan under the thinking that they can take away "Well, at least we got the kid going" as a bright spot from the season.
Stocks I'm not buying
Jermaine Gresham, TE, CIN (31 percent)
Another story here. My buddy Greg used to be the sports editor for a paper in south-central Oklahoma, and last year a kid from the town was in training camp with the Bengals. The paper couldn't really afford to send someone to camp to interview the kid, so I was hired as a stringer to check his progress out. The interview itself was fairly uneventful - nice kid - but the most memorable part was also-from-Oklahoma Gresham deciding to spend several minutes in the locker room while I waited for the kid messing with me, jokingly insisting I quote him saying dumb things about the kid's hometown, that sort of thing. All while he was exceedingly naked, and the only naked guy in the room at the time. I'm sure this is very run-of-the-mill for regular locker-room goers, but that was my first (and so far last) time in a pro locker room, and for the enormous naked guy to single me out and mess with me was ... let's say memorable.
Anyway, Gresham's a nice guy, and he's scored two touchdowns in three games and three in five. But he hasn't topped 50 yards since Week 7, and he hasn't topped 70 all year. He only has one double-digit fantasy game. Don't let the recent scores mess with you.
Bryce Brown, RB, PHI (14 percent)
Handcuff time has passed, obviously; there's no tomorrow after Week 17, so unless you're using a guy in the finals, who cares if he's a good backup? But I'm sure there will be some who saw Brown's huge game Sunday - 115 yards and a score - and think maybe the Eagles' offense will support two running backs again in Sunday night's game against a bad Cowboys' D. But hold off on that, I beg of you. Brown's score came on a 65-yard run when the game was super-duper over already; it was the final points of a 54-11 game. He gained 99 of his 115 yards with the Eagles up by 20 or more points. I still think, if McCoy gets hurt, Brown will be a fine option, even next year, but for now he's not fantasy-relevant.
Jarius Wright, WR, MIN (1 percent)
Wright has had nine fantasy points in two straight, and had a two-score, 18-fantasy-point game in Week 11. But he also has two games - games in which he was active and played - in his last five and didn't receive so much as a single target. He's had his moments, but if you're ranking Vikings' wide receivers, he's behind at least Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings, and probably Jerome Simpson as well. Lord help you if you're relying on Matt Cassel's fourth option for something.
Stocks I'm selling
Giovani Bernard, RB, CIN (94 percent)
If you're using Bernard as a "hope he gets going" flex, carry on, nothing to see here. But if you've been running him out there as your RB2 (or even RB1, though that seems unlikely) with expectations of big, reliable week-to-week production, you want to rethink things. Bernard has been wildly inconsistent, gaining 27 yards one week and 104 the next, or going from 148 to 46. Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis fight each other for touches, and it's working for the Bengals, but it means neither guy has as much individual fantasy value as either would separately.
Philip Rivers, QB, SD (92 percent)
Rivers came into Sunday as fantasy's No. 5 quarterback on the season, averaging 17.8 points per game. But since Week 4, his average is 15.4, right there with Ryan Tannehill. He bottomed out Sunday with only eight fantasy points, but he's really been mediocre-to-worse for a long time now, save for his inexplicable 27-fantasy-point performance in Week 12 at the Chiefs. Rivers and the Chargers get a Chiefs rematch in Week 17, and they need a win while the Chiefs have nothing to play for, so maybe that is a reason to use Rivers. But using him because "No. 5 quarterback! 17.8 points a game!" is poor reasoning.
Rashad Jennings, RB, OAK (76 percent)
Story time again! Last season, I played in four fantasy leagues. I, like many of us, tend to identify players I like and end up with them on several rosters. Well, two players made it on to all of my rosters after the draft last year: Brandon Pettigrew and Jennings. Pettigrew I picked up because I figured tight end was so deep that I could wait on one, and I picked Pettigrew as the best sleeper. That was not good picking. And Jennings, I thought Maurice Jones-Drew's contract holdout could (not would, I wasn't relying on him or anything; could) leave Jennings as a valuable player. I turned down a couple trade offers for him just after the draft, including - and I remember this annoyingly clearly - Alfred Morris. "I don't want any part of the Washington rushing game," I thought, "I'd rather have the handcuff in Jennings." Morris had 1,613 rushing yards that season. Jennings had 283. I mean, I had a good season by and large last year, but still. Damn.
Okay, so right now, I think Jennings has been really good for the Raiders, with nine or more fantasy points in six straight games he was active for entering Sunday. I think he's done enough to be more trustworthy at the position than Darren McFadden. But that doesn't mean McFadden doesn't matter at all; he will (and did) cut into Jennings' overall potential. I think Jennings deserves to be someone's No. 1 starter in 2014, but I worry that he and McFadden will cancel each other out in Week 17 of 2013.
Heath Miller, TE, PIT (51 percent)
I worked our War Room chat twice last week, and in both I got a lot of tight end questions, with owners of Jordan Cameron and the like desperate for a viable fill-in. Heath Miller was a popular idea as a replacement, and lord help me, I can't figure out why. Dude has only one touchdown on the season. He hasn't topped 86 yards or eight fantasy points in a game. He's averaged 4.2 fantasy points per game played. He's a famous-ish name, but why the heck else would you consider using Miller? Find someone else. Find anyone else.
Stocks I'm not selling
Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC (90 percent)
This is more of a future pick than a 2013 one; with the Chiefs having nothing to play for Sunday, I doubt we see a lot of Bowe Sunday. But, assuming he plays Sunday and doesn't go for 327 yards (out on a limb there), this will be Bowe's first season since his rookie year in which he's played 16 games and not gone for a thousand yards. His 11.8 yards-per-catch average is the worst of his career, and his only year with fewer than the 57 receptions or 105 targets he's had this year was 2009, when he was limited to 11 games. A lot of that (particularly the YPC average) can be blamed on short-thrower Alex Smith, but otherwise, why the heck would a receiver like Bowe just lose those skills? He'll be a fine fantasy guy next season.
Charles Clay, TE, MIA (78 percent)
Early in the season, Clay was an impressively productive tight end. He averaged 9.2 fantasy points per game in Weeks 1-5. Since then, that number has been 6.3, and he has only five catches, 38 yards, and three fantasy points in the last two weeks. On the other hand, those numbers come on the heels of back-to-back seven-catch, 10-target games. And check out Clay's opponents in his bad games. In his first, it was against a Patriots' defense that has been able to shut down tight ends when it sets out to - New England shut out Jimmy Graham in Week 6, and has limited several other tight ends. While their tight-end numbers aren't great overall, they do seem to be able to turn it on when that is their focus. And then Sunday, Clay's bad game came against a good Buffalo defense that just rolled Miami's offensive line; no one on Miami did anything, really. Week 17's opponent, the Jets, isn't the defense Buffalo is, and they struggle against tight ends. Clay's numbers should rebound.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, ARI (60 percent)
Sometimes, I just decide I don't like a player, and that sticks. Usually it has to do with the player being overrated, which is what happened with Mendenhall - he was looked at as some super-stud in Pittsburgh, when to me it looked more like production borne more of quantity than quality. That continued early this season, when he wasn't accumulating much. But Mendenhall has now scored seven or more fantasy points in six straight games, with five scores in that time. Now, his yardage is still nothing special; he hasn't topped 76 on the ground all season, and hasn't topped 94 yards from scrimmage since Week 2. But he's become the team's scorer, sitting now at eight touchdowns on the season. Give him a large handful of touches and a couple goal-line carries, and Mendenhall keeps finding his way into production. I don't have to like him, but it's true.
Deep futures market
Geno Smith, QB, NYJ (9 percent)
Story time! I didn't really know what I was doing when I started The Ticker. I liked the stock tie-in, but that was about as far as I'd thought the whole thing through. Literally, the stock-symbol graphic was something I tossed onto the page of the first Ticker about 20 minutes before it went up, figuring the page needed a graphic element to break it up. My rule on the symbols all season has been that two of the three letters are the player's first and last initials, while the third letter is whatever I deem to be the next-most-dominant letter in the guy's name. And I have refused to repeat any symbols all season; every player who has appeared in The Ticker had his own unique symbol, which has worked out fine except when I wanted to label C.J. Spiller "CJS," only for Chris Johnson already to have had it, which is why Spiller was CSP in his appearance. Anyway, the only player to not follow these rules is Smith, who appeared in the very first Ticker, before I had all my rules figured out, and was, as you see above, "GNO." I still like that as his symbol, and there's no greater meaning to this story, but I find it interesting.
As for football, this is pretty silly, right? Smith has scored 20-plus fantasy points five times; he's scored four or fewer six. It's a wildly unpredictable, wildly unusable fantasy stretch - the possibility of 20-something points is nice, but not when it carries a virtually equal chance of 0. But going forward, Smith has shown enough rushing ability that, if the Jets can get him a couple offensive weapons of any kind of quality for 2014, he could be a fine fantasy quarterback.
Christine Michael, RB, SEA (3 percent)
This is super-deep territory at this point, advice for those who are in deep dynasty leagues and want to think about someone to snag for next year. The Seahawks have Marshawn Lynch, of course, but his contract will only grow more prohibitive as the young Seahawks get older and more expensive. There is a chance - not a great chance, but a chance - that they move on from Lynch in the offseason and give Michael and Robert Turbin the running-back job, especially with Lynch coming off of two seasons of 300-plus carries (assuming he gets 22 more in Week 17 plus the playoffs). Michael, the consensus says, is the better fantasy value of the two, and is worth keeping an eye on.
Cory Harkey, TE, STL (0 percent)
Jared Cook had 24 fantasy points in Week 1 and 14 in Week 12. Otherwise, he's averaging barely three fantasy points a game. He's a boom-or-bust tight end who is far more bust than boom. And it seems the Rams have grown tired of the bust, as the team has started looking to Harkey more in the last couple weeks. The second-year tight end hadn't had more than two catches or 17 yards in a game all season before Week 14, but has had three catches in each of the last two, with a modest 25.5 yards per game. It's still modest, but with Cook growing ever more frustrating, Harkey might be a positive Rams alternative next season.