Week 17: five things to know
1. Jordan Shipley is Seeing a Lot of Targets
Those in Week 17 leagues who could use a boost at receiver should think long and hard about plugging Jordan Shipley into their lineups, especially in PPR formats. The former third-round pick has landed a prominent role in Jacksonville with both Cecil Shorts and Laurent Robinson on IR due to concussion issues, and a matchup against Tennessee in the season finale is favorable to Shipley's chances of finishing strong.
Justin Blackmon is the top receiver for Jacksonville, but after him and Shipley there's no one who can really compete for targets consistently. Outside of those two, the Jaguars have only the likes of Kevin Elliott, Toney Clemons and Quan Cosby at receiver, and that trio has a combined 17 career catches.
Even with Shorts playing in Weeks 13, 15 and 16, Shipley still accumulated 29 the last four weeks. Drops have been a bit of an issue for Shipley in Jacksonville, but he seems locked into a prominent role due to the team's talent deficiency at receiver, and after seeing 10 targets last week against New England, he's a good bet to do the same against Tennessee this week.
Shipley caught five of his 10 targets last week, going for 82 yards in the process. A similar workload against the Titans this week should yield WR3 or flex utility in many leagues because the Tennessee defense is quite friendly to opposing passing games. The 7.5 yards the Titans allow per pass is tied for the seventh-most allowed in the league, and the 29 passing touchdowns they've surrendered is the second-highest total in the NFL.
2. Sell Mark Ingram in Multi-Year Formats
Mark Ingram's owners likely are hopeful after he piled up 211 yards (4.4 YPC) and two touchdowns the last three weeks, but there still isn't a whole lot to be excited about with Ingram, and any RB3/flex value he provides will be unpredictable. Despite his on-paper talent and playing in a high-scoring offense, it will remain very difficult to make practical use of him outside of deep leagues as long as Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas are around.
Sproles is arguably the most important skill-position player the Saints have, so he won't be going anywhere anytime soon. Thomas is more expendable, but he's still under contract through 2014, and not at a particularly expensive price. Also, Ingram can't provide Thomas' plus receiving skills, making Thomas more difficult to replace than it might seem at first glance because he's New Orleans' only non-hybrid running back who can stand out as a receiver.
Ingram's lack of upside as a receiver lets Thomas get his foot in the door, and cripples Ingram's fantasy value. Even over these relatively productive last three games, Ingram has played just 73 of New Orleans' 237 snaps on offense. That means that expectations are so low for Ingram that we're getting excited over the fact that he's playing 30.8 percent of his team's snaps. Ingram has between-the-tackles skills to one day project as a potential starter for some team, but it's difficult to see it happening in New Orleans' non-traditional offense. He's an I-formation runner for a team that has no need for it. If you can swing Ingram for a player with anything resembling flex potential, it's a move that should be made.
3. No Need to Add Lance Kendricks
St. Louis tight end Lance Kendricks probably turned a lot of heads Sunday with his four catches for 119 yards and a touchdown against the Buccaneers, but this is not a player anyone outside of very deep leagues (think at least 14 teams) needs to bother with.
Good as they look at a glance, Kendricks' numbers against the Buccaneers were fluky for the most part. He had an 80-yard touchdown that was the result of broken coverage when Tampa Bay bit too hard on play-action, and even after that the Buccaneers could have caught Kendricks if it hadn't been for sloppy pursuit and tackling. Without that play, Kendricks' average yardage per target on the year drops from 8.1 to 6.9, and when you have just four targets per game, that's a big problem.
The Rams use Kendricks as a blocker to make up for the lack of talent on the offensive line, and even when he is running routes, Kendricks just doesn't have the explosiveness to catch quarterback Sam Bradford's eye over the likes of Danny Amendola, Chris Givens or Brandon Gibson. If you're looking for a bargain tight end in a deeper format, you would be better off gambling on Ben Watson or Dallas Clark. Watson only caught three passes for 47 yards against Denver on Sunday, but he had 10 targets, giving him 28 targets in his last four games. Clark is probably the best bet of the three, though, because Tampa Bay figures to play catch-up against Atlanta this week, and he has 29 targets the last four weeks. He caught four passes for 65 yards the last time he played the Falcons.
4. Colin Kaepernick is a Strong Dynasty Investment
Although it might be easy to look at San Francisco's run-to-pass ratio and conclude there isn't much fantasy upside at quarterback due to the run-heavy playcalling, the team's lack of quarterback talent in recent years played a significant role in the decision to keep the ball on the ground. If a legitimately good passer comes along, coach Jim Harbaugh is likely to put more of a burden on the quarterback.
Colin Kaepernick came along, and he looks like what Harbaugh was waiting for. He's too inexperienced to have the insight and sharpened instincts that incumbent starter Alex Smith might offer, but Kaepernick has a much stronger arm and can make throws downfield and through tight windows that Smith can't. And it's not as if Kaepernick's explosiveness comes at the expense of responsibility. He's been far from a reckless gunslinger, throwing just three interceptions compared to eight touchdowns on 190 passes. Needless to say, Kaepernick presents a huge upgrade as a runner over Smith, and Kaepernick is up to 410 yards (6.8 YPC) and five touchdowns in 12 games after Smith ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns last year.
There's no doubt, though, the 49ers offense would limit Kaepernick's upside as a passer if it doesn't start to call more pass plays. Smith averaged just 27.8 passes per game in 2011, and in his six starts this year Kaepernick is averaging only 27.3 passes per game. But Harbaugh showed a willingness to expand his passing game once he saw sufficiently strong play for his quarterback, and the same should happen with Kaepernick if he keeps up his impressive efficiency as a passer. Stanford called just 24 passes per game for Andrew Luck back in 2009, but Luck's 13-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio earned him a raise up to 28.6 passes per game in 2010. If Kaepernick can earn just 29 passes per game in 2013, he should make a push for 3,700 yards, which would make him a good bet to push for top-10 status among fantasy quarterbacks.
5. Sell James Jones in Dynasty Leagues
Few players are poised to see their fantasy value decrease from 2012 to 2013 as much as Green Bay receiver James Jones. His 13 receiving touchdowns lead the league heading into Week 17, but he doesn't make enough catches for enough yardage to sustain the fantasy production he has provided throughout this year.
Even if Greg Jennings leaves in free agency, as expected, it won't change Jones' status in the Green Bay offense all that much. Jennings missed most of this year due to injury, anyway, so his departure would keep things the same rather than present new value for Jones. Indeed, Jones almost certainly couldn't have had this breakout season if Jennings hadn't gotten hurt and missed more than eight games. Jones' breakout season also wouldn't have occurred if Jordy Nelson hadn't missed four games.
Still, even with Jennings out of the lineup for so much of the year, Jones generally appears to be behind Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Jones' 58 catches in 15 games equate to 3.9 catches per contest, whereas Nelson's 46 in 11 games come out to 4.2 catches per game. Cobb easily paces the group with 80 catches in 15 games.
Jones' 58 receptions easily beat his previous career high of 50, and he still has another game to go. Given that Nelson had 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns a year ago, it's safe to assume that a healthy season from Nelson will lock Jones back into the third-receiver role in 2013, with a drop back to the 45-catch range the likely result. This decrease would likely be compounded by a decrease in touchdown efficiency. So far this year 22.4 percent of Jones' catches went for touchdowns, a significant increase over the 10.7 percent figure he showed in the previous five y years. Jones has been a hit-or-miss WR2 in many format this year, but he'll likely struggle to be more than a WR4 in 2013.
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