Postseason Extra: We Pitta the fools
Our Jamey Eisenberg looks at five players who improved their Fantasy value for 2013 and five who have declined following the Championship Round of the playoffs.
Be prepared. We're about to get an overload of Harbaugh for the next two weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLVII.
Jim Harbaugh's 49ers won the NFC Championship Game against the Falcons and John Harbaugh's Ravens pulled off the upset in the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. A Baltimore-San Francisco Super Bowl wasn't what many people expected before the year, but this will be the final matchup of the season with the two brothers facing off.
We learned a lot about many players during the postseason, which could help some guys heading into 2013 when it comes to their Fantasy value. And that's what we're here to address in this Playoff Stockwatch.
You can see what we said about 10 players from the Wild Card Round and 10 players from the Divisional Round, but here are five guys who have improved their draft value for next year and five who might see their value decline.
Five on the rise
Anquan Boldin , WR, Ravens: There's a chance the Ravens could release Boldin this offseason to save money since he's owed $6 million next year. He's making a strong case to stay in Baltimore or find a new job with an amazing postseason run. Through three games, Boldin has 16 catches for 276 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts, Broncos and Patriots. He's 32, but he's been a tremendous weapon for Joe Flacco from December on. In three of his final four regular-season games, Boldin had at least nine Fantasy points with three touchdowns over that span, which coincides with the Ravens opening up the passing game. If Boldin returns to the Ravens in 2013 he could be a tremendous value pick with a late-round selection.
Frank Gore , RB, 49ers: Maybe 2013 will be the year Gore gets replaced as the workhorse for the 49ers. We keep expecting him to lose a step and San Francisco continues to bring in other options (Glen Coffee, Anthony Dixon , Kendall Hunter , Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James were all added in recent years). Yet all Gore does is produce, and he now has 44 carries for 209 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs. That gives him 13 games with double digits in Fantasy points for the season and he should enter 2013 as a No. 2 Fantasy option. Hunter will return from his Achilles injury and James will have a bigger role. But Gore is still the main man for the 49ers and is a big reason for their Super Bowl run.
Julio Jones , WR, Falcons: We recently shared an early look at our Top 30 ranked receivers for 2013, and Jones was a top six consensus for me, Dave Richard and Nathan Zegura. Our top six were all the same with Calvin Johnson at No. 1 followed by, in a different order for each of us, A.J. Green , Demaryius Thomas , Brandon Marshall , Dez Bryant and Jones. You can argue that Jones should easily be No. 2. He just had a dominant performance against the 49ers with 11 catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns. And he had a great season with 10 games with double digits in Fantasy points, and whether he's the No. 2 or 6 receiver drafted, he will be a Fantasy stud in his third year.
Dennis Pitta , TE, Ravens: Pitta has emerged as a legitimate No. 1 Fantasy tight end heading into 2013 and he's having a great playoff run. Through three games he has 10 catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including his best game against the Patriots with five catches for 55 yards and a score. He now has eight games with at least eight Fantasy points on the season and he's going to be a tremendous value pick with a late-round selection. Tight end is thin on talent next year, especially if Tony Gonzalez retires as expected, and Pitta has the chance to be a Top 10 player at his position.
Matt Ryan , QB, Falcons: Ryan suffered a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder against the 49ers, but he should be fine for the start of next season. He has established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and a standout Fantasy option. He had a great playoff run with 646 passing yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions against Seattle and San Francisco and finished with 12 games with at least 21 Fantasy points this year. Next season, Ryan will be tremendous value on Draft Day because he will be selected in Round 3 or later and should once again be around a top five quarterback by the end of the year.
Five on the decline
Tony Gonzalez , TE, Falcons: Putting Gonzalez in this section is by no means an indictment of his play. It's a plea for him to keep playing. We'd love for Gonzalez to put off retirement for another season and return to the Falcons because he had an awesome year in 2012. In two playoff games he had 14 catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns, and he finished the season with double digits in Fantasy points in nine games. He would be considered a top five Fantasy tight end if he returned in 2013, but if not then start the clock because he's definitely headed for the Hall of Fame.
Brandon Lloyd , WR, Patriots: Lloyd actually played well against the Ravens with seven catches for 70 yards, but he was a disappointment in his first season with the Patriots. He only had five games with double digits in Fantasy points and this was his worst season since his breakout campaign in 2010 despite playing with Tom Brady . We hope Lloyd can turn things around in 2013, but he has a lot to prove to Fantasy owners. We would only draft him as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver at best and you can see by our Top 30 receiver list for 2013 that none of us like him in that group. It's amazing that playing with a quarterback like Brady can actually lower your production.
Stevan Ridley , RB, Patriots: I consider Ridley a Top 12 Fantasy running back heading into 2013, and he's a potential first-round pick in standard formats. But a lot of Fantasy owners will be hesitant to draft Ridley that early. The concern with Ridley is he plays for Bill Belichick and he's not much of a receiver. The latter is a problem since he caught just seven passes during the season. But otherwise Ridley was a star. He dominated the carries for New England with 290 for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season. Compare that to Danny Woodhead (76 carries) and Shane Vereen (62) and you'll see how much Belichick relied on Ridley. I can understand drafting DeMarco Murray , Chris Johnson , Matt Forte or a healthy Maurice Jones-Drew ahead of Ridley, but it's difficult to argue with his production in his breakout season in 2012. That should continue in 2013.
Michael Turner , RB, Falcons: Turner wasn't a complete bust for Fantasy owners in 2012. He actually finished as a Top 20 running back in standard leagues thanks to 11 total touchdowns. But he had more than 100 rushing yards just twice and he's a candidate to be released this offseason since he'll be due $5.5 million at 31 years old. The Falcons might not turn to Jacquizz Rodgers as a replacement option, but Atlanta needs to upgrade over Turner. Wherever he plays in 2013 he can still be used as a goal-line back -- he has 60 rushing touchdowns since 2008 -- but his burst as a rusher is gone. Not many teams want a plodder at his age and Turner's Fantasy value is clearly on the decline.
Wes Welker , WR, Patriots: Welker didn't have a great game against the Ravens. Despite eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown he had some key drops. And that might have been his last game for the Patriots. Welker is a free agent this offseason and New England might allow him to walk. Welker said he wasn't sure what the Patriots will do, and even though Tom Brady called Welker "the heart and soul" of the team, he might be too expensive for a 31-year-old slot receiver. Keep in mind Welker just had a team-high 118 catches, but if he leaves the Patriots and Brady his Fantasy value will decline.
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