Now that the 2013 fantasy season has ended (unless you have chosen to construct teams in postseason leagues) you’ve had a very brief period to recharge. However, many of you are motivated toward planning your 2014 drafts. This column will be one of many here at Fantasy Knuckleheads that will assist you in that process. We will examine WRs with value that is currently on the rise, as you begin these very early preparations for your 2014 drafts. For the purposes of this piece, the phrase "on the rise" will be employed as a comparison of QBs' collective value heading into the 2014 draft process in contrast to where they were at the onset of 2013 late summer drafts. This will be determined through a combination of their average draft position heading into the 2013 regular season with statistical output during the year.
Gordon was the 35th WR selected during the 2013 draft process, with an ADP of 92. That placed him below fellow wideouts Miles Austin, Tavon Austin, and Greg Jennings, and just above Kenny Britt. But he should be the second WR selected this summer, in the aftermath of an exceptional performance that escorted many owners through their fantasy playoffs. He exploded for an NFL best 1,646 yards, which easily broke Cleveland’s previous franchise record in that category. Plus, he managed to do so despite missing the Browns’ initial two contests due to suspension. His 117.6 YPG average also paced all WRs, and he easily led the league with 30 receptions of 20+ yards. Gordon generated 125 yards in seven different games, averaged 149 YPG during his last six contests, and produced the first back-to-back 200-yard games in NFL history. He managed to achieve these dazzling results despite having Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell as his QBs in 11 of the 14 contests that he performed in. Neither his extraordinary talent nor his outstanding production can be questioned. The only cause for concern when selecting Gordon, would be his potential banishment for at least one year, should he violate the NFL’s substance abuse policy again. But owners should not let that deter them from making him a top 15 pick in their drafts. As his ability to dominate opponents and amass a significant amount of fantasy points far outweighs any potential risk.
22 WRs were drafted before Brown last summer, as he prepared for his first season as Pittsburgh’s primary receiving option. The uncertainty regarding how effective he would be in the role that had been vacated by Mike Wallace placed a constraint on his ADP (61), and resulted in Brown being selected behind Danny Amendola, Hakeem Nicks, and Torrey Smith among others. However, he will be departing drafts much earlier than Round 6 this summer, after becoming the first NFL player to record at least five receptions and 50 yards in every regular season contest. Brown was targeted 165 times by Ben Roethlisberger in 2013, and the fourth-year wideout responded by producing new career highs in every major receiving category, while establishing himself as a legitimate WR1 for fantasy owners. He accumulated the NFL’s second highest yardage total (1,499), which also set a new franchise record. That output also improved his previous season best by nearly 400 yards. The 110 receptions that he collected also represented the league’s second highest total, and surpassed his previous high by 41. 23 of those catches generated at least 20 yards, which was the NFL’s third highest output, and five more than he had managed in any previous season. Plus, his eight TDs exceeded the amount of scoring plays that he had manufactured in his first three seasons combined (seven). Brown was named the Steelers’ MVP for 2013 as result of his achievements, and owners should be extremely confident when drafting him within the top 30 of their 2014 drafts.
During his 2012 rookie season, he caught just 24 passes for 367 yards and three TDs, while failing to register any games of at least 100 yards. As a result, owners managed to secure 50 other WRs before drafting Jeffery in 2013, including such regrettable selections as Britt, Chris Givens, Vincent Brown and Sidney Rice. But Jeffery overcame a sluggish start to provide massive dividends for those who invested a draft pick in the second-year wideout. And the statistical jump between that initial season and the excellent output that he delivered in 2013 was enormous in every major receiving category. After manufacturing less than 35 YPG in Chicago's initial three contests, Jeffery generated at least 105 in four of the next six, including 218 against New Orleans in Week 5. He ultimately averaged 89 YPG during the season, while accumulating the NFL's sixth highest yardage total (1,421). He also discovered the end zone seven times, which established another career best. Jay Cutler’s propensity to locate Brandon Marshall during their collective careers has been well-chronicled. However, it should not dissuade owners from selecting Jeffery. His season high 18 targets occurred in Week 10 with Cutler under center. And even though Cutler has repeatedly demonstrated an immense comfort level with his targeting of Marshall, he will not ignore the 6'3" 220 pound Jeffery, who will create matchup nightmares for opponents in a weekly basis. Jeffery's significant increase in production between his first two seasons supplies a strong indication that his numbers will continue ascending in 2014. Making him worthy of selection before the conclusion of Round 3.
Philip Rivers only targeted Allen four times during San Diego’s initial three games, and the rookie only garnered three catches in his first two. But the duo eventually connected on 71 passes, as Allen ultimately assembled a tremendous rookie campaign. His reception total led the Chargers, as did his 1,046 yards. He generated 100+ yards in five contests, and produced at least 80 seven times. He also manufactured eight TDs, while becoming San Diego’s most consistent receiving option. He appears destined to be the NFL's offensive rookie of the year, and his numbers should be even better during his second season. He should experience a full year as Rivers’ primary target, and he will continue creating issues for opposing defenders. His size, and his proficiency as a route runner help him gain separation, and will compel Rivers to locate him repeatedly throughout the season. While the Chargers will have other receiving weapons, they will not amass numbers at the same pace as Allen. Antonio Gates failed to surpass 50 receiving yards in nine contests during 2013, and generated the fewest numbers of TDs (four) since his rookie year (2003). He will be 34 when the 2014 regular season commences, and owners should not expect him to produce the stellar results that he produced throughout most of his career. Vincent Brown has been a mammoth disappointment, Malcom Floyd will be returning after missing nearly a full year with a neck injury, and Eddie Royal is simply not a reliable weekly option. Allen is primed to supply outstanding numbers in 2014. Which makes him a top 50 option, who can be secured in Round 4 of your drafts.
While there were several other candidates for the fifth slot within this list, Patterson produced the most significant rise in value among the collection of options. His late season surge in production is noteworthy, but hardly a mystery regarding how he it was attained. He was horrifically underutilized throughout much of the season, making it exceedingly difficult for him to deliver acceptable production as a WR until that situation improved. He lined up for less than 17% of the offensive during September, wasn’t even on the field for 50% of the snaps until Week 11, and only exceeded 65% once all year. Even with the increased opportunities, OC Bill Musgrave only employed Patterson on 42% of Minnesota’s offensive snaps in 2013, which is unfathomably low. Particularly considering his potential to generate big plays, which was consistently displayed through his efforts as the Vikings’ kick returner. As a result, he was targeted just two times per contest entering Week 6, and averaged a paltry three during the Vikings first nine games. But when his workload increased during Minnesota’s final seven contests, Patterson began generating contributions as both a rusher and receiver. He scored six TDs during the Vikings’ final five contests, amassed 141 yards on seven receptions in Week 14, and rushed for over 50 yards in Weeks 16 and 17. The belief from here is that both the momentum and production that Patterson supplied in those final weeks will continue in 2014. New HC Mike Zimmer will hire a new OC who is far more likely to take advantage of the explosiveness that Patterson exhibited as a returner, which enabled him to earn All-Pro honors, and a trip to the Pro Bowl. Patterson was the 54th WR chosen in 2013, with an ADP of 137, but he appears destined for an ADP within the low 70s next summer.