Entering the 2012 season, some players on this list where entering their rookie seasons, while others where coming off of less-than-impressive seasons. Nevertheless, after this past season these players made their names relevant in the fantasy football world. Without further adieu let’s take a look at players who are worth drafting next year.
MIKE WILLIAMS- WR Bucs
After a strong rookie campaign (964 yards and 11 TDs), Williams fell off a bit his sophomore season, as well as the rest of the Bucs offense. Yet, this year with the arrival of a bigger threat than himself in Vincent Jackson and a strong run-game in Doug Martin, Williams was able to have a bounce back season, reeling in 63 passes for 996 yards and a team-high 9 TDs.
Those numbers helped propel Williams to the #18 WR in fantasy (standard scoring leagues). 8 Times this past season was Williams able to gain double-digit fantasy points, three times he went over the 100 yard mark., 8 times he had 4 or more receptions, was tied for 9th in the NFL with 17 receptions of 20+ yards, and averaged 15.8 ypr.
Unlike the drop-off from rookie season to sophomore season, I do not project that happening again; thanks in part to all the pieces around Williams now. Another vital asset that could highly increase Williams’ value is the guy throwing to him, Josh Freeman. Freeman’s past season is one that has been expected of him since the Bucs drafted him. Throwing for over 4,000 yards and 27 TDs, is Freeman can duplicate that season again, watch out for Williams.
Where I would start them: As a low WR2/ high 3/ high Flex
VICK BALLARD- RB Colts
Although he was not the starter at the beginning of the season, Ballard took advantage of the time he got when Donald Brown went down. Even when Brown was still the primary back (up until about week 6) Ballard still got his share of the ball. Yet despite only being the starter a limited time and having to deal with a timeshare in the backfield, Ballard was able to produce enough to make owners aware of him.
Throughout the 2013 campaign, Ballard carried the ball 211 times for 814 yards (3.9 ypc) for 2 TDs, adding 17 receptions for 152 yards and another TD. While those numbers won’t make owners drool over him, they are noteworthy enough to make a worthwhile RB3/ Flex in 2013.
Also, if there are any concerns that Ballard won’t be the main back in Indy come next season, just know that in the upcoming draft the Colts have many, many other pieces to address before they start looking for a RB (so the likelihood they draft someone to replace him is low), and only the final four games of 2012, Ballard averaged 21 carries a game (as compared to Browns 14 carries a game he averages).
Where I would start them: RB3/ high Flex
CHRIS GIVENS- WR Rams
The rookie WR had a modest first season in the NFL, catching 42 passes for 698 yards and 3 TDs. Yet it’s not those numbers that have me intrigued about him heading into next season, it’s his situation.
It’s unlikely that Steven Jackson will be the Rams RB next year, handing the duties off to Daryl Richardson. If that is the case, a RBs best-friend (other than good blocking) is a strong passing game. With Amendola’s inability to stay healthy, and Given’s deep-threat ability, he could have a very nice sophomore season.
In this past season, even though Givens did not catch a a ton of passes (and even if Amendola does return he is more of a slot guy) he did manage 16.8 ypc, including two games in which he only caught one pass (in week 4 and 5) he caught those passes for 51, and 52 yards.
Where I would start them WR 3/Flex
JOIQUE BELL- RB Lions
The Lions have not had a legit RB since Barry Sanders was in the backfield, and while Bell is no Sanders (I actually feel disrespectful for putting them in the same sentence) he can be a decent fantasy player next season. Although Bell does have to share with Leshoure, Leshoure hasn’t done anything to solidify the #1 spot to himself.
What Bell does to make himself fantasy worthy (because it isn’t the carries since he only got 10+ carries twice all season) is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In fact, Bell carried the ball 82 times for 414 yards and 3 TDs compared to his 52 receptions for 485 yards. While on the other hand, Leshoure only managed 34 receptions for 214 yards.
So whereas Leshoure still have the carries lean in his direction, Bell certainly has shown that he has big-play capability and can catch out of the backfield. It’s similar to Turner and Rodgers situation in Atlanta, but with Bell getting more carries than Rodgers.
Where I’d start them- mid-level Flex
DANARIO ALEXANDER- WR CHARGERS
The Chargers are in need for a new deep-threat since the departure of Vincent Jackson and they just might have it with Alexander. Missing the first 6 games of the season, it took Alexander no time to get comfortable, catching 37 passes for 658 yards and 7 TDs in only 8 games.
Alexander’s 17.8 ypc (tied for 2nd in the NFL with Cecil Shorts, only behind Vincent Jackson’s 19.2 ypc) helped owners who grabbed him, as he scored double-digit points 5 times, catching multiple TDs twice, and 5 or more passes 5 times. These numbers are convincing since Ryan Mathews has not lived up to expectations, and it seems as if Gates is on a downward spiral. Another thing working for Alexander is his partner on the field, Malcolm Floyd. Floyd is a good enough receiver to gain a lot of attention from opposing defenses. With defenses not being able to fully key-in on Alexander alone, he could use his deep-threat ability to put-up some nice numbers next season, since we all know how much Rivers loves slinging the ball down field.
In fact of all the players on this list, Alexander in my opinion, will have the biggest season in 2013. Mark my words.
Where I’d start him- mid-high level WR 2/ very high WR 3/ Flex