Congratulations to everyone that brought home the hardware in their leagues, as it was a very unusual fantasy year for sure. Navigating the ups and downs of this particular season took some guile as well as the normal amount of luck and kudos to those who managed to navigate through it all and end the season with the big win.
If your league is finishing up in week seventeen then good luck (and please correct that mistake before next season) in this weeks games.
As 2012 draws to an end it is never too early to turn our attention to next season Since most leagues have concluded for the 2012 season it feels like the right time to switch from 10 names you need to know for next week to a broader and early look at 10 names for next season.
Some can be put high on early rankings as players that are poised for a breakout season while others come with a cautionary flag as names that could sabotage 2013 draft.
Sit back and enjoy the Holiday Season with friends and family and peruse a very early look at some interesting fantasy options for the 2013 season.
David Wilson, RB, NEW YORK GIANTS: After finally digging his way out of a hole created with an opening weekend fumble, Wilson exploded in week fourteen for New York. His 327 yards of total offense in a single game is a Giants record and he finished the day with three total touchdowns. Rushing scores of 52 and 6 yards as well as a 97-yard kickoff return announced Wilson's arrival as a fantasy force moving forward. He possesses the great speed and cutting ability to make him a big play threat every time he touches the ball.
Ahmad Bradshaw continues to play well but also continues to struggle to stay healthy with chronic foot problems and a balky knee. He simply can't carry a full workload and isn't getting any younger. Wilson needs to improve his pass protection skills to supplant Bradshaw as the go-to guy in the Giants backfield and will have the chance to showcase his skills in the final weeks of the 2012 season. He is the future of the running back position in New York and the smart money says the future starts next season.
Vick Ballard, RB, INDIANAPOLIS: Ballard spent much of the first half of the season stuck in an underwhelming running back by committee with Delone Carter and Donald Brown and managed only 88 total yards from scrimmage in the first five games of the season. He was finally given 20 carries in week seven and would produce 84 rushing yards and add another 19 yards on a single reception. It was the spark that folks had waited to see from the rookie out of Mississippi State.
He'd record his first NFL touchdown in week eight and his recent performances as the lead back for the Colts have cemented his spot as the top running back heading into 2013.
In weeks fourteen and fifteen he amassed 199 yards rushing on 37 carries and displayed a nice burst between the tackles and ability to make defenders miss. The Colts will also look at Ballard as their goal line option as the season draws to a close and once he lands that coveted role his fantasy future becomes even brighter.
Michael Floyd, WR, ARIZONA: When the Cardinals drafted Floyd out of Notre Dame with the 13th overall pick last April he seemed to have landed in a perfect situation. Playing alongside a stud wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, who could not only push him to perform to his best abilities on the field but also mentor the rookie who had his share of off the field issues in college. He figured to supplant Early Doucet in the receiving rotation and see decent snaps behind Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts.
The shaky quarterback situation in Arizona figured to put a cap on the ceiling for all their receivers but it has been a complete nightmare beyond even the direst of predictions. Floyd has the size at 6'3" and 220 pounds to be an effective possession receiver and red zone threat for Arizona but has languished for much of the season seeing limited playing time and infrequent targets. His lone touchdown came in week three on one of the few red zone targets he's seen this season and things can only get better. Or not. If Arizona does not address their quarterback dilemma in the off-season then once again their receivers will be nothing more than fantasy afterthoughts. Look for a breakout second season in the desert for Floyd, as I believe the Cardinals will bring in a NFL caliber quarterback next season and their passing game will bounce back.
Mikel Leshoure, RB, DETROIT: Leshoure is a name with as many questions as answers heading into the 2013 season as his 2012 campaign has been a bit perplexing. He has totaled nine touchdowns this season after missing his entire rookie season with an Achilles injury but has averaged only 3.7 yards per carry and has only one 100-tard rushing game this season. It could be due to the Lions not wanting to tax the second year running back returning from his injury but he has shared the workload way too often. Many times this season he was on the bench in the fourth quarter and ceding carries to Joique Bell and Kevin Smith and that is worrisome.
Leshoure has proven serviceable in the passing game with 31 receptions for 194 yards and looks especially impressive taking the swing pass in the flat and powering up the sideline. He does seem to lack explosiveness and burst to get through the line and into the second tier of defenders and seems to be running into contact as opposed to away from it. This could all be a byproduct of his recovery from the ankle problem but it sends up a red flag for his chances of being a #1 fantasy running back moving forward.
Bilal Powell, RB, NEW YORK JETS: Powell has been an interesting name since the Jets drafted him in the 4th round of the 2011 NFL draft. A no-nonsense runner with an explosion through the line Powell looked to be a nice addition to the Jets backfield heading into last season. Well, he finished 2011 with having appeared in only two games and had 13 carries for 21 yards with a single reception for seven yards. Not exactly the numbers that dynasty owners who held on to Powell were hoping for.
This season has been a different story as Powell has worked his way into the running back rotation and has surpassed Shonn Greene as the goal line back for New York. Powell is averaging 3.9 yards per carry to 3.8 for Greene and both backs are averaging just over 8.5 yards per reception. The main reason to like Powell heading into the 2013 season is that he is under contract next season and Greene is not. The Jets have seen the Shonn Greene show and it ends the same way...disappointingly. Powell is in line to be the number one running back on a team that loves to run the ball and that means fantasy goodness.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, SAN FRANCISCO: The Alex Smith era is over by the Bay before it ever really had a chance to take off. The concussion he suffered in week ten for all intents and purposes also brought to an end his time as the starting quarterback for the 49ers. Kaepernick has been that good and looks to just be scratching the surface of what could be a very productive NFL and fantasy career. The second year quarterback out of Nevada has transformed from the occasional plug-in a game as a possible threat to run the ball into a multi-dimensional weapon that defenses are struggling to contain.
Kaepernick has shown an ability to stretch the field with an accurate long ball and he's shown a pocket presence beyond his years. Combine that with the rushing threat that he is and you have a potential top ten fantasy quarterback in 2013. Look for Kaepernick to be even more dangerous once he's had an entire offseason to prepare as the starter in San Francisco.
Joseph Morgan, WR, NEW ORLEANS: Through fifteen weeks the undrafted rookie Morgan had hauled in nine passes on 20 targets for a whopping 371 yards and three touchdowns. He is the quintessential deep threat wide receiving option and has obviously garnered the trust of quarterback Drew Brees. In a prolific passing offense like the one the Saints employ, any and all receivers carry some fantasy value and as the field stretching deep ball option Morgan will only see his value increase moving forward.
He is everything that the Saints and fantasy owners had hoped that Devery Henderson would turn out to be and has inherited the role of the deep touchdown threat that the departed Robert Meachem once held.
Morgan has averaged only 26 snaps a game in his rookie season and with Henderson likely being allowed to walk in free agency that number is bound to increase as will his fantasy value. Any receiver that's averaging over 40 yards per reception on a passing team like the Saints is a player whose name belongs on fantasy draft boards for 2013.
Ronnie Hillman, RB, DENVER: Yes, the same Ronnie Hillman that fantasy owners held on to all year and then inserted into lineups when McGahee got hurt and produced nothing. The same Ronnie Hillman that Knowshon Moreno leapfrogged in the Denver running back rotation from the inactive list. Hillman has been a victim of the fantasy hype machine since being drafted, fell way short of what may have been unrealistic expectations and that will help to make him a nice under the radar option to draft in 2013.
The kid has the skill set to be a number one running back for the Broncos and is a nice situation to do so as early as next season. Willis McGahee isn't getting any younger and there is a lot of tread on his tires and surgeries on his knees. Knowshon Moreno may have played his way back on to the Denver roster with his excellent performances down the stretch but his upside is still less than that of Hillman. Another year of OTAs and training camp to improve his pass protection skills will only enhance Hillman's chances to see more playing time and become a fantasy factor for next year.
Lance Kendricks, TE, ST LOUIS: After an injury plagued rookie season in which he finished with only 28 receptions for 352 yards and no touchdowns Kendricks has rebounded with...