There are some very interesting names to take notice of in this weekend's Divisional playoff matchups as potential 2013 fantasy options. How they are used and how they produce in the pressure cooker that is the NFL playoffs can be a nice barometer of future fantasy worthiness. Let's get to it!
DuJuan Harris , RB, Green Bay: Harris may not be the long-term answer at the running back position for the Packers but he is using the late season and playoffs to throw his hat in the ring for consideration. He had 47 yards and a touchdown on the ground in the win over the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the playoffs. Harris was also utilized in the passing game and hauled in five receptions for 53 yards while being targeted six times.
Harris pulled away in the competition for playing time with Alex Green and Ryan Grant down the stretch with a 4.6 yards per carry average and two touchdowns in the last four games of the regular season. He runs hard and shows a nice burst at the point of attack, and his receiving skills make him a nice fit in the high-powered Packers attack. The sledding will be much tougher this week in San Francisco but watch the kid closely as he can continue to stake his claim on a 2013 spot in the running back rotation for Green Bay.
DeVier Posey , WR, Houston: The Texans utilized their rushing game and short passing attack to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, unleashing Arian Foster to the tune of 32 carries for 140 yards and a touchdown. Foster would also catch eight passes out of the backfield for another 34 yards in the Houston victory. In fact, Matt Schaub would target the wide receiver position only 11 times for the entire game and throw to Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter exclusively. The two combined for eight catches and 88 total yards with no scores.
That will not get the job done against the New England Patriots this week or heading forward into the 2013 season, and Posey will have the chance to make a name for himself this week. Over the last four games of the regular season Posey was targeted 13 times and hauled in six passes for 87 yards. The Patriots' game plan to take away what an offense does best so look for them to concentrate on stuffing the running game and blanketing the tight ends, which will free up Posey for the opportunity to put up numbers. How he performs this week can be an indicator of how he could emerge next season in the Texans' passing game.
Bernard Pierce , RB, Baltimore: Don't look now but starting Baltimore running back Ray Rice may be on the way to fumbling his way into a running back by committee situation for 2013. OK, that may be a bit extreme, but, after his impressive 13 carries and 103 yards in the Ravens' victory over the Indianapolis Colts last week, Pierce has established himself as a threat to Rice's stranglehold on carries in Baltimore.
Pierce put together a nice regular season in which he totaled 108 carries and amassed 532 yards and scored one touchdown. He added seven receptions for another 47 yards while averaging a healthy 4.9 yards per carry. The kid from Temple ran hard last week and was in the game late as the Ravens looked to run out the clock. While Rice does not have a history of fumbling and insists he is not ‘a fumbler,' the fact is that if he continues to lose the football then Pierce will see his fantasy value increase moving forward.
Anquan Boldin , WR, Baltimore: Boldin had a monster game last week against the Indianapolis Colts, totaling 145 yards on five catches with a touchdown. Oh yeah, all that production came after half time as the Ravens pulled away from Indianapolis. Even at 32 years old Boldin can still get the job done but has not surpassed 1,000 yards as a member of the Ravens and carries a hefty cap number into 2013.
Boldin may be auditioning for a new team as these playoffs continue, and last week was a very nice start. The $6 million that Boldin is due in 2013 and the precarious cap situation that Baltimore will be in next season make it very possible that he will be released. The consummate over-the-middle threat that he is will make him a valuable commodity to some receiver-starved teams such as Houston, Detroit or Seattle next season. Fantasy owners should take note of his playoff performances as a gauge of his worth heading into next season, as you can bet NFL teams are watching as well.
James Casey , FB/TE, Houston: Casey plays a hybrid fullback and tight end role for the Texans and finished the season with 34 receptions for 330 yards and three touchdowns while being targeted 45 times. He is a sure-handed receiving option and also a solid pass blocker when kept in to help protect the quarterback. The tight end position is integral to the Houston passing attack as quarterback Matt Schaub targeted Casey and fellow tight ends Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham a total of 188 times in the regular season. Schaub attempted a total of 544 passes in the regular season, meaning the tight end position accounted for more than 34 percent of his pass attempts.
Casey can be a very effective weapon in the passing game such as when he totaled 126 receiving yards and a touchdown on five catches against the New Orleans Saints back in a 2011 game. He is a restricted free agent heading into the 2013 season, and, at 6-foot-3 and 243 pounds, he has the prototypical size and speed of today's big, athletic tight ends. He could be a potential starter on many NFL teams. Should the Texans decide to let him walk or tender him very low, keep a careful eye on where he lands as he has excellent fantasy potential in the right situation.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Atlanta: The Washington Redskins were able to push the Seattle defensive line around early in last weekend's game, allowing rookie Alfred Morris to accumulate 50 yards on the first two drives. The Falcons will look to do the same thing this week as the Seahawks come to town and Rodgers could play a key role in that attack. Michael Turner will get his share of touches but it may be the quicker and more versatile Rodgers that steps up.
Rodgers managed to amass 362 rushing yards this season and added another 402 yards receiving while scoring a pair of touchdowns. As the season progressed he worked his way into more playing time and actually played just 11 fewer offensive snaps than Turner in 2012. Turner is still the primary ball carrier and had 223 rushes compared to only 94 for Rodgers, but Rodgers would catch 53 passes to only 19 for Turner. The time for Rodgers to stake his claim as a running back that deserves more touches moving forward is now. Turner's days are numbered as the feature back in Atlanta and Rodgers can hasten that exit by stepping up and excelling against the Seahawks this weekend.
A quick look back at how one of the players mentioned prior to Wild Card weekend fared is interesting in its fantasy implications for 2013. What seemed like a swing and miss is actually very telling for next season as Ben Tate was barely used and totaled 1 yard on two carries. However, the high number of carries that Arian Foster posted last week bring his 2012 total to 383, which all but insures that he'll surpass 400 carries by season's end.
There is an excellent chance that following a work load of that size that the Texans will look to split the carries more evenly next season between Foster and what should be a healthy Ben Tate. Look for a split similar to the 2011 numbers when Foster carried the ball 278 times and Tate had 175 carries of his own. Tate's value actually increased for next season while he stood and watched Foster tote the rock for Houston last week.
That's it for now, folks. Enjoy a glorious weekend of NFL playoff football action.