Patrick Daugherty

Offseason Low Down

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Fast Finishers, Slow Closers

Saturday, June 29, 2013

In the age of Twitter, edges have become ever harder to come by in fantasy football. Information has never been in greater supply, but neither has the amount of people disseminating it. That tip you used to be able to find and keep for yourself? All 11 of your league mates have read it, too. It’s why Lamar Miller and T.Y. Hilton aren’t the insider secrets they may have been 10 years ago.

So the search for a leg up can take you some pretty wild places. Some can be quite useful (aDOT), others....not so much (which undrafted Raiders receiver lit up second- and third-string cornerbacks in pad-less practices). Which brings us to something in between: How certain players fared down the stretch last season. There are any number of factors that could play into a hot or slow finish. Filling in for an injured starter, a rookie receiver might happen upon four straight opponents who are already out of the playoff race because of their secondary. Or a journeyman veteran might get a shot at 2-3 starts because a hot-shot rookie finds himself in the doghouse.  

On the flipside, someone who finishes slow might have decided it wasn’t worth finishing off every three- or four-yard run with aplomb out of fear of aggravating a lingering hamstring issue. Or perhaps the motivation simply wasn't there playing for a lame-duck coaching staff. The point is, hot/slow finishes could have everything to do with circumstance, and nothing to do with skill (just like any other 3-4 four game stretch). But that doesn’t mean they should be entirely written off, or don’t sometimes point to a larger trend. We’re not suggesting this is information that’s going to lead you from last place to the promised land. It’s just something to consider as you decide between Player X and Player Y. In an age of boundless information, you never know which seemingly random or incongruent factoid could make the difference.

Check out Evan Silva's July Top 150, and be sure to follow @Rotoworld_FB and @RotoPat on Twitter.

Fast Finisher: Russell Wilson

Did anyone close out 2012 with a bigger bang? The surprise third-round starter was serviceable over his first eight games, posting an 82.4 QB rating, 61.4 completion percentage, 7.0 YPA and 10:8 TD:INT ratio. Then he went nuclear in the season’s second half as the Seahawks started dispensing raw justice, turning his first-half slash into a 120.3 QB rating, 67.2 completion percentage, 9.0 YPA and 16:2 TD:INT ratio. That is not to forget his 58 rushes for 361 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and four touchdowns after took the rock just 36 times for 128 yards (3.6 YPC) and zero scores in games 1-8. Throw in a postseason where Wilson posted a 102.4 QB rating, 62.9 completion percentage, 9.2 YPA and 3:1 TD:INT ratio in 62 passes over two games, and you have an unexpected hit film with one of the greatest endings of all time. We’re pretty sure it wasn’t all a dream.      

Slow Closer: Reggie Wayne

Coming off the most disappointing year of his career, Wayne entered the season’s quarter pole with an eye-popping 36 catches for 506 yards and two touchdowns. He owned a 61/835/3 line through eight games. His production began to slip as the year wore on and Andrew Luck grew more comfortable with his other targets, however. Wayne looked much like the player he was in 2011 over the season’s final five games, snagging a good-but-not-great 22 passes for 250 yards and two scores. Well-conditioned and in a pass-happy offense, Wayne isn’t going to fall off the face of the earth this season. But with Luck a year older and wiser, Wayne is going to have to share in the wealth with Luck’s fellow sophomores T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener much more often than he did in 2012.

Fast Finisher: T.Y. Hilton

As Reggie Wayne cooled over the season’s second half, Hilton caught fire, totaling 32 catches for 608 yards and six touchdowns over the Colts’ final nine games. The outburst included four 100-yard efforts, and three six-catch performances. Being a rookie, Hilton also mixed in one doughnut and two other two-catch days, but still proved he has big-time upside in an offense piloted by perhaps the game’s brightest young quarterback.

Slow Closer: Daryl Richardson

With the Rams attempting to keep Steven Jackson fresh ahead of a potential trade, Richardson got off to a hot start, going into the Rams’ Week 9 bye with 62 rushes for 335 yards (5.4 yards per carry). It was a different story after the trade deadline, however, where S-Jax out-touched Richardson 175-46 over the season’s final eight games. Richardson got the rock just 24 times over the Rams’ final five contests, posting an anemic 70 yards from scrimmage. He’ll compete for the starting job this summer, but the Rams appear to prefer Isaiah Pead as their early-down runner.

Fast Finisher: Shane Vereen

That’s one way to put a slow regular season behind you. After scoring just four total touchdowns in Weeks 1-17, Vereen found paydirt three times across two postseason games. He caught seven playoff passes for 105 yards after notching only eight grabs in the regular season. Vereen’s January yards from scrimmage (162) was 40.5 percent of his regular-season total (400). The hot finish almost certainly solidified Vereen as Danny Woodhead’s heir apparent in hurry up/third down/passing situations.

Slow Closer: Brian Hartline

You could make the argument Hartline had a slow year outside of his 12/253/1 Week 4 outburst, but we digress. Hartline was particularly slow over the Dolphins’ final seven games, never surpassing five catches as he turned in a 25/342/0 line. Ryan Tannehill’s nominal No. 1 receiver was held below 50 yards four different times. None of that stopped the Dolphins from giving him a five-year, $30.775 million contract, of course. A No. 3 receiver stuck in a No. 2 wideout’s role, Hartline isn’t going to improve on his 74/1,083/1 2012 with Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller now in the fold.

Fast Finisher: Michael Floyd

It wasn’t just that Floyd caught 14 passes for 213 yards over his final two games. It’s that he largely did it with Brian Hoyer under center, the fourth quarterback to make starts for the Cardinals last season. Floyd’s eight grabs for 166 yards in Week 17 were both season highs, while his Week 16-17 yardage represented 37.9 percent of his rookie total. The beginning and middle to Floyd’s year were mediocre at best, but his finish suggests the 2012 No. 13 overall pick should be used to much greater effectiveness under living, breathing, actual QB Carson Palmer.

Slow Closer: Josh Freeman

Coach Greg Schiano is holding Freeman’s feet to the fire this offseason, routinely putting him on blast while passing up multiple opportunities to guarantee him the starting job. Perhaps it’s because Freeman fell apart down the stretch in 2012, tossing 10 interceptions to only six touchdowns over Tampa’s final five games. Freeman averaged just 6.23 yards per attempt over his final 209 passes, which would have been the worst in the league if extrapolated over the entire season. That means Freeman must “prove it” in 2013, both to Schiano and fantasy owners.

Fast Finisher: Joe Flacco

We’d seen great stretches from Flacco before, but nothing quite like what he did during the Ravens’ four-game run to the Super Bowl. Dispatching both the old (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning) and the new (Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick) along the way, Flacco roared to a 117.2 playoff QB rating. Along with it came an eye-popping 9.0 YPA, 11:0 TD:INT ratio and 285 yards per game. Flacco’s transformation really began in Week 14, when Jim Caldwell replaced a stale Cam Cameron at offensive coordinator. Prone to cold streaks and barely a career 60 percent passer, Flacco may never be an elite QB1, but has finally made the transition from fantasy hindrance to fantasy asset.

Slow Closer: Andy Dalton

Dalton’s struggles weren’t spectacular — he didn’t go down in a hail of interceptions like Freeman — but they were consistent. The red-headed sophomore surpassed 211 yards passing just twice over his final nine games, bottoming out in a dismal Wild Card performance. With the Bengals looking to notch their first postseason victory since 1990-91, Dalton completed just 14-of-30 passes for 127 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. Discounting a Week 17 tune up where he played only two quarters, Dalton averaged 198.5 yards per game over his final eight starts. That number simply won’t get it done in the modern NFL. OC Jay Gruden has admitted Dalton has a “long way to go,” and that he must improve his touch and deep-ball accuracy. His weak arm makes it unlikely the latter will ever get better.

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Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Patrick Daugherty

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