Fading Heroes: Cause for Concern in 2014
This is Part 2 of a two-part article looking at late-season performance in 2013 and what it might mean in 2014. In Part 1, we discussed several players who performed well down the stretch, Late-Season Bloomers. Here in Part 2, I'll identify several players who struggled during the second half of the season. These are our Fading Heroes.
I split the 2013 season stats into two parts – 1st (Weeks 1-8) and 2nd (Weeks 9-17) – then calculated each player’s points per game (PPG) and fantasy points per attempt, which was pass attempts (PA) for quarterbacks, touches for running backs and receivers, and receptions for tight ends.
The tables are sorted by PPG percent difference, and only include players who played at least four games in both halves of the season. I also limited the table to fantasy-relevant players, so if there are names missing, that’s probably the reason why. Players at the bottom of each table fared much worse in the second half of the season -- these are our Fading Heroes.
Full QB PPG and FP/PA half season splits available here.
There are no major concerns at the bottom of this list. Matthew Stafford and Eli Manning are playing in new offenses and are established veterans. Matt Ryan should benefit greatly from the return of Julio Jones. In 37 games with Julio Jones, Ryan has averaged 18.8 FP. In 14 games without Jones, Ryan has averaged 14.6 FP.
One name that jumps out a bit is Philip Rivers, who saw a 14% drop in per game production in the second half of the season. He lost his OC (Ken Whisenhunt), but Malcom Floyd is back in the fold and the team is expected to give Ladarius Green more run. Rivers should be fine, though another top 5 season is unlikely.
Full RB PPG and FP/Touch half season splits available here.
Frank Gore’s presence near the bottom is worrisome especially since his FP/Touch dropped 34% in tandem with a sizable drop in PPG. In addition to Kendall Hunter, Gore now has Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore to deal with. Gore usually outplays his ADP, but the writing is on the wall here.
Andre Ellington’s drop in per touch production (-45%) is a bit worrisome, but one look at his first half production (1.09 FP/Touch) and it’s clear that he wasn’t going to keep that up for long. He was bound to regress.
Full WR PPG and FP/Touch half season splits available here.
Wes Welker caught nine of his 10 touchdowns in the first eight games and missed three games down the stretch due to a concussion, which is an ongoing concern with him. He averaged 7.3 FP in three playoff games. Broncos beat writer Cecil Lammey said that if rookie Cody Latimer emerges, it will result in fewer snaps for Welker (not Emmanuel Sanders, as is the general consensus). If healthy, Welker should still be a productive fantasy receiver, but there are a few red flags this offseason.
Denarius Moore isn’t trending the right way given his youth and how he should be developing at this point in his career. His per game and per touch production both dropped significantly in the second half of the season, and he’s apparently struggling to hold onto the team’s WR3 job. (Andre Holmes is apparently breathing down his neck.)
Terrance Williams’ production slipped down the stretch once Miles Austin returned to the lineup. No surprise there, but his per touch production slipped as well. It dropped 18%, which isn’t a huge deal – I still like him as a breakout candidate in 2014. (I’d put Marvin Jones and Kenny Stills in the same category, by the way.)
Full TE PPG and FP/Rec half season splits available here.
As the #4 TE off the board, I won’t have Vernon Davis on very many teams this year. Davis finished the season as the #2 TE, but his numbers took a dip after Michael Crabtree returned to the fold. Davis averaged 3.8-62-.90 on 6.1 targets without Crabtree in the lineup. After his return (and including three playoff games), those numbers fell to 2.4-35-.75 on 4.6 T/G. Those are still top 10 numbers at his position, but Davis simply isn’t a no-brainer top 5 pick with Crabtree in the lineup. Davis has a history of being underutilized in the 49ers’ run-heavy offense, and that’s a possibility again in 2014. A potential holdout only serves to complicate matters further.
Antonio Gates could give way to Ladarius Green this year; Gates’s play down the stretch isn’t encouraging. It will be interesting to see how the team utilizes both Gates and Green. Do they end up canceling each other out?
Jordan Cameron’s per game and per touch production took a hit down the stretch. He was targeted 9.8 times per game in the first half, but that fell to 7.3 T/G in the second half. Those are still heavy targets for a tight end, and he should be the primary receiver as long as Josh Gordon is sidelined.
I won't avoid players like Frank Gore and Vernon Davis at all costs, but given their current ADPs and red flags, I'm unlikely to find either player on any of my rosters in 2014. One of those red flags is each player's production down the stretch, and when combined with increased competition for touches/targets, it's not an encouraging situation. Since we're dealing with small sample sizes, late-season production is not an end-all/be-all indicator of projected performance the following year, but it is a valuable tool we can utilize to underline already-established concerns about aging vets.