Looking Ahead to 2013: Brandon Lloyd a Value Play?

Jan 28, 2013
Looking Ahead to 2013: Brandon Lloyd a Value Play?

Brandon Lloyd finished his first full regular season as a Patriot with 74 catches for 911 yards and four touchdowns. In terms of fantasy production, he fell well short of lofty expectations. But as WEEI.com's Christopher Price put it during our Championship Sunday preview show (Jan. 19) on the FootballDiehards on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, with 70-plus catches as the fourth option in the receiving hierarchy, you "can't call Lloyd a bust."

No argument here.

But the expectations were higher. Remember, the Patriots had been missing a down-the-field threat on the outside since Randy Moss’ production tailed off in 2010/ Granted, that never stopped Tom Brady from racking up yards at a ridiculous rate, but it forced him into more underneath routes with safeties able to be aggressive in moving toward the line.

The belief was that Lloyd openly courted the Patriots in free agency for an opportunity to fill that Moss role.

Also remember, Lloyd was coming off a solid 2011 season in which he caught 70 passes for 966 yards and five touchdowns despite playing for a pair of scuffling offenses in Denver and St. Louis. And as recently as 2010 he had 77 receptions for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns with Kyle Orton as his quarterback.

And then there was Josh McDaniels. The general consensus suggested it was no coincidence that Lloyd's emergence in Denver (under then-Broncos head coach McDaniels) and his subsequent production in St. Louis (with McDaniels serving as offensive coordinator). So McDaniels' presence in New England added to the belief that Lloyd would make an immediate and major impact.

While it's true, Brady never lacks for talented targets, the feeling was Lloyd's understanding of the offense gave him a huge head start over the last "hired gun" wideout brought in as a free agent, Chad Johnson. The Ocho, of course, struggled mightily with the playbook in his lone season as a Patriot.

But there's more to it than that.

Lloyd isn't necessarily a speed merchant. Indeed, Price reminded us that Lloyd is a player who must be accounted for on both deep and intermediate routes.

Brady told Price before the season started that it would "take some time to get used to his skills. Lloyd is situational. I've never had a guy like him."

As we've seen in the past -- and as Price reiterated to us, the real key to success for Patriots receivers is earning Brady's trust (there's a reason Deion Branch is currently on the roster). You have to be where he expects you to be, when he expects you to be there.

And according to Price, you have to make the tough catches when the opportunity arises.

Lloyd is starting to get those opportunities -- and he's delivering.

Certainly, if his five-catch, 32-yard, one-TD showing in New England's divisional playoff win over Houston was encouraging, his subsequent seven-catch, 70-yard effort in the conference championship loss to the Ravens was even more so.

From a fantasy perspective, he could get even more interesting if Wes Welker isn't retained.

I touched on Welker's future more extensively in a previous column with Price suggesting the Patriots almost have no choice but to keep the veteran wideout based on his production alone.

But New England paid Welker a one-year franchise tender of $9.5 million to retain him in 2012 and that number goes up to $11.4 million in 2013.

According to ESPN.com's James Walker, that is too expensive for a one-year rental and would eat up New England's salary cap. And as difficult as it might be to imagine New England's offense without him, it's equally difficult to imagine the Patriots overpaying for a receiver who will be 32 in May, especially after recently paying large extensions to tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

Also worth noting: Welker led the AFC with 11 drops during the regular season.

Whatever the case, Welker's future could well hinge on the two sides ability to come together on a long-term deal.

Either way, my guess is Lloyd continues to develop and emerge as a more viable weapon for both Brady and fantasy owners in 2013. The good news there is, the likelihood that some of your fellow owners bit on Lloyd a little earlier than they should have last summer could sour them on him going forward.

Can you say increased value? I think you can.

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