Late-Season Bloomers: Heading into 2014 with Momentum
One good way to identify potential sleepers and busts is to take a closer look at the late-season game-by-game stats. Oftentimes a player will make a splash, major or minor, in the final few weeks of the season and then take that momentum into the following year. I call these players Late-Season Bloomers. Sometimes this is a product of an injury to a player ahead of him on the depth chart, and sometimes a team is just ready to give the player a larger opportunity for one reason or another.
On the flip side, there are players who fade down the stretch; I call them Fading Heroes, which I'll discuss in Part 2 of this article later in the week. Combine a late-season swoon with another year of age and/or greater competition at the position and it’s a good recipe for a disappointing season. (I’m looking at you, Frank Gore.)
To identify these Late-Season Bloomers, 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 top of each table fared much better in the second half of the season -- these are our Late-Season Bloomers.
I’ll go position-by-position and discuss a few players that jump out.
Full QB PPG and FP/PA half season splits available here.
Nick Foles obviously had a tremendous second half of the season, scoring 25.3 points per game in his final eight games. Unless defensive coordinators are able to study and limit Chip Kelly’s offense, Foles is primed for another big season.
Tom Brady also played better down the stretch despite losing Rob Gronkowski for the final three games. Note that he only threw for 294 total yards and two TDs in the final two games without Gronk. He did have 364 yards and two scores against the Dolphins in Week 15, however. I believe Brady’s fantasy value hinges on Gronkowski’s availability.
Carson Palmer said that the team’s offense was much better down the stretch and his numbers reflect that. He saw a 48% jump in PPG and a 46% increase in FP/PA. He looks like a good value/streaming candidate, though ideally owners should make other plans when he faces the Seahawks and the 49ers.
Ben Roethlisberger also fared much better down the stretch once the Steelers started running more no-huddle offense. Roethlisberger played well in no-huddle in 2013, posting a better YPA (7.5 vs. 7.2) and TD% (6.1% vs. 4.3%) while in the no-huddle.
It’s also interesting to see that Alex Smith’s FP/PA jumped 23% in the second half of the season. It looks like he became more comfortable in Andy Reid’s offense.