We see this phenomenon every year – the players who make “The Leap” from on the radar to fantasy football asset. Let’s take a look at one of this season’s most likely breakout tight ends.
ANTHONY FIRKSER, TENNESSEE
Right off the bat – relative to Firkser from a fantasy perspective – I’m happy the Titans acquired the great Julio Jones via trade. I emphasize happy as a surprise because the fantasy Twitterverse has soured on Firkser ever since Julio packed his bags for Tennessee. His stock seems to be dropping on a daily basis.
And that’s always when I like to grab value.
As you read my columns throughout the fantasy football season, you will often see maneuvers like this. Everyone seems to be going one way? Well, I’ll go the other way and lean on that leverage against the field.
Yes, we are talking about fantasy football here, but I always liken my position to Tampa Bay and Oakland in professional baseball. Moneyball’s title included The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, and that’s exactly what fantasy football can be a lot of the time.
Injuries. Ghost performances. Unpredictable outcomes and lesser roles than we anticipated based on Coachspeak. Fantasy football rosters can get real ugly, real quick – sometimes as early as Week 3 or 4 of the pro football season.
So, we must become Tampa and Oakland. Tampa has a $69 million payroll this season; the Bronx Bombers have a $201 million payroll in the same division…and the Rays are 4 games ahead of them in the standings as of the date of this writing. Oakland has an $86 million payroll this season; the Halos have a $182 million payroll in the same division…and Oakland is 7 games ahead of them in the standings.
So how do they do it? Little edges. Adding up little advantages. Constantly angling. Finding loopholes, weak spots and exploiting them.
And that’s what we can try to do right here with tight end Anthony Firkser. If my memory serves, Fantasy Pros had him ranked as high as the TE17 earlier this offseason; now he has dropped to the TE24. Our possible Return on Investment (ROI) is improving.
In terms of Redraft ADP, he is going as the TE20; I like that value when I see 34-year old Jared Cook being selected before him (FYI, Cook’s over/under on DraftKings Sportsbook is 525.5, interesting in context). I also like that value when I see Irv Smith going three spots before him; Smith and Firkser are in a very similar boat, no?
Smith has been waiting in the wings as a potential fantasy darling for quite some time now (it always seems longer than it actually has been). He’s rocketing up the rankings because veteran Kyle Rudolph is finally out of the way (Rudolph is now with the NYG). And Firkser is really in the same position with Jonnu Smith out of the way (now with New England).
To me, the only difference is this: Smith has always been hyped (his over/under is 575.5 on DraftKings Sportsbook); Firkser has not. So now the pack takes Smith a few spots before Firkser, and you are getting similar production from the latter much later in drafts, potentially. Textbook value play.
And I like Firkser on an individual level. I vividly remember his postseason touchdowns vs. both New England and KC two seasons ago. I specifically remember thinking, who the heck is that guy and where did he come from? Those were typical Mike Vrabel maneuevers right there. Coach had been “hiding” Firkser all year – his only touchdown came in the middle of the season, also against KC in a high-scoring affair – and then he unleashed him at exactly the right moments in the postseason.
Specifically, Firkser really sneaks up on you with his speed. At 6-2, 246 pounds, you don’t want to be alone on an island with him if you are an opposing safety or linebacker. Sure, he’s a big boy – but he can streak right by you. His speed is sneaky; Firkser runs low to the ground and bursts with a quick first step. He also has good body control in the air; he’s capable of very athletic catches in the redzone. He’s absolutely willing to put his body on the line.
At this point I’ll bring us full circle, back to Julio Jones, whose over/under on DraftKings Sportsbook is 995.5. Sure, it’s really easy to think and say Julio Jones and A.J. Brown are gonna get all the targets from Ryan Tannehill; but that truly is taking the easy way out.
Let’s look a little deeper. Are you really afraid of WR Josh Reynolds? How about WRs Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Racey McMath? I know I’m not. And is Derrick Henry a pass-catching threat out of the backfield? No.
So, to me, I see potential for Firkser to be the No. 3 guy in Tennessee. Sure, “AJB” and Julio are the studs, but Firkser comes into this season with more QB chemistry than Reynolds. If the former becomes the No. 3 option through the air on – what should be – a high-powered offense, we gotta like our value points at TE20 in Redraft and well, completely off-the-board in Dynasty. Fantasy Football Calculator indicates only 13 valuable Dynasty tight ends, and Mr. Firkser is not listed as one of them.
In his prime at 26 years old – and with Jonnu Smith out of the way – Anthony Firkser is primed for a breakout year in fantasy football.
John Frascella is a published sports author and Senior Fantasy Analyst for Aaron Torres Online. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy football.
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