Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fantasy Football Roundtable - Jermichael Finley

Fantasy Football Roundtable
Hosted By FantasyFootballTrader.Com  February 23, 2010

This week's question:'TE Jermichael Finley notched 70+ yards in four of the last five and scored four of his five touchdowns over that span as well. Fact or fiction for 2010?...'

Ryan of LestersLegends.Com says:

Absolute fact. The only thing that will hold him back is injury. He's a huge target (6'5", 247) with great speed and athleticism. His body is very fluid as he's able to make adjustments to the ball. He also possesses soft hands.

He'll be just 23 next year and he's already formed a great rapport with Aaron Rodgers, who's easily one of the top tier fantasy QBs. The ageless wonder Donald Driver has to slow down at some point, which should open up even more opportunities for Finley.

He was a beast down the stretch and Arizona could not check him in the playoff shootout. I currently have him as my 5th ranked fantasy TE, and I think he actually may move up the more I process his explosiveness.

Dave of RotoPicks.Com says:

Fact. After seeing how productive Jermichael Finley was in only his second season in the league, I have no reservations about pegging him as a top 10 TE come 2010. It wouldn’t even surprise me if he finished the 2010 season as a top 5 fantasy TE in both PPR and non-PPR formats.

At first glance Finley appears to have turned in a respectable 2009 season, earning him a place at the tail end of the top 10 TE rankings for 2010 drafts. After all, his rankings among tight ends were right around the top 10 in receptions (12th with 55 receptions), yards receiving (10th with 676 yards), and receiving touchdowns (T-12th with 5 touchdowns).

While setting up your 2010 cheat sheets, don’t make the mistake of looking at Finley’s overall stats from 2009. You also need to consider the fact that he missed almost 4 complete games last year. (And no, I’m not making an error and including the Packers week 3 routing of the Rams where he went without a reception.)

I’m not a huge fan of extrapolating statistics, but if you did extend Finley’s production out over a full 16 game season he would have put up top 5 tight end numbers and finished the season with about 70 receptions for 900 yards and 7 touchdowns. In my opinion, he should be the 6th or 7th TE taken in 2010 drafts and consider him a steal if you land him at any point after that.

Russ of FantasyFootballStarters.Com says:

Fact. From week 11 through the end of the regular season, only Greg Jennings had more passes thrown his way than Finley (56-50). And no one had more receptions in that span than Finley's 40. A knee injury sidelined him for three games but once he came back week 11, he was as good as any tight end in the game. Not including his six catches for 159 yards in the Packers playoff loss to Arizona, his 416 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns the last seven regular season games of 2009 would prorate out to 91 catches for 951 yards and seven touchdowns.

Finley will be the Packers starter over Donald Lee in 2010 and while the Packers boast one of the best WR corps in the NFL, Finley will still get a lot of targets and solid numbers. His size and speed make him a mismatch for LB's and safeties and there's an excellent chance Finley will be one of the top 5 fantasy tight ends in 2010. Once the more popular names like Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates, and Jason Witten are off the board by the end of the 5th round in this year’s draft, Finley in rounds 7-10 will prove to be a steal.

Jim of FFWhiz.Com says:

The cat is out of the bag on Jermichael Finley. The scary thing is he is only 22 and has nowhere to go but up. As he continues to learn how to read defenses and how to work into open zones his numbers should only continue to grow, especially considering he is partnered with one of the best young signal callers in the game; Aaron Rodgers. As the season progressed it was obvious that he developed a very good chemistry with Rodgers and should only continue to improve.

Finley is a very solid route runner with exceptional hands as he showed in the NFC Wild Card game against Arizona. In that game he was consistently double-teamed and still managed six receptions for 159 yards.

If there is one place that Finley will need to improve on, it’s his blocking. Until he can be counted on as a blocker he will only see the field on passing downs, but if he can improve in this area it will only open up more possibilities for him going forward and allow him to become one of the best in the game.

As I said in the beginning, the cat is definitely out of the bag and already I have seen that he is usually among the top 5 tight ends taken off the board in early mock drafts and may even rise with a solid off season. If you want him on your fantasy team do not sleep on him come draft time because Finley is a sleeper no longer.

Matt of RapidDraft.Com says:

Jermichael Finley is most certainly for real, and not just because I’m a big fan of attaching random letters to repurpose common first names.

Let’s start with the obvious: At 6-foot-5 and 247 pounds, his combination of size, downfield speed and athleticism makes Finley the kind of matchup nightmare that everyone but Mike Martz dreams about lining up at tight end. At just 22 years old (and after having left college a year early), Finley is still growing as a player and learning.

Of course, that’s not to discount what he already accomplished last year. Things got off to a relatively slow start before he missed three games with a left knee sprain. Upon his return, however, Finley immediately stepped in as a central figure in the Green Bay passing game. From Week 11 on, he was the second-most targeted Packer receiver – trailing Greg Jennings by just two – and caught eight more passes than anyone else on the team. The fact that Finley only led the team in targets in a game three times all season further shows the consistency with which he got looks from Aaron Rodgers.

Over that same seven-week stretch, six tight ends around the league were targeted more than Finley, but only Jason Witten (45) and Tony Gonzalez (39) collected more catches than his 38. That’s an average of a little more than five receptions a game, a rate that would produce about 87 over a full season. Only Witten and Dallas Clark topped that total at tight end in 2009. (And no one approached my aptitude for alliteration.)

In the Packers’ playoff loss, Jerm (we’re tight) turned all six of his catches into first downs and took three for more than 20 yards. That’s just one game but an important one that at least offers a glimpse at his value to his quarterback and big-play potential.

The one thing that might limit him in non-PPR formats is Green Bay’s ability to spread the ball around in the passing game. Five different Packers fell in the range of four to six touchdown catches last season. Whereas Donald Driver is nearing the end (and watched his opportunities decrease as Finley emerged), James Jones and Jordy Nelson are young guys heading in the opposite direction. Still, Finley came up with five scores last year – including four in the final five games – and Donald Lee found the end zone five times as the primary tight end in 2008. It shouldn’t take much for Finley to settle into the seven-touchdown area (with clear upside beyond that) over a full season, and we can’t ask much more than that from a fantasy tight end.

Finally, the Packers can and will throw. In Rodgers’ two seasons, they’ve tied for ninth and 10th in the league in pass attempts. That better-than-average rate was actually down from the first and sixth rankings of coach Mike McCarthy’s first two seasons.

Roll it all together, and Jermichael Finley should be pushing for top five at tight end for 2010.

Jim of FanaticFantasyFootball.Com says:

As is the case with most rookies, Jermichael Finley’s 2008 season was uneventful by NFL and fantasy football standards. During the 2008 season he was active on special teams, targeted with nine passes, caught 4 balls for 45 yards, and had no touchdowns.

During 2009, in only thirteen games, Finley had 51 receptions for 642 yards (12.3 yds. per catch) and 4 touchdowns. He missed three weeks 8-10 due to injuries. During the last six weeks Jermichael was targeted 45 times for 7.5 per game, while soon to be 30 year old, Donald Lee was looked to only 15 times. Spencer Havner got some playing time during Finley’s three week absence. Havner was targeted 10 times, caught 7 for 23 yards, and scored 4 touchdowns. Those stats will go to Finley this year.

Finley finished 2009 among the top 10 tight ends in fantasy football and #12 in the NFL. We expect another top 10 finish in 2010. Aaron Rodgers is confident in Finley’s ability to get open and hang onto the ball. He has good hands and is a threat to break a long run for a touchdown. The potential is there for Finley to be targeted 90-100 times with 70-75 receptions, but the Packers spread the ball as well as any team - 80-90 targets and 65-70 receptions are more realistic.

Donald Driver turned 35 years old February 2 and his production has dipped a little each year since 2006. We look for Driver and Finley to have almost equal numbers in 2010. Driver’s stats will dip a little more as Finley receives more targets from Aaron Rodgers. The Packers play only six games against playoff teams from 2009 in 2010. Two of those games are against their division rival Minnesota Vikings #20 ranked pass defense. Green Bay will play eight games against teams ranking among the top 16 in pass defense, and 8 games versus teams ranking among the 16 worst pass defenses, including division rival Detroit Lions twice.

Our line on Finley for 2010 looks like this: 95 targets, 69 receptions, 840 yards, and 7-9 touchdowns. That would place him in a group with #4 Vernon Davis, #5 Brent Celek, #6 Tony Gonzalez, and #7 Kellen Winslow.

Derek of FantasyFootballManiaxs.Com says:

A new star may have been born in 2009 at the tight end position. Green Bay Packers TE Jermichael Finley had quite a finish to the season; in his final seven games, he had 38 receptions for 416 yards and four touchdowns. He then took it up another gear and dominated the wild card round against the Arizona Cardinals, notching six receptions for 159 yards and no touchdowns. Those 159 yards were the second most by a tight end in NFL playoff history, trailing only San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame TE Kellen Winslow, who posted 166 yards in a 1981 Divisional Round victory over the Miami Dolphins. With company like that many fantasy owners are salivating at the possibilities for 2010.

Teams have to respect Grant’s ability to run the ball and they have to respect Jennings ability to stretch the field and Driver’s ability to be a clutch possession receiver. The Packers also have depth in the slot positions with fourth-year receiver James Jones and third -year receiver Jordy Nelson. There are only 11 defenders on the field and there are just not enough of them to devote more than one defender to Finley. At 6-4 and 240 lbs, Finley is big and physical, but can also stretch the field with his speed. It is tough to cover him with a linebacker because of his speed, but it is difficult to cover him with a safety, because of his size. Factor in the talent around him and it is a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.

The disadvantage is that it is easy for the Packers to forget to give him the ball. Against a Detroit Lions team that ranked 30th against the tight end, he logged only three catches for 25 yards and no touchdowns in a Thanksgiving Day clash. Rodgers threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns and the Packers put up 34 points. They do not always need Finley to move the ball. That is a stark contrast to guys like Dallas Cowboys Jason Witten, San Francisco 49ers Vernon Davis or San Diego Chargers Antonio Gates.

The other concern with Finley is injuries. He did not play much in 2008 due to a poor attitude and poor conditioning. He really turned that around in 2009 and showed a lot more maturity and toughness. He went from being the team’s No. 2 tight end at the beginning of the season to a player that started 10 games. I do not worry about his attitude regressing, but the problem is that he missed three games with a knee injury that he suffered early in the Cleveland game and missed four starts overall. As fantasy owners, we all know about the perpetually injured paper superstars.

I think Finley is going to notch between 750 to 850 yards and six to eight touchdowns in 2010, which is comparable to what Tony Gonzalez did in 2009. He is going to make owners happy, but it also means that Finley should be going in the sixth to eighth round. It makes a lot of sense to take him later and use your early picks to stockpile running backs and receivers. Inexperienced owners will take bigger name tight ends in that spot, giving owners who did their homework a bargain.

Jake of JunkYardJake.Com says:

Jermichael Finley was indeed a significant breakout player in 2009, and I am inclined to believe his emergence is not a mirage. He put the exclamation point on his already commendable 2009 season by setting a Packers playoff record with 6 catches for 159 yards in Green Bay’s playoff loss to Minnesota in the Wild Card round.

The 6-5 240 tight end left Texas after only two years, but many scouts projected that he could have very well been a 1st rounder with one more college season of experience. Finley entered Texas as a wide receiver out of High School in 2005. At the time, he weighed only about 215, and Finley's high school coach compared him to recent Texas 1st round pick Roy Williams in terms of size and speed. Early on, Finley showed his versatility, and athleticism by lining up wide, or inside as a TE, or even as an H-Back.

Although he has always shown a good commitment to weight-training and conditioning, probably the one area where Finley didn't spend enough time is in the area of film preparation and the general mental aspect of the game. It is said that he dedicated himself to becoming a more intelligent player this year, and this could help explain his breakout performance.

Entering his 3rd year, and still just 23 years old, it's hard not to like the potential upside of Jermichael Finley. Arguably, with his natural athletic ability, great hands and rare speed for the position, the only person who can limit the potential of Finley, is Finley himself. He will probably cost you a 7th-8th round pick in 2010 fantasy drafts, but he's worth the price in my opinion.

Jeff of DynastyKings.Com says:

Finley looks to have the talent level that could make him the next Antonio Gates - and that's not much of an exaggeration. As Finley wrapped up his second season in the NFL, the former Texas Longhorn had 59 targets since Week 10, topped only by Greg Jennings for the team lead. QB Aaron Rodgers just loves Finley's ability to offer a big target with soft hands and great leaping ability, especially on third downs and goal line chances.

The downside risks to Finley do exist - Green Bay put up a gaudy amount of points (461, 3rd in NFL) and Aaron Rodgers was one of only seven quarterbacks that attempted over 540 passes last season, so if Green Bay adds a bit more of balance it could mean a little less action for the receivers and tight ends. Finley also shares the workload for the Packers. Donald Lee is the better blocking tight end and he does see the field nearly as much as Finley. Over the same period (Weeks 11-17 and the Wild Card game), Lee lined up on offense 336 times while Finley had just 20 more snaps. Until Finley gets on the field 80% or more of the time, his upside will have some limitations. Another issue with grabbing him next year is that Finley snared 77.5% of his targets, tied for tops in the league with Heath Miller in that category. Odds are that a similar or better rate is not likely next year.

Overall in 2010, Finley gives good upside but I cannot see him in the Top 5 TEs for next season so long as Dallas Clark, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez all remain healthy - not to mention guys like Brent Celek, Vernon Davis and Kellen Winslow. The tight end position is a deep one for next year, so I would not overpay for a third year tight end who has yet to prove that he can produce big numbers over a 16-game period. Let someone else draft him too early.

Admittedly, I get to cheat a bit here, having already profiled Finley in our Daily Trader Team Takes. My thoughts on Finley most closely mirror that of the FF Whiz’ above. The biggest problem I’m having is, let’s be honest, he’s no sleeper. Hell, ten out of ten experts in this article alone see Finley coming from a mile away. If you enter your draft with thoughts of wryly snagging this cat in the ninth round, you’re exiting your draft with John Carlson. (Not sayin’ that’s a bad thing – but it is what it is).

My assessment of Finley remains the same as last week where I said, "Every year there seems to be a few players per position whose upside is so glaringly obvious that their average draft position puts them in risky territory. At TE, Finley will be one of those names this year. Mark my words, he'll be a chic TE sleeper by all of the mags this summer. If you want him you're gonna have to take him as the 4th-5th TE off of the board." That said, you won't see me betting against him making good on that draft position.

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