Fantasy Football: 5 Players Who Finished Strong in 2011

Marco PatitucciContributor IIAugust 15, 2012

Fantasy Football: 5 Players Who Finished Strong in 2011

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    On fantasy draft day, you might find yourself having to decide between two players with similar 2011 production and 2012 projections. One way to differentiate between similar statistical seasons is to look at who was at their best late in the season.

    These five players had strong finishes to their 2011 campaigns; this could indicate better overall production in 2012.

Julio Jones

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    Jones had eight receiving TDs in 2011—pretty impressive for a rookie. Considering Jones had a lingering hamstring issue that caused him to miss three games and not have a target in one other game, the hype around Jones heading into 2012 is justified. His strong finish to the season certainly helps his case to be a WR1 in fantasy.

    Over the last four games of the 2011 season, Jones had 20 receptions, 393 yards receiving and six TDs. In the Falcons’ first preseason game, Jones backed up his late-season push by catching six balls for 109 yards and a TD against Baltimore. The Matt Ryan/Jones connection looked strong; they could have a breakout similar to Stafford and Johnson's last year, although their numbers are unlikely to be as gaudy.

Reggie Bush

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    Bush finished his season with four-straight 100-yard rushing performances, averaging 130 rushing yards per contest in that span. The late push led to the first 1,000-yard rushing season of Bush's six-year career.

    Bush will again have to contend with Daniel Thomas for carries, but he has an advantage as an established pass-catcher out of the backfield. The Dolphins did not use Bush as much as they could have in the passing game last season, so he only caught 43 balls for 296 yards, a far cry from his career bests of 88 receptions and 742 receiving yards.

Aaron Hernandez

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    Two of Hernandez’s best performances of 2011 came in the last four weeks. He totaled 25 receptions, 387 yards receiving and two TDs in those four games.

    Contending for targets with Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd are certainly a concern, but the Patriots will continue to emphasize the pass (No. 2 passing offense in 2011) with Tom Brady still playing at an elite level.

    Hernandez was also given some rushing attempts late in the season and in the playoffs which could add to Hernandez's fantasy stock this season. He rushed eight times for 70 yards in the 2011 postseason.

Matthew Stafford

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    Stafford was able to complete his first full season, and he exceeded expectations by becoming only the fourth QB to throw for over 5,000 yards in a season (5,038). His impressive season was pushed to exceptional in large part because of his last three weeks of otherworldly production.

    Stafford averaged 428 passing yards and four TD passes in three games leading up to the postseason and threw for 380 and three TDs in the Lions’ playoff loss to the Saints.

Jared Cook

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    Cook had the best season of his young career and put together his best statistical performances late in the year for the Titans. In Weeks 15-17, Cook averaged seven catches and 112 yards per game.

    The progression for Cook has been steady. In 2010, Cook caught 29 balls for 361 yards with a TD. Last year, Cook caught 49 balls for 759 yards with three TDs. The increase in production over the last few weeks of last season points to another surge in 2012.