Almost every year, several players boost their stock in the playoffs and become fantasy football draft darlings the following year.
This year’s set of playoffs should be no different. Identified in this slideshow are eight players who have the opportunity to raise their stock prior to fantasy drafts this summer. Whether they're getting increased roles or simply getting hot at the right time, the following eight players should be valuable commodities when draft time comes.
Even though the 2103 fantasy football season is done, our jobs as owners never are. So keep watching the playoffs to scout some potential sleepers for next year.
Here, then, are eight players (listed alphabetically) who may improve their 2014 stock this postseason.
Doug Baldwin very quietly came on toward the end of the season. Although he didn’t start the season on fire, Baldwin was a very reliable option (think No. 3 WR or flex spot) for fantasy owners in the final weeks of the season.
Baldwin finished the season with a respectable 50 receptions for 778 receiving yards and five touchdowns while becoming a trusted target for Russell Wilson.
With Percy Harvin and Golden Tate vying for catches, it should be interesting to see what kind of role Baldwin has in the postseason for the Seahawks. If he continues to be a receiver Wilson relies on, then he may head into next season as a fashionable sleeper.
Although Knowshon Moreno gets the bulk of carries in Denver, Montee Ball has a chance to make a statement in the playoffs while auditioning himself for more playing time in 2014.
Ball finished the season in style, rushing for 297 yards and one touchdown in his last five games. The Broncos will want to know what they have in their 2013 second-round pick, and, although Moreno is the more trusted back, Ball should still get some carries in the playoffs.
If Ball has a good postseason, the Broncos could give him a shot at earning the role as lead back in Denver next year. At minimum, Ball should at least play himself into a timeshare with Moreno.
Depending on how Trent Richardson fits into the plans of the Colts, Donald Brown could be auditioning for a job—either with the Colts or elsewhere.
Brown has been running the ball great lately, having scored in three straight games, including last week in the Colts’ wild playoff win over the Chiefs. In that game, he rushed for 55 yards on 11 carries while also contributing four receptions for 47 yards and an additional touchdown.
If Brown keeps this up, he could be in line to get some carries next year—regardless of what team he ends up on.
After a breakout 2012 campaign, a lot was expected of Michael Crabtree in 2013, but he fell victim to an Achilles tear in May that derailed his 2013 season. He wasn’t activated until Week 13, but in his last six games—including last week’s Wild Card Game at Green Bay—he demonstrated that he is slowly but surely getting back into the groove of things.
How Crabtree finishes up postseason play could play a factor in how he is judged come draft day. He had a phenomenal start to the playoffs, recording eight receptions for 125 yards receiving in his game at Green Bay last week.
If Crabtree has another fine performance in the game at Carolina, he will cement his status as a prime bounce-back candidate in 2014.
There will come a day when Chargers tight end Antonio Gates slows down. In anticipation, the Chargers started to get his understudy, Ladarius Green, some more action in the final weeks of the season.
Although he was absent in Weeks 14-16, Green showed glimpses of greatness down the stretch. Green scored a touchdown in Weeks 12, 13, and 17 and also scored in last week’s Wild Card Game against the Bengals.
There is a chance—even with Gates still on the roster—that Green can fully break out next year. How he continues to fare in the playoffs should be interesting to monitor.
Like Crabtree, Percy Harvin (who is coming back from a hip injury) has a lot to prove this postseason, and he is expected to play in Seattle’s game with New Orleans this Saturday.
While Harvin has some rust to shake off, he is capable of busting out with his elusive playmaking abilities. Although he appeared in only one game this year (registering just one reception for 17 yards against the Vikings in Week 11), Harvin was acquired by the Seahawks to make a difference. The Seahawks did not miss a beat without him, but Seattle can potentially be a more explosive offense if Harvin is healthy.
If he has the same burst and looks in the playoffs, Harvin could raise a few eyebrows and improve his fantasy value heading into drafts next summer.
After busting out for 224 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 13 receptions (18 targets) against the Chiefs last week, T.Y. Hilton has already boosted his fantasy stock tenfold.
If Hilton can follow that up with a solid performance in New England this weekend, he will go into next year as a trendy sleeper. Although the expected return of Reggie Wayne next year may take away some of his targets, Hilton will remain a primary target for Andrew Luck, as he at least has health and youth on his side.
How the Patriots use their running backs in the postseason should go a long way in determining how they will use their backs in 2014.
One player whose value could jump in the playoffs is Shane Vereen. Vereen is known as a great receiving threat (47 receptions in eight games this season), and if he can get some more carries (on top of receptions) in the playoffs, it could help bolster his worth exponentially.
Ever since coming back from a wrist injury in Week 11, Vereen has become a focal point of the Patriots offense (receiving a combined 70 carries and receptions in his last seven games), and it should be interesting to see how the Patriots use him in the playoffs.
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