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Fantasy Playoff Hype

How much stock do you put in playoff performances?

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Back in 2009, Sidney Rice was in his third season and finally managed to stay healthy. He's always had the talent to be a difference maker, but he couldn't stay on the field. With Brett Favre under center, Rice went off for a career best 83 catches, 1,312 yards and 8 TD's. To cap it all off, he went Beast Mode in the playoffs in the Wildcard round, torching the Cowboys for 6 catches, 141 yards and 3 TD's. He looked like a young Larry Fitzgerald with his playmaking ability and ball skills. 

While the Vikings playoff run ended the next week against the Saints (where Rice had 4 catches, 43 yards and a TD), my obsession with Sidney Rice was just beginning. Only 24 years old, Rice was on the verge of big things, with the potential to become one of the best receivers in the game. I had to have him on my Dynasty roster....he was the next big thing at the position. He was coming off of a breakthrough season and I was buying high, but I thought the price tag was only going to go up. I knew I wasn't the only one that saw a potential star and I had to act quickly and be prepared to make a strong offer. I secured his services for a 1st round draft pick and Devin Hester (who was coming off a "career" best 757 yards on 57 catches), what I thought was a steal at the time. Of course, Sidney Rice hasn't been able to stay healthy since and I am left holding out hope that he can be Flex worthy for the next few seasons. 
 

Flash forward to this postseason, where Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have been putting on a show. Dynasty values for both young players are on the rise, as they should be. The playoffs are a great chance for players to boost their stock on a big stage. The discerning Dynasty owner must be aware of a players value being too inflated based on playoff performances. A great example from last season was Eli Manning, who enjoyed the best regular season of his career and put together an equally impressive playoff run. While definitely a back-end QB1, Eli's career year and heroic postseason had his ADP skyrocketing in 2012. He had only a decent season, finishing as the 15th scoring QB after being 6th in 2011.

It's not always a bad idea to buy into a player based on a playoff performance that catches your eye...Remember this Beast Mode run 3 postseasons ago from Marshawn Lynch? He had been traded to Seattle earlier that season after wearing out his welcome in Buffalo. There were still all kinds of question marks regarding his desire and long term potential, but those that bought in have to be happy about their Top 10 RB right about now.

What to do if you own one of these players or want to acquire their services? While you shouldn't go out and try to sell Kaep or Wilson just because they are streaking, it could be very lucrative for your team should someone being willing to overpay just like I was for Sid Rice. On the other hand, going after a player on the verge of fantasy greatness could pay dividends. It all comes down to the asking price. If an owner is trying to capitalize on new-found hype for one of their players, it might not be prudent to get into a bidding war. If the price tag is reasonable, however, it may be time to make a move. Don't buy the playoff performance hype, but don't completely ignore it either.

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With the Championship round set for this weekend, here are a few players that could increase their "market value" with strong performances:

Colin Kaepernick's value is on helium watch and it's not without good reason. He has effortless downfield accuracy and his feet are as impressive as any dual threat QB in the game. His talent is exciting, but keep in mind he's very inexperienced and could have an up and down fantasy year in 2013. The scary part is, he might just be scratching the surface of his potential.

Joe Flacco referred to himself as an elite QB this summer and quite frankly he has been anything but. Until the playoffs...where he has 5 TD's and over 600 passing yards in the first two rounds. While he is far to inconsistent to be relied upon as a QB1, he's a very good back-up. Should he go on to lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory, he could see his ADP climb into Top 10 territory next year.

Matt Ryan has solidified himself as a regular season QB1, his issue was getting a postseason victory. He took care of that (barely) and now has a chance to be regarded as a Tier 1 talent at the position should he march the Falcons to a victory in New Orleans.

Stevan Ridley is the lead back in New England, but there is room for another RB to eat. See Woodhead, Danny...who had a Top 25 PPR performance in what could be his final season with the Patriots before free agency. Enter Shane Vereen, the playmaking 2nd year back out of Cal. He showed off his versatility on Sunday with 3 TD's and over 100 total yards. Ridley has not been involved in the passing game and that means there could be major fantasy opportunity for Vereen in 2013.

Bernard Pierce has carved out a nice role for himself as a high-upside handcuff for Ray Rice. He rolled up a 100 yard game on the Colts in his first playoff appearance and while he only got 5 carries versus the Broncos, he's clearly an RB on the rise. A must have for Rice owners and a great lottery ticket on your bench if you don't own him.

While Michael Turner may not be long for Atlanta due to his plodding run style, 2nd year speedster Jacquizz Rodgers is more than ready to step in. He'll always be a timeshare back because of his diminutive size, but Quizz has the skillset to be a high upside RB3 as soon as next season. As owners in PPR leagues already know, he caught 53 balls this past season. He should be in line for an increased workload in 2013.

LaMichael James is another undersized back-up with playmaking potential. He was regularly a game-day inactive early in the season, but when Kendall Hunter ruptured his Achillis, James started to get some work. He's explosive and much like Quizz Rodgers, will be limited to a part time role, but Flex potential is there. Considering the cloudy future of Hunter, the likely decline of Frank Gore and mediocrity of Anthony Dixon and Brandon Jacobs, James could have an opportunity to impress this weekend and possibly in the Super Bowl.

Torrey Smith
was supposed to take the leap from inconsistent deep threat to all-around WR in 2012. His season stats ended up very similar to his impressive rookie season. He flashed against the Texans, with 98 yards on 3 catches (2 of which went for TD's). He'll enter his third season on the verge of WR2 potential.

Julio Jones was going as early as the 2nd WR off the board this summer and while he didn't quite live up to that hype, he is certainly on his way to being a perennial Top 5 WR. A strong playoff performance in the spotlight will almost assure him "untouchable" status in Dynasty leagues.

In 53 games games started by a 49ers QB other than Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree managed just four 100 yard receiving games. In the past 8 games with Kaepernick under center, Crabs has four 100 yard receiving games. The former 10th overall selection finally ran up a 1,000 yard receiving season in 2012, setting a career high in receptions, yards and TD's. He's continued that strong play into the playoffs, where he lit up the Packers for 9 catches, 119 yards and 2 TD's. Much like his QB, Crabs value is clearly on the rise and he's still got legit WR2 upside. He's resuscitated his once frustrating Dynasty value in the past two months and could see a bigger statistical season in 2013 at age 26. 

Aaron Hernandez battled injuries in his third pro season, only playing in 10 games and registering the lowest yardage and TD outputs of his career. With Gronk out for the remainder of the playoffs, Hernandez could find himself playing an even bigger role this weekend after delivering 6 catches for 85 yards against the Texans. Since he did not live up to the preseason hype this year, you can try to find the frustrated owner and make him an offer. He won't be 24 until next November and has the skillset to be a PPR machine, especially if the Patriots move on from Wes Welker. A big performance Sunday and potentially the Super Bowl, though, might be a reminder to his current owner and put him back out of reach.