If you won a few fantasy football leagues last year you more than likely had either Josh Gordon or Alshon Jeffrey on your roster to thank.  While they didn’t lead the percentages among NFL players to be on fantasy championship rosters, that belonged to Jamaal Charles with Peyton Manning close behind, they were by far the best “value draft picks” of the season.  Alshon Jeffrey may have even slipped through the cracks in some 10 team league drafts where you don’t have an opportunity to start three wide receivers and made some waiver wire troller extremely happy.

The reason I think you should thank Gordon or Jeffrey before patting Charles or Manning on the back is because of value.  The value that comes with massively out performing your average draft position.  This massive value spike is hard to contend with for an entire season.  It was even harder to contend with in daily fantasy football on sites like FanDuel and DraftKings where Gordon and Jeffrey were playing so far above the invested value that you couldn’t win any money without them in your lineups.

I’m not the first to talk about Gordon and his massive value last season.  Here Michael Fabiano wrote about Josh Gordon’s value in his season ending awards on NFL.com.

Draft value of the year

Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns:
Gordon wins his second Guru Award, as he was a steal in 2013 drafts. Remember, he was suspended for the first two weeks of the season due to off-field issues — that made his stock fall in most leagues (ADP: 132.68). Gordon would finish the fantasy season tied with Calvin Johnson for the most fantasy points among wideouts.

While I wasn’t the first to talk about his value last year, I may be the first to talk about the fact that he may not come close in 2014 to hitting his ADP value. Don’t get me wrong Gordon is a supremely talented wide receiver, but he is currently going off the board in the middle of round one in fantasy football drafts. He’s going in the right spot based on last year’s production, but can he really match or outplay last year’s league leading numbers. I am not willing to bet on it with the situation in Cleveland.

Gordon is going in the top tier of fantasy wide receivers right now, Alshon Jeffrey is not too far behind him going in the third to fifth round of drafts. Jeffrey started slow last year, but really came on and became a huge fantasy football weapon. His ability to high point the ball always made him an intriguing pick, but his polished route running coupled with his run after the catch ability made him a break out star. Jeffrey even gets consistent carries as a runner on short reverses that keep his stat ticker climbing in the right direction.

Jeffrey wasn’t Jay Cutler‘s favorite target early on in the season and didn’t really get on track until Josh McCown took over for the injured Jay Cutler in the middle of the season. McCown and Jeffrey’s chemistry was magical to fantasy owners as Jeffrey quickly went from a fantasy bench warmer to a must start. His record breaking performances haven’t gone unnoticed as you can see by my aforementioned ADP for him at this point in the off season. His ADP is only going to climb over the off season as other wide receivers may be hurt by free agent moves (Eric Decker) or draft picks.  Speaking of climbing, a buddy of mine on Twitter, Matt Lane, and a writer for FakePigSkin.com took Jeffrey in the first round of one of the early off season Draft Masters @FantasyTaz has put together.  While I told him that was too early for my liking I can completely understand falling in love with him based on his upside.

The traits that Jeffrey and Gordon share are that they are huge physical receivers that can run, Gordon can run fast more-so than Jeffrey.  Those physical traits used to be very rare to come by, but the wide receiver class of 2012 had quite a few receivers that fit that body type.  In contrast the wide receiver crop from the 2013 NFL Draft was missing those big, physical, speed receivers.  There was plenty of short speed receivers like Tavon Austin, the first wide receiver taken in the first round by the St. Louis Rams, but the big outside marquee guys were few and far between.

The only wide receivers taken in the 2013 draft that came close to fitting the bill of the big, fast, physical wide receiver prototype in my opinion were DeAndre Hopkins and Cordarrelle Patterson.  Hopkins had made his name lining up on the opposite side of the field from Sammy Watkins at Clemson University and tearing through tough defensive backfields like LSU.  While Patterson was a junior college phenom that moved on to Tennessee and became the most explosive offensive football player in the SEC.  Hopkins hand size was discussed more than when Hakeem Nicks was coming out of the University of North Carolina, while Patterson was described as a raw play-maker that was as far from a polished wide receiver that had been considered for the first round in a long, long time.

Hopkins had a few nice games to start the year in Houston as Matt Shaub looked to have plenty of confidence in the rookie, but after week number three the rest of the season was pretty much un-ownable in fantasy leagues.  The resurgence of Andre Johnson and the unpredictability of the quarterback position in Houston pretty much soured the back end of his rookie year.  Hopkins didn’t score a touchdown after week number seven and didn’t top one-hundred yards after week two.  I think the continued presence  of Andre Johnson and the tailspin of a second half of a season should be able to keep him as a good value pick for next year.  I believe he has the ideal skills set to out play his draft position if the right quarterback ends up in Houston.

Cordarrelle Patterson of the Minnesota Vikings is the type of wide receiver that makes fantasy players drool.  He can score when ever he touches the ball.  He scores on kick offs, he scores on hand-offs, and he scores on receptions.  The only way he doesn’t score is when the Vikings decide not to give him the ball, which happened a lot last season.  The #FreePatterson chanting on Twitter was almost becoming a grass roots effort to make the Vikings fun to watch.

The only excuse for the Vikings not to use Patterson more has to be the fact that he was as raw as advertised when coming out.  If you look at Patterson’s numbers through out the year his one big performance as a wide receiver came in a bit of an outlier type game as his production was in the snow against a shell shocked Baltimore Ravens’ Defense.  Beyond that one game that really was a product of a missed tackle that led to a huge catch and run touchdown, Patterson was not all that impressive as a pass catcher.  His return skills and ability to run the ball once in possession of it was off the charts.

The reason I look beyond his receiving tape from last season is because of his after the catch running skills and his build.  Patterson is 6’2″ 220 pounds and is a nightmare to try and tackle in the secondary.  He measures up well to last year’s break out wide receivers Josh Gordon who is 6’3″ and 225 pounds and Alshon Jeffrey 6’3″ 216 pounds (that must be typo from the Bears.)  and actually is a more explosive runner than Jeffrey.  This off season is huge for Patterson because that’s where Alshon Jeffrey did all the work that led to his breakout 2013 season.

While Jeffrey had Brandon Marshall pushing him day in and day out in the off season, I’m not sure Greg Jennings is doing the same for Patterson.  I hope Jennings is taking Patterson under his wing and showing him how a top level wide receiver works, but at this point I just don’t know if that’s the case.  If not, hopefully he hired the right coaches for the off season.

Either way I’m betting on Patterson to make the leap to almost elite this season.  He should easily outplay his draft position as long as your league doesn’t get too smart in the off season.  I am willing to take him as my second wide receiver in drafts at this point as long as I have a strong back up plan in place with some high floor-type receivers as my WR3 and WR4.  If you nab Patterson any where after the fourth round you should be able to collect excellent returns on your investment.