The emergence of Danario Alexander has been one of the most fascinating subplots of the fantasy season.
Alexander, who has had more knee surgeries over the past 5-6 years than most people have teeth cleanings, signed with the Chargers on Oct. 18. He has played in seven games with San Diego, but you can throw out the first of those games, in which he made only a token appearance. In the other six games, Alexander has produced 555 receiving yards and five TD catches. Project that over a full season, and we’re looking at A.J. Green-type numbers. Plucked off the scrap heap, Alexander has been a true impact player over the second half of the fantasy season.
Perhaps Alexander’s recent exploits aren’t all that shocking to you if you remember his final season at the University of Missouri. As a senior in 2009, he had 113 receptions for 1,781 yards and 14 TDs, forming a lethal pitch-and-catch combo with (wait for it …) Blaine Gabbert. So how did Alexander go undrafted by NFL teams the following spring? Because he had already undergone multiple knee surgeries in college and then sustained another knee injury at the Senior Bowl. Not even Dr. Nick of “The Simpsons” would have given him medical clearance in the spring of 2010.
For the moment, Alexander’s knee seems to be sound (knock wood or knock cartilage — whichever you prefer), and he’s fulfilling his vast potential. What’s also pretty cool is that Alexander has helped perk up Chargers QB Philip Rivers, who didn’t look especially perky early in the season. In San Diego’s first seven games, Rivers averaged 235.1 passing yards and 1.4 TD passes. In the six games since Alexander started catching passes for the Chargers, Rivers has averaged 253.8 passing yards and 1.8 TD passes.
It’s going to be interesting to see what Alexander can do for his fantasy owners in these next two critical playoff weeks. His matchups aren’t especially easy. This week he faces the Panthers, who have allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Next week he goes against the Jets, which means a potential date with ace CB Antonio Cromartie. But after recording two TD catches last week against the Steelers, who have one of the stingiest pass defenses in the league, Alexander has to be considered almost matchup-proof at this point.
And assuming Alexander can make it through the rest of the season with his ACL and other important knee ligaments still intact, it’s going to be fascinating to see where he goes in next year’s fantasy drafts. Alexander’s medical history makes him riskier than street food in Singapore. But when healthy … well, we’re seeing what he’s capable of contributing to a fantasy team.
To all the league commissioners out there, I’d like to emphasize the importance of making sure your league rules are ironclad and loophole-free with regard to which teams qualify for the playoffs in the event of ties.
We just had an interesting situation come up in a league I’m in, a 12-team league with three divisions. The three division winners automatically earn playoff spots, and there’s a single wild-card spot. This year, four teams, including mine, were tied for the wild-card spot at 7-7.
League rules stipulated that the first tiebreaker was head-to-head play. One of the other teams tied with me was in my division, so I had played him twice. I swept that team and was 1-1 against the two other teams involved in the four-way tie. So in multi-way head-to-head play against those three other teams, I was 3-1. The other teams were 2-1, 1-2 and 1-3.
The question we wrestled with was whether head-to-head play indisputably broke the tie in this instance. The fact that I was in the same division as one of the other teams gave me an extra game in head-to-head play. So at 3-1, did I necessarily deserve to beat out the team that was 2-1? This tiebreaker was devised with two- or three-team ties in mind. A four-way tie raised issues we hadn’t envisioned.
This is an amicable league that's full of non-combative guys, and though there’s a decent chunk of money involved, the amount isn’t large enough for me to put a lawyer on retainer to press the case on my behalf. Ultimately, I conceded that the head-to-head tiebreaker didn’t adequately break the tie. Using the second tiebreaker, total points, I lost the wild-card spot to one of the other 7-7 teams. Interestingly enough, it went to the team that was 1-3 in head-to-head play. (But that owner had just given me two very nice bottles of wine for the holidays, so I don’t feel particularly bitter.)
With our rules failing us in this instance, only the easygoing nature of league membership averted a near-riot. In many leagues, this situation would have touched off World War III. That’s why I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important it is to make sure your league rules on playoff tiebreakers are completely airtight.
In just a few days, all but a fortunate handful of fantasy owners will have been eliminated from the fantasy playoffs. So next week’s column will be entirely forward-looking, taking an early glimpse at next year’s fantasy drafts. But for now: one quick forward-looking thought:
Next year’s QB crop will be the most bountiful we’ve ever seen.
This year’s remarkable class of rookie quarterbacks has created unprecedented depth at the position. Robert Griffin III will be one of the first quarterbacks off the board in next year’s drafts. Andrew Luck figures to be taken not long after top-tier guys like RG3, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees have been selected. Then add Cam Newton, the Manning brothers, Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford, and you have 10 QBs with whom you’d be comfortable waging war. That still leaves capable veterans like Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers; solid youngsters like Josh Freeman and Andy Dalton; and high-upside newcomers such as Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. Among those still left over: Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco and Jake Locker, all of whom would make perfectly acceptable fantasy backups.
With that sort of depth at the position, Congress needs to pass a law making it a federal crime to reach for a quarterback in 2013.