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Hidden Gems: Danny Amendola

You see the tiny gem, the undersized one that gets little attention… that’s Danny
Photo Credit: Roman Köhler

One of the many joys of being a fantasy sports prognosticator is unearthing the “hidden gems” for the upcoming season. There’s nothing more riveting than drafting the breakout players and undervalued commodities while getting jealous draft chat comments from your league mates. As such, each week, in preparation for the upcoming NFL season, we’ll be talking about players who fit the aforementioned criteria. For our first edition, we head to St. Louis where a Wes Welker clone is at work. Of course, I’m talking about Danny Amendola. Find out why he’s due for a monstrous 2011 campaign after the jump.

Amendola burst onto the fantasy scene last year, quietly putting together a season in which he snagged 85 catches which was good enough for 9th best among NFL receivers. He also finished among the league leaders in targets (20th to be precise) with 123. Pretty impressive considering he went undrafted in many leagues. What’s even more surprising is that Amendola was able to accomplish said feats with rookie quarterback Sam Bradford throwing him the ball. Although likely a potential superstar, Bradford’s first season in the league, although impressive, was simply the experimental phase of his career. We can thus fully expect further improvement to occur in his second full season. With greater improvement from his young Quarterback, Amendola himself will have more opportunities to shine.

What’s even more intriguing is the Rams addition of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Josh McD might be a terrible head coach, but if there is one thing the guy knows how to do is run an offense. After all, he was mentored by one of the greatest NFL coaches of all-time, Bill Belichick. McDaniels is keen on throwing the ball. Last year, the Broncos finished 7th in the league in both passing attempts (580) and passing yards (4038). It’s safe to assume that McDaniels is going to employ his pass first mentality to St. Louis’ offense. Again, this only bodes well for Amendola. The new offensive coordinator is also accustomed to utilizing players with similar skill sets to Amendola. He did run New England’s offense where Wes Welker emerged as one of the best slot receivers in the game. Therefore, we can thus fully expect him to utilize Amendola in a similar fashion. Already, reports of McDaniel’s admiration towards his new slot receiver have surfaced. According to Pro Football Weekly, McDaniels “thinks the world” of Amendola and fully plans on using him as a key offensive weapon this season. If he was able to make Wes Welker a star I can easily see him doing the same for Amendola.

To further add icing on the already scrumptious cake, Amendola is slated to continue being the main return man for the Rams. This just further adds value to his game. In leagues which count return yards, he can be viewed as a fringe WR1, regardless if it’s PPR or not. Despite all of the signs of a breakout, Amendola still receives NO respect from early drafters. Currently, according to Mock Draft Central, his ADP sits at 93.07. This means that in standard 12 team leagues, he can be had in the eighth round after uninspiring or unproven commodities such as Deion Branch (ADP of 77.87) and Jerome Simpson (ADP of 83.10). That right there gamers is what we call value.

With Amendola already being the favourite target of Sam Bradford and the young quarterback’s likely improvement this year, I can easily see Amendola receiving more targets than he did in 2010. A Top 10 finish in this category is prospective. With more targets comes more opportunity and since Danny Amendola pretty much catches anything thrown his way a 100 reception season is definitely reachable, especially with Josh McD running the offense. It also doesn’t hurt that the rest of the Rams’ receiving corps, although loaded with potential (think Mardy Gilyard, Danario Alexander), have shown to be grossly inconsistent. Amendola might very well be the epitome of consistency and thus will be the Rams number one aerial target this season. In PPR and return yardage formats, he will be a star, so do yourself a favour and target him this year. Much like his clone in New England did in the past, Amendola will be leading many fantasy teams to imaginary championships.

2011 Projection: 97 Receptions, 900 Yards, 7 Touchdowns, 1367 Return Yards

*All stats taken from the National Post and NFL.com

Justin Occhionero has been dominating the Fantasy sports world for six years now. When not obsessing over his teams, he enjoys long walks on the beach, chai latte’s, and making fun of MDS’ analysis (albeit most of the time they agree). You can follow him on Twitter or send questions, comments or a Haiku to justin.occhionero@hotmail.com

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