You can’t draft every player you would like, but you can always try to trade for them later in the season. Here are five players who could struggle early but make great additions to your fantasy football roster for a playoff push.
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers
Mathews set career highs last season in carries (285) and yards (1,255) and had seven total touchdowns — six rushing, one receiving — after playing in all 16 games for the first time in his career. He is being drafted as the 20th running back in fantasy leagues, on average, but is projected to score the 17th-most points at the position. Most of those points should come after the first five weeks. In weeks one through five, Mathews faces the second toughest running schedule in the league, but then the top five easiest in weeks six through 15. Impatient owners may be ready to give up on their fourth-round pick sooner rather than later.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
Cutler is at the helm of one of the best offenses in the league and is even seen by one pundit — NFL.com’s Dave Dameshek — as the future offensive player of the year.
The offensive line is now a position of strength, Matt Forte is the best dual-threat RB in the NFC, the receivers are the best in the league, and Marc Trestman is Chip Kelly in hipster horn-rimmed glasses. In other words, there’s no more room for excuses for Cutler. Fortunately, he won’t need any.
The Bears may get off to a slow start against the third-toughest slate of games in the first five weeks, but it should be smooth sailing after that. Here is an added bonus: Cutler is currently being drafted in the seventh round, so it isn’t far-fetched to see an owner cut him for someone having more immediate success. If so, he is definitely worth a waiver claim.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
No one is going to drop Bryant after investing a high draft pick, but the first 10 weeks of the season are not easy for the Cowboys. They start off against the 49ers and are on the road against Seattle in Week 6, giving them one of the hardest schedules against the pass before their bye week. Bryant has gone up against Seattle before, and in those two games he has a total of 8.3 fantasy points. But after that, it’s four NFC East teams plus the Bears and Colts.
Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos
Denver’s offense was a juggernaut last season, scoring on 47.5 percent of their offensive
plays drives (led the NFL), averaging 7.8 net yards per passing attempt after you adjust for sacks (also led the NFL) and racking up 37.9 points per game (again, led the NFL). So it is no surprise that Ball is a fringe first-round pick. However, the first 10 weeks are a killer for running backs and it isn’t until Week 11 (vs. the St. Louis Rams) that there is a lot of breathing room. And we don’t yet know if Ball was getting more acclimated to the offense as the season wore on or if he just needs some time to warm up.
Either way, owners could be looking to jump ship if the Broncos offense sputters early.
Greg Olson, TE, Carolina Panthers
Olsen set a career high in receptions last year (73) and has been extremely productive over the last two seasons:1,659 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is currently ranked as the ninth-best tight end heading into 2014 and current ADP projections have him as an eighth-round pick. The Panthers face the Steelers, Bengals, Seahawks and Saints before their bye week (Week 12) but have a favorable schedule for fantasy points for tight ends after that. I could see owners just cutting their losses on an eighth-round pick, but if Olsen isn’t available on the waiver wire, it might be worth a lowball offer to someone who has him.
All stats and draft data based on a 12-team non-PPR league based on the NFL default fantasy scoring system.
Average draft position data from Fantasy Football Calulator.
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