Draft day is closing in for the bulk of fantasy football leagues. Some leagues even drafted this past weekend (my sympathies to any Jordy Nelson owners). But for those yet to draft, the Nelson injury should convince you that your late-round draft picks may ultimately be as valuable as your early selections. Players taken late could see new opportunities arise for playing time, and in turn, fantasy production. Hello, Davante Adams.
Entering the 2015 season, there are several players within the draft’s mid-rounds that offer intrigue. And some players who could pay dividends with a late selection in your draft. Here are a couple players from each position who may be a boon to your lineup.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins
Miami fans were still on the fence with this guy until last season, when he appeared to turn the corner as an NFL quarterback. He increased his completion percentage, passing yards, passer rating and touchdown total for the third straight year. Tannehill had just two games in which he didn’t pass for 200 yards. Based on how he’s played this preseason (connecting on 81 percent of his passes while engineering three touchdown drives and passing for two scores), he could continue his upward trend.
Here’s the great thing — despite the impressive display in 2014, Tannehill remains overlooked in fantasy drafts. His current ADP is 91, making him, on average, the 13th quarterback being taken off the board. With most leagues typically fielding 10 to 12 teams, that makes Tannehill a backup based on his ADP.
Tannehill has to get acquainted with some new receivers, such as rookie DeVante Parker, veterans Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings, and a new tight end in Jordan Cameron. But that shouldn’t matter much in the big picture. He’s going to be a great get for somebody’s team; why not yours?
Other QBs who could come out of the woodwork: Colin Kaepernick, Blake Bortles
Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers
It’s been three years since Martin broke in with a dazzling rookie season in Tampa Bay. He followed that up with two awful campaigns, but Martin is back and, thus far through the preseason, it appears he could become fantasy relevant again.
His ADP is currently 85, making him the 33rd running back taken off the board. Think about that, 32 other RBs are going ahead of Martin. That said, a number of sites are showing that Martin’s ADP is on the rise, this coming on the heels of some positive statements from the coaching staff during training camp.
Don’t go so far as to make Martin an integral part of your team … but he does represent a player that can provide depth to an owner’s backfield and potentially deliver numbers that earn him a spot in your lineup.
As mentioned above, his stock is going up, which likely means he could be selected anywhere from No. 60 to somewhere in the 80s. Take him as your No. 4 tailback and he could be a pleasant surprise.
Alfred Blue, RB, Texans
With starter and perennial strong fantasy producer Arian Foster out approximately eight weeks, it would appear it’s Blue’s job to lose.
Concerns about Foster’s return and Blue’s role are certainly valid. The guess here is that Blue provides a half-season of No. 2 to No. 3 RB (flex play) production and likely still has value in Weeks 10 and 11, when Foster conceivably is settling back into the lineup. At that point, if Foster is all the way back, then perhaps Blue’s numbers take a drastic dip.
But before you can win your league’s title, you first need to qualify for the playoffs and Blue can help a team do that. His current ADP of 97 makes him the 36th RB being taken off the board. That number is certain to rise as draft day nears, but he still may be undervalued.
Blue has spelled Foster in previous seasons and opened the preseason with a very nice performance (nine carries for 59 yards). He represents a chance for owners to build depth with a player who has great upside. And if Foster has any setbacks in his return, owners will have landed a potential season-long starter with a great value pick.
David Cobb, RB, Titans
If you were like me a year ago and opted to take a flyer on Tennessee rookie Bishop Sankey, then you came away disappointed.
Well so far this preseason, it would appear Cobb is making a strong push to take what looked to be Sankey’s job to lose (though Sankey redeemed himself a bit Sunday night). Cobb has drawn raves and his work hasn’t gone unnoticed by the team’s coaching staff, which has opted to give the Minnesota product more reps with the first team as the season approaches.
While no one likes an RBBC (running back by committee), that has become the case with many NFL teams and owners are forced to take a shot on guys within those committees. With Cobb, this could be one of those times where it pays off.
The Titans are adjusting their offense to fit Marcus Mariota and there’s no doubt the offense could struggle. But even offenses that struggle can produce fantasy relevant players (see Alfred Morris and DeSean Jackson of the Redskins).
Sankey’s ADP is 119 while Cobb’s is 136. It’s possible Cobb could go undrafted, but more likely he’ll get grabbed during the last couple of rounds. Cobb has merit, take him late and stash him.
Other running backs that could come out of the woodwork: Darren McFadden, Darren Sproles and Danny Woodhead.
John Brown, WR, Cardinals
There are currently 40 wideouts being selected ahead of the Arizona receiver, whose ADP is 110. Perhaps it comes as a surprise to learn that Brown was tied for the team lead in targets last season with 103. He hauled in 48 receptions for nearly 700 yards, averaging 14.5 yard per catch in a strong rookie campaign.
The reason Brown remains in fantasy purgatory to some extent is due to the presence of Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald, plus RB Andre Ellington, who is an excellent receiver out of the backfield — not to mention the precarious status of the team’s quarterback position when Carson Palmer is not on the field.
Brown and Palmer have chemistry; look no further than Saturday night’s exhibition in which Brown hauled in three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown. He will be the vertical wideout in Arizona’s offense. Fitzgerald is in decline and Floyd is working his way back from a hand injury that could keep him out of the season opener. If Floyd or Fitzgerald misses time, Brown’s upside increases.
Eddie Royal, WR, Bears
Count this guy among those who have Royal circled on his draft cheat sheet. While I feel better grabbing Royal as a fourth wide receiver, his situation could turn into fantasy gold.
He’s coming off two solid campaigns with San Diego, totaling 15 touchdowns in the process. He has familiarity with Bears QB Jay Cutler, who connected with Royal 91 times in the wideout’s rookie season with the Broncos in 2008.
But it gets better. Brandon Marshall was traded during the offseason. Chicago drafted Kevin White out of West Virginia, but he’s out a minimum of six weeks and could end up missing the entire season. Someone has to fill the void and Royal has turned in an impressive preseason. Add all those things together and it would seem this has the makings of a success story.
The Bears are a pass-heavy offense with the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and tailback Matt Forte. Targets shouldn’t be hard to come by for Royal, who will no doubt have more upside in PPR leagues. Royal’s ADP is 168, which means he’s currently the 51st wideout being selected on draft day. Don’t sleep on him. Beat your fellow owners to the punch; his upside is too much to resist.
Other wideouts who could come out of the woodwork: Markus Wheaton is one name that many are high on. Two other receiving corps to keep an eye on are the Miami Dolphins (Jarvis Landry) and the Carolina Panthers (Devin Funchess/Corey Brown).
Fantasy Football 2015