When fantasy drafts are well into the double-digit rounds, it’s often easy for owners to lose focus. Of course, that sometimes has to do with what those owners have been consuming during their drafts, but even the stone-cold sober can be guilty of thinking of those couple of picks before defense and kicker as nothing more than shots in the dark, roster filler just waiting to be dropped for a hot waiver-wire pickup.
Well, I’m here to tell you that those late stages, defined here as after Round 12, are actually studded with intriguing players who can help you ace your draft. With that in mind, here is a late-round steal at each of the major individual positions: QB, RB, WR and TE, using average draft position information from Fantasy Pros. (Note that The Washington Post defaults to PPR.)
QB — Andy Dalton, Bengals (ADP: 210)
Don’t look now, but Cincinnati’s offense suddenly appears to be chock-a-block with receiving weapons, starting with WR A.J. Green, whose own ADP indicates that the fantasy community considers Dalton up to the task of getting him the ball. Of course, Green’s talents haven’t always lifted his QB into fantasy relevance, but this season he appears to have some help.
John Ross, a top 10 NFL draft pick last year whose rookie season was essentially lost to injuries, lit up training camp and has made big plays in preseason games. Tyler Boyd a second-round pick in 2016, also has shown signs of blossoming, while TE Tyler Eifert appears to actually be healthy and gives Dalton a major red-zone target.
Then there is the RB tandem of Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, both of whom possess considerable pass-catching skills, with clear abilities to get the ball in space and make defenders miss for big plays. The Bengals’ offensive line is still a concern, despite being shored up after a disastrous 2018, but if it can keep Dalton upright, he has a chance for something of a flashback to 2015, when he was the No. 5 QB in fantasy before suffering a Week 14 injury.
RB — Bilal Powell, Jets (148)
The Jets never seem willing to give the talented Powell a fair shake, and this season could see more of the same treatment, considering they signed Isaiah Crowell in the offseason, recently added Charcandrick West and also have on hand Thomas Rawls and Elijah McGuire, among others. However, Crowell, McGuire and Rawls have been hampered, if not sidelined completely, with injuries, opening the door for Powell to top the depth chart.
It’s a position Powell might not quickly cede, given his effectiveness almost every time he’s been given work. He has a very solid career mark of 4.4 yards per carry, including a sterling 5.5 on 2016, and in 2017, he was fourth among RBs in breakaway percentage (per Pro Football Focus). Add in his receiving ability, which should keep him on the field even if Crowell starts eating into the early-downs work, and Powell is a good bet to provide a very nice return on a low draft-day investment.
WR — John Brown, Ravens (160)
Don’t take my word for it, heed the advice of Ryan Mink, a former Post colleague who now writes for the Ravens’ website. In position to watch the team practice, day in and day out, Mink offered these thoughts earlier this month: “John Brown is a soft-spoken guy, but his play at Ravens training camp should scream to fantasy football owners. Here’s to hoping your competition doesn’t see this.”
What Mink was seeing was the former Cardinals WR dominating Baltimore defensive backs, and not just with his blazing speed on go routes, but all over the field and on more than a few contested catches. After a breakout 2015 season, Brown struggled with injuries and illness the past two years, but by all accounts he has been thriving with his new squad.
While the biggest name in the Ravens’ rebuilt WR corps is Michael Crabtree, and he figures to have a sizable role, it’s hardly out of the question that Brown emerges as Joe Flacco’s most-targeted player. The last time Brown was fully healthy, he finished 26th among WRs (21st in standard scoring) and that was with Larry Fitzgerald racking up receptions in Arizona. With all due respect to Crabtree, he’s not Fitz, and Brown is not a name to pass up with one of your final picks.
TE — Jared Cook, Raiders (184)
I know, I know, we’ve all been here before with Cook. He shows all sorts of athleticism in training camps, winds up in situations where shares of the receiving work are there for the taking, then … meh. Even Aaron Rodgers couldn’t make a fantasy asset out of Cook, in the latter’s one season in Green Bay in 2016.
There are signs, though, that the light may finally have come on for the 10th-year veteran. Last season, his first in Oakland, he established a career high in receptions (54) and led the team in receiving yards (688), notching a 62.8 catch percentage (second-best in his career) and an under-the-radar 12th-place finish among TEs.
This season, of course, the Raiders are being coached by Jon Gruden, and he has praised Cook’s versatility, promising to keep defenses off-balance by moving the 6-foot-5 player around in his schemes. Beyond Amari Cooper, Oakland’s receiving corps has questions marks in Jordy Nelson (age, injury concerns) and Martavis Bryant (inconsistency, suspension concerns), so the opportunity is there for … okay, you’ve heard that before. Well, it seems different this time, but even if it isn’t, hey, at least it only cost you a late-round pick to find out.
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