Late Round Targets: Difference Between Winning Or Losing
Although we hear it all the time and it may sound a little cliche, your league really isn't necessarily won in the early rounds of your drafts. So many times I personally have fell short of the coveted first place prize only because I focused on my first few rounds but disregarded my late round picks as expendable and replaceable. With starting running backs at a premium, think of how much of an advantage those who took a risk on Redskins running back Alfred Morris had. I know it was extremely unexpected and mostly due to Mike Shannahan's apparent fixation with the torture of fantasy football team owners, but those who paid attention in the offseason took a calculated guess, even if it meant drafting the entire Redskins backfield. Wide receiver is a bit different to assess, but in the right offense, any talented player can step in and make a big impact. New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz proved this in 2011 where he exploded for over 1,500 yards and nine touchdowns as a player that was virtually undrafted. Last year, Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers was the 47th wide receiver drafted in fantasy leagues, but after stepping in while Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson dealt with injuries, he had a great year and is now one of the most coveted receivers in this years drafts. Tight end is one of those positions I really like to wait on because there is so much value every year at the position. Who new Raven's tight end Dennis Pitta and (new) New York Giants tight end Brandon Myers would have finished in the Top 10 last year after basically being disregarded in drafts. Are there players like that this year? Maybe not, but lets take a look at some interesting targets that are falling to the later round of drafts and what type of upside they provide.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets: Everyone assumes former Saints running back Chris Ivory will be the starter Week 1 for the Jets, and former Oakland Raider Mike Goodson will be his backup. Although they are both talented, Powell is the one back with the most experience and production in the Jets backfield. Powell was fairly effective last year averaging over 4.0 yards a carry, producing 437 yards and four touchdowns in limited opportunities. With Chris Ivory's durability issues and Mike Goodson's looming suspension, Powell is a great pickup late in drafts.
Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans: Oh no, not Shonn Greene! I know, I know this is the guy everyone loves to hate but he has quietly had an extremely effective last two years, breaking 1,000 yards in back to back seasons and averaging just over 4.0 yards a carry behind a terrible Jets offensive line. The Titans do have Chris Johnson, but after his struggles last year, I wouldn't be shocked to see Greene get an opportunity and he most certainly draw the goal line duties, as Johnson has be fairly ineffective in the red-zone. The Titans recently overhauled their offensive line, drafting top prospect offensive guard Chance Warmack and signing former Buffalo Bill Andy Levitre, who was considered one of the top offensive guards in 2012. Green is worth a flier at his current ADP.
Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers: In the offseason, the Chargers signed former Patriots running back Danny Woodhead, bringing in a pass catching back that the Chargers were desperately needing. Quarterback Phillip Rivers had some of his best years when he had Darren Sproles, a similar pass catching running back in his offense, and he should target Woodhead frequently. The lead back Ryan Mathews injury prone and has a questionable work ethic. Mathews is really all that stands in the way of Woodhead seeing substantial time. With the opportunity and low cost, Woodhead is worth a late pick, especially in full point per reception leagues.
Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos: With the arrival of draft pick Montee Ball, everyone is forgetting how effective Moreno was down the stretch for the Broncos and for fantasy owners in 2012. There is no guarantee that he retains the lead role. In fact, it's unlikely, but being a proven commodity that has Peyton Manning's trust, why not use a pick on him? This was a running back that rushed for 350 yards and three touchdowns in his last four games.
Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers: Another forgotten player due to the arrival of a rookie, Dwyer was part of a running back rotation in 2012 that was fairly ineffective and had a lot of issues holding onto the ball. Still Rashard Mendenhall left for Arizona and the only thing standing in the way of Dwyer, who rushed for 623 yards and two touchdowns last year, is rookie Le'Veon Bell, who is talented but rookies are always susceptible to losing their jobs to guys with experience.
Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints: Did you know that Thomas is only 26 yards away form being a 3,000-yard rusher? This Saints running back is often overlooked due to limited opportunities and being a member of one of the most confusing running back by committee groups in the NFL. With the departure of Chris Ivory, the ineffectiveness of Mark Ingram and the limited snaps Darren Sproles can take, sets Thomas up for what could be a productive season. With a career average of 4.8 yards a carry, why not take a chance on him?
Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders: Since his start in 2008, Raider running back Darren McFadden has failed to play more than 13 games in a season due to his inability to stay healthy. With lack of depth at the position, the Raiders counted on full back Marcel Reece to carry the load in 2012, where he was a very suitable fantasy starter for the weeks he played. Everyone is counting on rookie Latavius Murray to step in to the running back duties for Darren McFadden if he goes down, but why count out a player who has proven he can do it?
Rueben Randle, New York Giants: Randle didn't do much in 2012, but he was still young and learning the offense in New York. With the departure of Domenik Hixon to Carolina, the third WR role opens up, and the talented Randle has every opportunity to step in. The No. 3 WR job in the Giants pass-heavy attack always has the opportunity to be fantasy relevant, and with a bounce back year for Eli Manning likely, Randle could be a great late round addition to your team.
Domenik Hixon, Carolina Panthers: The Panthers have struggled to find a legitimate No. 2 receiver opposite of Steve Smith since Muhsin Muhammad retired in 2009. Hixon has never had a huge impact, even though he did have his second best season with 39 receptions for 567 yards. It's unlikely with their run heavy approach that Hixon will be anything more than a flex option, but in the event Cam Newton is allowed to throw a little more in 2013, Hixon could hold some value.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots: With the departure of Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski's health concerns, and the events with Aaron Hernandez, the biggest question for the Patriots is who will receive all the attention from Tom Brady in the passing game? Many think rookie Aaron Dobson will step in and be an impact player, but I don't see coach Belichick trusting a rookie in his complicated offense that veteran Brandon Lloyd struggled to master last year. Edelman may not be the most athletic or talented, but he is familiar with the offense and that's enough for me to make him a target in the late rounds of drafts this year.
Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks: The last time Percy Harvin and Rice played a healthy season together in 2009 with the Vikings, Rice had a career year with 83 receptions for 1,312 and eight touchdowns. He may not get close to this number in 2013, but it seems that Russell Wilson has the trust of coach Pete Caroll and will be allowed to throw the ball quite a bit more this year, raising Rice's value. He is the top receiving red zone threat making him a candidate for multiple touchdowns this year.
Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears: The biggest bonus to coach Marc Trestman's offense is the amount of passes thrown and his tendency to make his quarterbacks spread the ball out. Brandon Marshall was basically the only viable receiver for the Bears in 2012, but this was mainly due to an injury to Alshon Jeffery, which kept him out of nearly half the season. With a full season ahead of him in a new offense, Jeffery will have every opportunity to be a contributor to the Bears and to fantasy teams in 2013.
Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins: Hartline is most known for his Week 4 performance against the Arizona Cardinals where he caught 12 passes for 253 yards, only to disappear the rest of the season. Hartline may never be a WR1, but with the arrival of former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace and former Jets tight end Dustin Keller, it seems as though the Dolphins and coach Philbin are gearing up for a big time passing attack in 2013. Hartline already has a trust built with young quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who could lean on Hartline heavily this year.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Indianapolis Colts: After being selected seventh overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2009 NFL Draft, Heyward-Bey has been nothing but disappointing, spending most of his time injured and dropping passes. He gets another chance with the Colts in an offense that allowed rookie Andrew Luck to throw the ball 627 times in 2012. If Luck is allowed to air it out as much as he was in 2012, even with a coaching change, there is every opportunity for Heyward-Bey to live up to everyone's 2009 expectations.
Chris Givens, St. Louis Rams: Draft a rookie, forget about the guys who did it last year. This seems to be the trend this offseason, and after the Rams drafted wide receiver Tavon Austin, it seems that everyone forgot about Givens who caught 42 passes for nearly 700 yards. Givens may not be a high-volume receiver, but he is a home run threat and should not be ignored in fantasy football drafts.
Brandon Myers, New York Giants: Myers came out of nowhere last year striking up a relationship with Carson Palmer and surprisingly finishing in the Top 10 for tight ends for 2012. I don't know if it's the change in teams or just the depth at the position, but Myers should be as productive, if not more productive, than former Giants tight end Martellus Bennett who finished the last year 14th, just four spots behind Myers. For those that like waiting on a tight end, this is a great target.
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns: Cameron has done nothing up to this point in his career, and Brandon Weeden is still at quarterback, so why all the talk about a potential breakout season? With the hiring of head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, the Browns added two coaches that love integrating athletic tight ends such as Cameron into their offensive schemes. Add in the suspension of wide receiver Josh Gordon, and Cameron could get rolling early becoming Brandon Weeden's favorite target in 2013.
Owen Daniels, Houston Texans: Strange to see Owen Daniels here even though he finished eighth in standard scoring in 2012. The Texans let go of tight end James Casey in the offseason and drafted a talented rookie receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. To me it seems that the Texans are going to let Schaub throw quite a bit more in 2013, and other than Andre Johnson, Schaub hasn't targeted any other player more than Daniels. Just off volume and opportunity, Daniels is a steal in the late rounds of drafts this year.
Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears: The Bears have failed to produce a fantasy relevant tight end since Greg Olsen in 2010. So why is Martellus Bennett any different? Besides being the most talented receiving tight end the Bears have had in a long time, Bennett will be part of a Trestman offense that should provide a ton of opportunities in 2013. The last time Jay Cutler played in this type of offense, Tony Schefler recorded back to back 600 yard seasons in 2007 and 2008. On top of all this, Bennett is a great red zone target, even though he will have to share this responsibility with Brandon Marshall. Bennett is a great late round add and excellent value at his current ADP.
Fred Davis, Washington Redskins: Davis sat out most of the 2012 season with a brutal Achilles tendon tear. Now fully recovered, he will be looking to take the lead role and fight off rookie Jordan Reed for the starting job. Reed has been battling his own injuries this offseason and with a lack of viable receivers in Washington, Davis could make a big impact in 2013 where Robert Griffin should attempt more than the 393 attempts he threw in 2012.