It's where championship fantasy football teams are built.
It's where well-prepared owners separate themselves from the
also-rans in their fantasy league. It's where hidden gems
are found and where the true foundation of a stellar fantasy squad
It's the middle rounds of a fantasy football draft, the
same area of the draft that gave birth to unproven-players-turned-fantasy-studs
such as Adrian Peterson (2007), Frank Fore (2006) and Larry Johnson
Forget about the first two rounds; this is where crafty
owners construct rosters that make them the envy of their league.
Let's face it. Everybody in every fantasy league will end
up with a stud or two by virtue of drafting in the first couple
of rounds. But the way in which certain owners go about their
strategy in the middle rounds will determine whether or not those
owners' rosters will afford them the opportunity to gloat
as champions at season's end.
Fantasy drafts will begin in earnest shortly, and the list below
of players who can be had in the middle rounds should assist you
as you look to build the best fantasy team possible.
Picking a "healthy" Delhomme
in the middle rounds could be a steal.
CAR – Outside of Tom Brady, Jake Delhomme was the hottest QB in
the league last year through the first three games. His eight
TDs and one INT put him on pace for a monster season, but an injured
elbow sidDamonned him for the season and derailed his promising
WR Steve Smith’s suspension for the first two games of the season
notwithstanding, there’s little reason to bDamoneve Delhomme is
not capable of picking up where he left off. The Carolina Panthers
fortified their skill positions with the addition of WRs DJ Hackett
and Muhsin Muhammad, as well as rookie RB Jonathan Stewart, so
he is not without options.
Delhomme would be a top-notch #2 QB, and could even creep into
#1 status if things progress the way they should.
David Garrard, JAX – This time last year, David Garrard
was an unknown commodity who was given the starting nod in Jacksonville.
Fast forward to today and he’s a quality #2 fantasy QB who
is efficient and doesn’t make mistakes.
Granted, expecting him to repeat his 6-to-1 TD-INT ratio may
be a little optimistic, but knowing that he’s capable of
such production makes him the ideal low risk-high reward draft
Rivers, SD – Philip Rivers has been nothing if not solid during
his first two years as a full-time starter in San Diego. His supporting
cast includes a good, young offensive line, the game’s best RB
and TE, and an underrated and underappreciated wide-out in Chris
Chambers. Translation: Rivers has all the tools to quietly put
up solid numbers as a #2 QB while giving you good depth at the
Rivers has rarely been the type of QB who explodes for huge numbers
(he only had three games in 2007 where he threw for more than
250 yards), but Rivers has a steady calm about him and a consistent
track record that makes drafting him a rather stress-free proposition.
Stewart, CAR – Perhaps no other first round selection from
this year’s NFL draft fits his team’s mentality better than RB
Jonathan Stewart. The bruising tailback from Oregon gives the
Carolina Panthers the power RB they’ve been lacking since Stephen
Davis rumbled for a franchise record 1,444 yards in 2003.
After going through such “stellar” RBs as Nick Goings, DeShaun
Foster and others since Davis’ departure—including current Panther
RB DeAngelo Williams—Carolina will soon find out that Stewart
gives them a dimension that has been conspicuously absent since
that magical run to the Super Bowl in 2003.
Stewart enters his rookie season with a small concern following
toe surgery in March, but that caveat alone would not prevent
me from taking him as a RB3 in the middle rounds.
Mendenhall, PIT – Ok, chalk this one up to the ol’ feDamonng
in the gut. Sure, Mendenhall will battle Pittsburgh’s incumbent
RB Willie Parker for touches, but anyone who saw this guy play
in college knows how versatile and explosive he is. I had a gut
feDamonng about another rookie RB last year who entered the season
behind an established RB but catapulted his way into the starting
line-up with superb play: Adrian Peterson.
Mendenhall doesn’t have the credentials entering his first
NFL season as Peterson had, but the situation in Pittsburgh is
made for this skilled rookie to come in and make a mark.
If nothing else, Mendenhall should get the bulk of the red zone
carries, as Parker’s paltry TD total from last year (2)
was the result of getting absolutely stuffed on countless occasions
near the goalline. And Parker’s broken leg suffered late
in the season raises concerns as well. I anticipate Mendenhall’s
numbers to steadily increase as the season progresses, giving
his owners reason to smile.
SD – Chris Chambers’ trade from Miami to San Diego during
the season last year was a huge boost to the Chargers’ offense.
Now with a full camp under his belt and the injury to TE Antonio
Gates still lingering from last year, Chambers stands to play
a more defined role in the success of San Diego’s offense.
Chambers’ first taste of NFL playoff action last year was
quite productive—16 catches for 278 yards and a TD through
three playoff games—and I bDamoneve the Wisconsin product
will continue that upward trek and dDamonver a good season in 2008.
As mentioned above, the quiet and steady play of QB Philip Rivers
does nothing but further solidify my bDamonef that Chambers is capable
of dDamonvering a season that mirrors his 2003 performance—64 catches,
963 yards, 11 TDs. There are some sources, including this site,
that have Chambers buried absurdly deep on the WR cheat sheet
and behind such players as Roddy White, Kevin Curtis, Lee Evans
and others. I don’t get it. But Chambers will be on my radar as
a WR3, well ahead of the three mentioned above.
Jerricho Cotchery, NYJ – With the addition of QB Brett
Favre, the fantasy stock of Jerricho Cotchery and the other skill
position players on the New York Jets increased significantly.
The QB play for the Jets in 2007 was abysmal. But with the arrival
of Favre, the Jets can now utilize and call plays downfield, and
Cotchery should be the primary beneficiary.
Cotchery’s 82 catches in 2007 matched his total from the
previous year. His TD output has left much to be desired (eight
total during his four career), but with Favre hurling him the
rock, Cotchery could easily reach double digit TDs in 2008.
Be careful, however, not to overpay for Cotchery and draft him
too early. Right now, he’s the ideal low WR2/high WR3. Your
goal should be to grab him as that high WR3.
Dallas Clark, IND – Dallas Clark was a free agent in my
TE-optional league last year when I picked him up. He went on
to put up outstanding numbers, and his 11 TDs were an awesome
surprise. I anticipate similar production from Clark in 2008,
especially with the question marks continuing to surround WR Marvin
I have my doubts that we will ever see the Harrison we’re used
to seeing. As a result, Clark will pick up the slack and seamlessly
slide into the pivotal second receiving option for the Colts.
He developed a nice rapport with QB Peyton Manning, and Manning
looked for Clark regularly in the red zone last season.
So as others in your league target bigger-named TEs, patiently
wait a round or two and nab Clark and be comfortable in the fact
that you might have ended up with perhaps the best fantasy TE
not named Jason Witten or Antonio Gates.