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Mid-Round Targets

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 takes shape.

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 (2005).

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.


Jake Delhomme

Picking a "healthy" Delhomme in the middle rounds could be a steal.

Jake Delhomme, 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 year.

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 pick.

Philip 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 position.

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.

Running Backs

Jonathan 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.

Rashard 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.

Wide Receivers

Chris Chambers, 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.

Tight Ends

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 Harrison.

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.