People go into fantasy drafts with all different kinds of strategies,
especially for the early rounds. Some owners and writers will swear
by the RB/RB theory in the first two rounds until they’re
blue in the face. For me personally, I like to go in with more of
an open mind.
I prefer to be flexible and let the draft come to me in the earlier
rounds because you never know which players will slip and which
players will go earlier than expected based on your rankings. I
look at a fantasy draft like the real NFL Draft. Some teams are
good at drafting, while others struggle. The best drafting teams
will select a player who slips to them if they have that player
highly ranked on their draft board, regardless of position. The
same thing should hold true in fantasy drafts.
Thatís why itís hard for me to say Iím going to
go RB/RB with my first two picks in every draft. Well, where am
I drafting? In the third hole or ninth hole? If Iím in the
third and take Jamaal Charles, what if Julio Jones is still on the
board in Round 2 but all of my top-rated backs are gone? Should
I reach for one just so I can say I went RB/RB, or should I draft
my No. 3 receiver and then come back with Frank Gore in Round 3?
Early in the draft I never want to be pigeonholed into a theory
that may prevent me from building the best team possible, especially
the best team specific to my scoring system.
As we get deeper into the draft (Round 10 and beyond) I always have
two words in the back of my mind: value and upside. The players
I try to get later on are guys that have value and slipped for some
reason or players that offer upside and can have a breakout season.
I feel once we get to Round 10, thatís when itís time
to be a genius. Fantasy owners get into trouble when they try to
be a genius in Round 3. As the draft goes on and I have my starting
team pretty much assembled, thatís when I like to grab some
bench players that could pay off big down the road. I much prefer
high-upside players later in the draft over low-end starters that
will never be big-time fantasy producers.
Take Brandon LaFell for instance. He can start for the next 10 years
in Carolina but I have no use for him on my fantasy team. If he
ever breaks out I can still sleep at night knowing I missed on him
in favor of a younger receiver with more talent or a running back
that is one injury away from being a stud.
As Iíve gone through my mocks and real drafts so far, Iíve
settled on a few players who offer value or upsideóor bothóto
fantasy owners. Iíve been targeting the five players below
in the later rounds of all my drafts this season. Iíve listed
the five players, the round theyíre being selected in on average
and whether Iím drafting them based on value, upside or both.
Hopefully this list, along with my reasoning, will help some of
you when youíre on the clock late in your drafts.
Manning, QB New York Giants (Round 10) - Value
Manning is going in the Round 9 and 10 area, depending on which
ADP information you use. Regardless, heís good value at the
QB position. He didnít have a bad year in 2012óthrowing
for 3,948 yards, 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptionsóbut he
was inconsistent. He failed to reach 250 yards passing nine times
last season. Expect Eli to bounce back this season, along with the
entire Giants offense.
New York didnít really suffer a Super Bowl hangover but they
got caught in a funk after a 6-2 start. Eli was up and down all
year, Hakeem Nicks suffered through injuries and the running game
never really got going. Looking ahead, the Giants have three talented
receivers in Nicks, Victor Cruz and the emerging Rueben Randle to
go along with tight end Brandon Myers. Also, the running back duo
of David Wilson and Andre Brown should reignite the ground game
behind an improved offensive line. Add it all up and ďsettlingĒ
for Manning in Round 10 doesnít sound too bad.
The best thing about Manning is that fantasy owners can go one of
two ways with him. They can wait to select a QB until late in the
draft, while stocking up at other positions, and then grab Eli to
be their starter. The other option is to take a guy like Drew Brees
earlier and then select Manning as one heck of a QB2 if heís
still around in Round 10 or 11. Talk about value! Manning gives
those who draft him as a QB2 valuable trade leverage to dangle in
front of QB-needy owners later in the year.
Either way, getting a QB that has a good chance to throw for 4,000
yards and 30 scores in Round 10 gives fantasy owners a lot of options.
Two years ago Eli threw for just under 5,000 yards. I see 2013 resembling
that production rather than the uneven numbers he put up last season.
If youíre the type of owner that likes to wait on drafting
a starting QB, loading up at other positions and landing Eli isnít
a bad blueprint for fantasy success this year.
Jeffery, WR Chicago Bears (Round 12) - Upside
Jeffery will gave owners bang for their
Jeffery is the one player who will give fantasy owners the most
bang for their buck this season. I currently have him ranked just
outside my top 25 receivers and see 60-70 receptions and 8-9 scores
as a realistic possibility for Jeffery this season in Marc Trestmanís
offense. I mentioned drafting players with upside later in the draft.
Jeffery has all kinds of upside.
A lot of people believe because Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte
will see so many targets that it will be difficult for Jeffery to
break out this season. However, Marc Trestmanís offensive
philosophy involves trying to exploit a defense when his receivers
have single coverage. Well, Jeffery plays opposite one of the most
productive receivers in the NFL. Do you think heíll see any
single coverage this year while teams try to slow down Marshall?
The bottom line: Jeffery is a beast. He got lazy in his final season
at South Carolina, and while he started righting the ship last year,
he still fought injuries and Mike Ticeís lack of imagination.
In Ticeís offense Jeffery was basically the cousin I used
to just send on fly routes all the time in our old backyard games.
Hopefully weíve all seen the last of Tice calling plays in
the NFL. The good news is that Tice
recently won over $100,000 betting horses, so he should be all
set for a while.
Jeffery is currently in excellent shape, he has a season in the
NFL under his belt, and he gets to play in a receiver-friendly offense
thatís going to throw the ball a lot. Marshall and Forte may
be the first two options but Jeffery will get plenty of looks as
Jeffery is getting drafted in Round 12 because a majority of people
are waiting until 2014 for him to break out. Hey, maybe he doesnít
have his coming-out party until then, but this guy is oozing with
talent and he plays in the right offense to produce right now. To
get a player like that in the twelfth round sounds like a bargain
Helu, RB Washington Redskins (Round 13) - Value/Upside
Letís not get sidetracked by all the ďMike Shanahan
likes to change running backsĒ talk. Alfred Morris is the
clear-cut starter in Washington right now. Thereís no doubt
about that after his performance last season. Not even Shanahan
is going to mess with that situation.
Even though Morris has established himself as the workhorse of the
Redskinsí backfield, it doesnít mean Helu isnít
an intriguing later-round pick. He may not be a starter, but Helu
is a talented back that plays in powerful rushing offense.
It appears that after missing a season due to injuries in 2012,
Helu is the clear favorite to win the No. 2 job in Washington and
be Morrisís primary handcuff. That alone gives him fantasy
value. Helu has always been more talented than the slow-footed Evan
Royster and is much further along in the offense than rookie Chris
Things can change quickly with Shanahan, but Helu looks locked in
to start the year as the Redskinsí third-down back and the
first in line for carries should something happen to Morris. Considering
how productive Helu would be for fantasy owners as the starter in
the Redskinsí read-option attack, thereís your value
and upside in Round 13.
If you play in a PPR format, Helu could even begin the year as a
valuable bench player. Since heís going to be on the field
a lot in passing situations, Helu is a guy fantasy owners can use
as a flex play in a pinch and hope he catches a few balls. Remember,
two years ago Helu caught 49 passes on 59 targets, so heís
already shown he can be an excellent receiver. Even if Morris plays
16 games, Helu will contribute for the Redskins this season as a
receiver out of the backfield.
There was a time when Helu was a hot fantasy commodity, but after
missing most of 2012, heís kind of fallen off the map. However,
he is still a talented, versatile running back that could produce
strong fantasy numbers if a couple of things fall his way. Rolling
the dice in Round 13 on a guy who is one injury away from lining
up behind Robert Griffin III in Washingtonís backfield is
a smart bet for fantasy owners.
Hopkins, WR Houston Texans (Round 11) - Upside
I had Hopkins rated as the No. 1 receiver in this yearís draft
class, and after watching some Clemson games again, I don't think
it was a mistake. Now, Iím not an NFL scout. Iíve worked
for an NFL team, and the information and video that scouts see compared
to what we have available is night and day. When you hear non-scouts
say theyíre watching ďtape,Ē itís a bunch
of nonsense. Trust me, Iíve seen real scouting tapes and itís
nothing like what these people are watching.
However, I do my best with what I have to break down college players.
I also use the advice told to me by scouts themselves. When it comes
to receivers, one of the first things I look for is how a player
catches the ball when heís covered. In college these guys
are so talented, theyíre wide open a great deal of the time.
In the NFL, the quality of defensive backs is much greater than
in college, so receivers need to make plays when theyíre covered,
not just when theyíre open by 10 yards. Itís one of
the toughest adjustments a young receiver has to make when going
from college to the NFL.
Hopkins reminded me a little of A.J. Green in college, catching
the ball with guys draped all over him. Hopkins has long arms and
huge hands. He has an uncanny knack for using his body to shield
defenders, extending his arms and snatching the ball out of the
air. Itís a skill that will help Hopkins a lot in the NFL,
especially early on in his career as a red zone target.
Houston should apologize to Andre Johnson for pretending Kevin Walter
was some kind of No. 2 NFL receiver for what seems like the last
10 years. In NFL terms, the addition of Hopkins to the Texans offense
canít be understated. His presence is going to open up all
kinds of opportunities for Johnson, who has never played with another
receiver thatís had anywhere near Hopkinsí ability.
Itís hard to trust rookie receivers. I donít make a
habit of it personally because youíll get burned more than
rewarded. However, Hopkins will be one of the exceptions. He has
the talent and opportunity to produce right away for the Texans.
Other than Johnson and the 17 tight ends Houston trots out every
week, who does Matt Schaub have to throw to? Lestar Jean? I donít
think so. Hopkins will see plenty of passes come his way as a rookie.
Taking a chance on Hopkins in Round 11 or 12 should pay off big
for fantasy owners this season. I expect him to make a serious run
at NFL Rookie of the Year honors and be at the very least a solid
WR3 most weeks.
Pettigrew, TE Detroit Lions (Round 13) - Value
Pettigrew has always battled inconsistency. Lions fans know he leaves
at least three scores a year on the field. Iím talking about
the seam pass Matthew Stafford fires in there perfectly when Detroit
is inside the 20, only to have Pettigrew drop it in the end zone.
There has to be at least three of those a season.
Sure, Pettigrewís drops are frustrating, both to the Lions
and fantasy owners. However, weíre talking about a tight end
that prior to last year caught a combined 154 passes even with those
drops. In 2012 Pettigrew battled some injuries and he was limited
to 13 games. He also saw his production decline across the board,
which is now hurting his fantasy value heading into this season.
Still, Pettigrew has averaged 71 catches and 113 targets over the
last three seasons, and he can be had in Round 13. That sounds like
value to me.
Fantasy owners are always looking for the next big thing; myself
included. We want to make sure we donít miss a breakout candidate
like Jordan Cameron or Coby Fleener at TE rather than a boring,
70-catch guy like Pettigrew. While I like both Cameron and Fleener,
a lot has to go right for either of them to catch 70 balls.
Megatron is Megatron and Ryan Broyles can be a PPR stud if he ever
stays healthy, but the Lions have very little else at receiver.
Reggie Bush will catch a ton of balls, but Detroit running backs
always see a lot of targets in that offense. In 2010, when Pettigrew
had 71 receptions and 111 targets, Jahvid Best caught 58 balls on
80 targets. Like it or not, Pettigrew is still going to be a top
option in a pass-heavy offense.
Pettigrew may never become an elite tight end, and he doesnít
rack up a lot of yards after the catch. However, fantasy owners
can do a lot worse than a guy who hauls in 70Ė80 balls and
scores 5Ė6 times at a position that only offers a couple of
sure-fire players, especially in Round 13.
Based on all the drafts Iíve done, when you look at where
a player is being selected combined with his projected production,
Pettigrew probably offers the best value at any position heading
into the season. He may not be the sexy pick, but 70 receptions
are still 70 receptions. Not many TEs will give you that kind of