Regardless of your fantasy draft strategy this upcoming season, there are going to be some mid to late round bargains to be had. And like the first shopper in line on Black Friday, you want to be the one to grab those bargains.
Granted, not every pick ends up being worth it in the end, but in fantasy football it’s important to get as many potential breakout players as possible in the middle to late rounds. With that said, here are some picks I’m looking to make after the marquee names are gone in my drafts.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Oakland Raiders, RB
Yep, yet another aging veteran who claims he’s in the best shape of his life, right. Isn’t that what all old guys say when they’re cut from their original team?
But not so fast on MJD.
In a recent interview, the 29-year old said this offseason he hired a personal chef, dropped his body mass index and is down to the weight he was as a rookie. What’s more, he’s going back to his hometown to play for the team he grew up idolizing.
And though it sounds like Oakland has a crowded backfield, here are two facts: Darren McFadden averaged only 3.3 yards per carry last season; and in five seasons, fullback Marcel Reece has never convinced the team to make him their lead back.
This spring, Oakland experimented with using McFadden as a kick returner. It makes sense, since he’s got speed, not natural running back ability. Jones Drew, on the other hand, has shown over his career a natural ability to wear defenses down and consistently grind out better-than-average yards after contact.
Here’s betting that because of injury or natural ability, MJD has the starting gig to himself by week two.
Kendall Wright – Tennessee Titans, WR
In only his second year in the NFL, with two less-than-accurate passers throwing him the ball, Wright racked up a veteran-like 94 receptions. And yet he only scored twice.
Regression to the mean says that number will go up.
The Titans didn’t add a receiver in the draft, and only Dexter McCluster in free agency this past off-season. So offensively, Wright will still be a major target in 2014, especially if Justin Hunter progresses as expected to draw coverage away from his teammates.
Starting the season versus three 2013 playoff teams in their first four games, Jake locker and company will likely be called upon to score lots of points to keep up. They then face only one more playoff team through the end of fantasy season.
Denver Broncos, Defense
Denver added big names DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib this off-season to bolster a sagging defense. Those two may fill the stands, but TJ Ward will improve the defense more significantly with his physical style of play and nasty attitude.
Add to that a full season of linebacker Von Miller (he missed a ton of time in 2013) and you’ve got a team that’ll create significantly more turnovers than last year, especially given the fact that the Broncos offense puts opponents in frantic come back mode weekly.
Davonte Freeman, Atlanta Falcons, RB
“Starter ” Steven Jackson has been hurt early in the season for three straight years.
Jacquizz Rogers averaged 3.6 yards per carry last season.
And Antone Smith hasn’t proven himself in five years to be a starting caliber back.
Atlanta took the 5′ 8″, 206-pounder to be their eventual starter in this years draft. Given the above facts about last season’s stable of ball carriers, there’s no other way to interpret his selection.
The Florida State product can be had in the 7th to 9th rounds — as of mid July anyway — and is the type of fantasy pick that can win leagues.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, QB
Who would’ve thought that after finishing in the top five of fantasy quarterbacks three straight years, Number 1 would be considered by many “expert” fantasy minds to be only the 8th, 9th or 10th best option this season?
Newton’s ankle injury held him back in 2013. He had it surgically repaired this off-season. Yes — his receiver corps has been reshuffled, but it wasn’t great last year by any stretch.
And realize, the smothering Carolina defense made it so Newton and company could play conservatively last year. This season, their weakened secondary should force the offense to manufacture more points than they needed to in 2013.
Wait on quarterback until after round seven, and you should be able to pluck Newton for a steal.