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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Super-Sleepers for your Fantasy Football Draft

In the “No Brainer” plan that I outline in my audio training series (“The Program”) as well as in my book (“Getting Started with FantasyFootball: From Zero to Legit in One Day”) I reserve the last round for what I call a ‘lottery ticket.’

There are several reasons why I am a proponent of this concept, so allow me to explain and then I’ll give you a full set of guys who could still be available to you in the last round.

Okay, here we go…  The conventional wisdom is
that you take a kicker with your last pick.  I get it and I agree that you should take a kicker at the end because they are completely unpredictable and the top ten or twelve aren’t separated by too much anyway.  However, there may be one or two that you really like for some reason.  Perhaps you like the offense in which they play, maybe they play in a dome, or it’s possible that you think the team’s offense is the type that stalls in field goal range a lot.  Whatever it is, there are going to be a couple kickers you might like more than others.  So, my thinking is that you can use your next-to-last pick on the kicker you like and the “lottery pick” you were going to take there is likely to still be available to you in the last round. 

That last point is especially true because just about everyone else is taking kickers in the last round.  It would be very unlucky if the running back or wide receiver you are targeting is gone.  However, it is likely that the kicker you like will be gone by the time your last pick rolls around.  So, reverse your last two picks and get both of the guys you want.

It also backs up the selection of your defense a round so that pick is improved a bit as well.  In the next-to-next-to-last round you will likely get a defense somewhere in the fifth to eighth range.  That is pretty solid and actually much more solid than waiting just one more round.

Also regarding the last round lottery pick…  Pretty soon in the season you’re going to want to drop someone for a waiver wire pickup, so you might as well take a big swing with your last pick.  If the pick doesn’t work out you can feel good about dropping the player for the flavor of the week on the waiver wire.  If the pick does work out, then it is a great problem to have isn’t it?

Okay, so if your last three rounds are defense, kicker, and lottery pick…  Well, if those are the picks, then who can you be looking at in the last round in 2013?  I have some ideas for you.

Running backs should be prioritized throughout your draft and I have some ideas for you, but you might have better luck with a wide receiver here.  I tend to favor using early-to-mid-round picks on two quarterbacks and one tight end with the rest of your picks split up with a 2-to-1 ratio of running backs to wide receivers.  More running backs give you a better chance to hit a home run at what is the scarcest position, which is critical.  Having some depth at receiver is important as well since it is also rather scarce.  I find it difficult to endorse a third quarterback since you will never use them.  A second tight end is a way you could go, though.  Again, I prefer a running back or wide receiver but tight end is a third option.  Quarterback is a clear fourth.  I’ll give you some ideas for each of those four positions.

Denard Robinson, RB – Robinson is the same size and speed as Chris Johnson.  The Jaguars have an improved offensive line.  Maurice Jones-Drew has had some issues in the off-season and may or may not be fully healed going into the season.  The current regime drafted Robinson for a reason and the backup running backs on the roster are horrible.  In my opinion, Robinson is already the backup running back and will get eight to twelve touches per game.  My belief is that he is good for more than five points per week this year at a minimum.  And, with the speed he has he is always a threat to break off a long one.  Add all of that to the fact that he could get a lot more touches if something happens to MoJo and you have a great option for a high-upside lottery pick.  He could just be a Dexter McCluster type, but he’s got upside similar to Chris Johnson.

Michael Jenkins, WR – The whole world is trying to figure out who will fill the void left behind when the New England Patriots released Aaron Hernandez.  The truth is that no one really knows, but my bet is on wide receiver Michael Jenkins and I haven’t seen anyone else talking about him.  There is a lot of love for Jake Ballard and even Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells.  The reason, of course, is because all of those guys are tight ends.  The problem is that Hernandez tended to split out wide and those tight ends don’t have the same athletic ability.

Brandon Weeden, QB – Everyone wants to laugh at the oldest rookie ever.  Everyone wants to laugh at the Cleveland Browns.  I get it.  Cool.  But there is massive upside with this guy…  Allow me to explain.  Norv Turner.  Okay, I’m done explaining.  Want more?  Okay, how about this:  Trent Richardson is a first rounder in fantasy and defenses will be geared to stop him.  He also catches a ton of passes.  Cleveland has an excellent offensive line (tackles and center, anyway).  Jordan Cameron is a trendy sleeper as a pass-catching tight end.  Josh Gordon and Greg Little are more than solid and they just added Davone Bess for the underneath work.  (Seriously, Bess is tremendously under-rated.)  Most important though, is the impact of the Norv-fense.  Last year Weeden languished in Pat Shumur’s version of the west coast offense and wasn’t able to use his one major asset – the rocket, cannon, laser arm.  In the Norv-fense Weeden will be hooking up with guys like Travis Benjamin (and his 4.2 speed) for 70-yard bombs every week.  At least that’s the plan.  And with defenses stacking the box to stop T-Rich and with one of the better o-line’s in the league I’d say he’s got a really good chance and strong fantasy numbers this year.

A. J. Jenkins, WR – We’re all looking at the New England Patriots’ situation without Aaron Hernandez and wondering how they are going to fill the void.  Valid.  But what about San Francisco?  Michael Crabtree is out for most of the year, if not the whole thing.  Sure, they added Anquan Boldin in the off-season but he wasn’t ever supposed to be the #1 threat.  Is there anyone on the roster than can step in to be Colin Kaepernick’s main guy?  Well, not really, but let’s take a stab at it shall we?  The team has been lining up Vernon Davis as a wide receiver in OTA’s and mini-camp.  That’s great, but he’s not a wideout.  Who else?  Mario Manningham is getting older and while he has shown flashes in his career he has really just proven that he is a complimentary piece and not the main guy.  So, let’s turn our attention to A. J. Jenkins.  He was the 49ers first round draft pick just last year so you have got to think they will give him a chance.  Besides, there isn’t anyone else.  Lots and lots of reports out of the 49ers training camp are saying bad things about Jenkins, and it may be true that he is a bust.  However, you must admit that he has a great opportunity here.  For a last round pick, this sort of opportunity for a recent first round draft pick is rarely seen.  Worth a shot.

Tyler Eifert, TE – Okay, he’s a last round option for a reason.  The reason in this case is named Jermaine Gresham, and he is the incumbent starter at tight end in Cincinnati.  Gresham is a solid performer and will draw targets from Eifert, but there is reason for optimism with Eifert.  He was the consensus best available tight end in the 2013 NFL Draft so there is undeniable upside.  Plus, the Bengals have a quarterback in Andy Dalton who is not known for his arm strength.  You are likely to see a lot of shorter routes over the middle, especially to the tight end.  He’ll take it deep occasionally to use the power of A. J. Green, but where Dalton will live is on the shorter routes.  There will be a lot of action for Gresham, Eifert, and rookie running back Giovanni Bernard.  Eifert has the skills to produce strong run after the catch yardage and should get his share of touchdowns.  If you are in a league that allows tight end at the flex spot, you could do worse than Eifert in the last round.

Matt Schaub, QB I’ve seen Schaub drop and drop in drafts, sometimes as low as the last round.  If you can get him here, he is a definite bargain.  Here we have a proven quarterback with a stud #1 receiver and a running attack so good that defenses will be stacking the box to stop it.  That shows me that Schaub will once again have every opportunity to air it out.  And when you add a healthy Owen Daniels and first round draft pick DeAndre Hopkins to the mix, you’ve got significant upside.  When we’re talking about a last round quarterback, we’re talking about a backup.  There is a lot of upside with Schaub and there will be a handful of matchups this year where he is bound to be more attractive than your regular starter.

Shonn Greene, RB – Greene has a reputation for being a bad running back.  He’s being drafted in the late rounds and may not slip all the way to the last round, but he is in fact doing just that in some leagues.  It is true that he is a very deliberate rusher and lacks a lot of creativity or wiggle.  Plus, he won’t give you anything from a receiving standpoint.  However, look at what he did last year and tell me that he wouldn’t get two or three starts for you at flex.  He went over 1,000 yards rushing and scored eight times.  He had two games over 100 yards rushing and six games with more than 10 fantasy points.  His numbers were unspectacular but very consistent with what he did the previous year.  The Titans brought him in via free agency for a reason.  Chris Johnson is a smaller back and may not be the best option at the goal line.  Greene is there to run between the tackles and get the occasional score, which sounds like a fine contributor in fantasy and an amazing value if you can get him way down in the last round.

Sure, these guys all have their issues but the thing to note here is that you can get players with really big upside as late as the last round.  Think about the strategy of this for a moment.  Early in your draft you are taking proven commodities and guys that you are pretty sure will perform for you.  In the middle rounds you are supplementing with good backup types.  

But late in the draft?  There are two ways you can go.  You either draft unspectacular veterans with no upside or you take seriously flawed breakout candidates.  For me, I’ll always go for the latter option.  The rationale here is that you already have your starters and your solid backups so why do you need a steady-eddie type of guy backing up your backup?  In other words, a backup to a backup that has no chance to climb over the other guys on your roster is really a wasted pick.  What’s worse is that it is a wasted roster slot.

I’d much rather speculate on a rookie or a guy coming off of an injury who could bust out and get some starts for me.  That old proven guy is guaranteed… Guaranteed not to do very much for you.  The break out candidate might be (probably is) a bust, but if you take three or four of those guys one of them will probably blow up for you.  If you take three or four guys with no upside you’ll just have a bench full of guys that will make you a little closer to average without helping you actually win.  Give me the chance to win every time.

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