Winning your fantasy football league is as much about nailing your high profile picks as it is about finding value in the mid to late rounds. Or, in the case of auction drafts (which I highly recommend), the players that you buy for less than $10 will definitely separate the winners from the losers. Keep reading for some draft day bargains broken up by position. (Average draft positions in this article are courtesy of fantasypros.com)
If you don’t spend an early pick on a quarterback, it’s critical that you nail a late rounder so you’re not waffling back in forth, stuck in a Russian roulette of a QBBC.
Ryan Tannehill is being undervalued right now. He’s going off the board as QB13 (only $5 in auctions), which is the same rank he finished last year (in PPG). I’m confident he will improve on that 13 spot. He has some great new offensive weapons heading into the 2015 season. Mike Wallace will not be missed as the Dolphins have signed Kenny Stills, Jordan Cameron and Greg Jennings and drafted Jay Ajayi and DeVante Parker. Plus, they return a budding young star in Jarvis Landry. A top ten finish is very likely for Tannehill.
Carson Palmer was the 15th best QB last year in PPG. But, unfortunately, he only played 6 games. Now his value has fallen off a cliff, despite word that he’s healthy and feeling great. He’s being drafted as QB26 and can be had for a buck or two in auctions. That’s cheap. You’re not drafting him as your starter, but his high ceiling makes him a prime candidate for 2 QB leagues or a QBBC in 12 or 14 team leagues.
Blake Bortles had a rough rookie season, but the Jaguars are surrounding him with the offensive tools to succeed. The Jags broke out the checkbook for star tight end Julius Thomas. Then, they drafted T.J. Yeldon to help take some pressure off the passing game (Toby Gerhart never could) and also Rashad Greene to hopefully contribute as a receiver. Blake says the game has slowed down for him and I want to believe him. At QB29, he’s undrafted for all intents and purposes. Even though Julius is hurt at the moment, Bortles is still worth a shot over rookies Winston and Mariota, and low-upside guys like Cassel, Dalton, and even Kaepernick. (Derek Carr at QB24 is undervalued for similar reasons. I expect him to take a big step forward with Cooper and Crabtree leading the way.)
Joseph Randle is going to be the Cowboys running back. Period. Darren McFadden is not the answer. I actually thought Ryan Williams might pose a threat, but now he’s on IR. Lance Dunbar will get a few touches, but nothing to worry about there. Randle is a steal in the 5th round as RB23 and will only cost about $10 in auctions. He won’t match DeMarco Murray’s 2014 season, but he’s more promising than 4th-rounders Mark Ingram, Latavius Murray, and Jonathan Stewart.
Rashad Jennings struggled with injuries last season, which has caused his value to fall to RB30 and less than $10 in auctions. But, the Giants have not tried to replace him and Andre Williams was not impressive last season. They only added scat back Shane Vereen in free agency. Jennings is still the only complete back on the roster. If he can stay healthy, the main backfield role is his to lose. You get low-end RB1 upside for a RB3 price.
As Todd Gurley’s health reports come back increasingly positive, Tre Mason slides further down draft boards. Right now he’s sitting at RB36, a few spots behind the aforementioned Gurley. For only a few bucks in auctions, Mason is a terrific value. Gurley is the flashy new name, but Mason is the incumbent and will only be displaced if Gurley can stay healthy AND show the burst and power he had in college. That’s easier said than done.
Even better than Tre Mason is Christopher Ivory. At RB37 and only $5, you get a steal of a starting running back. The Jets acquired Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley, but my money is on Ivory. The Jets have added a lot of weapons on offense through free agency and the draft, especially in the passing game. Hopefully it pays off with a more balanced offense and open running lanes for Ivory!
Like the Jets, the Patriots have a crowded backfield. LaGarrette Blount may be the favorite, but Jonas Gray has a great shot too. At RB53, behind Ahmad Bradshaw (not employed) and a slew of unproven rookies, Gray is a prime bargain candidate. Blount is being drafted much higher at RB29, even though he’ll start the season on suspension. If Blount seizes the job (I doubt he will), you can cut Gray loose and sign a hot waiver add. Zero risk!
It feels weird to start with Calvin Johnson on the list of draft day bargains, but it’s true. At WR6, it’s a small discount, but at 19 overall, you get a team cornerstone for a heck of a price. If your league over-values the RB position, you could pick him up late in the second round! His auction value of $38 is not a steal, but he’s still a great WR1 target. If you don’t get him, “settling” for Julio Jones or Randall Cobb wouldn’t be so bad.
Martavis Bryant is creeping up draft boards, but as of August 1, he’s still a bargain. At WR23 (and under $10) he’s unwisely being drafted behind the likes of Andre Johnson, Sammy Watkins, Julian Edelman and Amari Cooper. Last season, as a rookie with a learning curve, Bryant finished as WR15 in PPG. Another top 20 finish is well within reach! Now that he’s been suspended 4 games, you can probably get the same high-ceiling WR2 at an even lower WR3 price. Fire away!
Golden Tate is another bargain wideout with top 20 upside. He’s sitting at WR25 currently, and firmly under $10 in auctions. In 2014 Tate was the 13th best WR with an impressive stat line of 99/1331/4. A healthy Calvin Johnson will cut into those stats, but another top 20 season is a lock. Like Bryant, I would also take Tate over Johnson, Watkins, Edelman and Cooper.
Mike Wallace hasn’t been the best teammate over the years, but in terms of fantasy production he has been rock solid. He has consistently finished around WR25 for three seasons now. This offseason he’s being drafted around WR30 and for about $6. This is pretty low for someone with predictable production and the attention of an accurate young QB. For Wallace, a fringe WR2 performance is likely, for the fourth season in a row.
With Jimmy Graham out of New Orleans, Brees will have no choice but to lean on his receivers. Brandin Cooks will get a lot of love, but so will Marques Colston. It’s hard to find gauranteed targets in the 10th round (for a buck or two), but at WR44, Colston is the epitome of draft day bargains. He’s a better pick than Charles Johnson, Torrey Smith and Eric Decker.
Michael Crabtree had a very slight change of scenery this off-season, moving about 15 miles from San Francisco to Oakland. His 2014 season left something to be desired, but the 49ers are partially to blame for that. He and Amari Cooper could be a formidable duo in 2015. If Derek Carr makes progress and Cooper doesn’t completely steal the show, Crabtree will easily outperform his ADP of WR62. He has top 30 upside which is exactly what you’re looking for with a pick this late. He’s going behind Cody Latimer, rookie Dorial Green-Beckham, and three different Seattle wideouts. I’d rather take a hail mary on Crabtree.
In deeper leagues, Stevie Johnson is practically free (WR72). He’s penciled in as the WR3 in San Diego, and if anything happens to the aging Malcolm Floyd or Antonio Gates (suspended 4 games), Johnson could receive a lot of attention from Philip Rivers. Even without injuries, he’ll outperform the previously mentioned DGB, as well as Cordarrelle Patterson, Rueben Randle, Dwayne Bowe, and some rookies.
The tight end position is a wasteland this season. If you don’t draft one early, you’ll be picking from the scraps. That makes bargain hunting even more important. Choose wisely!
Coby Fleener is sitting at TE15 right now. Not bad for a tight end that finished sixth last year! If you can get Fleener in round 14 or 15 (a couple dollars), he’ll make a perfect TEBC candidate with Antonio Gates, Josh Hill or Delanie Walker.
There are a couple tight ends ranked 26-27 that are surprisingly enticing late in the draft. They can both be easily had in the last round or for a dollar in an auction draft. Rostering them both would actually be a good TEBC in a deep league. I’d rather have both of them than Owen Daniels, Eric Ebron or Jared Cook (all of whom have higher ADPs).
Larry Donnell was very inconsistent last season, but the fact is, he flashed a lot of potential and his stats were good enough for an 11th place finish. He should be a top 20 tight end pick this year, but instead his ADP is currently TE26. Sounds like a bargain to me.
Jordan Reed has had a lot of injury struggles, but when he’s healthy he’s been very good. TE27 is way too low for a player of his caliber. If he gets hurt again, you should have someone like Larry Donnell ready to plug in. Reed is a great lottery ticket in deep leagues. Also, now that Niles Paul is out for the season, the pressure and targets go to Reed.
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