Fantasy Football Value Picks That Will Guide Your Team to a Championship
If there's one word that should be at the forefront of every fantasy football enthusiast's mind as they draft their team this summer it's "value", i.e. drafting players who have a solid chance of statistical production that outweighs the draft pick required to obtain their services.
Finding these value picks often times involves rolling the dice a bit, but if these gambles pay off these are the sorts of draft picks that win leagues.
Here's a look at a handful of players that astute fantasy football owners should consider selecting in drafts, as these players each have the potential to provide just the sort of value we're talking about.
Average Draft Position (ADP) courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
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ADP: Seventh Round (Pick 74), QB11
Granted, there's a fair amount of risk involved in selecting Peyton Manning as your starting fantasy quarterback given that the 36-year-old signal-caller will be playing for a new team after missing the entire 2011 season while recovering from multiple neck surgeries.
However, until last year, Manning was the model of durability, and the four-time NFL MVP's worst fantasy finish prior to 2011 was sixth among quarterbacks.
Fantasy football owners who prefer to wait a bit before choosing their starter under center should give Peyton Manning a long look, as if there's a quarterback outside the top 10 with top five upside, it's the forehead.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
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ADP: Second Round (Pick 22), RB10
This recommendation isn't for the faint of heart, as it was only last December that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson suffered a serious knee injury and the sixth-year pro will probably begin training camp on the PUP list according to ESPN Radio.
However, Peterson is a notoriously quick healer whose rehab has progressed ahead of schedule from the get-go, and last season was only the second time in his career that Peterson finished outside of the top five fantasy running backs.
It's advisable for fantasy owners to handcuff backup Toby Gerhart as an insurance policy of sorts, but for fantasy owners who eschew running backs in the first round or those that are looking for a RB2 with top-five upside Peterson is a very intriguing option.
Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams
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ADP: Fourth Round (Pick 40), RB15
Every year in fantasy football there are a few veteran running backs who slide in drafts due to a prevailing school of thought that the proverbial wheels are about to fall off.
The poster child for that phenomenon in 2012 is St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson.
Granted, the 28-year-old ballcarrier has a fair amount of wear on his tires, with almost 2,500 career touches, and the arrival of rookie Isaiah Pead in the Gateway City will likely eat into Jackson's touches this season.
However, Jackson has missed only two games over the past three seasons, has topped 1,400 total yards each of the past four years and has finished as a fantasy RB1 in 12-team leagues three years running.
To borrow a quote from Mark Twain, reports of Jackson's fantasy death have been greatly exaggerated, and the ninth-year pro represents an excellent value pick in the fourth round as a low-end RB1 or top-end RB2.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
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ADP: Fifth Round (Pick 52), WR20
Given the unsettled situations under center and with the contract of Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, it may seem entirely reasonable that Bowe has slid into the fifth round of fantasy drafts, where's he's being chosen as a lower-end fantasy WR2.
However, mediocre quarterback play hasn't stopped Bowe in either of the past two seasons, as the sixth-year veteran has topped 1,100 receiving yards in each of those campaigns while scoring 20 touchdowns and finishing as a top 15 fantasy wideout both years.
Additionally, with the Chiefs apparently unwilling to lock the 27-year-old up long-term, Bowe will play the 2012 season under the franchise tag, and players in contract years are generally motivated to perform much in the way that Bowe did in 2011.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
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ADP: Fifth Round (Pick 58), WR25
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown exploded into fantasy prominence in 2011, racking up over 1,100 receiving yards and finishing the season as a fantasy WR2.
However, fantasy owners don't appear to be expecting Brown to build on last year's numbers, as the third-year pro is being drafted in just about the same spot as he finished last season among players at his position.
There's a school of thought among fantasy football pundits that many wide receivers experience a "breakout" year in their third NFL season.
Given wide receiver Mike Wallace's unsettled contract situation and the fact that starting running back Rashard Mendenhall has been shelved indefinitely, there's ample reason to believe that Brown is a prime candidate for one of these "breakout" campaigns, making him a fine value at his current ADP.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons
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ADP: 10th Round (Pick 120), TE11
If there's an NFL player who has a good case for an age-discrimination lawsuit against fantasy football owners, it's tight end Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons.
The 36-year-old's draft stock has plummeted to the point where the 12-time Pro Bowler is now being selected behind the likes of Jermaine Gresham of the Cincinnati Bengals.
No offense to Gresham, but that's crazy talk.
Yes, Gonzalez is old (relatively speaking). However, he's also incredibly durable, having missed all of two games over the course of 15 seasons.
Add to that the fact that Gonazlez hasn't finished outside the top six fantasy tight ends in this century and "Gonzo" is an outstanding value at his current sticker price and the perfect starter for fantasy teams that wait to draft a tight end.