The Top Late-Round Picks Who Will Win Your Fantasy Football League
While it's important to "hit" on your early-round picks (your team isn't going anywhere if your first round pick goes "splat!"), in fantasy football, it's in the middle and late rounds where the real difference can be made.
If you can find players later in drafts that have the potential to become weekly starters, then not only are you getting great value with your fantasy draft choices, but you're also adding depth that can save your bacon if the chill winds of injury blow through your squad.
So, in order to increase your chances of bringing home the championship this season, here's a look at a handful of players with an average draft position of the 11th round or later, according to MyFantasyLeague.com, that have big upside.
Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions
Average Draft Position: 12th Round (Pick 141, RB47)
There's probably no late-round pick that's picking up more steam or climbing draft boards more rapidly than running back Kevin Smith of the Detroit Lions.
With ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting that Jahvid Best will likely miss the season's first six games on the PUP list and Mike LeShoure suspended for the first two games, the starting tailback job, at least early on, seems to be Smith's by default.
The fifth-year pro performed well in that role last year, tallying over 500 total yards and scoring seven times in seven games. If Smith can stay healthy and perform at that level again, then he may never give the starting job back.
RB2 production at an RB4 price tag? Yes, please.
Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots
Average Draft Position: 14th Round (Pick 159, RB52)
Sometimes in fantasy football, especially at the running back position, you just have to close your eyes, swing for the fences and hope you make contact.
Such is the case with New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen.
Granted, the second-year pro is technically behind nominal starter Stevan Ridley on the depth chart. However, Vereen was reportedly already closing the gap, and that was before Ridley suffered a knee injury in practice Thursday, according to The Boston Herald.
Vereen was drafted a round ahead of Ridley last year and is the superior receiver, and while it's most likely still going to be a committee backfield in New England, any running back that's going to see significant action over the course of a season is worth his weight in gold.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Average Draft Position: 11th Round (Pick 123, WR43)
After a season in which the 31-year-old managed his lowest reception and yardage totals since 2004, Boldin has dropped from the top 40 wide receivers, falling well into WR4 territory in 12-team leagues.
However, Boldin finished inside WR3 territory even in last year's miserable season, and the 10th-year veteran recently told Jason Butt of CBS Sports that he's over the sore knee that plagued him last year and is ready for a bounce-back season.
"For me, each year I feel like I get better," Boldin said. "This year I am a lot healthier but also understanding what the coaches are expecting, what Joe (Flacco) is expecting, on the same page as Joe, seeing what he sees."
Even with the emergence of speedster Torrey Smith, Boldin is still the most dependable possession receiver on Baltimore's roster. While he may not return to his top-10 days from Arizona, Boldin, if healthy, is more than capable of significantly outperforming his draft position.
Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans
Average Draft Position: 12th Round (Pick 144, WR50)
After a mostly quiet six-year career in the National Football League, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington had, by far, his best season in the NFL in 2011, topping 1,000 receiving yards and finishing among the top 15 fantasy options at his position.
However, it seems that most fantasy drafters expect Washington to fade right back into oblivion, as the 28-year-old is barely cracking the top 50 wide receivers off draft boards.
With Kenny Britt recovering from his third knee surgery in just over a year and staring at a suspension, there's ample reason to think that Washington will start, at least early in the season.
Even if he's little more than a fantasy rental, Washington's still a bargain at his current asking price.
Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee Titans
Average Draft Position: 11th Round (Pick 129, TE14)
Although Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook only started five games last season, the 25-year-old became a much bigger part of the offense as the season wore on, topping the 100-yard mark in two of the last three weeks of the 2011 season.
In fact, of all the tight ends in the National Football League with more than 40 receptions, none averaged more yards per reception than Cook (15.5 yards per catch).
With that said, Cook still isn't getting a whole lot of love in fantasy circles, and his upside should certainly appeal to fantasy owners who choose to wait before pulling the trigger on the tight end position.