As the saying goes, "you can't win your league in the first round." After all, who can't pick a stud player with one of the top 10-12 picks?
That begs the question: How do you win your league?
Getting value later in drafts won't guarantee a championship, but it certainly helps. In some cases, it means finding a gem (or two) off the waiver wire.
Looking back at the NFL receiving-yardage leaders over the past three seasons, there has been a player in the top three that was likely undrafted in your league: 2009—Miles Austin (1,320 yards), 2010—Brandon Lloyd (1,448) and 2011—Victor Cruz (1,536).
While most of these players will be drafted in your league, here are 12 players going after pick 120 that I like (ADPs via FantasyPros' average of ADPs from six sites):
QB Carson Palmer, Raiders (ADP: 129)
After coming out of "retirement" last year, Palmer threw more interceptions (16) than touchdowns (13) in 10 games with the Raiders. In fact, he has thrown 36 interceptions in his past 26 games in two seasons. So why invest a late-round pick on a turnover-prone quarterback?
Palmer and the Raiders may find themselves needing to throw in many games, and only six quarterbacks averaged more passing yards per game than Palmer's abbreviated season last year. In other words, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and others averaged fewer passing YPG than Palmer (275.3).
With a full offseason to prepare and some young, talented receivers on the roster, he has a chance to at least repeat that yardage average.
QB Tim Tebow, Jets (ADP: 181)
The Jets offense has been less than impressive through two preseason games, as they remain the only team yet to score a touchdown. As everybody knows, patience isn't necessarily a virtue in the city so nice they named it twice.
If Mark Sanchez struggles in the regular season, an early-season quarterback switch may allow Tebow to take the opportunity and run with it (pun intended).
Tebow is inaccurate (even more so than Sanchez), but his style of play suits the fantasy game. If he throws for 150 yards and a score and runs for another 50 yards and a touchdown, that is 21 fantasy points.
While it doesn't sound like a great game for a quarterback, 21 points multiplied by 16 games would be 336 fantasy points. Only the top-five fantasy quarterbacks scored 300-plus points last year.
QB Jake Locker, Titans (ADP: 212)
If there is something that Locker needs to improve, it's his accuracy. Although he had a passer rating of only 7.0 (on a scale of 0.0 to 158.3) in the team's second preseason game, Locker was named the team's starting quarterback over veteran Matt Hasselbeck.
With all the physical tools, Locker has the strong arm to get the ball down the field and the athleticism to make something happen as a runner when plays break down. In addition, Chris Johnson may be poised for a bounce-back season, which would help open things up in the passing game.
Locker has a talented trio of receivers in Kenny Britt, who is expected to face league discipline, Nate Washington and first-round rookie Kendall Wright. In addition, tight end Jared Cook is an athletic mismatch at the position and coming off a strong conclusion to his 2011 season.
RB Ryan Williams, Cardinals (ADP: 123)
The Cardinals thought highly enough of Williams out of college to use a top-40 pick on him despite having Beanie Wells, a former first-round pick, on their roster. Williams generated his fair share of positive buzz last offseason before an injury ended his season before it began.
Considering Wells started the season on the PUP list as a result of offseason knee surgery back in January, we are reminded of his durability concerns. Going several rounds later than Wells, it would not be surprise if Williams, not Wells, leads the team in rushing this year.
RB Mikel LeShoure, Lions (ADP: 145)
Lions running back Jahvid Best is expected to start the season on the PUP list and miss (at least) the first six weeks of the season. Many folks like LeShoure's teammate Kevin Smith, as do I, going into the season, but Smith is going inside the top 100 picks and therefore not on this list.
The obvious concern about Smith is his durability. Even though LeShoure has his own durability concerns (returning from a torn Achilles) and is suspended for the team's first two games, I expect the 233-pound LeShoure to lead the team's backs in fantasy points this season.
RB Rashad Jennings, Jaguars (ADP: 179)
As Maurice Jones-Drew continues his holdout, Jennings continues to showcase his ability to produce in MJD's absence. Although Jennings missed last season due to injury, he had a productive 2010 season as a backup: 682 yards from scrimmage.
With a career yards-per-carry average of 5.4 yards, Jennings ranks third in the NFL in rushing this preseason with 118 yards and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Even if/when Jones-Drew returns, I expect Jennings to have a relatively prominent role within the offense and provide owners with solid production.
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers (ADP: 256)
Someone has to lead the Steelers in rushing, and there is no reason that it can't be Dwyer.
Although Rashard Mendenhall was activated from the PUP list, it's likely that he won't play until after the Steelers' bye week (Week 4). Isaac Redman, the projected starter with Mendenhall out, has been dealing with his own share of injuries during the preseason.
While Dwyer has had some weight and conditioning issues in previous seasons, he came to camp in great shape and has averaged 8.3 yards per carry this preseason.
WR Jon Baldwin, Chiefs (ADP: 164)
Coming into the league with tremendous potential as a first-round pick by the Chiefs last year, Baldwin got off on the wrong foot. A fight with teammate Thomas Jones led to a broken hand, and he never got back on track.
This year, Baldwin has been more focused and should have an opportunity to show what he can do. With great size (6'4", 230 pounds) and great athleticism, he's especially difficult for smaller defensive backs to cover.
WR Alshon Jeffery, Bears (ADP: 195)
After a disappointing junior season at South Carolina, Jeffery slipped to the second round and is now in Chicago giving Jay Cutler another big target to go along with Brandon Marshall. At 6'3" and with great hands, Jeffery should see plenty of targets in the red zone.
WR Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers (ADP: 251)
Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, who may report to the Steelers soon (per ESPN's Adam Schefter), are the team's top two receivers, but Sanders has the potential to break out. He is finally healthy and should see a lot of single coverage as opposing defenses try to slow down Wallace and Brown.
WR Rod Streater, Raiders (ADP: Undrafted)
Although he was an undrafted rookie out of Temple, Streater has the potential to make a fantasy impact this season and is someone to target late in deeper leagues. Or, at a minimum, to keep an eye on as a potential waiver-wire pickup.
Streater has good size (6'3", 200 pounds), good speed (4.37 40 at his Pro Day) and is a good route-runner. Coach Dennis Allen said that Streater described a "little bit of the same type of player" as Denarius Moore (via the San Francisco Chronicle).
Through two preseason games, Streater is second in the NFL with 13 receptions and he has 109 yards.
TE Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (ADP: 174)
Rudolph is one of the players who generated plenty of positive buzz during training camp and someone who you can target later in your draft(s).
He's a big target (6'6", 258 pounds), a good athlete and has good hands. Considering the lack of other weapons in the Vikings' passing game after Percy Harvin, Rudolph should see enough targets to have a breakout season in 2012.
This is not a complete list of players that I like after pick 120, but these players can mostly be had late in your draft and provide your fantasy squad(s) with great value. In some cases, these players may go undrafted in your leagues.
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