Fantasy Football 2013: Late-Round Fliers at WR and TE Who Could Make an Impact
At a certain point in fantasy football drafts, you have to just start guessing. All of the elite talent is gone. You have your starting lineup figured out already. That point in the draft is where these guys come in.
As anybody who has played fantasy football knows, the NFL isn't perfect. Your starting lineup looks good on paper, but every year there are injuries and other occurrences that can make any pick a bust. That's why it's important to build depth.
The following players are guys you should target once you feel comfortable with your starting team. These aren't guys you should expect to start on a week-to-week basis. These are guys that could turn into major steals for your fantasy team.
A late-round flier is someone who you take near the end of the draft because they have potential. It may take a couple of weeks before they start producing, but the wait could be worth it.
Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers
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Last year Brandon LaFell was gaining hype before the season, but he didn’t quite live up to expectations. He caught 44 passes for 677 yards and four touchdowns, all career highs. While those numbers aren’t terrible, they can certainly improve, and I expect them to.
Former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinksi left to coach the San Diego Chargers and the Panthers hired offensive coordinator Mike Shula. There have been reports, like this one from the Charlotte Observer, that say the Panthers are going away from the zone-read offense. Less running from Cam Newton and more passing is good news for someone like LaFell.
The Panthers receiver had some big games last seasons. In every game he scored a touchdown, LaFell had at least three receptions and 50 yards receiving. He also had a couple games where he didn’t record a single catch.
LaFell is second on the depth chart behind veteran Steve Smith, but he’s third in the receiving pecking order behind Smith and tight end Greg Olsen. Still, LaFell is an intriguing option late in fantasy drafts and is worth gambling on.
Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
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The Chicago Bears hired Marc Trestman as their head coach this offseason and his pass-happy approach will benefit Alshon Jeffery. The second-year receiver is expected to be a starter this season following a rough rookie year.
Jeffery was a second-round pick in 2012, but his rookie season was hindered by a fractured right hand and knee scope. He caught just 24 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns.
The 6'3" receiver showed some flashes of what made him a second-round pick last year. He had four receptions that went for over 30 yards. He also could emerge as a red zone threat when the Bears get down to the goal line.
Jeffery has to share the spotlight with Brandon Marshall, but surely Marshall can give up some of his 194 targets from a year ago. There are worse players to select than Jeffery late in the draft.
Rueben Randle, New York Giants
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Rueben Randle was a second-round pick a year ago and finished his rookie year with 19 receptions for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Those are small numbers, but the Giants receiver is expected to have an increased role in 2013.
Both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz were absent from minicamps, which has given Randle a huge opportunity. According to coaches, he benefited from his opportunity. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride recently praised the 22-year-old receiver and said that he’s going to play more downs in 2013:
"Oh, he's gonna play. He's gonna play a lot. He'll play on first, second down. He'll be an outside receiver for us, whether he's at the X or the Z, he's going to play. He's looking like he deserves to be out there significant time."
Randle’s situation makes him limited since he has to play with both Nicks and Cruz. The Giants also signed tight end Brandon Myers, who figures to see some targets. Still, Randle is a 6'2" athletic receiver who could make a name for himself if Nicks or Cruz misses time this season.
Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams
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When Brian Quick was drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft, the 6'3", 220-pound receiver drew comparisons to Terrell Owens. He was a raw talent coming out of Appalachian State so he wasn't used much during his rookie season, but Jeff Fisher plans on using him this year:
“Brian’s second year in the system, we expect him to (develop). The guy’s gonna make a lot of plays for us.”
We only saw glimpses of Quick’s athletic ability last year as he caught just 11 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns came in the red zone and another was a 36-yard pass.
Quick received a lot of praise for his athletic ability before the 2012 season, but he had troubles with the playbook. With another year and training camp under his belt, Quick has both the opportunity and the ability to succeed in 2013.
Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals
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Mohamed Sanu’s season was cut short in 2012 due to a stress fracture in his foot and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Sanu was finally getting involved in the Bengals passing attack starting alongside A.J. Green.
In the three games before his injury, Sanu caught 11 passes for 98 yards and four touchdowns. The yardage numbers were a little low, but he had three consecutive games with a touchdown reception. Even better, his four touchdown receptions all came in the red zone.
Heading into the 2013 season, Sanu is expected to be the starter outside of Green. He says his foot is “100 percent” and at this point he’s just getting in shape. It’s hard telling what kind of numbers Sanu will put up, but he has a lot of potential, especially in PPR leagues.
Rob Housler, Arizona Cardinals
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If you’re a tight end fanatic like me, then you probably already know about Rob Housler. This third-year player was drafted in the third round in 2011 by Arizona, and he’ll have the opportunity to start in 2013.
Housler played often in 2012 catching 45 passes for 417 yards, but he’ll be used even more this season. He is an athletic tight end standing tall at 6'5" with good speed (ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the 2011 NFL Combine).
The third-year tight end will have Carson Palmer as his quarterback, which is good news for Housler. Palmer turned an unknown in Brandon Myers last season into a player who had 79 receptions for 806 yards.
Housler is already making an impact in minicamps. He has been lining up at receiver and been thrown to often. He is one of the more exciting late-round fliers in this list.
Dustin Keller, Miami Dolphins
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Dustin Keller signed a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins this offseason. The Dolphins have lacked a playmaking tight end over the last couple of seasons, so Keller is a big upgrade.
Keller has the ability to be an every-down tight end for Miami and likely will be. Last season he was limited by injuries, which led to a disappointing season. We have seen Keller at full strength in the past and it got him to a 65-catch, 815-yard, five-touchdown season in 2011.
The sixth-year player has a low-end TE1 possibility in 2013. He’s a red-zone threat for Miami and could be on his way to a productive year.