Fantasy Football 2013: Positional Steals to Help Make Your Draft a Success
The big names help carry a fantasy football roster, but it's the names gathered in later rounds of a draft that can make your fantasy team a champion by season's end.
Finding the right mix of big-name talent and serviceable depth can be tough; there's a reason creating the perfect fantasy football lineup in any league is seen as taboo by the millions of people who compete against each other every year.
Factor in the difficulty of knowing when the right time is to pull the trigger, and it's downright impossible not to second-guess yourself during the course of a draft.
Luckily, steals are going to be there for the taking.
As the popular choices come off the board, don't shy away from your personal strategy. Finding diamonds in the rough, so to speak, can make up for the fact that someone took your target with the pick right before you were slated to be on the clock.
Keeping that in mind, here are four players at various positions who fall under the "steal" category. In the right round, you'd be crazy not to let them fill a need on your roster.
QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck had a great year for the Colts on paper. From a fantasy standpoint, though, he frustrated owners by posting a double-digit interception total and only throwing more than two touchdowns in a game once.
That being said, he still finished as a top-10 QB in most formats.
Showing a knack for making plays with his feet, Luck added some fantasy value (five touchdowns) as a rusher during his rookie season. Expect that trend to continue; he did the same thing at Stanford and actually got more comfortable leaving the pocket for yardage as his college career progressed.
Although the exit of Bruce Arians will likely produce a learning curve during the first few weeks of the '13 season, Luck is also going to combat that with progression of his own from Year 1 to Year 2.
Although the sophomore slump that many QBs go through also threatens to make Luck somewhat of a risk as a fantasy starter, he was light-years ahead of some of the NFL's seasoned veterans last season and it's hard to bet against him based on what we know about his skill.
With Reggie Wayne returning as a top target and Coby Fleener, T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen all looking to improve in their second year with the Colts, Luck is going to have options to throw the ball to again.
The addition of Darrius Heyward-Bey could wind up providing Luck with another under-the-radar weapon that will help him rack up 300-yard passing games.
Once the top-flight QBs come off the board in the first and second rounds, don't be scared to take Luck as your starter if you've addressed running back or receiver with your first pick. He won't finish in the top five at his position, but he should hover near the top 10 for most of the season.
RB Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Rookies aren't usually impact players. Rookie running backs, when taken outside of the first round, typically don't enter a season with high fantasy expectations.
Le'Veon Bell came to Pittsburgh in a crowded situation. Incumbents Baron Batch, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer operated in a time share for the Steelers last season, frustrating fantasy owners trying to decipher which player would shine on a weekly basis.
Bell, who was an early Heisman candidate during his final season at Michigan State, has emerged as the favorite to win the RB job outright and put up big numbers in the process.
Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had a few quotes from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin prior to the team's preseason opener, and all signs pointed toward Bell taking over a serious portion of the workload in his first professional game:
Don't be surprised if you see Le'Veon getting some snaps with [first-teamers]. I think he has earned that. I think how he is running the ball speaks for itself...Don't be surprised to see him getting some snaps after those guys are out of the game, as well. He, like a lot of guys, we need to get a lot of exposure to.
Bell didn't play in Pittsburgh's preseason opener against New York, but he continues to draw rave reviews both as a potential starter and as a fantasy option.
Which Pittsburgh RB will have the best fantasy season?
Michael Beller of Sports Illustrated listed Bell as a three-down back candidate in his latest preview of rookies looking to make a fantasy impact, and you would be wise to look at him as a clear-cut RB2 option in standard formats.
We all know Pittsburgh is at its best when using the ground game to set up the passing attack, and Bell's fresh legs could help return the Steelers to their past form in the AFC North.
He could also be a huge fantasy steal if he's getting 20-25 carries per game as a rookie. With the Steelers, that's a real possibility.
WR Chris Givens, St. Louis Rams
Danny Amendola took his talents to New England this offseason, and Givens looks like a serious candidate to replace his production.
ESPN's Eric Karabell spoke at length about Givens' upside after the events of the first weekend of the preseason, when he caught three passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in the Rams' loss to Cleveland.
The second-year man from Wake Forest isn't making waves as a No. 1 receiver candidate, but he should be.
Starting in Week 4 last season, Givens was a key part of St. Louis' offense. Although he was mostly a deep threat for Sam Bradford, he did put up at least 50 yards receiving in eight games and added three touchdowns before his rookie season was over.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a great look at what Givens brought to the table in 2012 and how he plans on expanding that as the Rams try to improve their down-the-field passing attack during the 2013 season.
Despite the arrival of Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and a host of other young receivers with talent, Miklasz notes that Givens has put in extra time with Sam Bradford this offseason and has a look about him that is hard to ignore.
Earmark Givens early on in the course of your fantasy preparation. It's going to be difficult to figure out how Bradford will distribute the ball until we see it in a game, but Givens is a safe bet to provide value both as a deep threat and as a security blanket in the passing game.
If he's the third or fourth wideout you draft, there's a good chance he'll wind up being a steal.
TE Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
Tight end can be a hard position to draft for. When Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski come off the board (whenever that might be), panic about getting a top-flight TE can make fantasy owners reach for guys they could draft much later down the board.
A consistent tight end can help stabilize a fantasy roster. That being said, it's important to understand that reaching for one can be a gut-wrenching mistake.
In ESPN leagues last year, only 2.9 points per game separated the top TE (Graham) from the No. 10 TE (Brandon Myers). Along those same lines, 18 wide receivers had more points than Graham, and 38 had at least 100 points in 2012 (the same number as No. 8 TE Owen Daniels).
Greg Olsen is a middle-of-the-pack name that will allow you to avoid reaching for a big name at the position in lieu of better overall talent.
Olsen should be available in the fourth-to-sixth rounds of your draft, and he appears poised to have a great campaign in his third season with the Panthers. Over the final five games of the 2012 season, he had two weeks where he recorded a touchdown and recorded at least 40 yards receiving in every game.
Those numbers are somewhat modest, but they are consistent.
Factor in reviews from Carolina's training camp, like that of Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, and Olsen continues to make sense as a low-risk option. According to Person, Olsen and QB Cam Newton displayed great timing together in the spring, a trend they hope to carry over into the season.
While the Panthers have upgraded the receiver position enough (Domenik Hixon, Ted Ginn Jr.) to be skeptical of Olsen as a pass-catcher, he's a crafty veteran with a nose for the ball, and has been throughout his six-year career. In five of his first six seasons, he's recorded at least five touchdowns.
With Newton in his third year under center and the level of comfort high, I expect Olsen to have a strong year. He might not score 10 points a game, but he should be consistent and have the occasional breakout game.
Consistency is what you need at tight end. Olsen provides that and helps you avoid falling victim to a feast-or-famine situation on a weekly basis.
Getting a steal at any position is a great feeling. Hopefully these four options help make your fantasy roster the best it can be for the 2013 season.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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