Fantasy football leagues are not won just because of the 5,000-yard passers and 1,500-yard rushers people select in the first few rounds of their August and September drafts.
Fantasy football owners know all about the premier players that should be taken in the opening couple rounds. But while Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson and Tom Brady will undoubtedly be key players that will be main reasons why people win fantasy titles, it is the unsung heroes drafted in the middle-to-late rounds that are just as important when claiming championships.
So here are three players who are poised to be unsung heroes in fantasy leagues this season.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets (RB)
Powell did not make Jets fans or fantasy owners forget about the team’s past great runners like Curtis Martin and Freeman McNeil in 2012. His 437 yards and four touchdowns were fine for a reserve running back but his lack of explosiveness had no one calling for him to be a starter in 2013.
Yet, look at who Powell will be battling for the starting spot! There is newly-acquired Chris Ivory, who was New Orleans’ fourth-string tailback and has had about as much luck staying healthy during his short career as Mark Sanchez has had cutting down on his turnovers. Ivory has already dealt with a hamstring problem during training camp.
Then there’s Mike Goodson, who signed a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal in the offseason and then followed it up by getting arrested on numerous charges. He has not reported to camp and there are no signs that he will be showing up anytime soon.
Toss in change-of-pace back Joe McKnight’s recent concussion, and Powell has been flying up the charts like a sexy Robin Thicke song. At the moment Powell might only have Ivory to battle for carries, and if Ivory’s brittle body betrays him again, Powell would be New York’s top tailback.
Vincent Brown, San Diego Chargers (WR)
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is running out of receivers to overthrow. 2012 breakout star Danario Alexander is on the shelf for the season because of a torn ACL, Malcolm Floyd sprained his knee, Eddie Royal bruised a lung and free-agent bust Robert Meachem was arguably the worst WR in the NFL last season.
The best bet Rivers has left at WR (and this guy is not money in the bank) is Brown, who missed the entire 2012 campaign with a fractured ankle. But Brown showed flashes of fantasy brilliance in 2011 when he was a rookie, posting a 17.3 yards per reception average that had many pundits predicting that he was on the verge of a breakout season before his ankle stopped him cold.
Brown has to shake off the injured-reserve rust and stay healthy to be a fantasy factor. If he does that, he should be a solid late-round sleeper in fantasy drafts. San Diego does not look like a winning team on paper, so Rivers will probably be doing a ton of fourth-quarter throwing in many games, and Brown might be the only viable wideout he will have to throw to.
Fred Davis, Washington Redskins (TE)
Many fantasy owners have short memories. Blame it on their constant drinking and drafting killing their brain cells. Because of this, several owners might have forgotten about Davis.
While Davis has never been a Cris Carter-like touchdown compiler (12 in five seasons) and never had an 800-yard season to brag about, the agile tight end has split seems in defenses and been able to make plays downfield that most tight ends do not have the talent to pull off.
Davis tore his Achilles last season, though, so the jury is out on how quick he will be this year. But considering how badly the tight end position has been decimated due to injuries and legal entanglements, taking a late-round flier on Davis could be a fantasy steal.
Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller tore his ACL late last season and will probably not be ready for Week 1. Baltimore’s Dennis Pitta fractured his hip during practice and is done for the year. And with Rob Gronkowski coming off several surgeries and Aaron Hernandez sitting in jail, New England’s terrific twosome are no longer fantasy gold. That is arguably four of the top 10 tight ends in fantasy football right there.
And even the second-tier tight ends have not been spared. Miami’s Dustin Keller, who was a top candidate for a big bounce back season, ripped every ligament in his knee this past weekend. Indianapolis’ Cody Fleener has already suffered a concussion and a sprained knee in his first two preseason outings.
Davis scored a touchdown in Washington’s first preseason contest and appears to be ready for the season. If he is back to 100 percent and has Robert Griffin III throwing to him for most or all of the year, Davis could turn out to be an unsung hero on many fantasy rosters.
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