One of the best words to use in any draft, whether it's real or in a fantasy league, is value. Everyone wants to find it, but no one has a formula for getting it. One of the most underrated positions to find value is the flex spot, which is an easy way to steal points.
When you are in the draft room, the focus is on filling out the individual positions that the flex spots tend to get overlooked simply because you can "plug and play" a running back, wide receiver or tight end from the bottom of your roster in.
However, if you are putting three running backs in the lineup, it's an easy way to rack up points. If you drop in a receiver or tight end going up against a bad secondary, there are two touchdowns waiting to be had.
Whatever your strategy is, we have the best flex options that you can steal on draft day using a combination of expected performance and average draft position to find the best value for your roster.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Average draft position: 28.0 (14th RB taken)
There are a lot of reasons to dislike Andre Ellington in fantasy, though none of them have anything to do with his ability. He was terrific in limited action last year with 652 yards on 118 carries and 371 receiving yards on 39 receptions.
Who will have the best fantasy season in 2014?
Unfortunately, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians doesn't seem to know what to do with Ellington or doesn't put him in spots that maximize his value to fantasy owners. Darren Urban of Cardinals.com wrote that the ways Arizona will use him "keeps everyone guessing right now, and that includes the Cardinals."
This is where the flex position becomes so valuable for a player like Ellington. Since there's no guarantee he will become a running back who gets 18-20 carries per game or used in short-yard situations with Jonathan Dwyer on the roster, you can draft him as your third running back and pick the best spots to use him.
Another factor working against Ellington as a No. 1 or No. 2 starter in fantasy is the NFC West. He has six games against Seattle, San Francisco and St. Louis that will undoubtedly take a physical toll on him and keep his numbers down.
Other than the competition, Ellington has the potential to be one of the breakout stars in fantasy football this year. You can get him as a flex player this year, but don't expect him to be around long in 2015 if the Cardinals take full advantage of his skills.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Average draft position: 44.6 (20th WR taken)
Trusting a wide receiver on a team with an unstable quarterback situation can be tricky. In the case of Cordarrelle Patterson, he's even harder to figure out because the raw natural ability has a long way to go before we know how good he can be in the NFL.
The most obvious thing, and you see it when he returns kicks, is he's a natural runner. He's got great instincts when he gets the ball in his hand and he makes great run decisions. He's got great vision. I think from Day 1 to now he's improved as a route runner. He's been very serious about working as a route runner.
No one can deny that Patterson is a monster on special teams. He averaged an astounding 32.4 yards per kick return, including a 109-yard return, in an era when players aren't supposed to be able to bring the ball out of the end zone.
It's precisely because of that breakaway speed that Patterson warrants a spot on fantasy rosters. His rookie season wasn't anything special with just 45 receptions for 469 yards, but the four touchdown catches are a positive sign.
Minnesota does have to figure out what's happening with the quarterback position, but Patterson has the ability to stretch the field in ways that few players at his position do. Whether Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder or Teddy Bridgewater is throwing the ball, sometimes the best strategy is just throw the ball deep and let your guy go get it.
Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints
Average draft position:105.1 (33rd RB taken)
Pierre Thomas has been the ultimate flex player in fantasy football for years. New Orleans throws the ball so much that it's hard for a single running back to crack the 1,000-yard barrier in that system.
However, while rushing yards aren't always easy to come by, Drew Brees isn't afraid to use his running backs in the passing game. His favorite target out of the backfield is Thomas, who had 77 receptions for 513 yards last year and has 166 catches since 2011.
Thomas is no longer "The Man" in New Orleans' backfield, as evidenced by the fact Katherine Terrell of The New Orleans Times-Picayune noted the 29-year-old is behind Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson on the depth chart.
Brees has always supported Thomas, even calling him "the best all-purpose back" in football, according to Evan Woodbery of The New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Drew Brees calls Pierre Thomas "the best all-purpose back in the league." .. "You name it, he can do it."— Evan Woodbery (@TheSaintsBeat) July 29, 2014
You don't have to be a genius to know when the All-Pro quarterback is throwing out praise like that for a running back that he will play an instrumental role in the offense. It also doesn't hurt that Ingram has never been a feature back in three years, getting only 150 carries once in three years.
Ignore what the depth chart says because Thomas is going to be one of Brees' favorite targets again in 2014.
ADP stats courtesy of Yahoo Sports.
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