Fantasy Football's Late Round Fliers

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Fantasy Football's Late Round Fliers
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Conventional wisdom states that you wait until the last two rounds to get your defense and kicker.  These positions are historically difficult to predict, and the difference between them is minimal over the course of a season.  Waiting until the final rounds allows you to use the rest of your mid-late round picks on some high “upside” players who could potentially develop into solid starters.
 
Well, if some “upside” players is good, more is better.  In leagues that do not require that you to fill every position on your roster during the draft, like Yahoo!, I recommend passing on a kicker and defense altogether and picking up additional players who may be on their way to a breakout season.  Once the pre-season winds down and Week One gets going, there should be someone on your roster who has been injured, or slipped down the depth chart, and can be dropped for a kicker/defense at the last minute.
 
Think you can’t get anyone of value in the last two rounds? Check out some of the guys who went in the last two rounds of my league the last couple years.

2008 – Vincent Jackson, Brett Favre, Steve Slaton
2009 – Matt Ryan

Now, I’m not saying that the guys listed below will all turn into studs, but that’s why they’re still available at this point in the draft.  When you’re in the final rounds, you’re not looking for a safe pick; you want high upside players dripping with potential.  Resist the temptation to take Mason Crosby or the Bears defense, and instead roll the dice on some of these guys, who have a chance to make a difference in 2010.

* Average Draft Picks taken from mockdraftcentral.com

SEASONAL LEAGUES

Alex Smith (Average Draft Pick 203)
I know he hasn’t proven he can produce consistently and the coaching staff wants to get back to a smashmouth, run-first offense, but let’s look at the facts.  Drafting two o-linemen doesn’t automatically fix their woeful blocking.  Singletary wanted to be a run-first team last year, too, and we saw how that worked out after Smith took over under center.  Even with a revamped line, the team has too many weapons in the passing game (with sophomore WR Michael Crabtree coming along and Vernon Davis’ joining the elite tier of TEs in ’09) for Smith not to at least get the chance to make some waves.
 
Toby Gerhart (ADP 175)
He’s the obvious handcuff for anyone with Adrian Peterson, but it seems to me that people are overlooking Toby’s on the field value.  AP had 384 total touches in 2008 and 357 last year.  That’s a lot of work to put on a guy who, coming into the league, was knocked for a running style that led to him taking too many big hits.  I don’t think anyone should be surprised if Toby picks up a few carries here and there to keep AP fresh.  But where Toby’s real value comes in is at the goal line.  In 2009, Peterson had 7 fumbles in the regular season (plus 2 in the conference championship game).  Last year, AP led the league in carries inside the ten yard line (42), and carries inside the five (30).  If he can’t protect the ball, expect Toby to see some of those touches.
 
Chaz Schilens (ADP 155)
With Jamarcus Russell no longer throwing errant passes in Oakland, this training camp star from last season should finally live up to the promises.  In addition to the improvements under center, the Raiders play the NFC West this season, so there will be plenty of opportunities to feast on weak secondaries in San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis.  If he can stay healthy, he should be a solid WR3 that you can get on the cheap.
 
Dexter McCluster (ADP 193)
Most of the offseason hype surrounding the Chiefs has focused on the backfield duo of Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles, and rightfully so, but this mini-man receiver should contribute immediately.  He’ll line up in the slot, at RB and in wildcat – basically any way the Chiefs can get him the ball.  He’ll also likely take up return duties as Charles becomes the centerpiece of the offense.  Imagine a mixture of Darren Sproles and Josh Cribbs…that’s McCluster.
 
KEEPER/DYNASTY LEAGUES

Anthony Dixon (Undrafted)
It’s looking like Dixon, not Glenn Coffee, will be the handcuff for Frank Gore this season.  But let’s look at the big picture.  Gore will turn 28 years old (danger!) after the 2010 season, and considering his injury history, isn’t a lock to make it to that party without crutches.  Dixon is going undrafted in most leagues, but is a smart pickup for anyone with the roster space to stockpile young talent.  He’ll give you 1-2 starts this season when Gore is out, and should be in for a big bump in 2011.
 
Jonathan Dwyer (ADP 208)
Full disclosure: I was burned by Rashard Mendenhall in 2008 and never fully recovered.  Nonetheless, Dwyer has received nothing but praise this offseason, and Mendenhall has only carried the load for one year.  That is hardly a sufficient sample size.  Also, Tomlin has been including Dwyer’s name in discussions of goal line duty, a place where Mendenhall fell short last year.
 
Mike Williams (ADP 208)
Williams has been getting rave reviews all offseason and is in line to start Week One.  His ceiling for 2010 is limited with sophomore Josh Freeman throwing to him, but his future is bright as the two could be a powerful duo in the NFC South as soon as 2011.
 
Emmanuel Sanders (Undrafted)
Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle.  These are the two players keeping rookie Sanders from taking the spot as the third wide receiver in Pittsburgh; also not the most intimidating competition.  Sanders, an explosive receiver from SMU, should ascend to the WR3 spot by Week One.  He may have a tough time getting looks, especially with Ben Roethlisberger suspended, but could get some deep looks that payoff.  But the real payday for Sanders would be in 2011 when an aging Hines Ward should pave the way for a dramatic increase.

Written by Chris Sheehan exclusively for the www.thefantasyfix.com.
Chris is an avid football fan and has been playing fantasy football for over ten years. Check back for more great articles from him weekly.

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