2008 Fantasy Football: Draft Day Bargains

gregory caldarellaAnalyst IAugust 6, 2008

Fantasy Football drafting depends greatly on your mid to late round selections. Your first couple of picks tend not to make or break your season, but it's your ability to draft players in the later rounds where you are truly making a pick and not just going by the book.

In the early rounds you are often faced with a decision between a few players, but once the draft progresses your options become endless to whom you could take. I love to target players who had an off year the season before and bank on a bounce back year as long as I believe the player is capable. I also like to target guys who I can envision having a break out year where they finally take that next step to stardom.

Here are some of the guys I would love to scoop up in the middle rounds that can out-produce where they are selected in the draft:

David Garrard: This guy has gained a lot of confidence over the last two years and now he has the confidence of his own team and coaching staff. He is one of the smartest QBs in the league in terms of playing within his own abilities. He is so conscience of ball security on offense that he almost under-achieves.

Garrard won't hurt your team with stupid turnovers and that is very underrated. He manages the game to perfection, and this year the coaching staff wants to open up the passing game more. Garrard does have the rocket arm to increase his passing outputs and this is his first true season where he enters training camp as the undisputed starter.

Look for Garrard to make a nice leap in passing numbers. He's worth taking a little earlier because as I previously stated, he rarely turns the ball over, and even if he doesn't make leaps and bounds you are still getting a very solid QB.

Lee Evans: Evans frustrated fantasy owners everywhere last year. For a player that's so talented, he certainly went through some rough patches.

He went from 82 grabs, 1290 yards, and eight TDs, to 55 catches, 849 yards, and five TDs. That is quite a significant drop off for a guy that many predicted would get even better last year.

The QB situation in Buffalo was shaky all season, and I'm ready to give Lee Evans a free pass on his bust-like performance. Trent Edwards should be much more improved moving into his second year and the addition of rookie wide-out James Hardy should prevent Evans from seeing double team after double team.

Lee Evans is just too talented to have another subpar season in Buffalo, and I fully expect him to regain his fantasy value. He might not revert to 2006 form but he will exceed his production from last year guaranteed.

Thomas Jones: How you only score two TDs in a full season in the Jets run first offense is utterly ridiculous for a veteran runner like Jones. He was viewed as a solid number two RB going into last season, but he frustrated owners to the point of no return.

The good thing is that the Jets did not add much to their RB corps and Jones should again be the featured RB. He will rack up over 300 carries again, but this time he will rush for a respectable amount and give you a total yardage of anywhere between 1300-1500 yards.

The TDs will come as he will still get the goal-line carries. Leon Washington is nothing more than a change of pace back and he shouldn't cut into Jones' workload too much. It would do wonders for Jones' value if Favre were to become a member of the Jets.

Steve Smith: We all know about Smith getting into yet another training camp fight in which he bloodied up CB Ken Lucas, and that he is suspended for the first two games of the year. But this all comes as great news to fantasy owners.

Steve Smith will now slip even further on draft boards and for what? Missing two games? Two games early in the season isn't taking much of a hit, and Steve Smith is still a great WR. He had the worst year of his Panthers career and he is not on the downfall just yet.

Smith has more help in terms of other WRs to help alleviate defensive pressure on him. DJ Hackett and Mushin Muhammad will help Smith see less double teams and give him more room to operate.

It's also nice to note that Smith's buddy Jake Delhomme will be back, and you better believe that he hasn't forgotten who his favorite target is. Smith will be a true bargain come draft day; just don't let his fighting mentality scare you off. As the Joker would say, "You got fight in you...I like that."

Matt Forte: The rookie runner has been handed the starting job by Coach Lovie Smith. It isn't often the Bears turn to a rookie runner, but Cedric Benson's antics left them with no other options.

However, Forte is not a fall back option. Many speculated that he would possibly beat out Benson in camp. The coaches love how he hits the hole hard and his receiving skills to go along with solid pass blocking. The Bears are really banking on Forte and he has been taking all of the first team reps in training camp so far.

Don't be scared off by the signing of Kevin Jones, who will be lucky if he even makes it through a full year without injury. The team is clearly willing to let Forte develop for a full year, and envision him turning in a season comparable to that of Marshawn Lynch's rookie season, but with more catches.

Ben Utecht: The backup Indy TE has finally moved on and has landed in Cincy. The Bengals have hardly ever utilized the TE in the passing game, but maybe that was due to the lack of talent there in recent years.

Utecht isn't the most gifted pass receiving TE, but he knows how to get open. He also has sure hands and probably will be called upon to step up for the lost production left by Chris Henry.

With defenses keying even more on Chad and Housh, Utecht should be able to find some openings in the defense. Carson Palmer finally has a decent option at the TE position and look for him to to advantage of it.

He will be around very late, and if your plan is to not waste an early round pick on a TE, Utecht is your man.

Willie Parker: The days of FWP scoring 16 TDs is over, but so many people are jumping off the FWP train after one TD starved year. His total yards didn't dip too much from the year before but the main issue was him crossing that goaline.

Parker still has blazing speed and doesn't have a whole lot of mileage piled up. The addition of Rashard Mendenhall will impact Parker's value, but people are jumping to conclusions about how many carries Willie will actually lose to the rook.

Coach Mike Tomlin was recently quoted in Steelers training camp by saying that Willie Parker will not necessarily be lifted for goal line carries. Goal line work would bring a big boost to Parker's value, and if this statement is true Parker will become a legitimate RB option once again.

I'm not saying FWP is back, but he is getting bashed way too much. Parker is still very talented and now the Steelers won't be as concerned about his durability with Mendenhall, a nice back up option.