Fantasy Football Rankings 2011: Top Value at Every Position
You probably already know who you will take early, but what about the players who fall just enough to turn into steals? This slideshow lists the best bargains out there for every position from quarterback to kicker. All the names here have serious potential, but for one reason or another, they are going to drop to a spot where you can't pass on drafting them.
If you want to get your money's worth and you are willing to take a risk or two, you should consider these select few players.
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford is a high risk-reward pick.
Do I need to state the obvious? He has had some trouble staying on the field, but when Stafford is playing, he's been good. Last season, he threw just one interception to six touchdowns.
ESPN projects Stafford as the 17th quarterback taken, which means you can likely snag him as your second quarterback late in the draft; do it if you can.
The Detroit Lions' depth at receiver isn't great, but Nate Burleson should have a decent season, and they picked up Titus Young to try to relieve some of the pressure on Calvin Johnson. The Lions also have a good, young tight end in Brandon Pettigrew who could have a breakout season, and Jahvid Best will provide some points for Stafford with a few dump-off screens, too.
If the offensive line can keep him off the ground, Stafford will make use of the players with whom he has to work. The combination of Stafford's arm strength with one of the NFL's best receivers in Calvin Johnson alone makes Stafford well worth the gamble.
Quarterback: Kyle Orton
Kyle Orton is projected by ESPN as the 22nd quarterback taken, one spot behind Cam Newton. At an average pick of 137.6, Orton won't even be drafted in most 10-team leagues.
Like Stafford, there are some concerns with Orton.
Orton no longer has Jabar Gaffney, and Demaryius Thomas is out for the season with an Achilles injury, but he still has some weapons.
Brandon Lloyd will look to have another spectacular year, and the coaching staff is pretty high on Eric Decker, although his inexperience comes into question. Eddie Royal helps Orton out as a slot receiver, and the Broncos have added some depth at running back as well. John Fox will look to build a strong running game with the one-two punch of Knowshon Moreno and new addition Willis McGahee, which will open the field for Orton.
Tim Tebow, the quarterback who has been the biggest fear for those hesitant to draft Orton, has more of a chance of losing out on the No. 2 spot to Brady Quinn than he does of taking Orton's starting role. If Orton has a few bad performances, I could see him being pulled, but with the way he played last season and with a little competition to light a fire in him, don't expect Orton's play to drop off much.
Running Back: LeGarrette Blount
LeGarrette Blount was one of the biggest surprises of the 2010-2011 season. The undrafted rookie rushed for just more than 1,000 yards and averaged an impressive five yards per carry. Projected as the 20th running back selected by ESPN, I feel bad for the guy who passes on Blount.
Blount did his work with Cadillac Williams on the roster. Now that Williams is playing for the St. Louis Rams, Blount won't have to worry about losing out on any carries. Behind Blount and the sparingly-used Earnest Graham, is a group of backs with a whole lot of inexperience.
With a coach who loves to pound the ball in Raheem Morris, Blount might just lead the league in carries this year. No risk here; pick up Blount with a clear conscience and expect big things from the power back.
Running Back: Daniel Thomas
Daniel Thomas is projected by ESPN as the 29th back taken, which makes him one of the biggest steals available if you can draft him that late.
The free-agent signing of Reggie Bush will obviously take away some of Thomas' carries and receptions out of the backfield, but expect the rookie to still get the majority. The Miami Dolphins are going to use Thomas often, and another rookie, center Mike Pouncey, will be opening holes up for the 230-pound Thomas to run through—especially in the red zone.
Don't expect the Miami Dolphins to air it out anyways, but Tony Sparano—and Miami fans in general—are anxious to see how Henne plays. If he plays poorly, the coach will rely on the running game even more than anticipated.
Take Thomas, and be assured he will have a great rookie season.
Wide Receiver: Austin Collie
Most football fans, regardless of team allegiance, were all hoping for Austin Collie to recover after a devastating third concussion of 2010-2011. As Collie's body seemed lifeless for a few moments, football became an afterthought, but Collie is back with no reservations about strapping on a helmet.
As ESPN’s 26th-projected wide receiver taken, Collie's hands and fearlessness about catching the ball over the middle make him a player everyone should try to draft. Along with Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai, Pierre Garcon and Dallas Clark, the Indianapolis Colts have an embarrassment of riches on offense.
That means Collie won't be shouldering the load, but don't fret. He will still be one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets, and with Manning, there are always enough balls to go around.
Wide Receiver: Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin's migraines were a big concern last season, even after he thought doctors had found him a fix. Harvin is now confident migraines taking away from his playing time are a thing of the past, but people are still unsure about drafting the speedy wideout early.
Harvin is projected as the 21st wide receiver taken by ESPN; this may seem like right around where he should be, but trust me, 21st is a pretty good deal.
Harvin is truly a triple-threat; he is a dynamic receiver, a stud in the return game and excels when getting a chance in the backfield. He put up almost 900 yards receiving last season, and he did so playing with three different quarterbacks—the best of which was a hobbled Brett Favre who seemed to be a shell of his former self.
The Minnesota Vikings' new quarterback, Donovan McNabb, has something to prove to his critics, and Percy Harvin will help him do just that.
The Vikings don't have a great receiving corps, but Harvin is by far the best. When you add Adrian Peterson and two solid tight ends to the mix—Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph—defenses won't be able to key in on Harvin.
If you have a chance to grab him as your third wide receiver (or second in larger leagues), grab him, or you will regret it.
Tight End: Todd Heap
It will be weird seeing Todd Heap in a Cardinals uniform on Sundays after he spent the past 10 years with the Baltimore Ravens, but Kevin Kolb won't have a problem with it.
Projected as the 21st tight end drafted by ESPN, Heap will carry over his production to his new team. Kolb has had a tendency to look out for tight ends, although the Arizona offense doesn’t usually feature tight ends. But with Heap playing, there is every reason to assume that Kolb will be looking for him in Arizona. There won't be anyone challenging Heap for catches at tight end either—at least not this year.
The 31-year-old still has some gas in the tank, and if you don't want to take a tight end until very late in the draft (he probably won't even be drafted in many leagues), Heap is your guy.
Kicker: Alex Henery
Alex Henery is credentialed as the most accurate field goal kicker in NCAA history, and playing in one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL makes him all the more appealing.
ESPN projects Henery as the ninth kicker selected, which is pretty high for a rookie kicker. Of course, there is always a fear of rookie nerves,—a kicker’s worst enemy—but Henery should do OK.
My biggest fear with Henery is that the Philadelphia Eagles will be too efficient on offense, and Henery will have to settle for extra points instead of field goals. But like David Akers last season, Henery will get a shot to put up killer numbers for a kicker in 2011-2012, so take him if someone doesn’t grab him first.
Defense: San Diego Chargers
The risk in this pick has nothing to do with the defense; it revolves around special teams, which is the reason this squad is projected as the 10th-best defense by ESPN.
The Chargers have made some interesting offseason pickups. Both Takeo Spikes and Bob Sanders will enter the starting lineup, and the Chargers bring back an already powerful unit, including one of the NFL's best linebackers in Shaun Philips.
They will also gain some more firepower at defensive line with first-round pick Corey Liuget, and San Diego wisely re-signed Jacques Cesaire. Although the Chargers did let a few guys slip away, like inside linebacker Kevin Burnett, the defensive unit should return to 2010-2011 form.
If you are willing to bet on Norv Turner making changes on special teams, you should have no fear picking up this defense.