Late Round Targets
There's a point in every fantasy draft when the mood in the room tenses, owners bury their heads in their cheatsheets or flip through their draft magazines looking for that breakout sleeper like the last piece of cake hidden in the fridge. You look down at your roster so far: loaded with studs in the early rounds, and you even managed to snag that mid-round sleeper you targeted ahead of time. While the rest of your league mates are scrambling you are calm, collected, in control, and ready to pull away from the rest of the pack in the late rounds.
Fantasy championships are won in the late rounds, because the players selected there can greatly out-perform their draft position. This late round targets article uses the ADP (average draft position) rankings to give fantasy owners ten players to target in the late rounds that will significantly outperform their draft value.
Donald Brown's physical between the tackles running style (which led the NCAA with 2,083 yards and 18 touchdowns), combined with his ability as a receiver out of the backfield makes him a perfect fit for the Indianapolis Colts offense. Brown is one of the most talented running backs in this year's rookie class, but he isn't being drafted like it with an ADP of 88.70.
Joseph Addai was a major disappointment for fantasy owners last season, and -- despite Brown's addition -- will hold onto the top spot on the depth chart in Indy. Addai has struggled to stay healthy in the past, and will likely miss some time in 2009. When the opportunity arises, fantasy owners will be glad they drafted Donald Brown because he may take over the starting role and never look back in his rookie season. Brown is a perfect late round sleeper with major upside to target.
The New York Jets had their hearts set on Greene (reportedly the #1 RB on their draft board) trading up to the top of the 3rd round of April's NFL Draft to select the Iowa Hawkeye. Greene is a classic bruising, physical down hill runner who at 227 pounds is already a candidate for goal-line carries in the Jets offense.
Rex Ryan (a disciple of the power running game) will likely turn to the rookie early and often this season; with the question marks surrounding 31 year old Thomas Jones and his potential holdout, fantasy owners can be assured that Greene has the potential to have a major fantasy impact in his rookie season (and will significantly outperform his ADP of 126.35).
Le'Ron McClain (a fullback by trade) became a valuable fantasy option last season taking over the starting role for the Baltimore Ravens when both Willis McGahee and Ray Rice struggled with injuries. McClain finished the 2008 season with 5 straight games of 20 plus carries and his season stats are impressive: 902 yards and 10 TDs.
Baltimore will continue to use a three headed monster backfield committee and McClain's size and ability to play fullback have significantly impacted his draft value this season (ADP 147.31). When the Ravens get in the red-zone there is no question that McClain is getting the ball, and when (not if) Willis McGahee goes down, then McClain becomes a viable fantasy starter. McClain has plenty of upside, and is worthy of a selection in the late rounds as an excellent pick to add depth at the RB position.
McCoy's biggest strengths are his outstanding quickness, elusiveness, and receiving skills. Sound familiar? McCoy is a carbon copy of Brian Westbrook, and may be his eventual successor. In his rookie season however, fantasy owners are drafting McCoy as insurance to Brian Westbrook who keeps fantasy owners up at night with his constant injury issues. Westbrook is no spring chicken, and his knee problems are well documented, making it even sweeter when you see the look on the Westbrook owner in your league's face when you snag LeSean McCoy in the late rounds.
McCoy's ADP is 102.88, but if the worst happens to Brian Westbrook, there's a chance that McCoy could have the greatest fantasy impact of any rookie in 2009. McCoy has major upside and is a prime sleeper candidate to target in the late rounds.
The speedy shrimp (who excelled as a return man and a change of pace behind MVP LaDainian Tomlinson for years) took full advantage of LT's health problems in 2008, scoring seven all-purpose touchdowns in the regular season and adding three more in two playoff games. Sproles may be small in size (5'6"), but his impact on the field is tremendous. Sproles has outstanding speed and elusiveness, and his size makes him difficult to find behind the offensive line.
Sproles received the Chargers franchise tag this offseason, and will remain in his role as the primary backup to LaDainian Tomlinson (which has certainly hurt is fantasy stock -- ADP 99.54). If LT struggles to stay healthy as he did last season, or he is injured for a long period of time, then Sproles will have a major fantasy impact. Sproles showed last season that he can excel in a full-time role, which makes him an excellent insurance policy to stash on fantasy owners benches.