Late Round Targets
There comes a point in every fantasy draft when the mood in the room tenses, owners bury their heads in their cheat-sheets 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 stud performers 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.
"If you challenge the conventional wisdom, you will find ways to do things much better than they are currently done," said the baseball analyst Bill James. The following fourteen late round targets aren't perfect -- there is an imperfection with almost all of them, whether it is injuries or competition for playing time all of these players have risks associated with them -- which is why their fantasy stock has fallen into the later rounds. However, all of them have significant upside and represent major bargains for fantasy owners willing to take a chance on them.
In honor of the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner who once said "I haven't always done a good job, and I haven't always been successful - but I know that I have tried." There are no guarantees in fantasy football (especially in the late rounds), but give these late round targets a chance and you may be rewarded with a fantasy championship.
Henne took over the starting quarterback job in Miami in Week 3 last season after Chad Pennington blew out his shoulder, and by the end of the season was putting up solid fantasy numbers despite the lack of established wide receivers in Miami. Bill Parcells went out this past off-season and acquired Brandon Marshall to fill the Dolphins' gaping hole at wide receiver. Marshall's hundred plus catch and double-digit touchdown potential immediately make Henne an intriguing fantasy sleeper at the quarterback position for fantasy owners to target in the later rounds.
During an interview with a local radio station in South Florida this offseason Brandon Marshall was extremely optimistic about playing with the former Michigan product saying, "He has one of the most talented arms that I've seen. It's going to be fun. This guy -- his work ethic in the classroom and on the field -- it's going to be exciting to play with him and to grow and learn from him, too." Henne ranked third in the NFL in passing yards over the final five weeks of last season; the addition of Marshall (and Miami's strong running game) sets Henne up to become a major fantasy breakout player in 2010.
Brown was a highly touted rookie out of Connecticut in fantasy circles last season (and was expected to unseat incumbent veteran Joseph Addai as the Colts' starting running back), but due to separate shoulder and chest injuries -- and the effectiveness of Addai -- Brown was relegated to a reserve role in 2009. Joseph Addai is firmly entrenched as the Colts' staring running back heading into 2010, but Addai has struggled to stay healthy for an entire season in the past (which means that Brown is just an injury away from becoming a legitimate starting fantasy running back).
Brown showed significantly more big play ability than Addai last season, and combines a tough hard-nosed running style with breakaway speed (and also excels as a receiver out of the backfield). Brown is an insurance policy worth drafting in the later rounds if fantasy owners are willing to bet against Joseph Addai staying healthy for the second consecutive season.
Forsett was by far the best running back in Seattle in 2009, in four games in which he received double digit carries, he broke the century mark twice (123 and 130 yards) and eclipsed 70 yards the other two times to go along with three touchdowns. Forsett is locked in a battle with Julius Jones for the starting running back job in Seattle this season, and according to a report in the LA Times Forsett is "an instant favorite" with new Head Coach Pete Carroll. Aside from being in good standing with Carroll, Forsett averaged 5.4 yards per carry last season, which is significantly better than Jones (who averaged only 3.7 yards per carry).
Forsett has tremendous upside, and will become a fantasy stud if he wins the starting job and receives double digit carries this season. Fantasy owners in point-per-reception leagues need to bump Forsett up a couple of slots on their draft boards as well because of his prowess as a receiver out of the backfield (41 receptions for 350 yards and one touchdown last season). If Forsett falls into the middle to late rounds, he is worth snapping up because the upside is off the charts. Very similar to Felix Jones and Jamaal Charles, Forsett is a big play waiting to happen and is so versatile that he finds ways to produce quality stats for fantasy owners. Forsett will win the starting job, and could help fantasy owners win their leagues as an excellent late round value pick.
Jerome Harrison was by far my best call all of last season in Player Upgrades -- predicting his monster late season breakout in Week 3 -- and while nobody is a bigger fan of Harrison (I even have a Harrison fathead in my office), you have to take notice of rookie Montario Hardesty and the skill set he brings to the table for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns set out this past offseason looking for a bigger back to complement Harrison, and they succeeded by trading up to select the Tennessee product in the second round of the NFL Draft. Hardesty's running style is suited perfectly for Cleveland's offense; Hardesty is a tremendous, physical cutback runner with outstanding speed who figures to split carries with Harrison in a running back by committee in 2010.
Both Harrison and Hardesty are represented by agent Mitch Frankel, who confirmed in a report published by the Akron Beacon Journal that both of his clients will report on time to training camp on July 31st. This backfield committee has tremendous potential, rushing behind one of the best offensive lines in the game. Hardesty has a higher ceiling, and will likely receive more carries (including goal-line carries) than Harrison in 2010. Hardesty is certainly worth drafting in the late rounds as a major breakout sleeper.
The old adage buy low, sell high is the most appropriate way to describe Thomas Jones' fantasy outlook this season; everyone is ready to throw in the towel on the 32 year old running back, but I am willing to give Jones another shot, albeit on my bench, and with nothing more than a late round selection. Jones fell victim to a salary cap cut by the Jets in the offseason, was replaced by another aging veteran LaDainian Tomlinson, and somehow ended up signing for short money with the Kansas City Chiefs to back up rising fantasy stud Jamaal Charles. When you put it that way, the situation sounds pretty bleak for Jones.
Here are some positives for Jones and his prospective fantasy owners heading into drafts this season: Jones eclipsed 1,300 yards and scored 14 touchdowns last season (both career highs), Jones' yardage and touchdown totals have increased each of the past three seasons, Jones will hold the short yardage, change of pace bruiser role behind Charles (which will lead to plenty of red-zone opportunities), Head Coach Todd Haley has been impressed with Jones this offseason saying "I spend a lot of time in the weight room at this time of the year, and he's the Alpha dog down there, He is lifting, working, pushing. ... I'm really excited to have a person and a player of his caliber on the team." Sounds like we may have a fantasy zombie situation on our hands with Jones, in which he comes back from the pronounced fantasy dead to produce solid numbers for his owners. When everyone else is counting Jones out, there is an opportunity to buy low. If Jones doesn't produce then cut bait, but he is certainly worth giving a chance in the late rounds of fantasy drafts in 2010.
Maroney was the last man standing (literally) when the dust cleared in the crowded New England backfield last season after injuries to veterans Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor opened the door for Maroney to emerge as a fantasy factor. Maroney was one of the most frustrating player for Patriots fans to watch last season because of his fumbling problems, but that didn't hurt his fantasy owners who enjoyed 757 yards and a career high nine touchdowns from him.
Maroney is the youngest player in the New England backfield at age 25, and in a contract season, the Patriots will give him every opportunity to win the starting job. However veterans Taylor (34) and Morris (33) are also playing for new contracts next season, so the competition will be fierce in this committee. Taylor and Morris are certainly adequate fantasy performers when healthy, but due to their age and inability to stay healthy, Maroney will have fantasy value at some point in 2010 -- making him worthy of a late round selection in fantasy drafts.