Fantasy leagues are won and lost in the later rounds. Every year, owners are searching for that breakout sleeper who will propel their team to the championship… The 1999 Kurt Warner, or the 2011 Victor Cruz. Often times, you can’t predict these sleepers because they require a freak injury to a mainstay starter in order for them to even get the opportunity in the first place (see Tom Brady). However, there are certainly some players worth picking up in the later rounds that have an exponentially better chance of making you look like an absolute genius in front of the other managers in your league.
Titus Young (WR – Detroit) – This guy is capable of being a huge sophomore stud. I am hesitant to even include Young in this list, because with each draft I do, more and more managers are catching on to him, effectively bumping up his average draft position quite a bit. In his rookie season, managed 47 catches for 607 yards and 6 TD’s, which should only improve. As defenses continue to key in on Calvin Johnson, look for Titus Young to find himself acres of open space, with lots of looks from Stafford to go along with it. The fact that the Lions had the most passing attempts of any NFL team last season, and have still not developed a “surefire” running game is only another plus. This should also relieve any fears that there “won’t be enough balls to go around”. He is currently going around the middle of the 8th round, though don’t be surprised to see a bold soul (or a Lions fan) take a gamble on him earlier.
Fred Davis (TE – Washington) – The Redskins made a tremendous showing of faith today by letting go of veteran tight end, Chris Cooley, and placing their trust in the younger, troubled Fred Davis. After only playing in 12 games last year due to a recreational drug suspension, the stars seem to be aligned for Davis to breakout this year. He posted 59 catches for 796 yards and 3 touchdowns in his shortened season, and the new-look, RG3-featuring Redskins offense should only help. The only obstacle seems to be him getting his head on straight, and hopefully this bid of confidence by the ‘Skins will push him in that direction
Jacquizz Rodgers (RB – Atlanta) - I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Michael Turner is on the way out. Last season in the final 7 games, Turner only scored above 10 fantasy points twice, and was averaging a lowly 56 yards per game if you exclude his monster game against the last place, last ranked, and injured Tampa defense in week 17. Additionally, Turner’s average YPC had a slow, but steady decline from 5.6 – 3.4 during the course of last season; another significant sign of age and wear-out. The Falcons are changing face, and looking to phase out their once-dominant, 30-year old back. Enter Jacquizz Rodgers. The second-year player has nice speed, and will fit in nicely with the pass-first offense that Falcons new OC, Dirk Koetter, is rolling with. While Turner can still expect to receive the bulk of goal line work, Rodgers is a solid late round draft pick. At the very least you are getting an experienced handcuff for one of the oldest and most worked backs in the league. If the chips fall in your favor, you could be sitting on a goldmine here.
Ryan Williams (RB – Arizona) - It seems that the QB controversy is getting all the coverage down in Arizona, but Ryan Williams is certainly a player to watch. After blowing out his knee last year, he has taken a prolonged recovery and come back with a fire. Those who have watched the two in preseason and camp claim that it is only a matter of time before Williams supplants Wells and takes the starting job. Wells’ atrocious injury history only makes this more of a certainty. Despite this, the trend seems to see owners going for Beanie Wells earlier, while you can wait on Williams to pick him up anywhere from the 7th-9th round as a #3 RB with potential for a 1000+ yard, 10 TD+ season.