Had A Bad Draft? Fantasy Football Value Players, 2013 Edition!

Dan Kitchen, Staff Writer

It’s that time of year again. Football fans gear up for seventeen (and hopefully a few after that) weeks of gridiron action. And for every few fans who focus solely on a favorite team for the season, one is likely to sacrifice a bit of their fanaticism in exchange for cheering on specific players in quest to earn some cash. Fantasy football is a business for the dedicated, which means every situation should be accounted for.

Now stop to think – with your luck, your league will be the one in which a run of quarterbacks or receivers goes five rounds too early, and your roster, while loaded at running back, will be crippled by having holes at two of the three key core positions. Is there a way to counteract this likelihood? Be a bargain shopper; every round has a guy who will be putting up double-digit fantasy points (ESPN Standard League scoring) each week by the end of the season. Remember Derek Anderson, the quarterback who had one productive season in which he made the Pro Bowl, but was out of the league after a few more absolutely forgettable seasons in Arizona and Carolina? He went undrafted to start that one great year, and when I snatched him up off waivers, he won me my next eight games. (Also that year, I had the top overall pick, selected #3 overall Michael Turner, and he lost me every game I didn’t have Anderson. Lesson: you need the bench value to save your seasons.)
So, remember as a whole to have several options at each position except for defense, kicker, and in most cases, tight end. These players I am about to talk about are not necessarily players I would draft and start (Blaine Gabbert will not appear on any fantasy roster of mine unless my QB’s 1,2, and 3 die in a horrific bus crash), but if you have the last pick in the first round and the previous nine picks are running backs, or you draft running backs 1-2 and every quality quarterback goes in that span, or any other scenario threatens your roster, here are some players you can target to save your season before it starts.
*Also, the six players listed will be in the style as follows: 2 earlier-round players, 2 mid-rounders, and 2 players I would not draft until the last few rounds.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis
Scenario: You missed out on a fully reliable QB1.
Luck won’t go lighting up a stat sheet like Brees, Rodgers, or Manning. But if you backed RG3 or Ben Roethlisberger as your starter and are having second thoughts, Luck is as close a lock as you can get to put up decent, if unspectacular, numbers week-by-week. Another option is if you go crazy and draft both your running backs, receivers, and a tight end to start the draft, which is not necessarily a bad idea if QB’s are going slower in your draft.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
Scenario: Your panicking that only a couple back-up or bye week quarterbacks are left who actually see the field.
If Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks could stay healthy, Manning would be a top-three-rounds QB. But given the likelihood that one of the two goes down, Brandon Myers doesn’t click in his new home, and/or Eli has some shaky starts, Manning’s value is not as high as one might think. If the best available running back or receiver is likely to remain there until your next pick, Manning is a back-up I would love to have on my bench.
Jay Cutler, Chicago
Scenario: You forgot to draft a starter or back-up, or are a diehard who needs one hometown player on their bench to feel ok sleeping at night.
Criticize the man all you want, Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall is one of the greatest QB-WR combos in recent NFL history. Always good for 1,000 yards and 60+ catches (along with a good amount of touchdowns), a weak pass defense against Cutler makes him a great week-to-week option to watch. Further development of Alshon Jeffery makes Cutler a solid choice for a full-time back-up. If the offensive line struggles again this year however, have a third QB stashed away, because Cutler can’t survive the beatings much longer unscathed.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis
Scenario: You have every running back and receiver your heart desires, but need a quick bailout for a back-up.
If people could get over Bradford’s let-down of a career (save for the rookie season) thus far, he would go as a fringe starter. Brian Quick and Tavon Austin are multi-dimensional weapons any QB would beg to have, and Chris Givens stretches even the fastest corners. That is three good weapons a decent passer has to throw to. Oh, and the Rams signed one of the best tackles in the league and an athletic tight end to help Bradford as well. Pretty good odds for someone going in the middle of drafts (at best).
Jake Locker, Tennessee
Scenario: You have an open bench slot and fifteen receivers already, or have a strong penchant for scrambling QB’s (me).
Locker isn’t lighting up anybody for thirty fantasy points. But if you don’t have a back-up yet or one of your two QB’s is as durable as a glass sheet, at least Locker is getting a chance to play each week.
Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville
Scenario: As stated in the intro, one or more of your QB’s is severely indisposed and your others are on a bye.
Gabbert is a step ahead of the competition for worst projected Week 1 starter this season. He is capable of a surprise fantasy breakout, if only for one or two weeks (if that), and that makes him an option for the desperate and thrill-seeking owners. Bottom line, it’s better than having *BYE* on your scorecard where your opponent has a solid 20-something listed.
Running Back
Chris Johnson, Tennessee
Scenario: You went Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees in round one, and have a mid-round pick in the second.
Johnson still has the ability for a 2,000 yard season – teams just know that now. Slow start last season aside, the Titans will be doing a lot more running than most teams (considering how much more talented the running back is than the quarterback), and even if Shonn Greene snipes some carries from CJ2K, Johnson likely gets more than most other backs anyways.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville
Scenario: Your fantasy league buddies forgot about him.
Before this year, MJD was a top-five fantasy pick every season. One bad injury and Drew falls to a second or even third-rounder in drafts. If you think the Jags trust Gabbert throwing two or three times for every Jones-Drew rush, then by all means take a different back. Someone smarter will benefit when he beats you the following week.
Le’veon Bell, Pittsburgh
Scenario: Almost every starting back in the league is gone in your draft.
Remember how I said the first two players only were early-round options? Apply that knowledge here. Bell is going in the earlier rounds of drafts when he should be one of the last starters in the league to go. Sure, he fits the Steeler power game, but he is in a platoon guy right now, which spells fantasy doom. However in the middle rounds of a draft, ANY starter at running back is a must-pick, even if they are presently entrenched in a platoon situation.
Deangelo Williams, Carolina
Scenario: Running backs went fast, and you need another running back starter.
Anyone who has played fantasy in the last three years has a migraine now. The tandem of Williams-Stewart follows one simple rule: they score BIG when they are on your bench, and score pitifully when they’re in your line-up. Getting lucky with Williams is as likely as hitting the Jackpot on nickel slots, but there’s still a chance, and as a mid-rounder, that’s fantasy value.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina
Scenario: Every other owner in your league got hurt by the Carolina backs, and consequently refuse to draft them ever again.
Stewart enters the remainder of the preseason as the back-up in Carolina, which means he should be an alternating starter by Week 3. As back-up, he isn’t worth a mid-rounder likes Williams, but if he keeps falling and falling, and you have plenty of Advil nearby, take a chance.
Daryl Richardson, St. Louis
Scenario: Everyone, yourself included, forgot that he is the likely replacement for Steven Jackson.
I actually would recommend Richardson for the mid-round range as well, but he worries me a little to much to go through with typing it up. But as a late-rounder, he is at the top of my reserves list. A likely platoon starter that showed promise last year? Sign me up!
Wide Receiver
Steve Smith, Carolina
Scenario: You went running back-running back-quarterback in the first three rounds.
Smith is slowly, slowly becoming football’s Julio Franco (or Chris Chelios, for you NHL fans). He never gets any younger, but always has a solid season. I don’t see anything stopping him from a repeat performance, which, by his numbers, values him as one of the top wideouts in the draft.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis
Scenario: Receivers are going quick and often, and you have your running backs.
I don’t normally advocate speedsters after the league has caught on to them, but Hilton is still unknown in some areas. Some teams will focus more on Reggie Wayne and the two sophomore tight ends, leaving a slower corner to cover the very fast Hilton. Watch him each week for potential benching, but if you need a starter, you could do worse.
Anquan Boldin, San Francisco
Scenario: You have some back-ups, but need a solid guy for the RB/WR slot.
Boldin won’t score you fifteen points more than once in a full season, but if you overstock on guys with the same bye week, Boldin is a great guy to have. It’s a safe, but not sexy, pick, which wins you league championships in the middle rounds.
Chris Givens, St. Louis
Scenario: You don’t have a boom-or-bust receiver yet, and need the adrenaline rush from one huge performance.
Givens is a riskier speedster than Hilton or Mike Wallace, because he could slip to third on their depth chart. But if Quick again fails to develop, Givens can put up numbers that make him a steal.
Percy Harvin, Seattle
Scenario: Everyone is scared by his injury history and he slips.
Healthy, Harvin is an early-rounder. But he never stays healthy. If you think, as I do, he can string together four weeks of starter-level production before going down for the season, that makes him worth a late pick.
Malcolm Floyd, San Diego
Scenario: You have an open bench spot and not as many receiver reserves as running backs.
Floyd follows a pattern each season: perform well until ESPN starts telling you to grab him, then disappear for the rest of the year. So jump all the experts and get him playing while he starts hot.
Tight End
Brandon Myers, New York Giants
Scenario: You felt tight end was a need to wait until closer to the end of the draft.
Waiting to grab a tight end is not a bad strategy. In fact, it usually proves successful until you face a team in the championship that drafted the top tight end in the second or third. Myers is one of the top value tight ends – he won’t last until the end rounds, but is late enough that those who need to grab a tight end in the first half of the draft can, after grabbing their backs, receivers, and quarterback.
Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit
Scenario: You don’t believe in drafting a tight end early, or drafting one who is not a bigger name.
Pettigrew is a perennial disappointment for guys who draft him high. He is good for a few big games and some average ones, which is all the better you’ll get after the first few guys go. Better for a few points on an off day than no points from a guy you get off the waiver wire each week.
Zach Sudfeld, New England
Scenario: You buy in to the New England model of success, and your other league owners have not watched or read anything on ESPN the last couple weeks.
The Patriots turn whatever name is slotted in as their top two tight ends into a fantasy stud overnight. Sudfeld caught a score in one of his first professional games ever, and that theme will continue once he has Brady throwing to him full-time. Going in the middle of drafts, I would wait another week to see if he remains the “next Gronk” that many have dubbed him. If so, he’s a great compromise for someone not looking to grab a tight end until the top portion of their line-up is filled.
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville
Scenario: You forgot to grab an early tight end, but wanted one.
Not long ago, Lewis was a step away from being one of the top tight ends drafted each year. A quick fall from grace has him as a fringe starter, likely suited for the bench or some waiver wires. Whoever starts in Jacksonville, Gabbert or Henne, will need a reliable target, and after last season, Cecil Shorts will be covered. I doubt Justin Blackmon will be counted on as much as a solid and dependable tight end in Lewis, meaning some points should be coming Lewis’ (and his owners’) way.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh
Scenario: People assume his injury will keep him out forever, and/or they assume he won’t get many catches.
Miller won’t get eight catches, and likely won’t top seventy yards more than twice in a season. But what he does is get scores, and often. When Pittsburgh gets in the red zone, they run, try an ill-advised pass, and then look safely on third (and sometimes fourth) down. Their idea of safe? A check-down, two-yard flip to Miller, who steamrolls unfortunate linebackers into the endzone. A touchdown is about the best in terms of scoring you can ask for from a tight end (unless you want to drop a second on Jimmy Graham or a healthy Gronk), making Miller a downright steal for a bye-week fill-in (or even an occasional starter).
Jacob Tamme, Denver
Scenario: You really don’t care where your last pick goes, or abide by the strategy of going tight end-defense-kicker with your last three picks.
I warn people every year within the last few rounds of the draft in response to their heckling of my refusal to draft a tight end early: “I will draft someone in the last couple rounds that will beat you in [insert week of match-up here]”. Because every year, everyone forgets Jacob Tamme. When Dallas Clark went down in Indy, Peyton Manning went to Tamme and made him a top-five fantasy tight end until Clark came back. The last couple seasons, Tamme succeeded when he got playing time. He is not in the Top 20 of tight ends taken in ESPN leagues. So beware if you end up in my league (or someone else knows this secret): Jacob Tamme is currently in line to be Peyton Manning’s tight end, and whoever drafts him will have an advantage in at least one spot over your team.
Again, bear in mind my message from earlier: do not draft Jake Locker, Brandon Pettigrew, or Jacob Tamme in the second round because I have their name down. It’s all about value, and if you play your cards right, you’re going to have enough names that your bench could potentially outplay your opponent’s starting line-up. One final tip that I will also address in my fantasy tips later this preseason: keep watch of players and depth charts this preseason. One solid game is enough to make a guy like Victor Cruz a better value than anyone I mentioned above. One bad game takes Zach Sudfeld from Pro Bowl tight end to undrafted afterthought. A common cliche to apply: you get out of it what you put in to it. If you keep watch of your potential sleeper picks, find some depth chart risers others may overlook, and check on who is being drafted too low, you can make your team as good as you want it to be. The sky is the limit, so work hard. If you got some cash laying around, you could even make a little money off some of your friends and family!
Make sure to check out the RMU Sentry for other blogs and news stories, the Sentry Sunday Scoreboard for NFL analyze, fantasy tips, and draft information, and follow @tripleddraft for NFL Draft tips on Twitter!
God Bless & Happy Fantasy Season!
 – Dan