Swinging For the Fences
By Sigmund Bloom and Matt Waldman
September 3rd, 2011

With better fantasy information available to even the "casual" fantasy player, it becomes imperative to take a few shots in the later rounds looking for that next Peyton Hillis, Brandon Lloyd, Mike Williams. These are the picks that will have you winning your league. I have teamed with Sigmund Bloom and Matt Waldman for this feature as they are among the best in the business in spotting young ascending talent.

The premise of this article is to lock down the majority of your roster by the 9th or 10th pick and then to "Swing For the Fences" with upside guys that have a chance at being top-notch talent.

I have listed the non-PPR ADP for each of these players to get a good feel when you would need to target them.

Quarterbacks

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
(submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = QB19, 125th overall

Sanchez threw for nearly 3300 yards last year with an under whelming corps of receivers save Santonio Holmes (once he returned from a four-game suspension). We're talking about a first-round quarterback in his second year that did enough to manage his team to its second-straight championship game. That information might scream, "better NFL quarterback than fantasy quarterback" to you, but not after the Jets purged its receiving corps of Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery and replaced it with Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason. This duo might be older, but they are far wiser, more technically and conceptually sound, more reliable, and more versatile. Pair them with Santonio Holmes and I don't see how we see three extra completions per game for Sanchez than last year. At 14 yards per catch, that's close to an addition 700 yards of passing for the third-year quarterback. A 4000-yard, 25-TD season makes him a starter at a bargain price.

Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns
(submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = QB22, 147th overall

As a green rookie, McCoy was actually able to put up solid fantasy numbers except against the vaunted Steelers and Ravens defenses and in one dominating win over the Saints when he only threw 16 passes. This year, McCoy has taken a leadership role on the team and come under the tutelage of both Brett Favre and west coast offense mind (also current Cleveland head coach) Pat Shurmur. The gutsy QB's running ability and the Browns weak schedule could push him to Jeff Garcia-esque numbers even with his inexperienced group of targets. If rookie WR Greg Little and fourth-year WR/TE Evan Moore can emerge, McCoy has the potential be a surprise top 10 QB this year.

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
(submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = QB24, 163rd overall

Yes, Newton looked extremely rough in the passing game in the preseason. Yes, he has few proven weapons to throw to beyond Greg Olsen and Steve Smith. Still, we should let Tim Tebow (#1 fantasy QB in three starts at the end of his rookie year) and Vince Young (QB1 level numbers in the second half of his rookie year) guide us when projecting the possible ceiling of a dual threat QB like Newton. Even while he struggled to complete passes against the Bengals, he still ran for a long TD, putting him on pace for about a 20 point fantasy day, which more than startable in most leagues. No one should be surprised when Newton puts up better fantasy numbers than at least 10 QBs taken ahead of him in drafts right now.

John Beck, Washington Redskins
(submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = QB31, 250th overall

John Beck got piled on before his career even started. That's what happens when you get thrown into the starting lineup on a team decimated with injuries and a shortage of talent that is in the midst of a 1-15 season. When the Dolphins second-round pick failed to look better than 99 percent of the rookie passers would have in this situation, he was jettisoned from the team along with the head coach. Considering it was a Bill Parcells-led purge, many people thought it made sense at the time. However, I trust the eyes of Ron Jaworski, Steve Young, Mike Shanahan, and even mine more than I do Parcells when it comes to quarterbacks. He picks players by templates more than by talent. Beck has the requisite arm strength to make every throw, but what I have always valued about his potential is his anticipation, mobility, and poise in the pocket. He's smart player and he's bided his time for that next opportunity. Beck's skills fit perfectly in Shanahan's offense. Remember, Jake Plummer had three of his better seasons - including a 4000-yard, 25-touchdown Pro Bowl year - under Shanahan. And Plummer wasn't half the disciplined quarterback that Beck is. Beck will start and he'll outplay all but possibly 10-12 of the fantasy passers picked in your draft.

Running Backs

Roy Helu, Washington Redskins
(submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = RB49, 149th overall

I'm not a believer in Helu's ability to put up great numbers over the long haul, but I'm not a believer in Ryan Torain's ability to stay healthy or Tim Hightower's ability to avoid fumblitis, either. The Redskins seems very well prepared to run Mike Shanahan's offense, and judging by Torain's numbers last year, whomever carries the rock will have significant fantasy value. I would treat Helu like one of the stocks of one of those pharmaceutical companies that is trying to get a new potentially lucrative drug approved by the FDA. As as the good news of him starting comes, move the capital he represents into a more stable investment and profit.

Ben Tate, Houston Texans
(submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = RB50, 157th overall

As a guy who evaluates players I don't like recommending Ben Tate over runners I believe are more creative, disciplined, and physically talented. However, Tate has more than enough talent in a great situation that I can't overlook him. The Texans offensive line is making Chris Ogbonnaya look strong this preseason and Tate looks borderline special. Remember that if it weren't for a Tate injury early last summer, Arian Foster might not have won the starting job so easily. Saying this really messes with my aesthete perspective of evaluating talent because I always thought Foster had borderline starter potential, but Tate was a reasonably high pick whereas Foster was an underafted free agent coming off a nice finish to the 2009 season. If Foster gets hurt, Ben Tate could be that long bomb that pays off.

Delone Carter, Indianapolis Colts
(submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = RB56, 173rd overall

I'm a Joseph Addai fan. And I will argue to my dying day that you aren't watching football if you don't think he's a good NFL running back. However, there's no argument that Addai has missed enough time in two of his first five seasons to knock him out of his usual top-12 production that we saw from the three years where he started at least 13 games. This realistic thought process leads me to Syracuse RB Delone Carter. A player I've been writing about at Footballguys since early last year. My No.5 RB in the 2011 Rookie Scouting Portfolio , Carter is a bowling ball of a back with excellent quickness, power, and agility. He's already earned the No.2 spot in camp, which is exactly with Colts GM Bill Polian expected when the team took him to add the dimension of a "thumper," for the offense. Considering the Colts also added linemen to complement a power running game and Addai's health history, Carter's time could come much sooner than later.

Jerome Harrison, Detroit Lions (submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = RB57, 178th overall

He can't pass block and the Lions aren't considered a great run-blocking line. I also feel I need to leave Montario Hardesty to my worthy compatriots. However, I'm not profiling Harrison here because I feel sorry for him. The former Washington State Cougar has always been a terrific ball carrier. I compared him with Priest Holmes when he was in college and it wasn't two years ago when Harrison did a find imitation of the Chiefs great while he was with the Browns. Even as LeSean McCoy's backup in Philadelphia, Harrison reeled off some big runs in limited time. With Mikel LeShoure gone with a torn Achilles and Jahvid Best likely to get kid gloves for past head injuries, Harrison could easily find himself in a role as the lead back in a committee. The Lions passing game could do enough to mask Harrison's deficiencies by using him on draws, delays, and screens where he'll thrive. He's well worth a pick this late.

Bernard Scott, Cincinnati Bengals
(submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = RB61, 203rd overall

The Bengals don't seem to believe that Scott can handle a feature-back workload and still stay healthy, but there's no reason that he should be in the marginal role he has compared to Cedric Benson, when he is clearly more explosive, elusive, and much more useful in the passing game. With the team switching to a more pass-oriented west coast offense under Jay Gruden, Scott makes sense as at least a Jamaal Charles to Benson's Thomas Jones, and he has the ability put up RB2 level numbers in PPR leagues in that kind of role.

Bilal Powell, New York Jets
(submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = RB65, 221st overall

Shonn Greene was a one-year wonder at Iowa. He hasn't been able to wrest a larger workload from Thomas Jones and Ladainian Tomlinson on the downside of their careers. He has had issues with injuries even though he has been a part-time back. He hasn't dominated against softened competition the way a back with young legs should behind a line like the Jets. Powell is an efficient, no nonsense back who will excel if he's just given a shot. You often hear that the Jets will "ride Greene into the ground" or "until the wheels come off". What is not stated in those sentiments is that the wheels may come off before the end of the journey, and that will put Powell and his owners in the driver's seat.

Leon Washington, Seattle Seahawks
(submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = RB68, 237th overall

Sure, the Seahawks might want to run Marshawn Lynch into the ground, but with weak QB play that allows the opposition to put eight in the box, they will have to come up with other ways to use their RBs to move the ball. Few have noticed that Washington is back to pre-compound leg break form, and that Seattle is excited about what they have in him. He is being completely overlooked in PPR leagues right now, but he has the Westbrook-esque skillset to be very productive in the passing game and occasionally break off long runs. He could easily be the most consistent fantasy factor in the Seahawks backfield this year.

Wide Receivers

Lee Evans, Baltimore Ravens
(submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = WR42, 117th overall

Evans still appears to have all the speed and ball skills that made him a top 10 fantasy WR back in 2006 and helped him put up a 1,000 yard season in 2008. Let's not forget that he has been the only thing opposing defensive coordinators have had to worry about in Buffalo for the entire time he has been there. Let's also point out that he has the best QB he has ever played with this year, and one that has a big arm that can lead him past safeties when he breaks free deep. Evans is going to be on almost every one of my teams this year and I recommend you do the same.

Nate Burleson, Detroit Lions
(submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = WR48, 134th overall

Burleson always seems to get hurt. However when healthy, he's a versatile receiver. He has good skills after the catch; he runs good routes in the intermediate range of the field; and he's and adept red zone specialist. We've seen some of this on display this preseason with him and Matthew Stafford. In fact, they appear to be in midseason form with the type of back-shoulder throws and stick-passes completed for big plays. Calvin Johnson will force defenses to bracket him. Although this won't stop Johnson from big performances, Stafford has the skills to throw for 4000 yards and 30 touchdowns. Burleson is quite capable of 1100 yards and 8-10 touchdowns. That's a steal for the 56th receiver off the board. Keith Overton stole him from me at 8.07 in a draft this week. He's fortunate I only know what state he lives in. It was a great pick, because he's going to produce like a WR3, at least.

Earl Bennett, Chicago Bears
(submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = WR67, 214th overall

Who is going to be the leading pass-catcher in Chicago this year? Out-of-shape Roy Williams? Returner masquerading as a receiver Devin Hester? Fighting his way out of the coach's doghouse Johnny Knox? No, the best answer is Bennett, who is only 24 and ready to be the go-to guy for college teammate Jay Cutler. He is the only Bears receiver who can run the whole route tree effectively and he is tough over the middle and after the catch. Mike Martz discovered balance in offensive game-planning last year, but if the Bears come back to the pack (so to speak) this year, Cutler could have to air it out more, which gives Bennett the potential catch 80+ passes. There's no reason to take any other Bears receiver than Bennett this season, and you can wait until others are taking defenses and kickers to do it.

Jason Hill, Jacksonville Jaguars
(submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = WR70, 224th overall

Hill doesn't practice well, but he shows up in football games. This hasn't endeared him to previous coaching regimes, but the Jaguars were giddy about acquiring him when the 49ers cut him. Hill can get open inside as well as the deep perimeter. Cecil Shorts might be the hot rookie in camp and playing better than all the receivers. However, when the real games start the receiver on the other end of big plays is going to be Hill. When the Jaguars go deep on play action, Hill is the one who will be behind the secondary. However, he'll also be the guy that catches the 3rd and 7 dig route 14 yards downfield in front of the free safety. Let your competition take Mike Thomas and Marcedes Lewis - two players with limited upside. I'd rather go for Hill, who has 1200-yard, 10-td potential.

Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
(submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = WR83+, 265th+ overall

Donald Driver is another receiver in the long line of almost criminal value picks in a lineage that recently goes back to Isaac Bruce and has continued with Hines Ward and Derrick Mason. But Driver isn't that swing for the fences or that deep nine route - he's more like pulling a pitch down the line for a triple or that skinny post threaded into tight coverage. Cobb is a swing for the fences. My No.3 WR in the 2011 Rookie Scouting Portfolio, Cobb has been lighting up Packers camp to the point that Charles Woodson is vocally impressed and Mike McCarthy has called him a 'natural' in the slot. I think Jordy Nelson and James Jones are relative wastes of picks unless Greg Jennings or Donald Driver gets hurt. Neither is as consistent as Driver, and I think Cobb is smarter, more physical, and more dynamic. Cobb's yard sale value has taken a further hit because he has bruised knees. These aren't serious injuries according to the press. When Cobb earns 600-800 yards and 5-7 scores in a block of weeks down the stretch that makes him a viable WR3, I want you to email wood@footballguys.com and tell him I sent you.

Tight Ends

Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams
(submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = TE25, 212th overall

Perhaps the #1 receiver in St. Louis this year won't be a wide receiver, but instead a tight end. Josh McDaniels saw what his old team with Aaron Hernandez last year, and he hand-picked Kendricks to play that kind of role this year. Kendricks has responded with a big preseason after wowing observers in training camp. Sam Bradford will look to him early and often, and if Kendricks can deliver, he'll be the steal of every draft at TE. When players like Kendricks are available so late in fantasy drafts, there is little reason to take a tight end early this year.

Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
(submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = TE13, 116th overall

The Panthers gave Olsen ten million dollars guaranteed (huge number for a TE if they aren't Antonio Gates) and surrendered a third-round pick to get him. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is a former TE from "The U" just like Olsen, and he presided over Kellen Winslow's career year in Cleveland (who is yet another former Hurricane tight end). Steve Smith will get all of the attention from opposing defenses and the Panthers have no proven #2 wide receiver to step up and give #1 overall pick Cam Newton a reliable target. Olsen should post career-year numbers in receptions and yards, and he isn't even being drafted as a starter in just about any league.

Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots
(submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = TE15, 135th overall

Let me get this straight. Hernandez was a top-10 TE last year as a rookie despite splitting time with Rob Gronkowski, losing two games to injury, and playing on a team stacked with versatile skill players, and he's the 15th TE off the board? Hernandez isn't Jacob Tamme subbing for Dallas Clarke and returning to substitute status. Hernandez beats linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks. Cornerbacks! Unlike Gronkowski, Hernandez can play H-Back and wide receiver. Unlike Wes Welker, Hernandez can play on the line of scrimmage. Tom Brady can adjust to a greater variety of formations to beat defenses before the snap with Hernandez than any other offensive skill player on this team. Throw in the fact that Hernandez can run after the catch and I just don't understand why he's getting this level of disrespect. I guess everyone thinks Hernandez is just getting time in the preseason so they can rest Gronkowski for the regular season. Denial is a powerful thing.

Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Chiefs
(submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = TE23, 190th overall

Moeaki had 47 catches, 556 yards, and 3 scores as a rookie. If he had these totals in his third season and it was a steady improvement from the previous two seasons I'd bee less excited. However, we're talking about a tight end on a team without a quality receiver that is healthy other than Dwayne Bowe. Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King has reported that the Chiefs intend to use Moeaki like the Colts use Dallas Clark. I've seen enough from Moeaki to believe he can do a reasonably good imitation. Considering he's the 23rd tight end off the board, I'll drop back and throw deep here. At least he had enough sense not to run into Thomas Jones' biceps...

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