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Late Round Gems

Looking at some late-round players who could surprise

So I went over to our friends at FantasyPros.com and dug into their ADP data to see if I could paint a reasonable picture of players that might strike fantasy gold but were being drafted in the 15th-round (pick 168 overall) or later in 12 team fantasy leagues in standard scoring. Now, some of these guys certainly need a bit of a leap of faith to get on board with, but the key here is that they are super cheap and if the scenario I describe happens to come to fruition, you might just walk away with a fantasy crown. Here is who I came up with in order, from earliest to latest, of where they are currently being drafted with a hopefully believable story of how these late round gems could actually shine. Several of these second-year players were addressed in more depth in one of my previous articles.

169. Marlon Mack

Can Frank Gore last forever? The reality is that Gore really began to show his age last year and just can’t have much more left in the tank. Indianapolis seems high on Robert Turbin, but Mack is very intriguing here. Gore also should be the ideal mentor and role model for a rookie running back with inconsistencies to his game. Although often stopped behind the line of scrimmage, Mack made up for it in college with major big play ability. He has the acumen to develop nicely in the passing game. Dumping the ball off to Mack could quickly become a major part of the Colts offense. Also, even though Indianapolis made some strides with their defensive personnel, they are still rather terrible on that side of the ball. There could be a lot of shootouts in the near future for Indianapolis. That just might benefit Mack quite well.

170. Austin Hooper

While no tight end might be a league winner, I went into detail not long ago in my “Second Year Breakouts” article on my infatuation with Hooper.

171. Joe Williams

Much has been made of San Francisco’s selection of Williams. He is excellent talent that would have been drafted earlier if he didn’t have some obvious red flags. We certainly know that the Shanahan/Kubiak tree has amazing success with mid round running back and that Kyle Shanahan’s system will be extremely running back friendly. Now, this isn’t to say that Williams will even beat the always-underrated (and often injured) Carlos Hyde out as the opening day starter. But what about when the 49ers are 2-8? Do you think the organization will stick with Hyde, whose contract expires after the season and probably will be playing elsewhere in 2018? Or, at that inevitable point of the season, do they insert Williams in as the starter?

178. Baltimore D/ST

No one is suggesting that you should use an early or even mid-round pick on a team defense. But this is a steal at such a late stage of the draft. Currently, 11 defenses are being picked before the Ravens. So, in a 12-team league, you have a good chance of landing them in the final round of your draft. The Ravens boast an outstanding run defense and then spent some major resources this offseason to bolster their pass defense with the additions of Tony Jefferson, Marlon Humphrey, Tyus Bowser, Chris Wormley, and Tim Williams. Despite their offensive ailments, Baltimore still used their first four draft picks on the defensive side of the ball. Williams’ abilities off the edge could lead to sacks and turnovers immediately and the Ravens now boast one of the better secondaries in the league. They also vary their coverages extremely well and play a favorable schedule. One other thing we know about John Harbaugh coached teams: they excel on special teams year after year. This looks like a top five fantasy defense.

181. Jonathan Williams

As is the case with Hooper, Williams falls directly into my “Second Year Breakout” category. He could be a league winner if LeSean McCoy falls to injury.

186. Tyler Lockett

Lockett needs to stay healthy. Even if he does, Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are clearly above him in Seattle’s receiving pecking order. And the Seahawks also have Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson, a third round pick in Amara Darboh that could surprise in his rookie season. They also have an excellent receiving back in CJ Prosise. But Lockett is just a very good football player when he is on the field and he is dripping with big play ability. Remember in Week 15 last year when Lockett caught seven passes for 130 yards and a touchdown? Sure he might be a huge tease, but Lockett is still a breakout candidate at a reduced rate.

187. DeAndre Washington

Yep, another of my favorite “Second Year Breakout” players here that could hit big if Marshawn Lynch isn’t exactly all he is being cracked up to be after being away from the game all of 2016.

194. Devonte Booker

You might be seeing a theme here with my favorite “Second Year Breakout” players and Booker fits that bill as well. But what is Jamaal Charles is a non-factor and CJ Anderson goes down once again to injury?

205. James Conner

This is the perfect player for this exercise. The second that Le’Veon Bell is either injured or suspended, Conner owners will immediately run to their electronic device to put the check mark in the box to start this rookie no matter what. The Steelers have an elite offense and an elite offensive line. While he never could be employed in the same manner Pittsburgh uses Bell, Connor is a better receiving talent that most tend to realize. There are no indications that Bell is a troublemaker off the field, but he does have a suspension history. And Bell’s injury history and Mike Tomlin’s usage of his star back indicate that at some point, Conner could get his shot in 2017. You want him in your lineup should that occur.

211. Sam Bradford

Now Bradford surely will not win you your fantasy league, but with an improved offensive line and quality weapons around him, he could easily become a very serviceable starting quarterback for fantasy. The Vikings run game should be noticeably better, but Bradford also is highly capable of orchestrating an efficient controlled passing game with some more shots downfield than a year ago. He is uncommonly accurate and throws the ball very well overall. Even going back to his time with Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, Bradford has played very well over the past few seasons but rarely gets the recognition he deserves. Don’t forget about him late in your draft as your backup quarterback. Bradford might quickly become your starter.