Faceoff: Late-round Flier
Clayton Gray: Name a player you will be taking a late-round flier on. Why?
Matt Waldman: Bilal Powell the Jets running back supposedly competing for the No.3 role when in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he's the No.2 back when August is all said and done. Powell was my No.3 running back in the 2011 Rookie Scouting Portfolio because he was explosive, versatile, and good after contact. Powell had a difficult transition from college to the NFL and only had 14 touches after a nondescript camp. The most memorable thing anyone has to say about his performance is that he fumbled at the goal line on Monday Night Football and teammate Matt Slauson recovered it. Powell's first week of camp has been a complete 180 from last year. Rex Ryan commented that Powell "showed up" this year. He's routinely displayed power, burst, and receiving skill and he has earned praise from a variety of writers, teammates, and former Jets scout Connie Carberg. He's also seen time with the first unit.
Powell is the most talented runner on the Jets roster. While my colleague Sigmund Bloom might say the bar isn't very high, which doesn't make it an impressive feat, I could say the same thing about Ray Rice being the most talented runner on the Ravens roster or Steven Jackson being the most talented runner on the Rams roster in 2011. Powell has the tools to become a solid RB2 this year if Shonn Greene plays to fan expectations rather than coach Anthony Lynn's thoughts of Green having a "monster" season. One thing we do know is that Rex Ryan has given Green a quick hook in the past. If Powell looks like the player Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum saw at Louisville, and allegedly exchanged a high-five in the war room upon selecting in the fourth round, Powell will get a shot. While some fantasy owners will opt for Joe McKnight and Terrance Ganaway late, Powell will be my late-round flier unless of course, his stock elevates with his camp performance.
The other player is Rams receiver Steve Smith. Lots of good talk from beat writers that Smith continues to impress as the off season has progressed. He's one of the best route runners in the league and he's on a team that desperately needs a reliable receiver beyond Danny Amendola. A fully recovered Steve Smith is a borderline Pro Bowl player. Sam Bradford has skills to be hyper-accurate. I'll take Smith and/or Salas over Brian Quick or Chris Givens this year.
Chris Smith: Mohamed Sanu: Sanu is one of those quiet prospects that has all the tools to emerge from the pack as a 900+ yards / 6+ touchdowns producer. He was a 3rd round draft choice from Rutgers university where he set a Big East record with 115 receptions during the 2011 campaign. He is blessed with great size at 6-2 and 211 pounds and his size and ability remind me very much of young Anquan Boldin when he came out as a rookie. Much like Boldin, he didn't time in the 40-yard dash very well but he plays faster in game action and that is all that really matters.
He has a clear path to the starting receiver position across from 2nd-year player A.J. Green and he will be given every opportunity to win that job during training camp and in preseason games. I am a big fan of Sanu and will be looking to secure his services in the later rounds of fantasy drafts this season.
Jeff Tefertiller: Kevin Smith has positioned himself as possibly the Lions' starting tailback for the first two weeks of the season, and maybe longer. Mike Leshoure is suspended for those games and Jahvid Best is having trouble getting cleared to practice after his concussions. Even Leshoure is not a beacon of good health coming off an Achilles' injury. We forget that Smith is still relatively young (25 years of age) and was productive last season when seeing action late in the year.
In the week 11 game against the Carolina Panthers, Smith carried the ball 16 times for 140 yards and two rushing scores. He added another 61 receiving yards and a touchdown through the air. The prolific Detroit Lion passing offense will open holes for the running backs. Smith makes a great upside player to stash at the end of your roster.
Andy Hicks: I'll nominate Vincent Brown from the Chargers. Brown isn't the tallest or biggest receiver out there, but he offers an upside that none of the other receivers on the Chargers roster can. Malcom Floyd is 31 years of age now and still hasn't cracked the top 30 fantasy receivers despite being a starter in recent years. Robert Meachem couldn't produce in a much more dynamic passing offense and despite a freak season in 2009 where 1 in 5 of his catches was for a touchdown, hasn't exceeded 50 catches or 750 yards. Eddie Royal hasn't produced since his rookie season in 2008. Antonio Gates is well into the veteran category and usually carrying an injury.
Brown won't be a WR1, but he has the potential to be a solid possession receiver. He has nice hands and developed nicely in his rookie season. I fully expect him to finish at the very worst a WR3 this year.
Steve Holloway: I like the potential for Alshon Jeffery this season in Chicago. I believe that the Bears offense will be much improved and that Marshall will be the top target for Jay Cutler. However, Jeffery is the best of the other wide receivers and will get plenty of opportunities.
At 6-foot 3, he is an excellent red zone target and could score more touchdowns than expected. Stories in early camp practices indicate that he may be used a lot in the slot. In that role, he could plentiful targets and opportunities to produce with the double coverage on Marshall.
Ryan Hester: I'll nominate two young WRs as my "flier" choices. First is Kendall Wright of Tennessee. With all of Kenny Britt's troubles, he seems to be growing frustrated with the team -- and the feeling is becoming mutual. Wright started the team's first preseason game, playing with Matt Hasselbeck, but he and Jake Locker showed nice rapport as each of Wright's targets came from Tennessee's younger QB. If Britt doesn't screw his head on straight (something he has shown no sign of ever doing), Wright could be a sneaky bet to lead Tennessee in receptions.
The second young WR I'd like to grab is Randall Cobb. If you've ever read this site at all, you'll know I'm not along in loving what Cobb brings to the table. Expect Donald Driver's playing time to be a la Hines Ward's last season. Driver is riding into the sunset and will be transitioned out of the offense as Cobb makes more and more splash plays from the slot in what is possibly the most explosive offense in football.
Sigmund Bloom: Jake Locker. He showed ability to make plays with his arm and his legs last year in a very limited amount of playing time. Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has had a whole offseason to install his offense with more run and shoot looks that should soup up the passing game. Locker will have a nice array of weapons at wide receiver, tight end, and running back, and he could flirt with a top 10 quarterback season in a very deep year at the position.
Jeff Pasquino: Rashad Jennings is high on my list, simply because Maurice Jones-Drew is holding out and it can and will get ugly. I think Jennings is your Week 1 starting tailback and he is much better than most people realize. Even if Jones-Drew signs just before the season, he could easily get hurt since he will not be in footbal shape and might tweak something right away. Jennings will show the coaching staff that he deserves more touches and he will get them, even if Jones-Drew comes back to camp.
I'll vote for Cobb as well - good call Ryan. He was one I was going to mention. I might even say Reuben Randle or Alshon Jeffery for rookie wideouts that could be late picks. Both of them have Pro Bowl caliber quarterbacks and a nose for the end zone. If Jeffery starts he could be a force in Chicago, but at a minimum he will be in Red Zone / goal line packages. Randle could be a starter for the Giants if Nicks or Cruz get hurt or at worst a WR3 for a very good offense.
Maurile Tremblay: My two picks were going to be Randall Cobb and Vincent Brown, but I've been beaten to the punch. Cobb and Brown are in similar situations because they're both very talented receivers in efficient passing offenses with more established receivers ahead of them. But even without injuries, it may be tough to keep them off the field. Cobb isn't going to surpass a healthy Greg Jennings or Jordy Nelson this year, but operating out of the slot, he's so dynamic after the catch. He should have a role in the Packers' offense, and it should grow during the course of the season. Same with Brown. He'll begin the season as the fourth WR, but that's really based more on seniority than on talent. Brown appears to be a better route-runner than Robert Meachem, and he also may have better hands. Even if he can't supplant Meachem, he's only one Malcom Floyd injury away from the starting lineup, meaning that he'll probably get a chance at some point this season.
But since Cobb and Brown have already been mentioned, I'll add Tim Hightower as a late-round flier. He's coming back from a knee injury and he's in a three-way battle for the starting RB job in Washington. But he was effective early last season, and is the most complete of the Redskin backs. I believe the Redskins will have a strong rushing attack this season, and if Hightower ends up starting, he'll be a terrific value.
Anthony Borbely: I would be looking to draft Steve Smith. Someone has to catch passes on the Rams and Smith is having a strong camp. If Smith stays healthy I think he could be a big part of the offense. There is little risk and a lot of reward for taking Smith in the last couple of rounds. He is totally off the radar right now.
Mark Wimer: Houston wide receiver Lestar Jean. Jean was a star of the shortened 2011 training camp before sustaining a shoulder injury that cost him his rookie season. He's seen a lot of first team reps in replacement of Andre Johnson during OTAs (when Johnson was out with a sore knee) and during the early part of training camp (when Johnson was out of action due to a groin injury). During the first preseason game, Jean snagged 2/50/0 receiving out of four targets to lead the team in receiving - he is not some one-game preseason wonder, this guy has been developed by the Texans over the last two years.
I wouldn't be surprised to see him win the #2 job across from Johnson - and to elevate the production from where Kevin Walter has been for years - and if Johnson gets hurt (again) this year, it wouldn't surprise me to see Jean starring as the lead receiver for Matt Schaub. I like his chances in 2012 a LOT.