Swinging For the Fences
By David Dodds, Sigmund Bloom and Matt Waldman
August 22nd, 2010

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 Mike Sims-Walker, Miles Austin, or Jamaal Charles. 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

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = QB16, 122 overall

At this point the Steelers' QB is gone for six games, but if I'm looking for a player that I could ride roughshod through my competition when the money is on the line, he's the high-upside pick I want to take. Sometimes people view suspension like they do injury, and that's a mistake. Roethlisberger has practiced with his team and has seen action during the preseason which I think will help him be sharp when he returns. In fact, Roethlisberger is reportedly in the best shape of his career and focused on redeeming himself to his teammates. Pittsburgh's offensive personnel is still pass-oriented in nature, and I believe Roethlisberger will be able to step in and light it up for fantasy owners. If Roger Goodell follows through on the thought of cutting Roethlisberger's suspension to four games, even better.

Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions (submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = QB17, 124 overall

Although it's possible Stafford and the Lions offense is still a year or two away, you don't need much imagination to see the possibilities here. Detroit now has a legitimate supporting cast of skill players that will force opposing defenses to play the entire field on every down. This means Stafford won't be painted into a corner and what were "can't-win" throws last year will turn into big plays this season. The Lions defense will make strides this season - especially with a vastly improved front four - but in a division loaded with offensive talent, the Lions will rely up on its young skill players to keep them in every game. Stafford has the poise, athleticism, natural accuracy and young talent to accumulate 4,000 yards and 30 scores if everything clicks.

Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins (submitted by David Dodds)
ADP = QB18, 127 overall

When you can throw for 300 yards three out of the last four games with a littany of sub-par receivers, you are doing something right. Chad Henne's game was extremely sharp to end the 2009 season and it looks like everything is falling into place for him to build on that in 2010. The team added Brandon Marshall who looks like he is toying with defenses. He is always open. With two aging RBs (that have also battled through a lot of injuries), don't be surprised when the "Wildcat Dolphins of 2009" abandon a lot of the trickery and get back to moving the ball through the air behind the accurate arm of Chad Henne.

Vince Young, Tennessee Titans (submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = QB20, 144 overall

It's easy to forget that before a late season two-game slump, Vince Young accounted for at least one touchdown in every game and had an eight game stretch of not falling below 14 fantasy points, trending up with three games in the 20s out of the last four of the stretch. It's easy to forget that while Young's barfight made more headlines, he actually had a great offseason in terms of football development. He is a high-end QB2 in 4 pts per pass TD leagues, with a chance to be the first dual threat QB since Michael Vick to be a QB1.

Running Backs

LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets (submitted by David Dodds)
ADP = RB45, 116 overall

It's ironic to even have Tomlinson on this list, but he really hit the wall last year. The question though is how much of this was on Tomlinson and how much of the fault should have been placed on the inability of San Diego's offensive line to open up holes. Now on a team with a great offensive line, Tomlinson has looked very good this preseason. Shonn Greene has been named the team's starter, but he has a very limited body of work. I think we all know that these two players could reverse their depth chart positions with a key fumble, breakaway run, or slight injury. This is what swinging for the fences is all about.

Bernard Scott, Cincinnati Bengals (submitted by Matt Waldman) ADP = RB53, 163 overall

Scott is a versatile back with game-breaking ability. Like Ahmad Bradshaw earlier in his career, Scott might struggle in pass protection but he can hurt you from anywhere on the field when the ball is in his hands. If Cedric Benson gets hurt, the Bengals have the beef up front and the strong passing game to create some nice lanes for the second-year Bengal.

Tashard Choice, Dallas Cowboys (submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = RB58, 181 overall

Very few RBs have the ability to go off for 400+ total yards in a three-game stretch vs. the Steelers, Ravens, and Giants, and none of them are available after the 10th round of your draft - except Choice. All it takes is a Felix Jones or Marion Barber injury, and Choice becomes an insta-Flex/RB2. In the three games that Jones or Barber missed last year, Choice averaged over 100 total yards and scored twice. He's the most proven of the injury handcuffs, and both of the RBs ahead of him are becoming known for missing time with regularity. He is exactly the kind of player who can come on for your team just as we're hitting the stretch run.

Javon Ringer, Tennessee Titans (submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = RB59, 191 overall

Ringer represents any back with talent sitting behind a strong No.1 RB with a good run-blocking line and offensive balance. The fact of the matter is that there aren't many of them. Ringer is a savvy runner with the youth and vision to be a 1300-yard back in the Titans offense even without Johnson's speed. As a matter of fact, if you took all of Chris Johnson's big plays last year as a runner and cut them in half, the Titans starter still would have rushed for 1400 yards. If Chris Johnson misses significant time, Ringer is an instant starter. The same could be said for Toby Gerhart in Minnesota, especially with his likely opportunities in the red zone.

Kareem Huggins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (submitted by David Dodds)
ADP = greater than RB72, greater than 260 overall

Who? Just a guy that continues to shine in camp. Cadillac Williams is the starter, but he has fought a lot of health problems over the years. One of those ailments is herniated disks. It's a testament to Cadillac Williams' work ethic, toughness and desire to continue to play through this chronic condition. Unfortunately, herniated disks don't get better. All the massage therapy in the world won't make these disks 100% again. In fact, they likely will continue to worsen over time. I prefer healthy athletes on my fantasy roster, especially guys that come this cheap, that are turning heads in the preseason. Watch this one closely as I am certain his ADP will likely continue to increase this preseason.

Wide Receivers

Jacoby Jones, Houston Texans (submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = WR56, 148 overall

Jones has been taken off of return duty to focus on winning the #2 WR job from Kevin Walter. He clearly has the talent to be a 1,000 yard, big play receiver with Andre Johnson drawing coverage on the other side of the field. Gary Kubiak has reiterated this on numerous occasions, and so far things are going well for Jones in camp and the preseason. If he wins the #2 job outright, he will be a WR3 with WR2 upside that you can get after the 12th round.

Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs (submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = WR57, 149 overall

Sometimes a player is so good right out of the gate that a team has to give him extra touches regardless of what the game plan was going into the season. McCluster has the potential to be that kind of player and then some, especially because of his multi-faceted slot receiver/tailback/wildcat QB skillset. He could easily get 50 catches and tack on 100 carries, making him a quality flex in deep PPR leagues. He also has that rare "take any touch to the house" ability, making him a great upside play any time your fantasy team is an underdog.

Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = WR60, 153 overall

It isn't very often that you can get a #1 wideout after the 10th round, especially one with a big frame, deep speed, and great jumpball ability. Mike Williams (of Tampa) presents just that opportunity in fantasy drafts this year, because people are often reluctant to take rookie WRs very high in their drafts, especially ones that fall to the fourth round of the draft. Williams is a first-round talent who fell to the fourth because of problems that led him to be off the Syracuse football squad by the end of his final season there. All he has done since being drafted is captivate observers at Tampa practices and earn the #1 WR job before he has even played a snap in a regular season game. Josh Freeman is young, but he is a bold QB who will throw the ball into tight coverage, giving Williams a chance to make plays for the Bucs and your fantasy team.

Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis Colts (submitted by David Dodds)
ADP = WR62, 160 overall

He was the clear WR2 on Indianapolis before tearing up his knee in week 1 of the 2009 season. He tried to return in week 16 last year, but the knee continued to give him problems and the Colts placed him on IR. By all accounts, he is healthy now, but likely in a losing battle with Pierre Garcon for the WR2 job. Garcon had a lot of drops and bad route running last season so his claim on this position isn't set in stone. When swinging for the fences, grabbing guys like this on elite offenses can sometimes yield huge results.

Laurent Robinson, St. Louis Rams (submitted by Matt Waldman) ADP = WR66, 171 overall

The Rams receiver was off to a good start before he suffered an ankle and leg injury that cut short his season after just two and a half games. If his first two games were any indication, he was quickly establishing himself as the go-to guy for the passing game, averaging 9.5 targets per game. Any way you look at it, the Rams will have to throw the ball a lot. Donnie Avery might be more explosive, Brandon Gibson might be better over the middle, and Mardy Gilyard better after the catch, but Robinson is the most complete receiver this team has. It's quite possible that Robinson could post fantasy WR2 numbers as a 14th round pick. This late in the game, you're looking for players that can do it all if given an opportunity and Robinson is that kind of guy.

Mike Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars (submitted by David Dodds)
ADP = WR69, 178 overall

He has climbed up to WR2 in Jacksonville and is getting rave reviews in camp. Thomas is strong, has elite speed and is the all-time Pac-10 leading receiver with 259 receptions. He caught 49 balls last season as a rookie just trying to get on the field. He also had 12 rushes and 40 kick returns. His size (a paltry 5' 8") should not deter you here. This guy can play football.

James Jones, Green Bay Packers (submitted by David Dodds)
ADP = WR71, 184 overall

James Jones is a young, talented receiver entering his fourth season with a team that likes to throw the ball a lot, and a QB who finds the open man rather than try to force the ball into a specific receiver. Donald Driver is entering his 12th season, and Jones is the perfect guy to replace him in this offense. If Greg Jennings or Donald Driver were to miss anytime due to injury, James Jones value would likely skyrocket.

Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints (submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = WR75, 198 overall

Devery Henderson - hernia surgery, Robert Meachem - toe surgery, and Marques Colston - knee surgery. Lance Moore enters training camp as the healthiest regular receiver, and he should have a chance to remind Drew Brees and the Saints coaches of the talent that scored double-digit TDs and finished in the top 15 WR in most fantasy leagues in 2008. Moore is a trusted target for Brees, and if he can stay healthy this year, he should be a nice bench player/spot start in PPR leagues at worst, with the chance to be a regular starter in start 3 WR/flex leagues.

Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons (submitted by David Dodds)
ADP = WR78, 214 overall

Harry Douglas showed some flashes of talent during the 2009 training camp before being sidelined due to injury. He put up a promising rookie campaign during 2008 (39 targets for 23/320/1 receiving). Chronic underachiever, Michael Jenkins, is now hurt which opens the door for Douglas to show his stuff. If he seizes this opportunity, he could put up solid numbers while teams blanket Roddy White.

Legedu Naanee, San Diego Chargers (submitted by David Dodds)
ADP = WR81, 226 overall

It's becoming quite clearer every day that Vincent Jackson will not be playing WR for the Chargers this year. That opens the door for Legedu Naanee. Naanee has shown a penchant for making the tough grab over the middle, and it is that fearlessness (not to mention an amazing set of hands) that has led to Philip Rivers trusting him many a time in a crucial situation despite his relative inexperience in the league. Naanee has done just about everything the team has asked of him. He now will get his opportunity to show he deserves to be a starter on a very potent Charger offense.

Mike Williams, Seattle Seahawks (submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = greater than WR94, greater than 260 overall

I could be talking about Seattle's Mike X. Williams, the player I've been taking at the end of drafts since my league mates were still laughing about his comeback. Or, I could be talking about the Buccaneers rookie that I rated pretty low in my Rookie Scouting Portfolio, but is beginning to erase doubts about his head and heart being in the game. Both are worth late round picks, especially with the rookie that has been cemented in the starting lineup since late July and has the best shot to see starter production with this opportunity. But I'm indeed referring to Mike X. Williams from Seattle. He's a big, sure-handed receiver who provides a unique dimension to the Seahawks' offense as a red zone option and reliable possession player with tackle-breaking ability for more. Confused who I'm talking about? Doesn't matter, as long as he's a receiver on the team with the ugly uniform playing on a stadium near the coast, you made the right decision.

Tight Ends

Dustin Keller, New York Jets (submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = TE15, 144 overall

Based on early returns, we might be underestimating the progress made by Keller during the offseason. Keller is one of the most talented pass-catching TEs in the league, and he seems to the be on the same page as Sanchez. He should start to come into his own entering his third season in the league, and he could lead this team in receptions. He's available as a backup fantasy TE, but we could find out early that he is good enough to start, making your #1 TE nice trade bait.

Greg Olsen, Chicago Bears (submitted by Sigmund Bloom)
ADP = TE17, 152 overall

The rumors of Greg Olsen's demise have been greatly exaggerated. He has been targeted more than any Bears passcatcher in training camp, especially in the red zone drills. Jay Cutler has assured us that Olsen will have a role in this offense. Mike Martz has said he has never had a tight end like Olsen and he will do things with him that he has never done before. If Olsen hits, he'll be a starting quality fantasy TE. If he suffers the same fate as every other Martz TE, you can drop him for a waiver wire flavor of the week without remorse. He's worth a late pick in PPR leagues.

Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots (submitted by Matt Waldman)
ADP = greater than TE25, greater than 260 overall

Hernandez has all of the elements to be a one of a kind rookie at the tight end position. He has one of the best quarterbacks in the game with no qualms about spreading the ball around; he works with a coach that is always working with his coordinators to tweak their approach to find a tactical advantage; and he has elite physical skills as a hybrid tight end. With Wes Welker still 10-15 percent away from a full recovery - and coach Bill Belicheck said that final amount takes the longest to heal - Hernandez has a good chance to have a significant role in the Patriots offense. To quantify "significant," I'm talking about 40-60 percent of Welker's 110-120 catch seasons in recent years. Lots of decent options at tight end will be available on the waiver wire. If you're opting for a second tight end, take the one with upside to do something special. Jared Cook is another player with that kind of skill, but Hernandez has the surrounding talent to make him even more of a match up nightmare.

Daniel Fells, St. Louis Rams (submitted by David Dodds)
ADP = greater than TE25, greater than 260 overall

Daniel Fells was a part-time player in 2009, but he put up some decent numbers nonetheless. Playing behind Randy McMichael, Fells had a few productive games and ended the season with a trio of touchdowns. The third-year player may have his growth stunted a bit with rookie Sam Bradford under center, but Fells should be the recipient of a steady amount of targets. For a player with seemingly no competition at his position, he is flying way below the radar.

Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans (submitted by David Dodds)
ADP = greater than TE25, greater than 260 overall

What's not to like about a 6-foot-6, 250 pound mass of athletic talent that excels in the weight room and on the field? He struggled to make an impact in his rookie season due to an assortment of injuries, most notably a high ankle sprain and low grade concussion. When he did see the field he showed coaches and staff that he can be a force on offense that would be difficult not to exploit. His size and strength creates mismatches against LBs in coverage, much like Vernon Davis' rise to stardom. If he stays healthy and continues to develop the fundamentals of the position, he could be the next emerging star at TE. Bo Scaife is currently above him on the Titans depth chart, but both players should see action.

© 2010 Footballguys - All Rights Reserved