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Fantasy Football: Late-Round Fliers

Last week, I discussed my strong preference for drafting a large number of running backs and wide receivers in a draft as opposed to other positions. This is because each year players emerge from seemingly out of nowhere and into fantasy relevance. Last season, Jordan Howard went largely undrafted in fantasy and wound up as a top-10 running back. The NFL is a “next man up” league, where injuries and poor performance force teams (and fantasy owners) to quickly seek out the next big thing. In this column, I will highlight some players who are going very late in drafts who may end up being very valuable fantasy assets this season. These are essentially players you should be drafting instead of a second kicker or defense. I did not want to repeat anyone I have already discussed in my positional undervalued articles. So while I am still buying stock in the likes of Robert Turbin and Cameron Brate, these are some other late-round fliers I like as well.

Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets (ADP: 148.25) – Robby Anderson’s 42 receptions from a season ago tied with Kenny Stills for 104th most in the NFL last season. That’s not a particularly impressive stat. This one’s even scarier: Anderson’s 42 receptions last season are the most in any single season by any wide receiver currently on the Jets’ roster. For reference, Matt Forte has eight seasons of more than 42 receptions. Yeesh. While it certainly seems likely that Forte and Bilal Powell will combine for over 100 catches this season, there is still plenty of room for someone in the Jets’ receiving corps to put up numbers. Anderson is probably the most likely candidate to do so. He recorded three straight games of double-digit fantasy points from Weeks 13 through 15 last season, so the potential is there. Considering the lack of other options and the high likelihood of negative game script throughout 2017, a 50% increase on Anderson’s 2016 target total of 78 seems well within reach. A corresponding increase in fantasy points would put Anderson squarely in the WR3 conversation in standard leagues. You can certainly do worse as a matchup play and bye week fill-in.

[the_ad id=”384″]Jordan Matthews, WR, Buffalo Bills (ADP: 149.98) – Jordan Matthews finds himself in a situation very similar to Anderson’s. The difference is that, unlike Anderson, Matthews actually has a pretty good track record to this point in his career. He’s had at least 800 receiving yards in each of his three NFL seasons. He’s also totaled 19 touchdowns in his career. The top three wide receivers from last season’s team (Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and Sammy Watkins) are gone from this year’s squad, leaving 192 targets up for grabs. Matthews should be in line for the lion’s share of those targets. Following the sudden retirement of Anquan Boldin this week, Matthews is now assured to be the No. 1 number one receiving option out of the slot in Buffalo. As long as Matthews improves on his three touchdowns from last season, he should be a pretty consistent source of fantasy value. I believe that, at the very least, he should be in weekly Flex consideration and has WR3 upside.

Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 155.08) – Ty Montgomery comes into the season atop the Packers’ depth chart at running back. A converted wide receiver, Montgomery has shown great playmaking ability. However, even after being deemed the starter at running back, Montgomery still touched the ball only 97 times over the final eight games last season, including playoffs. He has struggled also with pass protection, which is a big problem considering how pass-happy the Packers usually are. Enter Jamaal Williams. Williams was one of three running backs selected by the Green Bay Packers in this year’s draft. I can’t imagine Green Bay would have selected three running backs if they were confident Montgomery was the long-term answer for the team at running back. I don’t expect Montgomery to get more than 12-15 touches per game, leaving an opening for Williams to step in and contribute right away. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Williams end the season as the Packers’ most valuable running back.

Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts (ADP: 189.45) – I said I would not repeat players from previous columns, but I will repeat a bit of information: I do not like Frank Gore. I mean, I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all, but I want no part of him as a member of any of my fantasy teams this season. Gore is looking to become the first player in NFL history who has ever had five straight seasons of at least 250 carries in his thirties. He’s also looking to become the second player in NFL history to record a 1,000-yard rushing season as a 34-year-old. I just can’t bank on that. Perhaps putting Mack on here is a bit of a hedge on my part, and I still do like Robert Turbin (ADP: 229.53). I’m beginning to warm to the idea of grabbing both Turbin and Mack at the end of drafts. This would ensure that you would have all of the running back shares in a high-powered (Andrew Luck’s health permitting) offense if Gore gets injured or simply succumbs to Father Time.

DeAndre Washington, RB, Oakland Raiders (ADP: 189.72) – As rookies last season, both DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard thrived in limited duty. This season they will back up Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is back in the NFL after a year away from the game. I don’t see him coming back after over a year off and instantly reclaiming his status as a workhorse running back. Indications out of Oakland are that the Raiders will limit Lynch to about 200 carries this season. Given Lynch’s advanced age and physical running style, I’m not sure he will make it through the season unscathed. If Lynch were to miss time, Washington would most likely be the starter, as he has been getting the second-team reps ahead of Richard this preseason. Washington would be a featured back running behind one of the best offensive lines in football. Last season, Washington would have been in the top-five in both yards per carry and yards after contact had he accumulated enough carries to qualify for the leaderboard. I think Washington makes for an ideal late-round pick.

Jaron Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: 208.54) – After tearing an ACL last season, Jaron Brown was supposed to begin the season as an ancillary piece of the Cardinals’ passing attack. However, due mostly to his speedier-than-expected recovery and John Brown’s lingering injuries, Jaron Brown enters the week second on the Cardinals’ wide receiver depth chart. With stud running back David Johnson and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald keeping defenses honest underneath, Jaron Brown is in a prime position to exploit matchups and stretch the field. Fitzgerald is also turning 34 this year, so it’s possible that head coach Bruce Arians puts a little more emphasis on getting the ball in the hands of his younger receivers. Jaron Brown is still on somewhat of a “pitch count” but will eventually have his workload increased. He may not be the most consistent source of fantasy points, but he can put up big numbers if given the opportunity.

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