Fantasy Football: 10 Players Worthy of Late-Round Draft Consideration

DHBThe NFL has evolved into an offense-friendly league. This much is undeniable. Every offseason, the league, teams, and/or players propose rule changes that effect either player safety or the NFL’s on-field product (or both). The past decade’s worth of offseason rule changes largely emphasized player safety, which has inadvertently favored the NFL’s offenses time after time.These changes resulted in higher scoring games and effectively created a league full of offensive juggernauts.

Traditionalists may not like it, but the world of fantasy football certainly doesn’t mind. Owners are seeing more players than ever contributing to their team’s stat-line, which means higher scoring fantasy games, and far more players to choose from on your league’s waiver wire.

Remember, deciphering the studs from the duds in the mid to late rounds of your draft could be the difference between fantasy glory and postseason irrelevance. With that in mind, here is a list of ten late-round fantasy sleepers worthy of draft day consideration (in no particular order).

1. Jacquizz Rodgers RB ATL- The man they call “Quizz” can’t seem to catch a break these days. Just as Michael Turner’s departure seemed to create an opportunity for Rodgers to seize the starting job, the Falcons acquired Pro Bowl RB Steven Jackson via free agency.

Jackson’s signing turns Rodgers back to a high-end handcuff with plenty of upside. Even with the Jackson signing, Rodgers is a prime candidate for an increased workload as he is more effective in the passing game and he is by far the most dynamic player in the Falcons backfield.

2012- 94 CAR 362 YDS 1 TD 3.9 AVG/53 REC 402 YDS 1 TD 7.6 AVG

2. Vincent Brown WR SD- Though they would never admit it, the Chargers receiving core struggled mightily without Vincent Jackson last season. They couldn’t seem to get the same explosive plays out of their receiving core that they had become accustomed to in previous seasons.

That’s all changed now that the Chargers are healthy and have put together a solid group of playmakers. The man who could be the one to replace most of Vincent Jackson’s production for San Diego is former 3rd round draft pick Vincent Brown. His size/speed ratio is exactly what San Diego covets in its vertical receivers and playing on the outside along with 2013 second-round draft pick Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown could have a big year as the Chargers deep threat.

2012- BROKEN ANKLE IN 2ND PRESEASON GAME
2011- 19 REC 329 YDS 2 TD

3. Ed Dickson TE BAL- It seems Dennis Pitta is getting all of the tight end love in Baltimore these days, but it would be unwise for fantasy owners to overlook the Ravens other tight end, Ed Dickson. After all, management just showed how much faith they have in their tight end duo when they traded WR Anquan Boldin to their Super Bowl counterparts, the San Francisco 49ers.

The fact that the 49ers got Boldin for roughly a cheeseburger and a beer cooler shows just how comfortable Baltimore is with their belief that Pitta and Dickson can work the middle of the field effectively. Both of these guys should see an increased work load in 2013 and pay dividends for fantasy owners.

2012- 21 REC 225 YDS 0 TD 10.7 AVG

4. Shane Vereen RB NE- When the Patriots took running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the 2011 draft, they were immediately expected to be the 1-2 punch in New England’s backfield for the foreseeable future. Ridley has lived up to expectations so far and quickly established himself as the workhorse for the Patriots backfield.

Vereen, on the other hand, had yet to find his niche in one of the league’s most explosive offenses heading into 2013. Fortunately for him, that may have changed when he became more involved in New England’s offense this offseason by spending time at both running back and wide receiver. This gives Vereen a unique quality for Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels to exploit, which should lead to greater fantasy output for Vereen.

2012- 62 CAR 257 YDS 3 TD 4.0 AVG/8 REC 149 YDS 1 TD 18.6 AVG

5.Dwayne Harris WR DAL- Few people realize it, but the Dallas Cowboys own one of the best passing offenses in the NFL. Every year since Tony Romo has assumed the starter’s role at quarterback, there have been more than enough targets to go around for the Cowboy playmakers. One receiver who has been flying up the depth chart in “Big D” over the last two years is WR Dwayne Harris.

The receiver out of East Carolina is tailor-made for the slot position with his short area quickness and explosive ability after the catch. Plus, with the gradual decline of WR Miles Austin in Dallas, Dwayne Harris should be the next great playmaker in line behind Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten which means increased targets and better fantasy numbers.

2012- 17 REC 222 YDS 1 TD 13.1 AVG

6. Zack Miller TE SEA- Zack Miller is easily one of the most complete tight ends in the NFL. His abilities as an in-line blocker are exceptional and his receiving skills are far underrated. Since he was acquired by the Seahawks front office, Miller has seen more time as a run-blocker than a receiver in coordinator Darrell Bevell’s offense. Bevell’s thought process over his last several seasons in Seattle has been to emphasize the run game to minimize mistakes at the quarterback position. That philosophy was fine prior to Russell Wilson’s arrival.

Though they will still highlight the run-game, now the Seahawks have a legitimate offensive line and quarterback to rely on so Miller should finally be utilized as the exceptional receiving playmaker he is. If you still have doubts, re-watch the Seahawks playoff performance against Atlanta last year and notice the incredible chemistry Miller and Wilson began to exhibit.

2012- 38 REC 396 YDS 3 TD 10.4 AVG

7. Andre Brown RB NYG- The New York Giants are sure to use 2012 first-round draft pick David Wilson in a variety of different looks and packages in their offense this season. That certainly doesn’t mean running back Andre Brown isn’t worth a look in the later rounds of your fantasy league. Remember, though Wilson is incredibly explosive and has unbelievable potential, but he also has a history of fumbling. That’s why Andre Brown is unlikely to lose his goal line and short yardage job in New York any time soon.

2012- 73 CAR 385 YDS 8 TD 5.3 AVG/ 12 REC 86 YDS 0 TD 7.2 AVG

8. Leonard Hankerson WR WAS- Leonard Hankerson was just a big, fast receiver bursting with potential out of the University of Miami when he was drafted by the Redskins. However, it was awfully difficult to envision him achieving any of that potential with Rex Grossman and John Beck at quarterback. Then, the Redskins management aced the 2012 NFL draft.

Now, it’s tough to think of Hankerson NOT living up to his potential with 2012 Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III and fully capable backup Kirk Cousins now manning the quarterback position. Plus, with Santana Moss slowing down a bit and Pierre Garcon coming off an injury, Hankerson could be the beneficiary of more training camp targets and a better rapport with whatever quarterback starts the season for the Redskins.

2012- 38 REC 543 YDS 3 TD 14.3 AVG

9. Tony Moeaki TE KC- There hasn’t been nearly enough media emphasis on the Kansas City Chiefs acquisition of quarterback Alex Smith this offseason. Kansas City has struggled heavily without a solid quarterback for years and they finally have a franchise-caliber player at the league’s most important position. Plus, for the first time since the departure of Tony Gonzalez, there should be some consistency from the tight end position as well.

During his time in San Francisco, Smith developed an outstanding rapport with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (and to a lesser extent TE Delanie Walker, now with the Tennessee Titans). Smith leaned on his tight ends like a crutch in San Francisco and will probably look to do the same in Kansas City with Moeaki. Smith’s arrival should mean more high-percentage targets for all of KC’s receivers. Plus, Moeaki is another season removed from that nasty knee injury he sustained in 2011. The arrow is pointing up on Moeaki and the rest of this Kansas City offense.

2012- 33 REC 453 YDS 1 TD 13.7 AVG

10. Darrius Heyward-Bey WR IND- All right everyone, let’s get a few things straight. First, it’s not Darrius Heyward-Bey’s fault that he was drafted much too high. Second, it’s not his fault that he was drafted by a franchise that was in the midst of an unbearable streak of futility (the Oakland Raiders). Last, it’s not Heyward-Bey’s fault that the Raiders chaotic organization picked career underachiever Jamarcus Russell to be their franchise savior at quarterback, a disastrous failure of a decision with long-lasting consequences.

With that being said, Heyward-Bey has a unique opportunity to resurrect a career that never really got on track in the first place. His production to date has been mediocre at best which is far from meeting the expectations of a top-10 draft pick. Now that Heyward-Bey is in Indianapolis with a stable franchise and playing with one of the best young quarterbacks in the league (Andrew Luck), look for him to finally look like a first-round draft pick. The Colts may have found their eventual replacement for Reggie Wayne without ever really looking for one.

This is a guy you should be able to steal in the final round of your fantasy draft, and you may look brilliant for it. Just a thought.

2012- 41 REC 606 YDS 5 TD 14.8 AVG