Fantasy Football: 5 Under-the-Radar Players Worth Monitoring

Article by: Jarrod Patterson

Article by: Jarrod Patterson

It seems that every season there are more new faces in fantasy football than the year before. Young players continue to progress while veterans are being pushed to the proverbial back burner. As a fantasy owner, it is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with these new players before your opponents do. Typically, if you draft well in the last few rounds of your draft and play the waiver wire intelligently, you have a good chance to win your league championship. After all, there are a lot of people who can draft well through the first five rounds. However, the best fantasy owners can draft well through round 15.

Since most of the new faces in fantasy football revolve around the incoming class of rookies, here are five under-the-radar rookies worth monitoring throughout training camp and into the preseason:

 

1. Knile Davis RB KC– This 6’0” 227 lb. running back was taken in the third round of the draft out of the University of Arkansas He quickly made a name for himself at the NFL Draft Combine in April posting a 4.35 second 40 yard dash, a 10’1” broad jump, and 31 reps on the bench press.

Davis only rushed for 377 yards and two touchdowns his final season at Arkansas. He also sustained a season-ending ankle injury in 2011 without ever playing a regular season snap. However, looking back to a healthy 2010 season, it is clear how talented Davis is. He terrorized defenses while earning a first team All-SEC selection with 1,282 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.

FANTASY ANALYSIS– Davis will be the big back in KC and should be an intriguing complement to All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles. If Davis commands consistent touches in short yardage and goal line situations, he could be a surprise factor this year in fantasy football.

 

2. Stepfan Taylor RB ARI– Stepfan Taylor may end up being the steal of the 2012 NFL Draft. At Stanford, he managed to post three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and finished his career as the all-time leading rusher in school history. Taylor has a solid 215 pound frame and he lives up to his Ivy League credentials by displaying good intelligence and understanding of the game.

Taylor managed to finish his tremendous college career on an all-time high note as well. He was voted the Rose Bowl offensive MVP as Stanford defeated Wisconsin 20-14. He had 40 rushing touchdowns for Stanford to pair with his average of 5.1 yards per carry over the course of his career.

FANTASY ANALYSIS– Despite his impressive skill set, Taylor has an uphill climb to become the starting running back in Arizona. At this point, he has Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, and fellow rookie Andre Ellington to compete with. Regardless of the competition, his style is built for this offense and he should find himself playing sooner rather than later.

 

3. Vance McDonald TE SF– McDonald may have been drafted to complement Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis in San Francisco, but don’t tell him that. He is definitely playing as though he intends to start. Though that may not be realistic with Davis still in town, there is a good chance McDonald will contribute early and often. His last season at Rice, he was a first-team All-C-USA selection.

McDonald had 80 receptions for 999 yards and seven touchdowns over the last two seasons. He ran a smooth 4.60 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine in April, and he impressed coaches with his interviews and soft hands. McDonald will look to fill the void left by the departure of Delanie Walker as well as create his own niche in San Francisco. Work which may already be paying dividends, as the 49ers have been experimenting with Vernon Davis at receiver after the loss of Michael Crabtree this preseason. McDonald will make a great seam option and should be a solid red zone target for Colin Kaepernick.

FANTASY ANALYSIS– McDonald may seem like a stretch in the world of fantasy football but as we all know, many offenses are using two tight end sets regularly in their offense. Though a great deal has been made about Vernon Davis lining up as a receiver, McDonald also brings versatility in that he is capable of playing the slot as well. He should be an interesting chess piece for Coach Jim Harbaugh this season.

 

4. Gavin Escobar TE DAL– Escobar made a name for himself in college as a two-time first-team All-MWC tight end for San Diego State. However, there were some questions as to how that talent would translate to the NFL since he fell into the dreaded “small school prospect” category. However, he does have an amazing height/weight/speed ratio and he has the look of an NFL tight end. Plus, he will have All-Pro Jason Witten to learn from as a rookie this year.

Escobar’s numbers at San Diego State were impressive as he posted 1,646 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns over his career. Though he is still raw as a pass blocker, he has incredible ability as a receiver and should be utilized as a receiving threat early in his Dallas career in two tight end sets and possibly even split wide as a slot receiver.

FANTASY ANALYSIS– Escobar has a lot of upside and potential. However, it is always a gamble trying to guess how rookies will acclimate themselves to the NFL. For now though, Escobar is in the ideal situation with the ideal coaching staff and team mates around him. He should contribute immediately for the Cowboys.

 

5. Stedman Bailey WR STL– Bailey was a highly productive receiver for the University of West Virginia over the last two seasons. He formed a dynamic duo with college team mate and fellow receiver Tavon Austin. Both were categorized as smaller, shiftier players capable of lining up all over the field. Now, this duo will continue their career together in St. Louis with the Rams.

Though Bailey has been a bit overshadowed by Austin throughout their careers, he should continue his production as a versatile receiver. Bailey posted 2,900 receiving yards and 37 touchdowns over the past two seasons and never seemed to mind sharing the spotlight.

FANTASY ANALYSIS– The St. Louis Rams receiver position has one of the most intriguing battles in training camp this season.  Bailey and Austin will have to find their place amongst sophomore holdovers Chris Givens and Brian Quick. Although there is a lot of talent for Jeff Fisher to examine, Bailey should find a niche relatively quickly. He will not have to handle double teams like Austin will and the addition of tight end Jared Cook will alleviate even more pressure from his shoulders. If Bailey can beat out Quick or Givens, he could see consistent targets throughout the year and become a solid fantasy option particularly in PPR leagues.

Comments

  1. JTsportsguy says

    Interesting 5 names, it really is hard to predict a rookie to impact the NFL enough to draft them in your fantasy football lineup. A few top name rookies will be drafted – but don’t overestimate their worth. <a href=”http://www.fantasyfballchamps.com/rb-rankings-season-projections/”>Fantasy Football</a>