The Achilles heel of fantasy football players is often short-term thinking. Even if you are playing in a redraft league, you need to look beyond pre-season depth charts and expected roles to find the players that have the potential to take your contending team to champion status. All five of the players listed below are being drafted in the 8th round, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. That means they can be huge values for you either on draft night or on the waiver wire, as they progress into their roles throughout the season.
Miami Dolphins Running Back
Kalen Ballage impressed while at Arizona State; the athletic and explosive back totaled 2,668 yards from scrimmage on 450 carries and 82 receptions in his four-year career with the Sun Devils. That led the Dolphins to draft the now second-year back in the 4th round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
He saw limited work in his first season but was efficient. He ran for 191 yards on 36 carries; an average of 5.3 yards/carry. He also caught 9 of his 11 targets for 56 yards. 28 of Ballage’s 36 carries last season came in the last 3 games of the season. That includes his week 15 performances against the Vikings; he ran for 123 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries.
With his main competition for touches, Kenyan Drake sidelined for a good chunk of the preseason it appears that Ballage is projected to receive an even split of the work early season. Ballage is explosive and can contribute to both the rushing and the passing game. As the season progresses, and things get tougher for a distressed Dolphins roster, the work can easily get shifted primarily to the young back as the coaching staff accesses who will be key players in their long-term rebuild.
Minnesota Vikings Running Back
Mattison is the best back from the 2019 NFL Draft that you likely have never heard of. He compiled back to back 1,000+ yard rushing seasons for the Boise State Broncos in 2017 and 2018. He is a powerful runner that can overpower linebackers in the box or along the goal line. He also has athletic and shifty, with 60 receptions and 511 receiving yards over the last two seasons, Mattison has the potential to contribute to the Viking offense in a variety of ways.
Since Mike Zimmer took the reins of the Vikings in 2015 they have run the ball, on average, 425 times. Dalvin Cook, although dynamic, has failed to stay healthy in his first two seasons; compiling just 74 attempts in 4 games in 2017 and 133 carries in 11 games in 2018. Zimmer will likely keep Cook on a “pitch count” for the majority of the season, as his former early second-round pick tries to become the star fantasy football players have been waiting for.
Latavius Murray has been the RB2 for Minnesota the last two seasons, splitting work and filling as the primary back when Cook was out. He averaged 178 carries/season last two years. Assuming Cook is healthy, we can expect the workload for the RB2 (Mattison) drops down to about 125 carries (remember, pitch count), which still presents plenty of opportunity for value with Mattison. I also believe Mattison’s skillset makes him a more attractive goal-line option for Zimmer, meaning he can be a serious touchdown vulture.
As Mattison gets more comfortable with the offense, and the Vikings limit Cook with concern to his long-term durability he can become a dangerous fantasy football flex play.
New Orleans Saints Wide Reciever
Smith, a 3rd round pick for the Saints in 2018, had some impressive performances for the perennial NFC powerhouse last season. In Week 5 against Washington, he caught all 3 of his targets for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns. In Week 11, he caught 10 of his 13 targets for 157 yards and a touchdown. In total, he caught 28 of his 44 targets (64%) for 427 yards and 5 touchdowns. His average yards/target was 9.7 yards and his average yards/reception was 15.2. He is a dangerous combination of big-play upside and steady hands.
Smith is currently listed as the WR3 in New Orleans, behind Michael Thomas and an aging Ted Ginn. Ginn, though, missed 12 games in 2018 and it appears that the 34-year-old former first-round pick may finally be set into a smaller role. New Orleans also may look to rely on their rushing game early, with fresh legs in Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray. As the season goes on, though, they may look to push the passing game in a way that allows Smith to breakout. His touchdown potential alone warrants a selection at his current average draft position(ADP) of 14.03, according to fantasy football calculator.
Denver Broncos Wide Reciever
There are a lot of kinks to work out in the Denver Broncos offense: a not so new, new quarterback back in Joe Flacco being their primary challenge. The 34-year old Super Bowl champion is heading into his 12th season and his first not with the Ravens. His career has been defined by his limited role as a pocket passing quarterback in a run-heavy offense. Although the Broncos have two running backs that will fight for touches (another kink to work out), Flacco will have the ability to sling the ball more this season.
The Broncos are also balancing a bevy of receiving options including veteran Emmanuel Sanders who was having a career year last season before tearing his ACL late season. Sanders, though, looks to be healthy and will be joined by Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton in the receiving corps. Denver will also have the highly athletic pass-catching rookie tight end, Noah Fant to incorporate. It is easy, then, to see why Sutton’s ADP has dropped all the way to 10.07.
Sutton, though, has a particular role which will allow him to be a uniquely effective weapon for the Broncos this season. The 6’4″, 215-pound wideout will be Flacco’s primary red-zone target. Sutton has a large frame and, more importantly, he knows how to position it to dominate defenders. Sutton caught 22 touchdowns in his final two seasons with SMU in 2016 and 2017. In 2018 with the Broncos he caught 4 touchdown passes, out of 42 total receptions. 2 of those 4 touchdowns came in the last 5 weeks of the 2018 season.
It will take some time for Flacco to find the guys he can trust and for the offense to find its chemistry. When things do click together, though, I expect that Sutton will be the player that is being clamored for on the waiver wires.
Philadelphia Eagles Tight End
The Eagles surprised many when they selected Dallas Goedert with the 49th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The, of course, already have Zach Ertz-who many consider to be one of the three best tight ends in the NFL. Philadelphia, though, has shown a willingness to not only use multi-tight end sets but also to involve two tight ends in the passing game.
As the secondary tight end behind Ertz from 2013-2015, Brent Celek saw 45 targets, on average, per season. From 2016-2017 Trey Burton also saw, on average, 45 targets as the secondary tight end to Ertz. In 2018, the Eagles had Goedert slide right into that role, with 44 targets. Goedert, though, has a much higher ceiling than either Celek or Burton offered. The athletic pass-catching tight end was a draft crush of many after impressing at South Dakota State.
He translated his college film into production quickly in his first year. He caught 33 of his 44 targets (75%) for 334 yards in 2018, a higher catch percentage and yardage total than Burton put up in either of his two seasons with the Eagles. Goedert also caught 4 touchdown passes, compared to Ertz’s 8. He caught 1 touchdown for every 8.25 receptions, compared to Ertz’s 1 touchdown for every 14.5 receptions.
As Carson Wentz settles back into a full season of work for Eagles, Goedert may continue to evolve as a top pass-catching option for the Eagles. The tight end landscape is bare and we need to dig for any scrap of potential we can. Goedert is currently going undrafted within the first 15 rounds of fantasy football drafts; meaning there is a ton of potential in this hidden treasure.