The later rounds in fantasy football drafts used to be very uninspiring, to the point of being downright frustrating. Once you got into the double-digit rounds of your fantasy football draft, you knew that the only players left were low-floor, low-ceiling choices that no one wanted. However, 2018 is different, this year the later rounds are full of enticing players with potential.
I could easily have selected eight players from each position, but in the end, I pared it down to eight in total. When considering my choices, I thought about a player’s high ceiling, rather than their safe floor. I also thought about both redraft and dynasty leagues. These are the guys you don’t expect to start in week one but they could take off this year and are definitely worth stashing for the future. Without further ado, here are my elite eight later round pickups:
This position is the best for late round potential in my opinion and makes me contemplate the whole zero wide receiver strategy. There are many players that could be difference makers for your redraft fantasy team this year and for years to come. I have selected four – all of which would be viewed as your fifth receiver or beyond, in case you like to draft more.
Average Draft Position: 11.12
New Orleans Saints offense. Drew Brees. Yes, please! It is always a good approach to look for potential players based on the team they are on. Meredith looks to be the second receiver behind only Michael Thomas. He most likely will spend a lot of time in the slot and therefore see a lot of targets. The only concern is he is coming back from a brutal injury he suffered last year when he tore both his ACL and MCL ligaments.
However, he seems to be back on track, ready for week one. In 2016, he was a monster on one of the worst offenses. That year he had 66 receptions for 888 yards and four touchdowns. He’s still only 25 years old and stands at 6’3″. He is very athletic, having an 86th-percentile burst score, 89th-percentile agility score, and a 99th-percentile catch radius, on Player Profiler. Shame on the Bears for letting him walk, but it could not have worked out better for Meredith landing in Mardi Gras. Brees will throw more this year and Meredith will be one of the beneficiaries.
Read more on Cameron Meredith Fantasy’s Value Here
Average Draft Position: 14.08
Tyrell Williams is in the same disrespected “undervalued” group as Rishard Matthews and Kenny Stills. All three of these players keep producing beyond their projections, but year after year they get buried in the ADP depth chart. While Matthews and Stills are currently in the WR4 conversation, Williams is often not being drafted in 12-team leagues. There’s talk that former first-round pick Mike Williams is progressing this offseason and is poised to make an impact. I have also read that Kevin White is doing the similar things in OTAs. Ignore the talk and look at the numbers. Tyrell Williams is only behind Keenan Allen on the LA Charger depth chart. He is insanely athletic and has been a yards after catch (YAC) monster. According to Football Outsiders, he has had the best YAC+ rating for the past two seasons, which is even more extraordinary because he isn’t even a slot receiver. Look for his production to go up this year now that Hunter Henry is out for the season.
Average Draft Position: 13.08
We go from the Saint’s powerhouse offense to the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, they will be a run first team with Ezekiel Elliot, but they will have to pass too. With Dez gone, Dallas was left with a receiving corps that was as bad or worse than the one in Buffalo. They went and signed Allen Hurns in free agency and now everyone is saying that he is their de facto number one. I say, hold your horses. Third-round draft pick Michael Gallup is too talented not to start and will end up being the most targeted wide receiver on the team. At Colorado State, Gallup was a stallion, amassing 176 receptions for 2690 yards and 21 touchdowns in just two years there. He can play in the slot as well as on the outside. Compared to Hurns, he’s much more athletic and has had no injury history. Best of all comes with a two-round cheaper price tag. There is a good chance that he ends up as the best rookie receiver in fantasy this year.
Average Draft Position: 14.03
Jordan Matthews went from the best slot receiver in the league to earn less than a million dollars on a one-year contract in New England. Many are suffering from short-term memory loss and have dismissed Matthews after his bad year in Buffalo. But the Patriots do what the Patriots do. They take players who look to be on their way out of the league, and for a cheap cost to themselves, prop them back up. He looks healthy and he’s still only 25 years old. He is big (6’3″ 212-pounds) and fast (4.46 40-yard dash) for a slot receiver and has the past production stats to back it up. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the most productive slot receiver from 2014-2016. And now he’s on the Patriots, who are without Julian Edelman for four weeks. Chris Hogan, another Buffalo castaway claimed by the Pats, is currently WR30 and is being touted as the New England receiver to get.
However, ht has never eclipsed 700 yards in a season. Matthews, on the other hand, has eclipsed 700 yards every year of his career but last year. He’s worth picking up just to see what he does in the first four weeks. He might get his mojo back and be this year’s sneakiest pickup.
When it comes down to running backs, I like to make dart throws on guys that could take advantage of their situations and be three-down backs, rather than getting players who have more limited roles. I also like to target rookies since they tend to often have an immediate impact compared to other positions.
Average Draft Position: 14.07
Kalen Ballage is one of those running backs that has been heavily criticized based on his college production and is viewed as one of the most polarizing rookies by the fantasy community. Personally, I love his size (6’2″ 228) and speed (4.46). He’s built like a hybrid of Todd Gurley and David Johnson. He was a prolific receiver in college, catching more passes than every other back drafted in the first three rounds this year not named Saquon Barkley. Sure he’s raw and doesn’t have the elite college resume that some have, but neither did Alvin Kamara. Check out an article I wrote comparing the similarities between Kamara and Ballage on Player Profiler. He’s also on the Miami Dolphins, a team that does not have an established number one. Many are overhyping Kenyan Drake (RB17), who has less than a season of stats to show for his inflated ADP. He was even less productive in college compared to Ballage. Gore came back home to Miami to retire, so don’t be surprised if Ballage gets his chance sooner rather than later.
Average Draft Position: N/A
The Arizona Cardinals love drafting versatile running backs from Division II schools. Three years ago, they draft David Johnson who played at the University of Northern Iowa. This year, they drafted Chase Edmonds who went to Fordham College. He was on his way to becoming the all-time FCS rushing leader until he broke his leg early in his senior year. Check out Chase Edmonds’ monster college stats here. With no one else of consequence on the Cardinals’ running back depth chart, Edmonds is the clear-cut handcuff to David Johnson. If Johnson goes down, expect Edmonds to become Arizona’s bell cow. He might be smaller than Johnson, standing 5’9″ and weighing 205-pounds, but can do everything Johnson can. Even with Johnson healthy, Edmonds might have some stand-alone value. He will be more utilized much more compared to other running backs in the past. He’s the perfect way to end your draft.
Average Draft Position: 14.04
Vance McDonald showed signs late last season that he was usurping Jesse James as the primary tight end in Pittsburgh. McDonald’s NFL career has not been stellar but like with most tight ends, is getting better with age. He is entering his sixth year, ready to finally make an impact. Delanie Walker did not break out until his sixth year, and since then has been the model of tight end consistency. McDonald is only 28 years old. He’s on one of the most prolific offenses in the league with a quarterback that misses Heath Miller.
There is no reason why McDonald can’t become the player to finally fill the void left when Miller retired in 2015. In his final six games of the season, McDonald started to kick it in gear. He had 14 receptions for 188 yards and a touchdown. In the Steelers/Jaguars playoff game, he had 16 targets, 10 receptions for 112 yards. Don’t be surprised if Vance McDonald finishes as a low-end TE1 this year – all he has to do is stay healthy.
Average Draft Position: 14.02
There is a lot of buzz surrounding Mitchell Trubisky in 2018. Last year was a wash as he was forced to play as a rookie, under the fossilized leadership of John Fox. He also had no weapons to throw to – Kendall Wright was his best receiver. No wonder the Chicago Bears had the worst offense in the league. During the offseason, the Bears have made the most noise out of any team. They picked up free agents Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton to bolster their receiving corps. They also drafted college mega-producer, Anthony Miller. Most importantly, they hired an offensive-minded coach in Matt Nagy. The arrow is pointing up for Trubisky who has a strong arm as well as sneaky rushing potential. Last year he rushed for 248 yards to go along with five touchdowns in only 12 games. Despite all the love for him, he is still a value at the end of drafts and could be this year’s Jared Goff with legs.
It is reassuring knowing that there are some attractive options available in the later rounds for all positions. Instead of being faced with a ghost town devoid of talent and excitement, the double-digit rounds are worth waiting up for. And who knows, maybe one (or more) of these later round possibilities could hit, which could be the difference between you making the playoffs and winning the whole thing.
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Marc loves statistics, metrics, analytics, and football. He’s a writer, artist, musician and world traveler. Marc loves to be right, but when he is wrong, he enjoys learning from it. Be yourself and be unique because the right people will always take notice.