Late-Round Targets: Diving Deep for Sleepers
So one of the more popular articles I wrote last year was the “deep sleepers” piece, which the head honchos have now changed to late-round targets.
Maybe I went too deep? I say no, because in that piece, I gave some deep sleepers, including Doug Baldwin. But late-round targets they want, late-round targets I’ll provide.
So this piece is slightly different as last year’s piece started with players who had ADPs that were often beyond 200. Here we will define a late-round target as a player with an ADP that is 16th round or later in a standard 12-team league or around 180 overall.
Also, as part of this change, please note that I will be excluding rookies. I will also be excluding “seasoned veterans,” guys like Benjamin Watson and Anquan Boldin, who are too old to have watched Hard Knocks in college and might have even been born before that “other HBO football show,” First and Ten. (You millenials will have to look it up, but it was a great show!). Those pieces will be coming later.
With the rules set, let the games begin as I list some of my favorite late-round targets by position in ADP order below:
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
I’m not wasting time with the “elite or not elite” discussion. But I will focus on how undervalued Flacco is every year. He is absolutely a starter in a 2-QB league and as I mentioned in my QB regression piece , he was on pace last year for his best year yet.
Suppose Flacco does only the average of his three years previous to his injury last year. That average would be 23 touchdowns and 3,900 passing yards. That would have ranked him 16th and 15th respectively last year. That makes him quite a valuable QB2. And given that he plays all four of the questionable secondaries of the NFC East plus Cleveland twice this year, isn’t that a guy you might want to consider?
For you 2-QB leaguers, he’s a no-brainer. And if I’m a Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, or Philip Rivers owner in a more traditional league, I am still taking a long look at Flacco as my bye-week replacement. And that’s assuming he doesn’t best his career numbers, like he was on pace to do last year.
Sam Bradford, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
See my post hype sleeper piece, but the quick summary is Doug Pederson is actually an even better match for Bradford than Chip Kelly was.
Darren McFadden, RB, Dallas Cowboys
I’ve discussed already why he might be one of the best handcuffs to have.
Terrance West, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Let’s start with the fact that West has been the talk of camp. Ravens beat writers have described him as “the Ravens most explosive offensive player” throughout camp. Now add the intangible that West went to nearby Towson State since Baltimore is West’s hometown and he has publicly said he would love to succeed in Baltimore. Mix in the fact that the Ravens often have a Top 10 RB in any given year.
On top of all that, consider how often the Ravens RB is regularly a surprise. Just a few examples: 1) How many people actually had Justin Forsett pegged as that guy in 2014? 2) Nobody had Ray Rice pegged for over 2,000 all-purpose yards. 3) How about Le’Ron McClain (Who? My point exactly) rumbling for over 900 yards and double digit TDs in 2008. See the pattern?
With just about everyone else liking rookie Kenneth Dixon, would it really be a surprise if it was the RB everyone else was writing off that was the one who succeeds? That is a tasty mix of intangibles. But now throw in West’s two TD performance in the Ravens first preseason game and you are looking at a late-round target that could potentially produce like a first rounder.
Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Carolina Panthers
This is pretty simple. Payne is the handcuff you want if you drafted Jonathan Stewart. And whether you drafted Stewart or not, Stewart is not the healthiest back in the world. He has not played in more than 13 games in any of the last four seasons. Whether cuffing or cuff-blocking, “CAP” is someone who makes for a great late-round target.
Clive Walford, TE, Oakland Raiders
Maybe you need someone to bridge the gap for you while Tyler Eifert is out. Maybe you drafted already and are worried about Ladarius Green. But I wanted to include a TE here and looking at all the players with ADP later than 180, Walford jumped out at me, especially given the fact that he’s often the 24th TE drafted.
Walford struggled through injuries last year, but averaged 11.7 yards per reception, the 11th best rate of TEs who caught 25 or more passes. His second half stats were much more impressive than his first half stats. Thus, I would not be surprised to see him reach 90 targets this year, as the Raiders are definitely intent on getting Walford more involved this year:
They are very high on TE Clive Walford, want to expand his role going forward…. https://t.co/NlIRVs3WT9
— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) March 31, 2016
Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Do I think Williams is suddenly going to be a Top 20 WR? Absolutely not. Do I think he can be a solid WR3? I’d bet a big, beefy Texas T-bone on it. And at his current ADP, it’s well worth the gamble. People are down on T-Will because he did so little last year. And one of the first things they will point to is that he only scored three TDs last year.
But look at what he did with Tony Romo last year vs. without Romo:
|Receptions per Game||Yards Per Game||TDs per Game|
He was five times more successful scoring TDs with Romo than without Romo! Don’t bet the house on Williams scoring a dozen touchdowns, but the half TD a game rate would match the eight he scored the previous season, a completely reasonable expectation.
And even with Romo missing 75-percent of the season, Williams still had 840 yards last year. He had 25-percent more yards per game with Tony Romo. The writing on the wall doesn’t even need to be “Texas-sized;” you can easily see him hitting 1,000 yards this year. Eight touchdowns and over a 1,000 yards is WR3-country and then some.
Bruce Ellington, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Ellington might be my favorite late-round target. Before I get you as excited as I am, here’s the cold harsh reality: Despite playing 26 games the last two years, Ellington has all of 19 receptions and barely over 200 yards to show for it.
However, the 49ers have parted ways with Anquan Boldin, opening up a slot opposite Torrey Smith. Ellington’s primary competition for that spot are 1) DeAndre Smelter, who is expected to spend much of the season on IR and 2) Quinton Patton, who has even less career TDs than Ellington despite one additional year in the league.
Therefore, the opportunity is absolutely there for the taking. Ellington also has the physical traits to break out as well, including his respectable 4.45 40-yard dash time and SPARQ rating in the 93rd percentile. Furthermore, Chip Kelly’s team’s ran 114 more plays a year over the last three years than the 49ers have. Given that the 49ers are likely to playing from behind often this season and forced to throw the ball, you really start to see the potential.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
I left him out of my post-hype sleeper and that might have been a mistake. Did he flop last year? Sure. But given the faith owners were putting in him last year, how does he fall all the way down to an ADP around 200? We can all agree that the Green Bay offense should rebound this year. What happens if Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb (who also failed to play a full season just three years ago) can’t play? Adams has show the ability to take over a game like he did a couple years ago when he caught 11 balls for 121 yards against New England. Adams is a young, third-year receiver. I wouldn’t write him off just yet.
Justin Hardy, WR, Atlanta Falcons
You knew I was going to break the rules at some point and I can’t seem to quit Hardy. He is definitely more of a deep sleeper than a late-round target. And he’s either going to be out of football soon or make me look smart. But I can’t help but think that Hardy is going to be a valuable asset for Atlanta this year.
Given that Mohamed Sanu has never had 60 catches or 800 yards or even half a dozen touchdowns, I just don’t see him “locking down” the WR2 spot. And we know Julio Jones has only played 16 games in two of his five seasons. The possibility is definitely there for Hardy. And when you’re talking this deep, he’s well worth it.
Looking for some other worthwhile picks? Check out our draft kit and stay tuned for my late-round target/deep sleeper rookies and seasoned veterans coming soon….
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