I’m always a proponent of ensuring that research is done in order to find that guy or three that may just bust through and take the football world by surprise. Oftentimes, those are guys that can and will win you fantasy leagues. Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and LeSean McCoy last season. Arian Foster and Michael Vick the previous season. Those are just a few examples of players to whom I may be referring. Often times these players will just fall into your lap via a waiver wire snag (Vick and Newton), but at times with good research and a little bit of luck you will put yourself in a very good position to benefit and ultimately be successful.
I’m fully aware it is early, but while no one on this list is new, most everyone on this list will be overlooked, even if only for a half of a round. So, here is a list of guys that, based simply on the previous season’s lack of production and the offseason thus far, I can see far out-producing the draft slot in which they will most likely go on average.
Peyton Manning – Yeah, I get it, but let’s all be honest about where he is going to be drafted this year due to the concerns about the neck and the fact that there were people that got burned badly by this draft pick last season. In my league, best case is late third round to the early fourth round, and my guess would be is that it will be a fair bit higher than most fantasy football leagues. That is exactly why I’m going target him as a guy (even in my quarterback-crazy league) that I can get a bit later and still get very good to elite numbers at the important position of quarterback. With emerging wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, the addition of Jacob Tamme and Brandon Stokley (for familiarity with Manning). Couple that with a top rushing attack from 2011. It all spells excellence in my book for Manning this season.
Drafted in the fourth round but will give you Top 5 quarterback numbers.
Ben Roethlisberger – This guy has had the potential to be a Top 5 quarterback for several years now but a porous offensive line and injuries have consistently derailed him. Well, again this is simply a guy that is most likely going to be drafted later than many other quarterbacks and has the potential to be much better than that draft slot. I don’t buy this rhetoric that the Pittsburgh Steelers are all of sudden going to take the ball out of Roethlisberger’s hands because Todd Haley has arrived, especially since Haley orchestrated one of the most prolific passing attacks we’ve seen recently in Arizona. Couple that with Rashard Mendenhall’s uncertainty and Isaac Redman being unproven, I find it much more likely that the Pittsburgh offense will run through Roethlisberger, as it should.
Drafted between Rounds 6-9, he’s easily a Top 10 quarterback with upside into the Top 7.
Josh Freeman – After the terrible season he had last season, after the solid season the year prior, he’s bound to slide far. I don’t believe he will go undrafted, but it’s certainly possible. That being said, the already above-average offensive line got considerably better with the Carl Nicks signing, and the wide receivers became much more formidable with the signing of Vincent Jackson. The place to go is up, and I could see a repeat of 2010 in which he could surprise some of us and sneak into the Top 12 range, but regardless he is a solid QB2 comfortably within the Top 15 quarterbacks. Add those few pieces together with the fact that they are playing a relatively steady dose of high-powered offenses and Freeman could find himself throwing much more than what people may think.
Drafted as a low-end QB2 or undrafted, he could provide production between quarterbacks 10-15 at season’s end.