It’s fantasy football draft season again. Soon leagues far and wide will gather in watering holes, man caves and online to assemble their teams for the upcoming season. As such, there’s no shortage of information available for fantasy drafters right now, as John and Jane Q. Public try to discern who will be their first pick.
The thing is, that first pick (or even the first few – or first five) aren’t what wins leagues. If one (or more) of those early picks falls flat it can break a season, but it isn’t going to make it – those players are expected to do well.
It’s the late-rounders who go on to have huge seasons – the afterthoughts who become weekly starters – who can make all the difference in the world. Players like tailbacks Jordan Howard (Chicago) and Jay Ajayi (Miami) last year. Or like wide receiver Tyrell Williams (Los Angeles Chargers).
Combine a late value like that with solid performances from your early and mid-round picks, and you have the makings of a championship squad.
So, who are the late-round targets with the best chances of posting that kind of game-changing production in 2017?
Here are several leading candidates, all with an average draft position (ADP) of the 10th round or later at Fantasy Football Calculator.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions (ADP: 11.02)
Hard though it may be to believe, the 2017 season will already be Stafford’s ninth in the NFL. Steve Wyche of the NFL Network thinks the best is yet to come for the 29-year-old.
“He is absolutely improving. Matthew Stafford is only 29 years old. We’re seeing quarterbacks really hit their sweet spot when they are about 30 or 31. He’s on that natural arch of what’s going on in the NFL,” Wyche said. “Without Calvin Johnson, we saw him spread the ball out and become a more complete quarterback (in 2016). You mentioned the toughness, it’s only going to keep going up for Matt Stafford.”
With a bum finger and no Johnson, Stafford threw for only 24 touchdown passes last year. But even then, Stafford finished the season seventh in fantasy points among quarterbacks in NFL.com Default Fantasy Scoring.
Stafford’s the poster child for waiting at his position in 2017 – a mid-range weekly starter with a résumé of production and a history of durability who’s being drafted as a fantasy backup.
What exactly is there not to like?
Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 11.05)
If their respective ADPs are any indication, the fantasy football community expects free agent acquisition Eddie Lacy to be the Seattle Seahawks’ lead back in 2017. However, Seahawks’ beat writer Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times isn’t as convinced.
“Lacy, Rawls and (C.J.) Prosise all are coming off of seasons when they had significant injuries and I think the Seahawks are going into the year just fine with the idea that they can spread the carries out and not have to count on anyone taking a (Marshawn) Lynch-like share of the load,” he said. “My best guess, assuming they each are healthy, is Lacy and Rawls take a fairly equal share of the base-down carries with Prosise slated largely for a third-down role as well as being worked into the gameplan to take advantage of specific matchups from week to week.”
Reports from organized team activities (OTAs) indicated that Rawls was healthy and did not look like a player who is ready to cede his status as the No. 1 back in Seattle just yet. At worst, he’s worth adding late if you draft Lacy in an effort to sew up the Seahawks rushing attack. At best, he’ll be much more and return to the form that took the NFL by storm (after a fashion) two years ago.