My targets and sleepers change daily, but here are some guys I’m liking as we close in on fake football draft day!
Darren McFadden: - 9 - I understand the apprehension when it comes to McFadden. He’s missed a lot of work in his short career. But I can’t get over his ability. The light didn’t turn on for McFadden until 2010. The two previous seasons, he was definitely a part-time player and didn’t hit the hole at full speed, danced too much, and just didn’t get how to be a NFL running back. Of course he was just 21 years old.
But in his third season he exploded for 1664 total yards and 10 touchdowns in just 13 games. In the last two seasons he’s averaged 120 total yards a game. So when he’s on the field, he’s winning you fake football games. I’d rather have McFadden helping me win 13 matchups than another running back not putting up such crazy single game numbers for 16 games.
Of course, last year he only helped you in 6 games and that isn’t working. But in reality, he has three seasons of 12+ games and only last year with 6. That doesn’t make you feel any better, I know, but hey, what’s life without a little risk?
Ryan Mathews: - 27 - There’s a ton of speculation as to when Mathews will be back from his collar-bone snappage, but it looks most likely, maybe, that he’ll be back for the third game. Yes, like McFadden he’s an injury risk, but also like McFadden, his upside is huge (not that I looked!).
He is now going in the third round of most drafts which makes him a must target that late, especially in PPR. He should average 4-5 receptions a game.
Percy Harvin: – 46 - I have been drafting Harvin in the 4th round of many a draft and sometimes in the 5th. He’s the Vikings #1 receiver, can play running back, and lines up all over the field. Last year he finished incredibly strong and I believe he will put those kinds of numbers up from day one this season.
Doug Martin: – 47 - This ADP is most likely moving on up to the third round and fast. Martin was billed as a Ray Rice clone and from what I’ve seen, I’m not going to dispute that. The presence of LeGarrette Blount has kept his ADP low compared to his opportunity and ability.
Martin is built for the goal line. Yes, having a bruiser like Blount run it up the gut is one way to work the goal line, but having a quick, ball of muscle, that can cut and find holes is a better way to go. And yes, the Bucs are going to be playing from behind a lot, but thankfully Martin is the every down back and will be catching plenty of passes. He is worth taking way before pick 47.
Aaron Hernandez: – 51 - If Hernandez hadn’t been hurt a couple of games last season, he’d have been much closer to the runaway Gronk and Graham train. His abilities are off the charts. He can line up at running back, return punts, play wide receiver, on the line, and so forth and so on. Brady loves him and his ability to get open and run after the catch.
He is firmly set as my #3 tight end this year and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he passes Gronk this season. He’s my only early round tight end target this season.
Jeremy Maclin: – 59 - Last year was a bit of a lost season for Maclin. He started off with SARS (or something) and then tweaked his hammy and his quarterback was also hurt a lot. This season Maclin is ready to go and is the no doubt main man in a pass first offense. Vick himself has said that Maclin is his first read. This should be his breakout season.
Maclin is part of a very nice group of wide receivers you can get in the 4th through 6th rounds. I have a couple I am targeting which you’ll see in a second (don’t look yet!) but there are even more in this tier worth their ADP.
Dwayne Bowe: – 61 - Bowe’s holdout has kept his ADP in crazy person range. The guy is a top talent and will be the target hog in KC. Yes, Jon Baldwin and Dexter McCluster have looked good, but when it comes down to it, Bowe is the man. He is back in camp and after a poor year due to his quarterback and their all-pro running back getting injured, he’ll bounce back.
Antonio Brown: – 66 - Well, we saw what he could do just last night when he accumulated 100+ yards and two touchdowns. Last season he had terrible luck with touchdowns, grabbing only two for the whole season! That will change this year, even when Mike Wallace finally gets back into camp.
Brandon Pettigrew: – 91 - Like Brown, Pettigrew had some bad touchdown luck last season, which should move back to the norm, but he was still very valuable in PPR leagues, finishing 6th for tight ends. He was targeted 126 times, second only to Jimmy Graham. This year he’ll add a few more touchdowns and be solid in all formats.
Kenny Britt: – 94 – Britt has a backlog of problems, but on the field he can be huge. It looks like he’ll only be suspended one or two games, which probably works out fine for the healing process in his knee. At his current ADP he is a steal, with top-10 upside.
Cedric Benson: – 102 - Yeah, he’s not great. I’m not going to punch you in the face and tell you it’s raining, but Benson is on a top-3 offense and is the starting running back. He looked good in his first preseason game and he should be able to give you flexy points as long as he’s starting. And it doesn’t look like James Starks or Alex Green are doing much to contend for that starting position any time soon.
David Wilson: – 103 - Wowza, I liked Wilson before, but after watching him carve up the Bears I’m getting heart palpitations. Maybe that’s this 7-layer grilled cheese, but still! He has more than Ahmad Bradshaw, just plain and simple. Bradshaw is a veteran and won’t just give Wilson the job, but it’s going to be impossible to keep Wilson off the field.
Justin Blackmon: – 105 - I hate to put any Jaguar player on a target list, unless it’s to target the defense playing them (bah doomp chi!) but Blackmon has impressed me, and Gabbert hasn’t looked nearly as God-awful as last year. Blackmon is a perfect short to mid-range target for Gabbert to get the ball out quickly. And of course, Gabbert will force feed him since they have no other receivers.
Andrew Luck: – 110 - If RGIII were going this late, he’d be on this list, but he ain’t. Luck has looked good this preseason and they will need to throw the ball a lot, because their defense is horrid and horrible (from horrere “to bristle with fear, shudder“).
Ryan Williams: – 111 – I am a fan of Beanie Wells, there, I said it, but he is coming off an injury that has lingered longer than it should have and Williams seems to have recovered from his injury. I am not thrilled to get any Arizona running back, but this late, it is hard to find running backs who have a decent shot at being the main guy.
Jacquizz Rodgers: – 129 - Michael Turner continues to look slow and he is no doubt a pitiful receiving back, so this season we will see more of Quizz. How much more is the question us fake footballers want to know and truly cannot know, but at this point in the draft, it’s worth taking the gamble to find out.
Kendall Hunter: – 132 - Hunter has been the star of training camp and Gore is the old man near the sea. He will split time with Gore this season to keep him healthy and if he outplays him, he will see even more time.
Mike Williams: – 135 - Mike Williams isn’t as good as his rookie year, but isn’t as bad as last year. The Bucs will need to throw a lot this season and Williams will have less pressure on him this year with Vincent Jackson in the fold. And Josh Freeman seems to love him in the red zone, which is always a nice plus.
Randall Cobb: – 147 - The hype train has been full steam for Cobb, but his ADP has stayed within flyer range. His upside, even as the third receiver in Green Bay is pretty high, and if someone goes down, his upside is off the charts. Take the risk.
Greg Olsen: – 148 - With Jeremy Shockey gone, Olsen should top 100 targets this season, which only eight tight ends did last season. Cam Newton likes throwing to the tight end position and Olsen is an above -average player. He’s not elite and I don’t think that’s his upside, but with 100+ targets, he’ll be a top-10 tight end with room to go higher.
Santana Moss – 157 - Pierre Garcon is going to be the big play guy with RGIII at the helm, but Moss is the sneaky veteran, especially in PPR leagues. He will be playing slot and is good enough to read blitzes and find the soft spots in the middle. This is way too late for Moss. Don’t let him gather any green stuff by rolling his stone?
Mikel Leshoure: – 160 - The Lions backfield is a mess. Jahvid Best may never return and Kevin Smith tweaked the same ankle he hurt last season. As of today, Leshoure is the healthiest Lions running back! How long that will last is a question I can’t answer, but he’s worth drafting in case it stays that way.
Kyle Rudolph: – 165 - Rudolph, unlike Olsen, does have that elite upside, and he’s also going to get plenty of targets this season. I’m a little befuddled as to why he’s going so late in drafts, but don’t question it, just draft him.
Danny Amendola: – 166 - Last year I was really high on Amendola in PPR leagues. And then he caught 5 passes in the first game and I thought, hey Chet, you may be right about this scrappy guy. Of course in the fourth quarter of that game he had his arm ripped out of its socket. But, he seems to be fully healed and ready for tons of 5 yard receptions!
Alshon Jeffery: – 175 - From what I’ve seen of Jeffery so far, I’m ready to buy in. If he isn’t the #2 receiver soon, and I mean very soon, I’ll be really surprised. And angered!
Ronnie Brown: – 176 - Brown is bluh, I agree, so lay off! But he is the starter for the first two games and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. In PPR leagues, if you get Mathews, I’d feel ok with starting Brown early on.
Jake Locker: – 183 - Locker hasn’t shown much this preseason, but he will sling it and run it. His upside is really high, especially once Britt gets back.
Lamar Miller: – 223 - I have little faith in Reggie Bush or Daniel Thomas and Miller is just too explosive a player not to own in deep leagues.
Lestar Jean: – 241 - Jean has looked great in preseason and it would be nice to see him take over for Kevin Walter. I don’t know if that will happen, but he has much more upside than Walter if so.
Vick Ballard: – no adp - From what I’ve seen of Donald Brown and Ballard, I’ve liked Ballard much more. Of course I have no say in the matter, but I think Ballard’s talent might eventually outweigh Brown’s. A nice deep sleeper hold.
Russell Wilson: – no adp - Wilson is right up there with locker for me in potential. Both have running ability and both have strong arms. Locker has more receiving weapons, but Wilson is a more accurate thrower. Go with their upside over guys like Matt Cassell and Josh Freeman.