The Stupendous Six
The Stupendous Six Beyond the Top 100 ADP
By John Laub
Fantasy Football Diehards often fixate on their first three selections in upcoming drafts. While the top 36 players dominate research and conversations among fantasy managers, astute alternative-reality zealots know that a championship trophy is won in the later rounds of drafts and shrewd pickups off the waiver wire throughout the season.
The reality is that Diehards must dodge fantasy busts between their first three selections and draft wisely thereafter. If an owner can get two significant starters after the ninth round of a 12-team draft, the likeliness of winning increases dramatically.
In 2014, Jeremy Hill, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, Ryan Tannehill, Martellus Bennett, Ben Roethlisberger and Jordan Matthews all had an ADP beyond the Top 100 last summer and became fantasy starters on many playoff teams by the end of the crusade.
Who are the late-round targets in 2015? While no fantasy prognosticator can be clairvoyant all the time, listed below are six players to acquire later in drafts. Many of these competitors I have already selected on my fantasy clubs and am confident in the return on investment of each.
Enjoy the player profiles and good luck searching for fantasy gold in 2015.
WR Eric Decker Jets (ADP: 117-119)
The Jets offense rarely sparks fantasy interest among diehards across the nation; however, New York provides options for shrewd owners in 2015. New offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, a 19-year coaching veteran, upgrades the staff and has successfully orchestrated passing attacks in the league.
Packing his bags from Denver to New York, Eric Decker’s production declined last season. When the season concluded, he performed better than most fantasy fans expected: He snatched 74 passes for 962 yards and scored five times. The final numbers were not worthy of an elite receiver on rosters; yet, solid production nonetheless. Decker garnered double-digit targets in six games and averaged 13 yards per catch. Examining the last three campaigns, the five-year veteran has averaged 82 receptions for 1,104 yards and nine touchdowns.
At 6’3” and 217 pounds, Decker is a tough matchup in one-on-one situations and is better suited as a number two option in a passing assault than a lead dog. Enter Brandon Marshall. Defenses must be cognizant of the former Bear at all times, and Decker will likely see more single coverage this season. Lacking elite speed, the former Bronco uses his big frame, large catch radius and soft hands to snatch the pigskin away from defenders.
According to recent ADP data, Marques Colston, Anquan Boldin, John Brown, Breshad Perriman and Percy Harvin all are being drafted around the same time as Decker. The 28-year old veteran is a better value than the aforementioned wideouts.
WR Brian Quick Rams (ADP: 131-133)
Last year, the St. Louis playmaker gained the attention of fantasy footballers during the first month of the season: He nabbed 21 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns in four games. If Quick maintained that pace, he would have concluded the campaign with 84 catches for 1,288 yards and 12 touchdowns. Of course, those totals are a best-case scenario and highly unlikely. However, 70 receptions for 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns are not beyond the realm of possibility in 2015.
At 6’3” and 218 pounds, the former Appalachian State product possesses the raw skills (speed, size and strength) to succeed, and knows the challenges to become an effective game changer. He entered the league with limited gridiron experience, having played basketball, and required professional coaching to learn the nuances of the position. With a large catch radius and strong hands, Quick is ready to ascend to the top of the pecking order in the St. Louis passing game. The Rams upgraded the quarterback position by acquiring former Eagle Nick Foles and the aerial attack should be improved.
Quick is recovering from a severe separated shoulder injury and torn rotator cuff. He has not fully participated in OTAs with the club, but the Rams are optimistic that he’ll return in time for training camp. The big-play target’s contract expires at the conclusion of the season, and he should be motivated for a sizable raise. A tremendous value pick for astute diehards during the summer.
QB Carson Palmer Cardinals (ADP: 134-136)
It is unusual for a 35-year old signal caller coming back from knee surgery to merit the attention of football diehards. Nonetheless, Carson Palmer warrants an extensive look as a backup (or starter in 2-QB leagues) on fantasy rosters after the first 15 field generals are off the board.
In twenty-two games since arriving in Arizona, Palmer has tossed 35 touchdowns and averaged over 260 yards passing per contest. In the offseason, the veteran pitcher was cleared to participate in drills, and claimed that he feels rejuvenated and energized for the upcoming season.
The Cardinals upgraded the offensive line, signing free agent guard Mike Iupati, and are loaded at the skill positions with a plethora of playmakers: Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd, Andre Ellington and David Johnson. If the knee holds up, Palmer is savvy with a high football IQ and possesses the arm strength to succeed in coach Bruce Arians' up-tempo aerial attack. Without question, the veteran Cardinal can surpass 4,000 yards passing and 25 touchdowns in 2015.
WR Rueben Randle Giants (ADP: 136-138)
Obviously, fantasy fanatics are pursuing Odell Beckham, Jr. in drafts this summer: Diehards looking for value will target Rueben Randle later and will likely be rewarded for their patience.
In one-on-one matchups, the former LSU product presents matchup problems at 6’2” and 208 pounds. With obvious talent, he is a physical competitor with above-average hands and good YAC runner. In the past, the four-year veteran has occasionally misread the defense and run the wrong route. Also, the coaching staff twice benched Randle for being late to meetings in an effort to improve his professionalism.
Jettisoning preconceptions and examining the numbers, Randle has improved statistically each season and snatched 71 passes for 938 yards and three touchdowns last year. In the final two contests, he recorded 12 receptions for 290 yards and a touchdown. Those are eye-popping numbers and foretell future fantasy goodness.
In 2013, Randle scored six times and will surely see single coverage in the red zone this year with defenses double-teaming Beckham and focusing on stopping Rashard Jennings and Shane Vereen coming out of the backfield. It is not outrageous to expect Randle to set a new career high in touchdowns this season.
During OTA and mini-camp practices, the New York competitor impressed observers, and quarterback Eli Manning expects a huge season from him this year. Even fellow receiver Victor Cruz expressed how much Randle looked improved on the field. Despite the hyperbole, there are clearly a few concerns when drafting the Giants’ playmaker. Nevertheless, he is an ascending performer and well worth the risk-to-reward ratio.
RB Dan Herron Colts (ADP: 183-185)
The value of Dan Herron depends on a fantasy owner’s perspective on free-agent acquisition Frank Gore. Indianapolis signed the former 49er to provide production in the running game: Gore also picks up the blitz well and is a veteran of the season-long war of attrition. Yet, he has not played a home schedule on artificial turf: Can his body take the additional pounding? And every career indictor foreshadows a massive decline in the near future by the veteran bruising ball carrier: age (32), career carries (2,442), games (148) and an annual decline in catches.
Last year, Herron finally attained the starting nod after Ahmad Bradshaw broke his leg and Indianapolis benched the ineffective Trent Richardson. The Colts resigned the former Ohio State product, an exclusive-rights free agent, to provide insurance and a productive pass catcher in the backfield.
In the final six regular season games, Herron gained 277 yards rushing, recorded 19 receptions, scored a touchdown and averaged over 10 points per game in ppr leagues. In three playoff contests, he rambled for 170 yards, seized 20 receptions and scored twice.
He is an average pass blocker but an above-average receiver. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton likes to employ multiple running backs and will find opportunities for Herron in the game plan. The Colts want Gore available in the post-season and will likely monitor and limit touches throughout the season. Herron’s price tag is extremely cost-effective and fantasy fans will receive a nice-dividend on their investment.
QB Mark Sanchez Eagles (ADP: 201-203)
Forget the butt fumble. Ignore the interceptions. Eliminate personal bias. Mark Sanchez is a solid fantasy signal caller in coach Chip Kelly’s fast-break offense. The former first-round pick has never been in a better position to succeed during his NFL tenure. The Eagles employ a fine faction of playmakers—Jordy Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Riley Cooper, Demarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles—and an underrated offensive line to blast holes for the running game and protect the passer.
Under Rex Ryan in New York, the former Jet played for a defensive-minded coach who did not prioritize drafting skill position players or grasp the subtleties of the quarterback position. In Philadelphia, Sanchez has reaped the best quarterback instruction of his career. While he lacks model mechanics and makes the occasional mental mistake, Sanchez throws a nice long ball, commands the huddle and has a rock-solid grasp of the system.
While Sanchez is currently second on the depth chart, Kelly has stated that there is “an open competition” for the quarterback position in Philadelphia. And the newly acquired Sam Bradford does not provide much competition as a long-term starter. During OTAs, Sanchez has illustrated a mastery of the Kelly offense and appears to be the alpha dog among the quarterbacks.
In eight starts and one relief appearance last year, Sanchez recorded his best statistical season with an 88.4 QB rating, 64.1 completion percentage and 7.83 yards per attempt. All three were career highs as he tossed 14 touchdowns, rambled for another and passed for 2,418 yards. Sanchez most likely kicks off the season behind center for Philadelphia and will soar in the City of Brotherly Love. Embrace the Eagles field general at an extremely low cost and enjoy the weekly fantasy production.
In early-June, John Laub participated in an on-line draft with other experts, and the results and comments for all the teams are available in the 2015 Fantasy Football DraftBook. And his Bold Predictions can now be examined in the Fantasy Football Pro Forecast and both magazines are now available on newsstands everywhere.
With his Masters in history and professional experience as an educator, John Laub is uniquely qualified to research, analyze and discover new insights and trends in college and professional fantasy football. He truly is The Gridiron Scholar.
Twitter: @GridironSchol91 or e-mail: Audibles@aol.com