4 Players to Fill the End of Your Deepest Rosters
Drafting Christian McCaffrey was the quickest way to build an insurmountable lead of your competitors last year. Everyone wants to be the hero that nails the first round mega-breakout but if you didn't have a top-three pick in 2019, it was impossible to do that. The 2020 season looks eerily similar with no reason to believe McCaffrey won't be an unparalleled fantasy force. Even as the unanimous 1.01, his receiver-level passing game prowess makes him the best value in the early rounds. The most reliable way to combat the CMC onslaught last year was to nail your picks in the later rounds.
After CMC and Austin Ekeler, the next six players by win-rate (the percentage of teams that drafted a player and went on to win their league) in Best Ball 10s were all drafted after pick 130.
Three of these players were taken outside the top-200 picks and often went undrafted.
The reason so many late picks populate the list of league-winners is their opportunity cost. By drafting McCaffrey last year, you still had to forgo Michael Thomas and Ezekiel Elliott. They weren't nearly as dominant as he was but the difference between them and CMC was only a small chasm. In the case of D.J. Chark, the alternative choices were almost exclusively players like Jakobi Meyers or Eli Manning: complete non-factors and wastes of roster spots. If you nail a pick in the final rounds of your draft, it's possible you're the only person in your draft room to do so.
With a thorough understanding of how game-breaking a late hit can be, who has a chance of doing that this year? We'll look at four players (with ADP in parentheses), all outside of the top-200 players being drafted, who could put together special performances for no cost.
Tre'Quan Smith (287), WR, New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints likely drafted Tre'Quan Smith as the foil to Michael Thomas. A third-round selection in the 2018 draft, Smith possesses the uncapped athleticism that Thomas doesn't have. He ran a 4.49 Forty-Yard Dash at the combine and posted an 85th-percentile Burst Score (a combination of his vertical and broad jump) per PlayerProfiler. At UCF, Smith posted a 19.2 Breakout Age and then ripped off 1,171 yards and 13 scores as a senior.
Then, in his rookie campaign with the Saints, he posted 427 yards and five scores on 28 catches. These stats largely came from two 100-yard games where he showed off his dynamic athleticism.
His second season with the Saints was a flop as he managed just 234 receiving yards. It was a disappointment but Smith still acted as the third receiver on the team, taking the field for 43.1% of the team's snaps. Now Ted Ginn Jr. has been replaced with Emmanuel Sanders but not much else has changed. In fact, no receiver on the team has a single season with over 304 receiving yards and none played more than 17.7% of offensive snaps for the Saints last year. Smith is the clear No. 3 receiver on a powerhouse offense and is the only one with the talent to step up should Thomas or Sanders get hurt.
Jerick McKinnon (249), RB, San Francisco
Jerick McKinnon suffered an ACL tear in 2018 and then setbacks cost him the 2019 season as well. He's dealt with injuries for the majority of his NFL career but his skill set has always been valuable. Even as injuries have sapped his athleticism, he'll still be competent in that field because he posted a 10t0th-percentile SPARQ-x athleticism score when he left Georgia Southern. In four NFL seasons with just 14 starts to his name, Mckinnon has caught 142 passes for 984 yards.
As a rusher, McKinnon has three seasons of greater than 100 carries, two of which saw him net over 150 carries. That is as many seasons of 150+ carries as Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert combined. Mostert has been a career practice squad player and Coleman, like McKinnon but to a lesser extent, has dealt with injuries throughout his career.
With Matt Breida out of town, McKinnon has a path to being his team's third back. The 49ers managed to propel a practice squad back into a mid-round pick this season. If a calamity befalls the team again, McKinnon could be that guy this season.
Tyrod Taylor (247), QB, Los Angeles Chargers
The math with Tyrod Taylor is pretty simple; he rushed the ball a lot and that's easy points for a quarterback. On his career, Taylor has averaged 6.4 attempts for 36.2 yards and .3 scores per game just on the ground. That's 30.5 passing yards and a passing touchdown per game through his rushing production. On top of the fantasy points, Taylor is one of the few veterans well prepared to hold off a rookie. He's surrounded by a cast of weapons that could help him reach his peak output and Taylor rarely makes bad throws. A conservative passer by nature, he has thrown an interception three times for every 200 attempts taken. Justin Herbert, a timid but not awfully accurate passer himself, won't threaten to take Taylor's job as long as he remains competent under center. He has the tools to be Dak Prescott lite an incredible fraction of the cost.
Damien Harris (222), RB, New England Patriots
Damien Harris' first season in New England was an unmitigated failure as Bill Belicheck chose to keep him off the active roster through the bulk of the season. Harris reportedly dealt with injuries throughout the summer leading up to his rookie campaign but that doesn't excuse nearly a season's worth of healthy scratches. Despite the disappointing first season, there are reasons for optimism around Harris.
He was a solid prospect coming out of Alabama. He broke out with 1,037 yards as a sophomore and went over 1,000 from scrimmage two more times before leaving. In his final season, Harris improved immensely as a receiver, catching 22 of 23 passes for 204 yards. He also rushed for over 1,000 yards at greater than 7.0 yards per carry twice, all while facing the NCAA's best defenders by playing in the SEC.
Then there's his NFL competition. James White will not play any significant role in the ground attack and Sony Michel just put on a masterclass in moving with lead feet. He carried the ball 247 times at 3.7 yards per carry while adding less than 100 yards through the air. This offseason, the veteran plodder underwent foot surgery after already dealing with knee injuries.
Michel is just a guy or maybe even less than that while Harris still carries the potential of the unknown and a far less serious price tag. Take the flyer on Harris before spending real draft capital on a back we already know isn't a game-changer.