Part of dominating fantasy football is figuring out what to do with your final picks. You’ll surely waste a couple on a kicker and defense, but what do you do with the rest? If you’re smart, you’re taking a chance on at least one high upside rookie or young, unproven player. You can’t forget about the stable veterans that slide all the way down in drafts, though, either.
There’s not always a right answer for who you should target late. After all, some sweet late round sleepers could be reached for a few rounds earlier, or you just might like another sleeper better. But there are several guys available late in leagues you should at least think about taking. The list grows when we start talking about guys that flat out aren’t being drafted, but let’s stick to guys we can see are dipping late into drafts. Here’s six that you may want to pluck off of your league’s draft board in the 12th round or later:
Note: To push things a little further, we’ll be using ADP from standard 12-team leagues. Naturally, the smaller the league, the more these guys will be available and the less you’ll need/want to target them.
Quarterback: Colin Kaepernick (12), Jay Cutler (13), Andy Dalton (13), Tyrod Taylor (Undrafted)
Colin Kaepernick was only the 15th best fantasy passer last year and he left you wanting more. You and everyone else. However, the Niners have switched coaches, could throw more, he’s reportedly progressed as a pocket passer and he also gets speedy receiver Torrey Smith. It’s probably also impossible for someone with his talent to do so little on the ground again, too. There is very little risk with Kap in round 12, and he still has the upside to be a top-10 fantasy quarterback, if not better. You don’t need to believe in him, just draft him as your QB2 and hope for the best.
Hate Kap? Maybe you should try Jay Cutler on for size. For all of his turnovers and cockiness, he’s still a pretty good fantasy quarterback. He might not lead the Bears back to the playoffs, but as long as John Fox lets him start games he’ll be fine (14th fantasy passer in 2014). Cutler has the weapons to go nuts and if he can just cut back the turnovers, he might creep into the top-10.
Dalton might be safer than the two aforementioned passer, albeit probably with less upside. The Red Rifle was just fantasy’s 19th best quarterback a year ago, but was in the top-5 in 2013 and still has top-10 ability. A healthy A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert promise to open up the offense and if all goes well, Dalton could be the top value at the position.
Taylor is a tentative sleeper, as he’s not being drafted, and for good reason – he’s not the starter yet. However, he is a dual threat passer with a good amount of upside and plenty of weapons to work with. You can’t draft him yet, but if he’s the starter come week one, he might be a good waiver wire add.
Running Back: Andre Williams (13), Cameron Artis-Payne (13), Ronnie Hillman (13)
Williams is a pretty solid bruiser who ran well at times as a rookie last year and he’ll right away at least be in New York’s rotation. He could vulture some scores and come close to matching his rookie totals. That’s not why you’re drafting him. You’re getting him for the value and his upside, as both Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen are very injury-prone. If one or both of those guys goes down, you’ll be very glad you snagged Williams late in your fantasy draft.
Change the record, I’m sure, but the same story goes for both Artis-Payne and Hillman. Jonathan Stewart could be an effective masher this year, but Carolina usually uses more than one running back. J-Stew also gets hurt a ton and is not the easiest running back to trust. Neither is a rookie like Artis-Payne, but he could have a role as the top backup early, while any Stewart injury would almost certainly give him a major boost in value. There are worse shots to take. I might like Hillman a little more when it comes to upside, as Denver’s running game is going to be awesome and all he needs is someone ahead of him to go down. Montee Ball, Juwan Thompson and C.J. Anderson have all already gotten nicked up this month, so the writing may be on the wall that stashing a Denver running back is a pretty good idea. Hillman certainly has some technical limitations to his game, but he’s a natural runner who also brings solid versatility to the table.
Wide Receiver: Michael Crabtree (12), Devin Funchess (12), Percy Harvin (12), Brandon Coleman (13)
Crabtree is a boring possession receiver at first glance, but he signed a one-year deal with Oakland to do two things: get a big role and play for his next contract. Everything sucked in San Francisco last year, so it’s highly arguable we have no idea who he is anymore. He also is another year removed from that awful Achilles injury, while the reports out of camp have been very positive. Oakland may have to pass a good bit, so 60+ receptions is probably in the cards if he can stay on the field. That doesn’t make him a stud, but he could be a strong WR3 starting out.
Funchess is raw and unproven, but so was Kelvin Benjamin a year ago. With Benjamin going down with a torn ACL earlier this week, Funchess is in theory now the team’s best wide receiver. He’s going to be the top target behind Greg Olsen and his size at worst gives him serious red-zone potential. Automatically assuming he can do what Benjamin did a year ago is probably a little bit of a reach, but the potential is there. You’re drafting a potential WR2 late in the draft, and if he doesn’t work out you can cut him loose without blinking an eye.
Harvin’s upside hinges to two things: Tyrod Taylor starting and Harvin actually staying healthy. We can’t predict the latter and I personally do expect (and hope) Taylor starts. He gives the Bills’ offense a fighting chance and then Harvin could help take the roof off. He can be used all over the place and you can get him as late as round 14 at times. He’s a really nice flier to give a shot.
The same goes for Coleman, who the Saints seemingly are eye-banging on a daily occasion. He’s suddenly running with the first team offense and with Kenny Stills and Jimmy Graham gone, this offense is going to have targets to go around. Marques Colston is about to crumble into pieces, too, so there’s plenty of reason to buy into Coleman’s hype. The best part is you only need to spend a 13th rounder or later to take a stab at him.
Tight End: Kyle Rudolph (12), Dwayne Allen (12), Antonio Gates (13), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (14)
Kyle Rudolph is a nice high reward guy late in drafts. He’s a brute of a man with great size, catch radius and physicality. He could end up being a red-zone menace and could also rack up 60+ receptions. Talent and role are not his issues. It’s his health. However, in round 12 or later, health is something you can take a chance on.
If you don’t love his health, you can bank on Dwyane Allen’s role with the Colts growing, Antonio Gates being a beast when he returns from his four-game ban, or ASJ being a monster in his second season. I like all of these guys due to their offenses, roles or upside, and you’re paying nothing to get them. Unless you get Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham this year, streaming the tight end position more and more seems like the way to go.
Kicker: Mason Crosby (14), Blair Walsh (15), Matt Prater (15), Matt Bryant (15)
Kickers don’t matter, as they fluctuate year to year. Crosby is a great value if he can slide to the final round, which is the only round I condone taking a kicker. If he’s falls, awesome. If not, I like Walsh’s indoor kicking, improving offense and monster leg. Prater also kicks indoors, works in a strong offense and also has a big leg. Bryant’s leg isn’t huge, but he’s one of the most reliable kickers in the game, kicks indoors and has a great offense. That’s the recipe for success when it comes to fantasy kickers.
Team Defense: Denver Broncos (13), Carolina Panthers (13), Kansas City Chiefs (14), Baltimore Ravens (14), Minnesota Vikings (15)
Denver was a weak fantasy team defense last year (2oth) because they gave up over 350 points, but they can get to the quarterback and force turnovers. Their offense transitioning to a slower, more balanced system should only help them, as will adding some nice defensive talent in the draft. I’m not enamored with them and I won’t pick them in round 13, but if they slide to round 14 they’re definitely worth considering. The same goes for Carolina, who really picked it up in the second half last season and ended up being the 18th best fantasy defense. I like their upside, but they gave up a ton of points last year and will need to buckle things down a bit. Again, only go after them if they slide, as they’d represent possible value.
The real value comes in the Chiefs, Ravens and Vikings. Eric Berry could be a big return for KC, while they’ll especially be deadly once defensive tackle Dontari Poe gets back on the field. Until he does, they might be a tad shaky, so streaming them might be the best route. Minnesota is probably a leading streaming candidate, too, but Mike Zimmer really has a nasty young unit on the rise. The Vikes can be inconsistent overall, but they were 11th last year and are only getting better. Snagging them in round 14 or 15 is pretty nice.
My favorite value at team defense is without a doubt the Ravens. This is still an extremely well-coached unit that has strong players from top to bottom. The 5th best fantasy defense in 2014, Baltimore is only getting better. Landing them in the final two rounds is straight up robbery.
There are surely more value plays late in drafts, but these are some of my favorites and guys I’m personally chasing down later in drafts. This also reflects ADP, which isn’t something you want to completely handcuff yourself to, but it’s also something you can really only work with based off of what’s there. That being said, value should remain your top source to reflect on, so if certain guys free fall, be ready to snatch them up.