Some players you draft on your team just because you basically have to. The value is too good to pass up and they are solid players. Take Steven Jackson, for example. He’s the definition of consistency. He’s rushed for over 1,000 yards the last seven seasons (only season he didn’t rush for 1,000 yards was his rookie season) and he’s just a “oh he’s a good player so I’ll take him” kinda guy.
Then other players on your team are guys that you have been scouting since their sophomore year in college. You know that they have all the potential in the world and this is going to be the year that they finally live up to it. You go into drafts with a mindset of you need to get this guy no matter what. When you don’t get them you curse at the person that did get them.
These players are either guys that you’ve had on your team in the past that didn’t do what you had hoped or maybe it’s that wide receiver that finally has a good quarterback to throw him the ball. No matter what the case is, you want them.
Everybody has their own players in mind, but I’m going to give you a list of my guys. This list is a mixture of talent, situation, opportunities, and value.
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
I debated putting Julio Jones on this list just because he’s already going within the first three rounds of fantasy drafts, but I really like Julio this season. He averaged over 73 yards a game as a rookie last year as he fell just shy of 1,000 yards (he only played in 13 games).
Jones is the ultimate play maker. He had at least one catch of over 40 yards in six out of his 13 games last season. I especially like the way he finished the season. In his final four games, Jones caught 20 passes for 393 yards and six touchdowns. That’s nearly 20 yards per catch.
The ceiling is so high on Jones. If he can stay healthy and play a full 16 game season, he might end up being the number two receiver behind Calvin Johnson.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
One of the funniest headlines I read this off-season was, “Demaryius Thomas: I have to run whole route tree.” I talked earlier about how that one receiver finally has a good quarterback to throw him the ball. We saw what happened to Megatron last season when he had Matthew Stafford throwing him the ball, I expect similar things to happen to Thomas this season.
By the way, when I say similar, I don’t mean that Thomas will lead the NFL in receiving yards, I just simply mean Thomas’ game will greatly improve this season now that he has Peyton Manning instead of Tim Tebow.
Mid-Round QBs (Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos; Eli Manning, New York Giants; Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys; Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears)
While I like some of these guys more than others, I grouped them together because they are being drafted in a similar area of the draft. These are the guys that have potential for a great fantasy football season, but they aren’t among your elite quarterbacks. If you play in a 12-team league, the first six quarterbacks off the board will likely be Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, and Michael Vick. That’s half of your league that has already selected a quarterback within the first five rounds.
This allows you to wait on a quarterback because the first six guys will wait a long time before selecting a backup. While you may not get 5,000 passing yards out of your quarterback, guys like Romo, Manning (both of them) and Cutler will most likely give you over 4,000 passing yards, which is a solid fantasy season. It also allows you to take more running backs and receivers with your early picks.
Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona Cardinals
I was expecting big things from Ryan Williams last season, but then Williams ruptured his patellar tendon and ended his 2011 season. Now, the second round draft pick from 2011 is returning to the field and should see some action in 2012.
He has to compete with Beanie Wells, who is coming off of a good season, but is also often injury prone. Chances are Wells misses some playing time this year, which will allow Williams to get on the field.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
As an undrafted rookie in 2011, Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin led the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns (51, 788, 4). Those are nice numbers coming from a player in his first year in a struggling offense.
If the Seahawks can improve offensively in 2012, Baldwin should boost his number, slightly. The main statistic he needs to improve is his touchdowns. If he can improve his touchdown total, he’s a great pick for as low as he’s being drafted.
Baldwin is currently being drafted as a late round flier, which is where he should be taken, but I prefer him over some other players that are being drafted in a similar spot.
Greg Little, WR, Cleveland Browns
Greg Little was drafted in the second round in 2011 and ended up leading the Browns in receptions and yards. He was second amongst rookies in catches, behind first round pick AJ Green and fourth in yards behind Green, Torrey Smith, and Julio Jones. The only disappointing part of Little’s game during his rookie season was that he only scored two touchdowns. Now, Little has a full year under his belt and he has a better quarterback to deliver him the ball. Little has great athleticism and he’s in shallow competition at his position in Cleveland.
You can grab Little as a late-round flier and I recommend that you do. He’s going to see a lot of targets.