Fantasy football draft season is here. The birds are chirping, the weather is cooling, and the amount of time wasted over-analyzing potential fantasy draft targets is increasing. Preseason draft rankings are never going to be perfect, so I take a look at ESPN'S Fantasy Football Draft Rankings to note some draft steals that can be found in the late rounds.
Steve Smith, Sr.
The ageless wonder leads the Baltimore Ravens wide receivers unit into the new season after having the second half of the 2015 season to "ice up, son." Even at the age of 37, Smith has shown that he still has some football left in his tank. In his shortened 2015 campaign, Smith racked up 41 receptions for 588 yards with three touchdowns through his first six games, placing him in the top-10 fantasy receivers for that span.
The Baltimore receiver enters the 2016 season coming off injury, ranked 115th overall, and 50th on the WR list. While injury and the possibility of his final season provides some skepticism, Smith is projected as a 12th-13th round selection. There is minimal risk in drafting somebody in those rounds that could potentially be a WR2, to provide quality depth on your bench. With Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, and Justin Forsett all returning healthy, the Ravens offense should look revitalized compared to the second half of 2015.
Ah yes, the ghost of Pittsburgh's past. Whether you appreciated LeGarrette's short time in the Steel City, or not, you have to respect the man's skill set and ability to run down hill. On an always-volatile New England Patriots offense, Blount is the clear starting running back. With news breaking of other Patriots RB, Dion Lewis, likely out for the first half of the season, competition is minimal for Blount.
Even though the New England Patriots have a tendency to allow unknown RB's to have a huge game occasionally, LeGarrette will get the majority of backfield carries, and has lots of value as a goal line threat. As the 107th overall, 43rd ranked fantasy running back, Blount can provide quality RB2 numbers as an 11th round draft pick.
I like this guy a lot more in Red, than I do Orange. Mohamed Sanu left behind the only NFL home he's ever known this offseason, as he packed his bags for Atlanta.
In his new uniform, Sanu will be lining up opposite of Julio Jones, an elite receiver that requires a lot of defensive attention. Sanu has the chance to achieve production and numbers reminiscent of Roddy White in his prime, while defenses focus on Jones. Going from AJ Green to Julio Jones as your counterpart is not a huge difference, but Atlanta will have significantly less competition for targets as Cincinnati had in recent years. On top of that, Mohamed Sanu is moving from the AFC North to the NFC South. Going from defensive, low scoring football to higher scoring, offensive-minded football could prove to be very beneficial for the wide receiver.
Ranked as the 122nd overall player, and 57th WR, Sanu has an extremely high ceiling for a 12-13th rounder.
While mystery surrounds the Pittsburgh Steelers WR corp as to who will set themselves apart as the true WR2 this season, Wheaton is going to be given the first crack at locking down that spot-- which will provide him with plenty of targets to create fantasy relevance. As someone who has the opportunity to see an increased role in a potent Pittsburgh Steelers offense, Wheaton can be found in late rounds as a value pick.
Ranked 116th overall, and 51st in WR rankings, Markus sits right behind Steve Smith, Sr. Projected as a 12th-13th round pick, Wheaton is most definitely worth a look during these rounds, where owners are looking to add quality depth with big upside to their bench.
What is this, a Ravens LoveFest? Not necessarily, but apparently ESPN doesn't love the Baltimore Ravens too much, either. Another starter, another low ranking.
Forsett's 2015 season ended early, as was a common feat for the 2015 Baltimore Ravens, due to a broken arm. Reports indicate that he is back to full strength, and is the clear cut RB1 on the Ravens’ depth chart. In 2014, Forsett finished the season eighth in fantasy points among all running backs.
With the opportunity to put up RB2 numbers, and hopes for a repeat of 2014, Forsett is worth a look in the 10th-11th round, at the 103rd overall, 39th RB ranking.
Honorable Mention: Tevin Coleman
While not the starter, the Atlanta Falcons second year running back enters the new season with hopes of taking back some snaps from 2015 breakout star, Devonta Freeman. Coleman opened last season as Atlanta's starting running back, but injuries opened up the door for Freeman, who never looked back.
The 2016 season looks to be Freeman's time to prove his consistency. If Devonta Freeman's production lacks at any point, the door will reopen for Coleman.
Drafting Coleman in the 11th or 12th round, as he is the 108th overall, 44th ranked RB, could payoff for your fantasy football team. Coleman will begin the season as a handcuff, but could earn RB2 or flex status.