Champions aren’t made at the draft, but late-round picks can mean the difference between making the playoffs and looking in from the outside. These players may not be household names, or they may have recently underperformed, but depending on the circumstance they represent great bargains that may put your team over the edge.
Note: We use Fantasy Football Calculator to determine average draft position (ADP), looking at 12-team leagues. The ADP for each player will change as the season approaches.
Chris Hogan, New England Patriots (ADP: 153)
There are a few expectations that the Patriots face year after year. The first is that they’ll have one of the most high-powered offenses in football, due in no small part to the excellent coaching and quarterback the team possesses. The next expectation is that the skill players on offense will undoubtedly get injured in some capacity, with the two starting wide receivers unable to stay healthy for significant swaths of the past few seasons. The last expectation is that whoever steps in for the injured starters is sure to become fantasy-relevant, and often a fantasy stud.
This year the main beneficiary of the wide receivers will most likely be Hogan. There’s little chance that both Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola stay health all year long, which increases the ceiling for Hogan considerably. In addition, his time in the preseason demonstrates that the offense is willing to put him in motion and run plays specifically built around Hogan and his skillset. He’s impressed with the opportunities he’s been given, and even without injuries to the wide receivers above him on the depth chart, he’ll still be able to provide a good bye-week plug or matchup play with high upside.
Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee Titans (ADP: 136)
It’s been quite some time since a rookie wide receiver has built a robust rapport with their quarterback in such a short period of time, but Sharpe has done just that. In just under four months with the Titans, Sharpe has quickly ascended to the No. 2 wide receiver spot on the team. Sharpe has slowly been putting owners on notice by performing well in all of his preseason games thus far, and looks to be ready for the regular season. There’s little threat of another receiver overtaking Sharpe for his position, and he seems to be the surest bet of all rookie wide receivers. However, due to the Titans’ lack of fantasy production last year, most owners still think of the team as a fantasy wasteland. Take advantage of his relative inconspicuousness now, as his ADP is sure to skyrocket after this year.
Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland Browns (ADP: 169)
The Browns offense looks to stage a sort of renaissance this year by actually playing a capable starting quarterback, and giving him weapons to use. One of those weapons is the big-bodied quarterback-turned-wide-receiver, Pryor. Trick play value aside, Pryor makes for an excellent target down the sideline, able to out-compete defensive backs for the ball, and it helps that he’s the starting wide receiver on the outside until (and if) Josh Gordon returns from his suspension. There’s already been some flashes in the preseason of Pryor’s ability to beat defenders in tight coverage, and his quarterback, Robert Griffin III, is certainly not afraid to throw the deep ball.
Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons (ADP: 139)
The Bengals let both Sanu and Marvin Jones walk in free agency, and while Jones has received considerable attention as the No. 2 wide receiver in Detroit, Sanu has not been afforded the same attention in Atlanta. Sanu currently resides as the No. 2 wide receiver behind Julio Jones, who will definitely face the opposing team’s best corner week after week. This will leave some mismatches for Sanu to take advantage of, combined with a hopeful return to form from Matt Ryan. Sanu may be a valuable late-round acquisition.