dalton 450x300 Diamonds in the Rough: Focusing On Some Low Risk High Reward Players

By: Luke Grilli (@LGrilli88)

Everybody loves finding the steal of the draft. If you we able to grab Randall Cobb in the later rounds of your draft, you found yourself a 2013 Top 10 caliber PPR receiver at a discount price. Most leagues are won and lost in the middle and late rounds, so keep an eye on these guys going into your draft or your off season. Per usual, I will be using DFW’s Dynasty Startup Draft ADP Data, and using a 12 team PPR scoring standard, to give value to these players.

Andy Dalton: ADP QB15
Dalton is being drafted as a high end QB2 in this scenario, but I think there are plenty of players ahead of him who deserve to be pushed down the list (more on them later). Since Dalton came into the league as a 2nd round pick out of TCU in 2011, he has put up two solid seasons and finished right around the QB15 spot. Other than AJ Green, the Bengals have always lacked a second weapon for Dalton to throw to, yet his numbers have steadily improved from Year 1 to Year 2. In the draft, Cinci was able to grab blue chip TE  Tyler Eifert and a great pass catching option out of the backfield in Giovani Bernard. On top of those two, 2012 3rd round pick Mohamed Sanu, will be 100% recovered from a foot injury that landed him on the IR after a few impressive weeks in 2012.

With the draft and returning players, I have Dalton pegged as my QB11, passing over Tony Romo, Ryan Tannehill and Eli Manning.  The fact that he is 25 makes him a better option, in my eyes, in comparison to Manning and Romo. While I simply think he is a better fantasy QB than Ryan Tannehill. In the long term, I see Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees moving onto greener pastures (retirement), giving Dalton the chance to move up to the second tier of signal callers in fantasy football. Invest now and make a pitch to his current owner. He is probably a back up and could be had for a marginal positional player or a low first, high 2nd round rookie draft pick.

Josh Freeman: ADP QB24
Josh Freeman is one of dynasty fantasy football’s most polarizing players. In 2010, he had a solid season of 3,451 yards, 25 TDs and 6 INTs. Owners went wild over the 2nd year QBs stats (yours truly included) and made heavy investments in trading for him to be their QB1 in 2011 and on. Well, in 2011, Freeman took a huge step back and lowered his TD total down to 16, and increased his INTs up to 22. Not really what the owners who made a significant investment in him expected. 2012 was the first year that Greg Schiano was in charge, and it seemed to light a fire under Freeman. Yardage and TD totals were career highs and he was able to bring his INT total down to 17, finishing as a QB1/QB2 in most leagues.

The biggest issue with Freeman in 2012, and throughout his career, is his inconsistency. From Weeks 6-14, Freeman put up at least two TDs all but once. Owners who rode that hot hand were rewarded with fantasy playoff and championship stinkers. Cue the anger for Josh Freeman yet again and the rumblings that Mike Glennon will take the starting job. In the end, Freeman is the guy in Tampa. I know that the Bucs are letting him play out his rookie contract, but that isn’t the worst thing in the world. Freeman will come into 2013 motivated for the big money contract either from TB or somewhere else, and has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Vincent Jackon’s arrival helped Mike Williams turn into a legitimate WR2 and gave Freeman a true #1 WR to target. Plus, don’t forget about Doug Martin who broke out as one of the best overall running backs in the NFL during his rookie season last year. Long story short, Freeman is being drafted as a QB24, but I have him locked in as my QB18, who will put up serviceable weeks as a QB1 against weak defenses.

Shane Vereen: ADP RB32
The 2012 AFC Divisional Playoff Game vs. the Texans was Vereen’s coming out party as he tallied over 100 yards from scrimmage and 3 TDs. As a 2nd round pick out of Cal in 2011, many had high expectations for Vereen to supplant Kevin Faulk as the 3rd down specialist in the pass happy New England offense. Unfortunately for Vereen, preseason injuries and Danny Woodhead kept him from being active, or a factor, in most games during 2011 and 2012. Now in 2013, Woodhead has moved onto San Diego and Vereen is next in line to pick up the 3rd down duties.

Vereen is more athletic, faster and quicker than any other scat back New England has ever had. Kevin Faulk and Woodhead were never known for their speed, but more their ability to protect their QBs and have a reliable pair of hands. Vereen will bring a dynamic skill set that will only improve the Patriot offense. Right now, Vereen really has legitimate value as a weekly contributor in PPR leagues (where Danny Woodhead sneakily became a Top 25 RB), and an injury/bye week fill in in standard scoring leagues. His value may still be somewhat high if his owner remembers the playoff game against Houston, but if you have extra WR depth and need another RB, Vereen can be had.

LaMichael James: ADP RB54
Even by being inactive for most of 2012, LaMichael James may have proved to be the least injury prone of all the HBs on the 49ers roster. Frank Gore is known to be dealing with an injury at any given time and hit the dreaded 30 years old mark in May, Kendall Hunter is coming off an achilles injury and Marcus Lattimore will probably sit out 2014 while rehabbing from a nasty knee injury. In 2013, I expect Gore to be the lead back, but if he goes down, I feel that LaMichael James is a better play than Kendall Hunter. James showed he could be dominant in college while at Oregon, and I think those skills will translate into a solid pro career. LaMichael James is coming in as the RB54, but I think he has skills, and is in a situation with the potential for catches and carries, to eventually be a top 35 RB.

Rod Streater: ADP WR74
Rod Streater could start the 2013 season as a starting WR, lining up across from Denarius Moore. With Darrius Heyward Bey leaving for Indi. and Jacoby Ford struggling to stay healthy year after year, I really like Streater to produce as a low end WR3. If Matt Flynn can prove that he is a NFL-caliber QB, then maybe Streater becomes more of a bonafide WR3 that can start for you week in and week out. During his rookie year in 2012, Streater showed some real potential as the 4th pass catching option in Oakland , hauling in 39 catches for 584 catches and 3 TDs in his rookie season. With the departure of DHB and Brandon Myers, I expect those numbers to come right around 55 catches, 875 yards and 6 TDs.

Jonathan Baldwin: ADP WR82
Baldwin is headed into his 3rd year as a pro and this is generally where we see WRs take the next step into becoming solid players in the NFL. We saw it last year with Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas (granted Peyton Manning had a little bit to do with that) and Dez Bryant. Each player went from being a question mark as a pro, to solid NFL wide receivers. Now, Jonathan Baldwin was a first round pick in 2011 and super athletic while at Pitt, yet hasn’t caught on to the pro game yet. It is no secret that he can be a diva at times, but no one can deny his athletic ability.  While I don’t think that Baldwin will have the meteoric rise that Demaryius Thomas or Dez Bryant had, I truly believe that Andy Reid’s game plan will allow for Baldwin to thrive. I expect a state line of 60 catches, 800 yards and 7 TDs. Yes, these are pretty high numbers considering  Baldwin has never had  more than five catches in one game, but I have faith in the “3rd year wide receiver break out” menatlity and the additions of Alex Smith and Andy Reid.

Coby Fleener: ADP TE23
Right now, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen’s fantasy stocks are limited as they steal looks from each other, Reggie Wayne is still around and Andrew Luck grows as a passer in the NFL. However, I think you should pounce on Fleener while his stock is low. Reggie Wayne will be turning 35 during the 2013 season and will eventually start to drop off. On top of that, both Allen and Fleener should grow with Andrew Luck and develop into his favorite targets. I think that both of Indi’s TEs have a real chance to be stars in this league, ala the TE situation in New England. In the early years, it may be difficult to start each guy week to week, but good things come to those who wait. I expect Fleener to improve off his 2012 season, but 2014 and beyond should be the years we really start to see him blossom.

Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter and let me know what you think or if there are any players I’ve missed.