They say you can’t win your league in round 1, but you can lose it there. What this means is, everyone is drafting stars early in the draft, the key isn’t so much getting the best player in that range of the draft, but just getting someone who holds up their end of the bargain. Obviously, you need to hit on that pick to some degree but you also need health and good fortune to go your way with your very best players if you want to win your league. That sort of goes without saying. And in that sense, anyone can win a league here and there if they just knock their first few picks out of the park.
But the difference between winning your league once, only to never be heard from again, and perennially being in the title conversation, is know who to take stabs on as you get later into drafts. A good rule of thumb for me, when in doubt, draft a rookie who was selected high in the real NFL Draft. Those players aren’t as commonly known from the lamen fan, so they often slip further than they should on draft day, thus becoming good values. We see rookies pop in fantasy every year, they’re the youngest and freshest legs in a league full of beat up professionals.
Some of my favorite later-round rookie targets: Seahawks WR, Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Vikings WR Jordan Addison. Ravens WR, Zay Flowers. Seahawks RB, Zach Charbonnet. Jags RB, Tank Bigsby. Lions TE, Sam Laporta. Texans QB, CJ Stroud. Panthers WR, Jonathan Mingo. Packers TE, Luke Musgrave. Bears RB, Roschon Johnson.
Also, target post-hype sleepers. Take a look at who was highly sought after last year but underperformed due to injury or some other factor outside of their control. Those players who burn fantasy owners tend to slip through the cracks the following year, even though their situation is unchanged.
Some of my favorite post hype sleepers: Ravens RB, JK Dobbins. Bills WR, Gabe Davis. Falcons TE, Kyle Pitts. Colts WR, Michael Pittman. Titans WR, Treylon Burks. Broncos WR, Courtland Sutton. Chiefs RB, Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Broncos QB, Russell Wilson.
Here are a few other names I’m targeting that don’t necessarily fit the categories above:
Nico Collins- I think I’ve landed him in every draft I’ve done thus far. He’s WR60 right now in average draft position, which means you’re basically getting him for free, and he’s the #1 option on a team that’s going to be trailing a lot this season. Also, he’s talented. 6’4 215, he saw nearly 10 targets per game last year in the final month of the season.
Skyy Moore- Currently being drafted as WR52, he’s in line to be Patrick Mahomes slot receiver this season. Defenses have figured out that you have to put 2 safeties deep against Mahomes, and it opens up the middle of the field. That’s why we’ve seen Kelce’s numbers explode the last couple of seasons. Well, they can’t all go to Kelce. Moore is a young and speedy wideout who should carve out a role similar to what JuJu saw last year.
David Montgomery- His value is more in line with where I’d expect it to be, but he’s still a good value because everyone will be tripping over themselves to draft Jahmyr Gibbs out of that Lions backfield (love Gibbs too BTW), but Montgomery takes over a very specific and fantasy friendly role. Jamaal Williams led the NFL in rushing TD’s in 2022 with 17. Montgomery comes in to fill that same role, and I’d easily argue he’s more talented. He’s essentially locked in to 10 scores this year at a minimum.
Brian Robinson Jr- According to ADP, he’s really the last true starting RB on the board in most drafts. If you go the WR-WR-QB/TE path on draft day, Robinson could return some stability at the RB position. Not an explosive player, but he’s so good between the tackles, he’ll be a factor all season.
Elijah Mitchell- This one isn’t going to get a big reaction from your friends on draft day, but he’s the best handcuff in fantasy this year, and that’s still an important target in today’s RBBC (running backs by committee) world.
Dalton Schultz- If all else fails at TE, draft Schultz. Last year, he was TE11 in PPG, gobbled up the 7th most targets, and has a rookie QB that will likely lean on his TE a lot.
Evan Engram- A higher upside play. But Engram with his new deal is one of the highest paid TE’s in the NFL. That should tell you how the Jags think of him. And if Calvin Ridley isn’t the guy he was pre-2021, Engram will be leaned on A LOT.
Tua Tagovailoa- He will be avoided on draft day because of his concussion issues from last season, which is understandable, but his upside when he does play makes him well worth the dive on draft day. Tua is being selected as the 11th QB off the board. Crazy, when you consider who he’s got at his disposal in that offense. This is a guy that scored well over 50pts in week 2 last year vs Baltimore, when healthy, he’s one of the best QB’s in fantasy. If you’re worried about injury, just pair him with a QB a couple rounds later than has some dependability, like a Jared Goff or Geno Smith.