Fantasy Football Thrift Shopping: Value Picks to Help You Ace Your Fantasy Drafts

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Alex Kurpeski

Who doesn’t love clearance sales? Seriously, is there any better feeling in this world than picking up a dope t-shirt from the Gap that was mysteriously marked all the way down to five bucks? Sure it may not work out, but if it does you feel like a king/queen. If it doesn’t, you only lost $5. Fantasy football can be a lot like clearance shopping, as the best fantasy players need to know how to find bargain bin commodities in order to win in the long run. This article is designed to be a guide for you thrifty shoppers, the waiver wire warriors of the fantasy world, the not-so-great drafters who always have a backup plan.

Quarterbacks

From what I have seen thus far in my fantasy drafts this year, some significant names at this position have lasted well into the late rounds of drafts. With trendy newcomers like Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Kyler Murray rocketing up draft boards, some once coveted fantasy stars at the position have fallen down draft boards.

Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions

Stafford was once known as the steady, high-volume passer that you could count on as a solid fantasy starter. Yet after last year’s brutal season he has fallen down draft boards significantly. With the addition of a shiny new star tight end (T.J Hockenson) and a steady presence in the slot (Danny Amendola), the Lions offense should look much better in 2019. We may very well see the return of the Stafford we all knew and loved, and he could be had for a greatly reduced price in most drafts.

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

Following last year’s bumbling finish, many are down on Cousins and the Vikings as a whole. However, with an improved offensive line and a dynamic group of pass catchers (Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr) it would not surprise me if we saw Cousins perform at a high level this season. Factoring in the expectations bestowed upon him when he signed his massive free agent contract with Minnesota last offseason, one must think that Cousins will be setting out to prove his critics wrong after a full offseason with the team. Cousins is currently being drafted as a mid tier QB2 in most drafts, but I feel like he has legitimate QB1 upside, with a decent chance to break into the top 5 fantasy scorers at his position.

Nick Foles, Jacksonville Jaguars

Foles is who he is, a decently accurate game manager who is capable of popping off with a couple of nice deep throws every so often. He is currently being drafted as a low-end QB2 in most leagues, yet I feel like he could be a rather solid starter for a fantasy team if you like using the “zero-QB” strategy. While he will likely not come near the top 12 at his position considering the lack of receiving talent in Jacksonville, Foles could hold you over for several weeks as a fantasy starter, possibly even winning you a few weeks down the stretch.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Tom Terrific has been done dirty by the fantasy puppeteers, who have consistently ranked him towards the bottom 20 at his position heading into fantasy draft season. Many people forget that Brady has been a mainstay in the top 10 fantasy QB territory for twenty years. While last year was a bit of a dissapointment for those who drafted Brady, we tend to forget that he was the NFL MVP in 2017. With the addition of some solid playmakers to the offense, as well as the retirement of 2018 decoy of the year Rob Gronkowski (seriously why did anyone even try to cover him by the end of the regular season?) I expect a bounce back year from Brady, who could be had in the same price range as Dak Prescott or Mitchell Trubisky in most drafts.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

It’s easy to hate on the red rifle, after all he is the Marvin Lewis of quarterbacks, a stale, outdated, and underwhelming presence on a franchise forever trapped in NFL limbo. However, for fantasy purposes, Dalton has a chance to greatly outplay his expected draft slot in 2019 (well outside of the top 24 at the position). With an offensive minded head coach in Zac Taylor, along with a solid cast of receiving talents (A.J Green, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, Tyler Eifert, John Ross (in an ideal world)) Dalton could be a steal for your fantasy team as a backup plan in case your starter suffers any injuries. While I don’t see him vaulting into the top 10 any time soon, he could come to a point of tangency with the top 15 at the position.

Running Backs

Everyone loves picking up that breakout running back off the waiver wire, unfortunately it’s a bit early to be predicting who those guys will be this season. However, here are some guys to target in your fantasy drafts that might end up being very valuable down the line.

Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

We saw how effective Ekeler could be as the complementary back to starter Melvin Gordon last season, as he proved to be a rather reliable flex play, especially in PPR leagues. Taking Ekeler in the early to mid teen rounds could prove to be an excellent move, as he is currently among the best second string rbs in the NFL.

Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams

With his arthritic knees, many believe Todd Gurley to be in a precarious position in his career. If Gurley is forced to miss any time this season, expect Henderson to provide solid fantasy numbers in his stead. He was one of my favorite running backs in this year’s draft class and I could see him being an absolute star in the league. And what better situation could he ask for than being the lead back for Rams offense? Keep and eye out for Henderson in late rounds of your drafts.

Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins

Ballage is much more dynamic as a runner than you would expect from somebody his size. He could very well siphon off carries from incumbent starter Kenyan Drake, a decent player who has yet to consistently deliver as a lead back. Ballage was talked up a lot last season, with the departure of Frank Gore he has a chance to really deliver in 2019. Keep Ballage in mind as a stash in deeper format leagues.

Justice Hill, Baltimore Ravens

Hill has a chance to emerge as the lightning to Mark Ingram’s thunder for Baltimore this season. He is a super explosive back with decent receiving skills who could do a lot of damage on option plays with Lamar Jackson. He is another cheap draft pickup that could be a potential league winner for your team.

Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I don’t know how this guy is still the starter in Tampa but I really don’t see Ronald Jones overtaking him despite all of the off-season hype. Barber is a starting running back with a double digit round draft price, if that isn’t a steal then I don’t know what is.

Carlos Hyde, Kansas City Chiefs

Hyde has a chance to steal many red-zone carries away from Damien Williams, frustrating Damien Williams owners and teams playing against the guy who started Carlos ass Hyde equally. If you’re looking for a bye week RB2 to deploy in desperation, Hyde has the chance to win you some games.

Ito Smith, Atlanta Falcons

Smith will fill the Tevin Coleman role for Atlanta’s offense this season. If Devonta Freeman’s health issues persist into this year then Smith will immediately become a high value commodity in fantasy leagues. You could grab him towards the end of standard roster leagues and end up winning a league if he comes through for you, so why not give it a shot?

T.J Yeldon, Buffalo Bills

Yeldon has always teased moments of competence as a starter for the Jaguars, but he now finds himself in Buffalo alongside veterans Frank Gore and Lesean McCoy, as well as rookie Devin Singletary. I think Yeldon could very well emerge as the lead back in this committee, as he has the most diverse skill set (or maybe on par with McCoy) and has minimal tread on his tires after backing up Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory in Jacksonville. Keep Yeldon in mind as a potential waiver wire pickup early on in the season.

Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings

Mattison is set to be the primary backup to fragile starter Dalvin Cook this season. If you’re a Dalvin Cook owner or maybe just a savvy drafter, I would take a flier on Mattison in the last round of drafts.

Damian Harris, New England Patriots

Harris was one of the best running back prospects in this year’s class but he joins a crowded backfield in New England. So why should you target him in drafts? Well, considering Sony Michel’s troubling history of knee injuries, there is a decent chance that Harris will get some opportunities as the co-starter alongside James White if Michel’s knees don’t hold up this season. While I wouldn’t draft Harris (except for deeper leagues), he is worth keeping an eye on.

Wide Receivers

Everyone always needs receivers, here are some guys that might make you look like you know what you’re doing in your fantasy draft, even if you’re still using a draft board from 2016.

Adam Humphries, Tennessee Titans

Humphries has a chance to be a PPR ace this season, as he is a slot specialist who is expected to be heavily featured in the West Coast style Titans offense. Given the level of trust he earned with Jameis Winston, as well as the steadily trending production every year since he entered the league, I would put a fair amount of eggs in the Adam Humphries basket if I’m a PPR owner.

Andy Isabella. Arizona Cardinals

Isabella was a major deep threat for the Minutemen last season, nearly winning the Biletnikoff award with an impressive collection of receiving stats. With his flexibility as a slot receiver and as a deep threat on the boundary, Isabella’s crisp route running could be what separates him from the deep pack of receivers in Arizona, with many targets to go around in Kliff Kingsbury’s pass heavy offense.

Paul Richardson, Washington

People forget that just a year ago Richardson signed on with Washington for 40 million over five years. Following last year’s injury riddled campaign, I expect Richardson to bounce back with Dwayne Haskins throwing him the ball, as we saw how the former Ohio State QB elevated similar deep threat receivers (Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin) during his breakout season. With a dearth of talent at the position, Richardson has a good opportunity to become a primary playmaker for the Skins offense.

D.K Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

Metcalf has a chance to emerge as the WR2 in Seattle’s offense with the retirement of Doug Baldwin. While extremely raw, Metcalf is a physically gifted receiver who has a chance to thrive as a deep threat for Russell Wilson. Moreover, Metcalf’s size and athleticism should garner a decent amount of targets in the red zone. Keep an eye out for this guy in later rounds of fantasy drafts.

Dante Pettis, San Francisco 49ers

Pettis was impressive down the stretch last season, harnessing his elite physical gifts to become a consistent threat for the 49ers offense. Heading into this season, Pettis is set to compete with the likes of Marquise Goodwin and Deebo Samuel for targets (oh and that George Kittle guy too), from that group I expect Pettis to emerge as the number one receiver due to his intriguing size and speed combination.

Golden Tate, New York Giants

Tate has always been an asset in PPR, but I like him even more this season, as he stands to gain from Eli Manning’s checkdown tendencies. I can see Tate emerging as a sneaky top 20 receiver this season, so long as he can stay healthy.

Tyrell Williams, Oakland Raiders

Williams has always been a tremendously talented receiver, unfortunately for fantasy purposes he has been buried on the Chargers depth chart for his entire career. Now, Williams gets the opportunity to fill the WR2 role in the Raiders offense, with Antonio Brown soaking up double coverage on the opposite side of the field. With pretty good numbers in a small sample size, fantasy owners should be drooling over the possibility of nabbing Williams in the latter rounds of drafts.

Chris Conley, Jacksonville Jaguars

Conley is a player much like the aforementioned Tyrell Williams. He possesses an outstanding combination of size and speed as a receiver, yet he has been buried on the Chiefs depth chart for most of his career. Conley now joins an unremarkable group of pass catchers in Jacksonville, where he is reunited with good friend (and starting QB) Nick Foles. Look for CC as a candidate for a career year in 2019.

Anthony Miller, Chicago Bears

Miller looked good as a rookie for the Bears, but in year two he has a chance to emerge as an X-Factor for the offense. With crisp route running and consistent hands, Miller should get a decent amount of targets from quarterback Mitch Trubisky in the slot.

Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers

Samuel is somewhere between a gadget player and a true slot receiver, which can be looked at as either a good or a bad thing depending on how you look at it. Either way, Samuel stands to see a decent amount of targets in Carolina’s offense this fall, especially with the departure of Devin Funchess. While I wouldn’t compare Samuel to Tyreek Hill any day of the week, he has the after-the-catch running ability to turn routine catches into huge gains.

Tight Ends

Tight ends are a frustrating commodity, as they always seem to fall short right when you need them to come through for you. Hopefully one of these guys become the next George Kittle (fingers crossed).

Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills

With Tyler Kroft’s broken foot set to sideline him well into the preseason, Knox should emerge as the top pass catching tight end in Buffalo in 2019. An above average athlete with developing skills as a blocker, Knox has the potential to be a playmaker for the Bills this fall, as he profiles as a Trey Burton type of receiver. When looking for late round flyers in your drafts, keep Knox’s name highlighted.

Matt LaCosse, New England Patriots

With the release of Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the suspension of Ben Watson, the starting tight end role for the Patriots has become LaCosse’s to lose. While he was rather unspectacular when featured as a receiver for the Broncos last season, it must be taken into consideration that he LaCosse was catching passes from Case “The Band-Aid” Keenum rather than Tom Brady. Keep an eye on LaCosse this season if you’re in need of tight end help.

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins

Many expected big things from the athletic marvel Gesicki last season, as his physical profile was as close to that of a young Rob Gronkowski as we have ever seen. While Gesicki struggled in year one, year two should be a different story. Whether he catches passes from Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick, Gesicki should improve as a blocker enough to stay on the field for a significantly higher number of downs, leading to further opportunities to produce. I like Gesicki as sleeper late in drafts, especially if you’re like me and tend to wait too long to take your tight ends.

Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

Andrews was vastly better than Hayden Hurst last season and I have a hunch that the narrative will remain true this season. Andrews was an elite receiving tight end at Oklahoma and his skills indeed translated to the NFL game, despite his shortcomings as a blocker. I would draft Andrews before more popular TE-by-committee players like Jack Doyle and Cameron Brate.

Josh Oliver, Jacksonville Jaguars

Oliver was a steal for Jacksonville in the draft this season, as he was one of the more complete players in his position group, with a play style reminiscent of Zach Ertz. At this point I would be shocked if he didn’t beat out Geoff Swaim and James O’Shaughnessy to become the team’s starter at the position. While I would temper expectations for Oliver this season, he has some decent value as a dynasty stash.

Kicker

You really thought we were gonna do a kicker? Get lost bozo!

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