When it comes to the art of drafting, there are plenty of ways to achieve the common goal. I tend to be blinded by the high-upside value picks and toss aside the safer options. I’m always looking to hit a home run with every pick. Once I get past the 6th or 7th round, I stop paying attention to a player’s floor and begin looking strictly at their ceiling. This approach certainly lends itself to failed picks, but also lands plenty of home runs. I’ll pass on Frank Gore (though my TFA mate Jen Smith argues he is undervalued), Willie Snead, Steve Smith, Chris Johnson, Vincent Jackson, or Alfred Morris. Below is a list of guys I’d love to take in later rounds who have tons of upside.
Kirk Cousins – ADP 10.05
The “you like that” jokes have run their course, but Kirk Cousins producing at a high level hasn’t. After a few years of struggling, Cousins finally experienced his breakout year. He finished 2015 as the QB10 with 4,100 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He was sixth in points per drop back at .53 and had the third-highest completion percentage at 73% which trailed only Teddy Bridgewater and Russell Wilson. The last stat line that I’m going to throw in your face is his touchdown rate which has been well above average. Over his two useable seasons, his touchdown rates were 4.9% and 5.3%, which is above the NFL average of 4.5%.
Now, everything wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for him either. Over the first six weeks, Cousins was the QB23 with 1,420 yards, six touchdowns, and eight INTs. Then came week 7, which is infamously known as the “you like that” game. The Redskins trailed at halftime 24-7 against the Buccaneers, until Cousins threw three TD passes to lead his team back. The rest, as they say, is history. From that game forward, we saw a different Kirk Cousins. He finished the last 11 games as the QB4 with 2,746 yards, 22 touchdowns, and three INTs to go along with four rushing touchdowns and a point per drop back of .67.
Heading into 2016, it seems that the fantasy community isn’t buying the breakout. He’s currently the 14th QB off the board, which makes him the perfect late-round QB to target. With Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, and Pierre Garcon, he has more than enough firepower to not just repeat but to improve. I get it, he threw 12 of his 22 TDs from Weeks 14-17 which likely won many of you a championship, but you don’t know if he will replicate. I’m still buying. Despite signing Josh Norman, I don’t buy that’s enough to turn around the 28th ranked pass defense. Toss in the suspect rushing attack and it seems inevitable for another 4000+ yards and 30 TDs.
There are certainly a few other names that you could consider here such as Tyrod Taylor, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford to name a few. Although if I was on the clock, I’d take Kirk Cousins.
Michael Thomas – ADP 11.05
When the Saints drafted the former Ohio St. Buckeye, Michael Thomas, I was instantly intrigued.With the departures of Marques Colston (67 targets) and Benjamin Watson (110), the Saints desperately needed some big bodies to compliment Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead. Well, they did just that with the additions of Coby Fleener and their second-round draft pick Michael Thomas. Fleener will surely have a big role in the offense and will soak up a large amount of the 177 targets now vacated. So where does that leave Michael Thomas?
Reports out of Saints camp have been encouraging. Right Tackle Zach Strief raved about the rookie stating, “We haven’t had a guy that aggressive to the ball in a long time.” He went on to say, “He runs routes like he wants to fight for the ball. And that’s something that guys either have or don’t have. He’s made a lot of big plays in a short amount of time already.”
While many have slotted Thomas in as the heir apparent to the slot receiver role, he very well could bump Willie Snead from the outside. During his time at Ohio St, he excelled on the outside. In fact, he had over 700 yards on receptions of 20 yards or more. With Drew Brees throwing him the rock and only Coby Fleener as the true RZ threat, the sky is the limit for Thomas. His current ADP lends himself to a major steal, although, his ADP is climbing quickly as it his rose a full two rounds the last two weeks. If he continues to shine in camp and preseason then he could leap Snead in ADP. Thomas is worth an 11th round pick and could put up WR3 type numbers.
Christine Michael – ADP 13.12
I know, I know. The hate for Michael is real. You either stand behind him or you’re tossing out hate filled tweets. He’s largely been a myth and has never gotten any opportunity to showcase his talents until late last season. After being traded to the Cowboys and then receiving his walking papers, Michael returned to the Seahawks after Thomas Rawls went down. He started two games upon returning to the Emerald City. On 39 attempts he rushed for 192 yards for a 4.9 YPC average and hauled in a measly two passes for 14 yards.
Now, heading into 2016, once it became clear that Rawls wouldn’t be ready for the start of camp, C-Mike has taken the reigns and shined. We’ve heard all camp from Pete Carroll how impressed he has been with him. One common theme that surfaced was his increased maturity. Early in his career, it seems he was far more interested in producing mixtapes than actually being an NFL running back.
With his renewed passion for football and newfound maturity, there’s a real chance that he earns a significant role in the Seattle offense. Thomas Rawls is still the starter until further notice and it’s encouraging to see him get activated from the PUP list. Despite Rawls and his imminent return, I’m still hesitant to fully invest in Rawls. With his ankle injury and the small sample size, he’s just a bit too risky for my liking. As things stand, I’d pass on Rawls in the third round and take a late round flyer on Michael.
Phillip Dorsett – ADP 13.03
Phillip Dorsett was a puzzling selection for the Colts last season. They already had T.Y. Hilton who is the small, burner who takes the top off the defense. They basically drafted his clone when they selected Dorsett. Last season was a disaster for the Colts offense. Injuries and inconsistent play killed their season. With 2016 on the horizon, hope is eternal and there are fewer mouths to feed. With Andre Johnson heading to the Titans and Coby Fleener looking like a top five fantasy TE in New Orleans, the door is open for Dorsett to sneak in through the backdoor. Despite Dorsett having a similar skill-set to Hilton, he still has the potential to earn 60+ targets. With his propensity for the big play, Dorsett has WR5 appeal and would be an injury away from having a prominent role in an explosive offense.
With nearly 29% of the target share exiting the offense, who will be the most likely to soak up these targets? Moncrief and Hilton will surely see an increase in looks. Dwayne Allen will see a bump up from his 26 targets through 11 games last season as well. However, I feel, I could make a strong argument for Dorsett to see a decent amount of the 157 total targets that opened up.
With his big play ability and current situation, there aren’t many names I’d even consider taking over him in the 13th round. Players at his current ADP lack the upside that he brings to the table. Dorsett can easily outperform his ADP with ease, and literally, costs you nothing. So go ahead and lock him up and you can thank me later.
Spencer Ware – ADP 13.07
First things first. Jamaal Charles is still the unquestioned starter in Kansas City. He’s a nice value with his 2.03 ADP according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com. He doesn’t need the volume to be an elite fantasy option. Even if he only gets 12-15 touches per game, he can be a consistent source of fantasy points. With that being said, the question is what to make of the backup situation. It’s Charcandrick West vs. Spencer Ware. And to be honest, there’s not really a debate here. It’s Spencer Ware. He was super efficient on limited touches. He rushed for 403 yards on 72 totes (5.6 YPC) in 2015. That’s the highest YPC of any RB with at least 50 carries.
Once you turn on Ware’s tape, you see a bruiser with enough get-up-and-go to get to the second level of the defense. He’s also super efficient inside the red zone. Ware had the highest red zone scoring percentage of any RB with at least 10 carries and only Jeremy Langford had a higher touchdown conversion rate. Hell, to take it a step further, only Jeremy Hill and DeAngelo Williams scored more touchdowns inside the five. Sounding like a guy worth a 13th round pick?
Here’s the thing, if you’re looking for a running back in the later portion of your draft, I don’t think you can find a better option. Ware possesses standalone value and he’s an injury away from being an RB1.