After four years of fantasy football I'm starting to realize it's not always how well you draft, because almost everyone comes out of the draft with a reasonable chance to win, it's the players you steal far ahead of their actual performance that year that make the difference. Two years ago those who got Arian Foster in later rounds had an enormous advantage over everyone else, assuming the rest of their draft wasn't a disaster. So, this year, instead of going in with a plan to slot different positions at different rounds and stick to that rather blindly, I'm going to be trying to identify those players that later in the year will emerge as waiver wire must haves, but hopefully I'll already have them. It's a difficult balancing act, as any fantasy player knows, because you also have to start the season with a solid team, so gambling on fliers and players with upside is risky. I suggest compiling a list a players you want but are willing to wait for, that way you'll feel like you go a bargain. Here are ten I'll be looking at.
1) Greg Little. WR. Cleveland Browns. A lot of you are going to start this list questioning my sanity for this one, but the point of value is finding someone whose value is either overlooked or unrealized. The picture says it all about Greg Little so far. He was someone I was high on last draft season, having been burned by another North Carolina receiver, Hakeem Nicks, drafting him early on in my keeper league, then even managing to get him back at one point on the waiver wire, only to eventually lose him to someone else when he eventually did get hot. The point is to predict who might take that quantum leap and slot a niche where you feel comfortable taking them. If you get Little in rounds 9 or ten as a third or fourth WR I think you'll do well for yourself. Brandon Wheeden at quarterback might make all the difference in the world for this receiver with enormous skills.
2) Matt Schaub. QB. Houston Texans. Did Matt Schaub die? I would have thought he did according to where he's being projected to go this year and where he already is going in fantasy mocks. Anyone who took Matt Stafford in later rounds last year can attest that waiting to get a quarterback, then getting one who produces, is one of the greatest gifts your roster can have. Especially since there are so few running backs this year, I'm contemplating going heavy on running backs early and waiting for quarterback and tight end in most of my drafts. Schaub should rebound and have a good fantasy year for you. Rounds 8-9-10 seem like a bargain for him. With the rise in popularity of two QB leagues, you sure could do a lot worse than having Schaub as your number two QB.
3) Donald Brown. RB. Indianapolis Colts. I hear the collective groan, but once again, the point is to find someone on the scrap heap who has a comeback year. Donald Brown has probably burned every fantasy owner at one time. When he came out of Connecticut I was as excited as anyone. Skills, brains, and determination. All that and he was going to a team with touchdowns to spare. All he had to do was stay healthy and not spit the bit. Well, three years later it may be time for Donald Brown's brains, determination, and skills to pay off for fantasy owners. I'm sure by draft day it will be no secret to anyone that it seems he's going to be getting the ball a lot in Indy, but if you can make him your third running back in a round after the sixth I say you got a good deal.
4) Fred Davis. TE. Washington Redskins. This is a guy who looks mean. And without a real number one wide receiver option in Washington for RG3 to throw to, unless you buy into Pierre Garcon as a number one, it's quite possible Fred Davis will become RG3's go to receiver. A huge target in the red zone, Davis suppressed his own value with a drug suspension to end last season. But his loss may be your gain as a fantasy owner because I believe if you don't want to invest an early pick on a Tight End, pairing Davis up with someone like Brandon Pettigew or even Brent Celek in later rounds might allow you to stockpile wide receivers and running backs early and not lose much, if anything, at Tight End.
5) Jamaal Charles. RB. Kansas City Chiefs. This may seem like an odd choice because I realize you'll have to take him in the second round. But that's exactly what I think you should do. If Charles falls to the mid to late second round in your draft, and you can pair him with a stud number one running back, like Foster, Rice, McCoy, or MJD, I think you've got a huge leg up on the sparse running back situation this year and can then go out and start piling up wide receivers and get someone like James Starks or Donald Brown as your third RB. Of course there's the risk that he won't be fully recovered from his kneee injury, or that Hillis will vulture some goal line touchdowns, but Charles can score from anywhere on the field anytime he gets the ball.
6) Kenny Britt. WR. Tennessee Titans. Here is another player who has broken my fantasy heart on many occasions. I've been on board since the beginning, giving up on him only to see him go apespit nuts in the first two games last year to the tune of 271 yard and three touchdowns. Will he recover from his kneee injury and do that again? I haven't a clue, but one of the most satisfying things in the world is when a guy you believed in finally pays off. If you can compile two wide receivers that make you happy early on, I say go for Britt and you may repaid. mightily.
7) Jay Cutler. QB. Chicago Bears. For two years now Jay Cutler was supposed to be my Matt Stafford. I've taken the tactic of waiting at quarterback, then drafting Cutler later, and both times I've been burned. Not because Cutler isn't a great quarterback, he is, but because Mike Martz is clinically insane. Martz is probably somewhere combing the beach for old vacuum tubes this summer, so it may finally be safe for Jay Cutler to drop back (not seven steps), look around, and see if he can find Brandon Marshall or rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery before an angry Giants' lineman can put him on his back. You know what, I'm going to take a chance on Cutler again. Third times' a charm.
8) Torrey Smith. WR. Baltimore Ravens. Another player I was high on last year and never quite added him to any of my rosters, even in the rookie keeper league, but then again, neither did anyone else, really. He'll be available in your league, too, and I think is a very intriguing bargain after round six. If Kenny Britt is a gamble you're not willing to take, I think Smith is rather guaranteed to at least have a good season with probably some huge games. If he develops consistency, look out, you'll be dreading facing him. Probably one of those players it's better to just not get beaten by.
9) Reggie Bush. RB. Miami Dolphins. Hard to see these words coming out of my brain, but with running backs being so scarce this year, I think Reggie Bush is a solid value in late round three or round four. If you want to get him as you second running back it gives you the option of taking a top tier wide reciver in round two. I don't think that's going to be necessary this year because of the pool of really good receivers you'll be able to get in rounds three, four, and five, but it's another way to go, and I don't see why Bush doesn't put up very big numbers in Miami again. Trust me, I drafted Daniel Thomas in my rookie keeper league last year, and he's a stiff, injured or otherwise. Bush is the man in Miami and a good value assuming you get him late enough. If you reach for him you're settting yourself up for heartache, but if you get him one round later, maybe even two, you might be singing his praises.
10) Percy Harvin. WR. Minnesota Vikings. Another guy you're going to have to invest a high pick in, but if he drops in your league, snatch him up because I think he's in for a monster year. Hypothetically, you could get a great value no matter where you take a player, even round one, as I did on Aaron Rodgers two years ago. Combine a good move like that with a good guess on a player like Arian Foster, and you're winning championships. Do this often enough in a keeper league and you might not get invited back to the draft.
There they are, ten players I think will be undervalued in 2012, even though a few of them are highly valued, and some of the rest will certainly start marching up the list by draft day.
Ten Fantasy Busts To Avoid In 2012