Every draft has those late round diamonds in the rough that make you appear much smarter than your truly are. I'll try to take the guess work out for you. Listed below are players who are in situations that will allow them to fly under the radar on draft day, but could be difference makers and get you into the fantasy playoffs (an accomplishment many value more than a promotion). You can spend countless weeks in your makeshift war room pouring over game tapes as you prep for draft, but it is important to realize that fantasy successful is somewhat reliant on lady luck. So take a gamble on some of these up and comers listed below and although some of the less informed may poke fun at you during the draft, you'll be the one laughing all the way to the bank as you collect your fantasy riches at season's end.
We all remember how the Philly faithful welcomed the 1999 2nd overall pick with a chorus of boos (birds fans still wish you selected Ricky Williams). McNabb has led the Eagles to four division championships (2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004), four NFC Championship Games (2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004), one NFC Championship (2004), and one Super Bowl appearance (XXXIX). But in Philly it's always what have you done for me lately. When the Eagles selected Houston QB Kevin Kolb with the No. 36 overall pick in the 2007 draft, Mcnabb began to see the writing on the wall.
This is more of a player to target for dynasty leagues as McNabb figures to start as long has remains healthy (I wouldn't bet on it as he has missed portions of the past few season with a broken ankle, ACL injury, and sports hernia). Kolb remains ahead of A.J. Feeley as the #2 QB. He tends to use a "high-percentage style," usually targeting routes within 20 yards downfield -- which could be an ideal match with 2008 draft pick Desean Jackson (a speed burning WR who has been very impressive in preseason). If you are in a keeper league, Kolb is a player to target late in drafts as he is in one of the best situation to succeed in 2009 / 2010 as he has a strong offensive line and possibly the best receiving back in the NFL (Westbrook) at his disposal. Who knows, with McNabb's injury history, Kolb could be helping you during the 2008 fantasy playoffs (the Eagles face the porous Cleveland defense in week 15).
The Ravens' 2nd round pick (55th overall) makes for a top-notch handcuff for Willis McGahee right now. Despite being 5'9/205, he is a tackle breaker with solid college receiving numbers, and above average speed (4.44). If McGahee goes down in 2008, it wouldn't be a surprise if Rice puts up nice numbers. Rice is showing his talent as evidenced by a 94-yard, one-score performance on 11 touches in Baltimore's second exhibition game. While McGahee is neither ineffective nor too old (only 26), his conditioning issues, recent arthroscopic knee surgery, inability to participate in off-season programs, and the perception in Baltimore that he may be a bit flighty could open the door for this talented young Scarlett Knight. Despite the hype, temper your expectations as the Baltimore offense will have its growing pains with a QB and offensive line production that figures to rank near the bottom of the NFL in 2008. Rice is a must own for anyone that drafts McGahee, but he could also serve as great trade bait and is worth gambling on after all the starting options are off the board.
The Texans' 3rd round pick rushed for 1836 yds and 25 TDs as a Junior at West Virginia. He will likely be no lower than second on the depth chart in Week 1. At only 5'10/190, Slaton isn't likely to get a lot of goal line carries, but he could post nice all purpose yardage and (as he should) play on third downs and work in a committee to start the season. Ahman Green (31 years old and a weekly addition to the injury report) is nursing a groin injury and has yet to play in the preseason. Coach Gary Kubiak was quoted saying that he is going to play the hot hand in 2008 (which appears may be Slaton by default) . Rumors abound that Chris Brown (back, knee) will be cut and if the Texans don't see anything from Green in the preseason, Slaton might even get the week 1 start. Regardless , we all know how valuable RBs are in the fantasy world and this is a player that you can gamble on in the last round that could be a RB2 by mid season.
The second year versatile RB is drawing rave reviews from Sean Payton and is a must own for those in keeper leagues. In 2007, the undrafted rookie out of Illinois outplayed fourth-round pick Antonio Pittman and is next in line for the bulk of the carries if Reggie Bush were to miss any time in 2008 (Deuce McAllister is doubtful to remain healthy all season). Thomas is more of an every down, between the tackle runner than Reggie Bush and if the Saints ever come to this conclusion, he could be a steal as a late round gamble. Playing for a team with a weak defense and dynamic offense is a great recipe for fantasy success. In week 17 last year, Thomas showed his potential as he gained over 200 yards combined and scored a TD.
This rookie has already been proclaimed as a starter in week 1 and Shanahan plans to keep him in the starting lineup even after Brandon Marshall returns from his two game suspension. His only competition are aging injury prone veterans Darrell Jackson and Brandon Stokley. This receiver could have problems adjusting to NFL press coverage, but as Jay Cutler develops into a top flight QB, Royal could be an outlet for 5-7 TDs with the potential for 700 yards. For those fantasy novices relying on fantasy magazine rankings, this selection is bound to be a head scratcher as he has just come onto the radar in the past three weeks. As an added bonus (depending on your scoring system), Royal will also be returning punts; he could be a great sleeper to target in return-yardage leagues. The second round pick has displayed sure hands and blazing after the catch speed, making him most valuable rookie receiver on draft day with the potential to be an adequate WR3.