By Adam Harris-
(CBS) The studs in fantasy football will win you a few games by themselves, and can help you put up respectable totals week to week. The key, however, to winning a championship, or at least putting yourself in position to make a run in the playoffs, rests on the shoulders of your second running back, third wide receiver and backup quarterback.
Below is a list of players you can wait on in drafts, or possibly pick up off the waiver wire after your draft, that will help you win your league or put together a more successful draft.
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) – “Big Ben” as many call him, is entering this season lost among quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and even Tony Romo, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton. Roethlisberger should not be a target, but as a fail safe he is very attractive to many fantasy teams. Former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley took over the offense and is expected to give Roethlisberger the freedom that will help him stay upright this year — a recipe very good for one of the NFL’s most sacked quarterbacks (Sack totals – 2009: 50, 2010: 32, 2011: 40).
Roethlisberger will be allowed to run no-huddle, and releasing quick passes will eventually tally up the yards and points. His favorite receiver, Mike Wallace, reported to camp yesterday and is playing under his one year deal which poises the Ben to Wallace connection to be plentiful and often. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is out for mainly the first month, and Isaac Redman is a little banged up, so the passing game will be relied on, especially when the weather is good early on in Pittsburgh.
Two of the first four weeks are against the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills who ranked 20th and 25th respectively last year against the pass. When drafting, if you get in a spot where you do not have a quarterback, keep the option of Ben Roethlisberger in the back of your mind. Scoop him up late, and stock up on running backs early. There is no shame in starting “Big Ben.”
Andrew Luck (IND) – The Colts will be trailing and will need to throw to stay in games. Luck also has Reggie Wayne to learn from and pass to.
Matt Schaub (HOU) – Don’t forget about Matt Schaub who is ranked 17th in Yahoo! rankings, but could prove to be a great value late. The Texans are more run based than in past, but still have a pass attack and Schaub will throw screens to Arian Foster.
Jacquizz Rodgers (ATL) – Michael “The Burner” Turner, is no longer a burner (easy joke, but necessary). He is a break the tackle at the goal line, fall into the end zone back which would normally be fine in Atlanta, but that is not how Atlanta’s offense is projecting. Turner is worn down, with the most carries in the last four seasons. Second year back Jacquizz Rodgers has fresh legs and with a projected pass first offense in Atlanta, Rodgers will get more and more work as the season rolls on. Rodgers can catch balls out of the backfield, and especially in PPR leagues he will eventually work himself into starting lineups, specifically at the slash (RB/WR/TE) position.
This preseason, Michael Turner has 18 carries for 49 yards. Rodgers has rushed 17 times for 61 yards but has a touchdown. In the second preseason game, Rodgers had four carries for 24 yards which shows promise to eventually carry the offensive load. Currently, Rodgers is ranked on Yahoo! Fantasy as the 37th best running back, and is only starting in three percent of Yahoo! Fantasy leagues. Draft or pick up Rodgers, keep him on your bench, and then play him when everything I said above comes true.
Doug Martin (TB) – Martin was recently named the Buccaneers starter with LaGarrette Blount backing him up. He will be a good slash or RB 2 on most teams in 12 team leagues.
Steven Ridley (NE) – He lost the battle for RB 1 to BenJarvus Green-Ellis last year because of fumbles. If he can fix that problem, he will start and be a nice option late in drafts or off the waiver wire.
Alfred Morris (WAS) – His five yards per carry average in the preseason, and many injuries to other backs in Washington will give Morris a chance. Head Coach Mike Shannahan is famous for getting the most out of “off the radar” running backs.
Reggie Wayne (IND) – I still believe in Reggie Wayne. Despite a bad situation last year in Indy, Reggie Wayne was the 25th best fantasy wideout, scoring 157.5 points in standard scoring leagues. A mix of Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky is replaced this year by No. 1 pick Andrew Luck. Pierre Garcon is gone and Wayne is again the main guy on the outside. Andrew Luck has shown confidence in his veteran wideout this preseason, especially in the last two games where Wayne caught nine balls for 105 yards. He is currently ranked 30th on Yahoo! Fantasy rankings and can be drafted later but will be used as a number two wide out.
Demaryius Thomas (DEN) – Peyton Manning will help Thomas make a jump from fantasy wide receiver No. 2 to on the brink of being a team’s No. 1. Thomas will compete for looks and fantasy points each week with Eric Decker, but Manning has the ability and talent to make both receivers successful. Manning has gotten the most out his receivers throughout his career, and do not expect that to change with his relocation to Denver. If Thomas is willing to learn, he will shine with Manning throwing to him.
DeSean Jackson (PHI) – His fantasy status fell tenfold because of his horrible season last year, and all this tells me is there is an opportunity to score big. If (and it’s a big if) Michael Vick stays healthy, expect this explosive offense to use Jackson. Do not draft Jackson until very late.
Randall Cobb (GB) – Cobb is going to take over Donald Driver’s spot as Aaron Rodgers’ fourth wide receiver option. Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Randall Cobb will all catch a great amount off balls, and Rodgers loves to test his own arm. Cobb will challenge him to do so. Advice: Draft late or pick up without using a waiver.
Kyle Rudolph (MIN) – Kyle Rudolph is in his second year and will be featured as a main tight end in the Vikings offense. Eying a tight end like Rudolph will allow you to wait as long as possible to draft one, giving you many rounds to stock up on running backs and wide receivers. Rudolph has caught six balls this preseason and has been targeted seven times. That gives young quarterback Christian Ponder the confidence he needs to eventually target Rudolph as a No. 2 option behind Percy Harvin.
Jared Cook (TEN) – Tight ends are generally a young quarterback’s safety net. Expect Jake Locker to use Cook as his often.
Greg Olsen (CAR) – Cam Newton showed confidence in Olsen last year (five touchdowns) and there is no reason to believe he won’t continue that this season. Olsen is good as a late option in the draft and should start in 12-team leagues.
This list is full of late options in the draft that can push your team from good to great. Having depth is a great thing in fantasy. These players are eventual starters this year, if not starters already, and will allow you to have fail safes while drafting. You can grab your main targets and wait on these players and not lose much as far as production goes.
Happy drafting or waiver hunting!
Have a Fantasy Football question? Ask Adam Harris @aharris670