By: David Connors @DConBlitz
At this time last year, I went on record advocating for the acquisition of DeVante Parker which led to ridicule from others in the industry. However, I felt the low draft cost mitigated the risk. Even as early as now many trendy names are popping up in the Fantasy Football community. Players like Calvin Ridley and AJ Brown are soaring up the ADP chart with expert after expert endorsing their potential to emerge as a top tier option at their positions. However, due to the high draft cost, they will need to take strides in their development to make them worth a late third-round or early fourth-round pick that they are costing fantasy players. They are being drafted to be a WR2 or even a WR1 if a manager were to go RB heavy to open their draft. With this article, I want to key on players going much later that can have a tremendous upside. Players can be drafted later in the draft and vastly outperform their draft stock. I also want to focus on players who I have not seen mentioned often or at all by the Fantasy experts. Here are a few late-round swings that can give your fantasy team the edge in 2020.
Anthony Miller (WR), Chicago Bears
PPR ADP: 11.12 (12-team league)
Half PPR ADP: 10.7 (12-team league)
NonPPR ADP: 11.7 (12-team league)
This is where I plant my flag this season. Anthony Miller will emerge as a consistent WR2 week in and week out in the 2020 season. With Anthony Miller not going until double-digit rounds, there is little risk in drafting him. He's even going later than Alshon Jeffery, N’Keal Harry, and Breshad Perriman. The Bears spent what little draft capital they have to acquire quarterback Nick Foles from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ideally, the Bears organization hopes that their former 2nd overall draft pick Mitch Trubisky will take the next step in his development, and emerge as a competent starter. I do not foresee that happening. Even if Trubisky goes into the season as the starter (and that’s a big “if”) it would only be for the first part of the season. It would only take one bad half of a game for the Bears to inevitably pull the plug on Trubisky. And when that happens, expect a considerable uptick in Miller’s targets. Throughout his career, Foles went to the receiver lined up in the slot with almost 70% of his passes according to Football Outsiders. Anthony Miller lined up in the slot at 60.9% of the plays he was on the field in 2019. When Nick Foles takes over as the starter in Chicago he will lean on the slot receiver and Miller will emerge as the pass-catcher you want on your team. Unfortunately, his upside is capped quite a bit because of below-average QB play, but he should provide a really safe floor as a WR2 with low-end WR1 upside. And on top of all that, he is going into year 3. If we have learned anything from listening to Blitzalytics’ fantasy podcast, “The Fantasy Hotseat,” it’s that Host, Cody Manning, preaches a year 3 breakout for wide Receivers.
Chris Thompson (RB), Jacksonville Jaguars
PPR ADP: undrafted
Half PPR ADP: undrafted
NonPPR ADP: undrafted
Chris Thompson has had stints of success including a run 2017 where he was an RB1 in PPR format through the first 9 weeks of the season while putting up at least 15 points in 8 of those weeks. He finished that season with 15.1 points per game. In 2018, Thompson put up over 20 points in the first 2 weeks before that season was derailed due to injury. In 2019, Thompson put up double-digit scoring through the first four weeks before getting hurt. Unfortunately, once he returned from his injury the Washington Redskins had a coaching and philosophy change, which led to Thompson being schemed out of the offense. Nevertheless, Thompson will rejoin his former coach, Jay Gruden, in Jacksonville where the depth chart has little in the way to keep Thompson off the field. The Jaguars feature Leonard Fournette at the top of the RB. Fournette has 100 targets in 2019, however, the tape suggests those targets were more a result of lack of other options as opposed to him demanding targets. Fournette catching passes out of the backfield looked as natural as me teaching someone to Dougie. Thompson is an excellent pass-catching RB, therefore it should not surprise anyone when his former coach schemes the ball into his hands in the open field. Thompson does not have the durability to be a workhorse back and has never held up throughout an entire season, but there is a good chance he is getting 10-15 touches a game which he can turn into a solid flex option points with RB2 upside in PPR format that you can get for free with this last pick of your draft or even pick him up off the Free Agency even in deep leagues and Dynasty format.
Juju Smith-Schuster (WR), Pittsburgh Steelers
PPR ADP: 5.04 (12-team leagues)
Half PPR ADP: 7.06 (12-team leagues)
Non-PPR ADP: 7.04 (12-team leagues)
The final name on this list is Juju Smith-Schuster who makes this list due to the high variance in his ADP. In most formats, his range spreads almost 8 rounds. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Juju is going from anywhere from the first round to the ninth round in fantasy drafts. So I tested it. I did 50 mocks where I did not draft Juju so I can see where he fell. I did 25 against a simulator and 25 against live people. Against the simulator, Juju went in the 4th and 5th almost every time, however, against live people his range was all over the place. I had one where he went 1.06 to someone with the Steelers logo as their avatar. In 8 out of 25 drafts (32%) Juju fell to the 8th round and beyond. He went after players like John Brown, Will Fuller, and Mike Willaims. This is not too surprising considering how much Juju’s production dropped off in the back half of 2019 but was it poor QB play from the Steelers or Juju not being able to handle top coverage from opposing teams? According to Football Outsiders, Juju was able to average 4.9 yards of separation in the first 2 seconds of his routes last season. The answer to this question is incredibly evident on the tape. When Juju would cut while Mason Rudolph was behind center, Rudolph would hesitate to allow the coverage to make up space, and when Duck Hodges would throw it, it was clear he didn't have the arm to push the ball into the intermediate routes that Juju normally ran, therefore the Steelers would attempt to hide Hodges weaknesses by scheming Hodges passes to the receivers running the shorter routes. We are still only one year removed from Juju putting up 1,400 yards and being a WR1 in 2018 with Ben Rothlisberger behind center. If you are at your draft and Juju is still there in the 6th round, sweep up that easy value. I am definitely considering him in the fifth depending on my team structure and who else is around. For those who play dynasty, now is a great time to check the pulse on the Juju owner and see if you can buy low.