The 2013 National Football League season is just weeks away from kickoff, an exciting time for football fans everywhere. What that also means is that the fantasy football year is officially underway. Drafts across the world are taking place as players attempt to predict the future and acquire a squad that will lead them to glory over their friends during the next few months.
Big names look sexy on your roster, and garner the most attention as a result, however the savvy drafter knows that the there is gold to be found in the latter rounds of the draft. Those late round steals are what makes a team championship worthy come playoff time.
Picking the players that are flying under the radar who will breakout in a given season is no easy task, but don’t worry about it. I’ve put in the work and created this list of the top five draft day steals that will win you your fantasy football league.
A note about the list first: These five players probably will not be the top five players in fantasy come season’s end, however they are undervalued in present fantasy football drafts. Rather than reaching on a player to fill a void, this list should help you add quality backups where you are already strong, with the confidence that you can find a quality performer in the latter rounds of your draft.
Without further adieu, here are the top five draft day steals to target in your fantasy draft this year.
1) DeMarco Murray- Dallas Cowboys RB
I can hear you booing me already, the oft injured Cowboys running back is certain to miss time this year and cripple your fantasy team as a result, right? Wrong. Murray is no longer commanding the first round draft pick that he required last season.
A top-tier talent for a bargain value of mid 4th round on ESPN sounds like a steal to me. Couple that with his being on a Cowboys team that is not hiding its desire to reestablish its running threat in an attempt to relieve quarterback Tony Romo of much of the pressure he has been facing every time he drops back to pass.
A versatile threat who averages nearly 5 yards per carry for his career, Murray also contributes in the passing game, making him a perfect three down feature back option for both Dallas and you as long as he is healthy.
There is an obvious risk in taking Murray, but if he can play the whole season, he could easily be a top five back, who else in the fourth round has that ability?
2) Jordan Cameron- Cleveland Browns TE
A popular choice to breakout this season, Jordan Cameron’s comes it at number two on our list. He has looked impressive in the preseason thus far, hauling in two touchdowns in the team’s last outing against the Detroit Lions. Cleveland media has talked about how often the young tight end is seeing the ball in practice, and it is certainly not an accident.
Both Norv Turner and Rob Chudzinski love to use the tight end, so the position will see an uptick in targets this season. Second year quarterback Brandon Weeden will be thankful to have a safety net in the passing game as he looks to develop into the franchise passer the Browns thought he was when they took him in the first round a year ago.
Need proof that Chudzinski loves the tight end? Per Matthew Berry, “in Chudzinski’s nine seasons as an NFL coach, his team’s starting tight end has ranked in the top eight among tight ends in targets in six of them, with at least 100 targets in five of them.”
A steal for you, he’s going in the 12th round on average. He should outperform that ranking by a ton.
3) Vincent Brown- San Diego Chargers WR
Love him or hate him, Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers loves the deep ball. He made Vincent Jackson a star, and he found the same downfield groove with Danario Alexander in 2012. Jackson is now with Tampa Bay, and Alexander is out for the year after tearing his ACL.
Third year pro Vincent Brown looks to be the best bet to fill the void in the Chargers passing attack considering that the only man ahead of him on the depth chart, Malcom Floyd, is also working through some knee issues.
Going in the 14th round of most ESPN drafts, Brown gives you the opportunity to potentially steal a number one receiver in the twilight of your draft.
He figures to see the majority of the downfield targets in his offense, making him a legit WR2 in almost any format right off the bat. He may not dominate in a PPR sense, however his yards per catch and touchdowns should be high this year. Don’t be surprised to see him produce 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.
4) Chris Ivory- New York Jets RB
After a season in which the entire New York Jets offense was asleep at the wheel, Mark Ingram appears ready to produce in his first year as a bonafide NFL starter. The former New Orleans Saint is going to get the lion’s share of the carries with Gang Green, and has the credentials to thrive in the roll.
Going 25th among running backs in most drafts, Ivory is going to far outperform that ranking. What else are the Jets going to do, let Mark Sanchez throw it?
Stuck in a timeshare in New Orleans with Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles, Ivory may not have the name recognition of his former backmates, however he has the production to be a bigger name than either. Had he received enough carries to qualify, he would have been third in yards after contact of all running backs in the league over the past three seasons.
5) EJ Manuel- Buffalo Bills QB
Not even being drafted in most fantasy leagues, we’ve seen how the mobile quarterback can dominate the fantasy landscape throughout a season. Mike Vick was a dominant fantasy quarterback even if he never amounted to an elite NFL quarterback, and RG III posted ridiculous fantasy points as a rookie a season ago. Colin Kaepernick is another QB who relies on his legs for a good portion of his fantasy production.
Enter EJ Manuel, the savoir of the Bills, the man who will be the team’s first franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly. Okay, so maybe you don’t buy all that hype. The good news is that you don’t have to to realize that EJ Manuel is going to be starter worthy in fantasy football this season. And he could be your last round pick! Talk about a keeper league steal!
He’s already shown that he has the scrambling ability to make things happen with his legs in the preseason, the former Florida State Seminole rushed for 28 yards on three carries against the Vikings on Friday night. Oh, and he was 10-12 with a touchdown on top of that. He looks NFL ready.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express