NFL teams are always looking for that hidden gem, that diamond in the rough, when it comes to the annual NFL Draft. And fantasy football owners are no different.
Every year there seems to be a major steal in the draft that has both NFL and fantasy teams thrilled. A player drops due to a bad Pro Day, poor timed speed or injury, and ends up crushing it in both realms. Alfred Morris did just that as a sixth round draft pick two years ago, and now we’re all looking for that type of random find each year. Truth be told, we’ve been on the lookout for that player well before Morris, and we always will be going forward.
But who is this year’s breakout performer? What NFL team drafted the next great late round sensation? Let’s take a look at seven guys that could be just what the doctored ordered. For “surprise” criteria, we’ll stick to rounds 5, 6 and 7. This way you know you’re getting a true sleeper, and it’s possible other fantasy owners in your league aren’t giving these guys any consideration. On with the hunt!
Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh (Round 5 – Dallas Cowboys)
Miles Austin is gone, and while Terrance Williams is an explosive weapon on the rise, Dallas prefers to use three wide receiver sets when they can. Unfortunately, Austin struggled mightily with his health and Williams and the other guys behind him were fairly inconsistent in 2013. With Williams ascending to the number two receiver spot across from Dez Bryant, the door could be opened for Street to make an impact as a rookie.
Street has very nice size and decent speed for the position, and will likely be best suited on the outside. His size and frame should allow for him to pose a decent threat in the red-zone, while his experience as a top target (he’s Pitt’s all-time reception leader) makes for a pretty reliable receiver to help move the chains. He has some minor competition to fend off, but it wouldn’t be all that shocking at all if he emerged as the team’s #3 receiver by week one.
Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin (Round 5 – Green Bay Packers)
Abbrederis is just solid at everything. A former walk on at Wisconsin, Abbrederis eventually turned into a very solid and fairly dynamic receiver who also provided versatility as a return man. Abbrederis boasts a solid combination of size, speed and awareness.
With James Jones gone, the Packers will likely be boosting underwhelming Jarrett Boykins or fellow rookie Davante Adams up to the third receiver spot. If he impresses, Abbrederis could be one injury away from a solid role in one of the league’s most potent passing attacks.
Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU (Round 6 – Tennessee Titans)
Mettenberger might be the steal of the 2014 NFL Draft when it’s all said and done. A legit day one prospect at one point, the LSU product has the prototypical size, arm strength and burgeoning pocket presence NFL scouts look for. A failed drug test at the NFL Combine crushed his draft stock, as well as back and knee injuries, but landing in the sixth round with the Titans actually ended up being a great fit for him.
All that is keeping Mettenberger from proving doubters wrong in 2014 is Jake Locker stinking up the joint or getting hurt again. Considering Locker is far from polished and has yet to stay healthy to this point, some combination of the two is almost guaranteed. Mettenberger probably has more Dynasty fantasy appeal than redraft value right now, but he’s still worth putting on the radar.
Alfred Blue, RB, LSU (Round 6 – Houston Texans)
Arian Foster will look to regain his elite RB1 fantasy status in 2014, but that’s far from a guarantee. And his main backup is the equally injury prone Andre Brown. Needless to say, anyone who makes the roster behind these two guys at the running back position needs to be monitored.
Blue’s situation actually resembles the route Alfred Morris took to stardom. They’re both named Alfred, so that’s a start, right? All jokes aside, Blue could be in for a big role should injuries strike. Ironically, his draft stock was also affected by his personal injury history, as well as the fact that he was jammed up by a ton of talent in a deep LSU backfield. That being said, Blue is at worst a day two talent and has the size, build and overall athleticism you like to see in a feature back. He just needs the opportunity.
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor (Round 6 – Washington Redskins)
Seastrunk is going to have an interesting route to fantasy value in 2014, as he’s not built to be a featured runner (at least not right away), and the Redskins already have two very good backs ahead of him. Alfred Morris, oddly enough, is cemented as the team’s top back on early downs and goal-line situations, while Roy Helu Jr. is at least for now penciled in as a very solid third down and passing situation option.
Helu is a major injury concern, though, so Seastrunk could eventually work his way into Helu’s role, whether it be a complete takeover or a timeshare. He’s a very good athlete with some nice versatility, which should make him perfect for a change of pace role behind Morris. Helu is his only real obstacle from some moderate Flex appeal at the moment in deeper formats.
Storm Johnson, RB, UCF (Round 7 – Jacksonville Jaguars)
Johnson is cut in the running back mold the Jaguars clearly covet. They signed Toby Gerhart to be their brute workhorse, but if an injury occurs, Johnson could actually be the guy they turn to next. He doesn’t have elite speed, but he has the size, build and power to be that effective inside runner they desire.
Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson are more explosive and will be better options in the passing game, but neither can really offer that physical presence Johnson can. He’ll hold no value unless something happens to Gerhart though.
Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State (Round 7 – Green Bay Packers)
Janis is a pretty deep flier and shouldn’t be drafted, but he’s absolutely a guy that deserves tracking leading into the new season. Truth be told, he’s pretty underrated from a pure scouting perspective simply because he faced no tough competition at a small school. Other than that, he has everything you want in a receiver thanks to elite size, exceptional speed and all-around explosiveness.
While he faced weaker competition, he destroyed the defenses he faced and considering he isn’t even a finished product. His talent screams upside. Add in the fact that he could stick on a Green Bay offense led by Aaron Rodgers, and his potential is through the roof.
The tough part will be cracking the final roster, but considering he’s actually more physically gifted than Abbrederis (drafted two rounds before him), he really should have no trouble making the team. Once he does, he needs to be watched closely in case injuries provide him with a chance to go off. He probably doesn’t have great redraft value, but his Dynasty appeal is very intriguing.
This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more 2014 Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.