10 Day 3 Draft Picks Who Could Surprise in 2014
The only thing better than watching the entire NFL Draft is analyzing the picks afterwards to find those potential fantasy gems that could become bargains in fantasy football drafts. Immediately following the NFL draft, we began evaluating and adjusting depth charts to account for the biggest picks of the weekend. How much value does Sammy Watkins have? How high should Bishop Sankey go? Will Johnny Manziel start opening day? These are the kinds of questions on the minds of all fantasy owners as we transition from the NFL offseason to the fantasy pre-season.
But what about the 156 players drafted on day three? What about the players who will form a core of special teams and reliable depth for years to come as cheap roster filler for NFL teams? Surely there must be some fantasy gold to mine out of that final draft day, or at least some good quality ore. I took a look at every offensive fantasy position drafted in rounds four through seven and determined a list of ten players that I think have a chance to be fantasy sleepers this year.
A few caveats first:
These are all later round picks, so most likely they’ll be fighting for roster spots.
This list is not supposed to mean that I love a guy like Devonta Freeman enough to consider drafting him along with the Bishop Sankeys of the world; rather that these guys have the potential to become fantasy viable and are worth keeping an eye on.
We all know opportunity rules, so the guys listed below are not only talented, but are players who have the clearest path to game day opportunities.
Because there are no quarterbacks projected to start out of day three this year, none made the top ten list.
There are no kickers on my list, though the kicking situation in Detroit and in Washington may end up going to rookie seventh round picks Nate Freese from Boston College and the strong legged Zach Hocker from Arkansas, respectively.
Tight ends also didn’t make the list, purely because the only two later round tight ends with a likely chance to make the roster are Dolphins fifth rounder Arthur Lynch out of Georgia, and seventh round pick Rob Blanchflower out of UMASS who went to Pittsburgh; both of whom are expected to make a difference blocking, rather than receiving.
Editor's Note: Senior Editor John Paulsen's 2014 Rookie Rundown covers possible fantasy impact players from days 1 and 2 of the NFL Draft.
Day 3 Prospects With Deep Sleeper Potential
That being said, let’s take a look at some under-the-radar, day three prospects for fantasy owners to keep an eye on:
Andre Williams, RB, Giants – The Giants knew what they were doing when they took this Doak Walker Award winner in the fourth round. Williams blew up his senior season with over 2,100 yards on the ground at Boston College, and he’s an effective, powerful runner with the size and vision to succeed on the next level. Questions about his speed and agility, as well as his lack of third down skills made him drop to day three, but Williams is a player who likely would’ve been considered a lock as a day two prospect in a draft with less depth and in a time when running backs were more heavily valued. With Rashad Jennings, Peyton Hillis, and a still recovering David Wilson on the depth chart ahead of him, Williams more than any other player on this list, has a chance to not only make the final 53 man roster, but to get some significant playing time as well. Keep an eye on the camp battle at running back in New York.
Storm Johnson, RB, Jaguars – Johnson has the ability to be one of the few seventh round choices who makes a significant impact his rookie year. He’ll have to beat out Jordan Todman for the backup running back spot in Jacksonville, but if he does, he’ll be behind free agent signee Toby Gerhart on the depth chart; a guy who has been a career backup and has had injury issues even in that role. Johnson had 14 touchdowns and over 1,100 yards for UCF last season and he’s a decisive runner with a good combination of size and speed. Johnson has good hands out of the backfield as well, giving him added opportunities behind Gerhart.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons – This fourth round pick out of Florida State is a short, thickly built complimentary back with a nose for the end zone. He scored 30 touchdowns in three years splitting time in the Seminoles backfield, including 14 last season alone. Freeman will have to fight off Jacquizz Rodgers for snaps, but behind an aging and injury prone Steven Jackson, he has as good a chance as any to steal some carries in a Falcons offense that should be improved with the addition of first round tackle Jake Matthews.
Bruce Ellington, WR, 49ers – Counting on a rookie in San Francisco is always risky business, as Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has thus far used rookies in a red shirt capacity throughout his early tenure. Ellington has a chance to be the exception however, if he can earn the slot role over newly acquired former Bill, Stevie Johnson. Ellington was a fourth round pick out of South Carolina, and is an undersized but explosive option out of the slot, a position of need for the 49ers. With aging Anquan Boldin, and the recently injured Johnson and Michael Crabtree on the depth chart ahead of him, it is very possible that Ellington can use his excellent hands and savvy route running ability to earn a spot on the field in year one.
Alfred Blue, RB, Texans – Had he not torn an ACL in 2012, this talented and explosive back from LSU might not have lasted all the way to the sixth round where the Texans snatched him up. His numbers don’t pop out at you, but Blue has the versatility and running talent to make a difference at the next level if he’s given the opportunity. On a Houston team with a breaking down Arian Foster, and newly acquired Andre Brown coming off a broken leg, Blue may have an opportunity to get half a dozen carries a game if he can stay healthy himself.
Jalen Saunders, WR, Jets – Saunders is a short and fast slot receiver out of Oklahoma who the Jets grabbed in the fourth round. While he’s one of three receivers the Jets picked up in the draft, not to mention a tight end in the second round, Saunders is perhaps the best fit for the Jets offense out of the group. He’ll line up in the slot, leaving Eric Decker and Stephen Hill outside, with his only main competition coming from Jeremy Kerley and the disappointing combination of Clyde Gates and Jacoby Ford. With Hill failing to live up to expectations, it’s very possible that Kerley could move outside, giving Saunders an opportunity to show off his playmaking ability from the slot position. While not a lock to see the field in year one, he has as good a chance as any to provide the Jets with some much needed receiving help.
Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Ravens – Taliaferro may not have been a popular pick in the fourth round out of Coastal Carolina, but where there’s opportunity, there’s fantasy potential. This small school product is a bigger back who runs with good pad level and gets downhill in a hurry, He’s not going to run away from faster defenders however, and he doesn’t have a whole lot of shimmy to make players miss. What he will do is follow his blockers and pick up the yards that are available with decisive, power running. With Bernard Pierce disappointing last season, and Ray Rice having legal issues, Taliaferro is a name to keep in the back of your mind.
Tyler Gaffney, RB, Panthers – Gaffney was highly productive his senior year at Stanford and probably slid to the sixth round because he lacks an extra gear. But he’s a versatile player who already blocks better than a lot of NFL backs and he’s going to a dicey running back situation in Carolina, where DeAngelo Williams is aging fast and Jonathan Stewart can’t seem to stay on the field. Gaffney will start the season fighting with Kenjon Barner for the right to back up Williams and Stewart, but the Panthers need to get something out of their running game, and if those two can’t get it done, Gaffney might get a look.
Jeremy Gallon, WR, Patriots – As a seventh round pick out of Michigan, going to a crowded depth chart in New England, it’s unlikely that Gallon will do much, and he’s not even assured a roster spot. However, Gallon is an undersized slot receiver, who runs tough, has solid hands, and knows how to get open. He’s not terribly dissimilar from Julian Edelman and Wes Welker, other unheralded draft picks who lined up in the slot for Tom Brady and excelled. You never know what will happen in New England, but Gallon is a name worth stashing in the back of your mind.
Brandon Coleman, WR, Saints – Coleman went undrafted out of Rutgers, but he has the size and measurables of an elite WR1 if only he could learn to run routes and catch the ball! Coleman is a raw prospect with tremendous size and speed, who showed a knack in college for being able to go up and get it in traffic and to get downfield. He will have an uphill battle ahead of him to make the roster in New Orleans, but if he does, then he has as good a chance as any of the unproven Saints pass catchers to earn playing time. Any receiver in the Saints offense, while inconsistent, has value. Watch Coleman in camp and preseason to see if he makes the final 53.
Day 3 Quarterbacks Who Could Win Backup Jobs
Additionally, the following QB’s are worth noting. While these players are unlikely to win starting jobs in their rookie season, they are talented enough and have enough opportunity to win the backup jobs early on:
Zach Mettenberger, Titans – This sixth round pick out of LSU is a big, statuesque quarterback with a very strong arm. He slid to the sixth round because of accuracy and decision making issues on the field, but no one questions whether or not this kid can sling it. In the NFL, opportunity rules, and Mettenberger is going to a team with Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst ahead of him on the depth chart. Though he doesn’t appear ready for the next level yet, Mettenberger has an outside chance of playing for the Titans early considering the depth chart.
David Fales, Bears – From San Jose State, Fales is a gutsy player who won’t wow you with his measurables but looks good behind center with the lights on. A prospect who compares favorably to a guy like Matt Moore, Fales is going to a Bears team that lost their previous backup quarterback and has a starter who has missed games due to injury in consecutive years. Look for Fales to win the backup job, and if Jay Cutler goes down, he has a chance to see some starts in the fantasy friendly Marc Trestman offense.
Aaron Murray, Chiefs – Murray is a gamer who sometimes looked like an NFL prospect at Georgia, and other times looked lost on the field. Still, for a fifth round pick, he goes to a situation where the starter is Alex Smith, a player who lacks the playmaking skills of an upper echelon starting QB. Murray isn’t likely to beat out Smith his rookie year, but he has some long term value, and he definitely has a good chance to beat out Chase Daniels for the backup spot.
A.J. McCarron, Bengals – McCarron was a proven winner for Alabama and was a surprise drop to the fifth round. Scouts questioned his arm strength and his ability to transition to the NFL, but you can’t deny his success at the collegiate level. McCarron goes to a Bengals team that is starting to sour on starter Andy Dalton who looks average to above average at best on most days. If Dalton falters this season, it is possible McCarron could get a look. McCarron may however, have an uphill battle beating out veteran Jason Campbell for the backup spot.