With the NFL schedule being recently introduced and the draft only about a week away, we are officially approaching the “pre-pre” season of the NFL. The kids are only a couple months from being dismissed for summer break and before we know it, camp will open. It is fun during this time of year to ponder on the upcoming diamonds in the rough. While some of the names on this list are well known, they are beginning to be overlooked by fantasy gurus across the web. I want to bring them back to the light and explain how they will be fantasy relevant once again. As you will see, the players are mentioned by position with the standard scoring format in mind. I am keeping this first installment for the QBs, RBs, and WRs.
Philip Rivers – Rivers had a stellar bounce back season in 2013, throwing for over 4,000 yards, with 32 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. Some “experts” have him ranked in the high teens behind the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, and Jay Cutler. I am taking him before all of these players without question. I believe he is poised for a similar type season even without Whisenhunt in San Diego as his offensive coordinator. Mike McCoy is a quarterback coach who will again get the best out of his signal caller in 2014.
Michael Vick – It really does pain me to put him on this list, but with his ability, can’t it work for a few weeks? I definitely wouldn’t have him as my QB1, but I would consider drafting him in late rounds as a QB2 after I have stocked my roster with running backs, wide receivers, and my QB1. The quarterback situation in New York is murky and Vick could easily challenge Geno Smith for the starting job at the beginning of the season. I have seen Vick as low as 25 in some rankings – I would definitely take a chance on him here.
Jonny Manziel – Plain and simple, he is a dynamic playmaker. Wherever he lands in the draft (Houston, Cleveland, Oakland, Jacksonville, or Minnesota), he will have a chance to battle for the starting position. I like him more in Houston, Jacksonville, and Minnesota from a fantasy perspective as there will be minimal challenges for the position. Manziel’s scrambling and big play ability should be enough to warrant a consideration for a high end QB2. I would take him in the late rounds (anywhere from seven on) and stash him on my bench.
Toby Gerhart – Moving on to Jacksonville was a good choice as Gerhart finally has the opportunity to be the feature back in an offense. Over his career in Minnesota, Toby averaged 4.7 yards per carry. What makes me nervous are his lack of carries over the course of his short career. What makes me optimistic is that he is a tough, between the tackles runner that will pick up extra yards. I could see him entering the end zone on a handful of occasions, as well. Temper your expectations here though, I wouldn’t take him anywhere before the fifth or sixth round.
Darren Sproles – Here is one of those well known fantasy players ranked in the high thirties in many preseason lists. Chip Kelly is going to find a way to get this dynamic hybrid back the ball. I could easily see him breaking some screens open and finding the endzone from outside the twenty yard line a few times this season. While I wouldn’t draft him as my RB1 or RB2, I would definitely have him on my bench as a flex if I could score him in the upper rounds.
Rueben Randle – As of right now, it looks like Randle is the WR2 for the Giants. With the draft looming, it is probable that the Gmen will look towards another pass catcher in the early rounds to help Eli Manning have a bounce back year. Randle had 611 yards and six touchdown catches in his second season as a pro. These numbers could increase if Randle proves to his coaches and quarterback that he is the legitimate outside threat that they need.
Sammy Watkins – It is really hard adding a rookie wide receiver without a team to this list, but with Sammy’s skills, it is a must he is here. As a senior at Clemson, Watkins had 101 catches for 1,464 yards and 12 scores. Assuming that he has a decent quarterback throwing him the ball, Watkins should put up some good numbers. If he possibly finds a way to end up in Detroit, he will be opposite Calvin Johnson and will draw some single coverage. If Cleveland calls, the same scenario could result as he lines up away from Josh Gordon.
Harry Douglas – Believe it or not, Harry had over 1,000 yards receiving last year. We all know that he reaped the rewards of a Julio Jones injury, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that he was a worthy waiver wire acquisition. While I most likely wouldn’t draft him, I am definitely keeping him on my radar throughout the preseason. If there is any inkling of a Jones setback, Douglas enters my free agent short list.
Follow the Fantasy Doctor on Twitter @FFootballPHD for fantasy roster advice.