The late rounds of fantasy drafts are when some managers take their eyes off the ball. Another helping of tacos might get in the way of looking at a third wide receiver for the bench. One more cocktail may get a competitor to think more of a kicker than a rookie who could pop in the latter part of the season.
Trevor Lawrence went at pick No. 150 in 2022. He was coming off a horrendous rookie season. The golden-haired boy got a new head coach in Doug Pederson and passed for 4,113 yards and 25 touchdowns to finish as the QB8.
Christian Watson had an ADP of 174, then delivered an otherworldly four-game stretch with seven touchdowns in four games. Daniel Jones was the epitome of the late-round quarterback, with an ADP of 202. He finished QB9.
Quality is there for the taking late in drafts, which is why I’m here to deliver some of my favorite late-round picks you can take a look at now so you can remember them when those tacos are calling your name late in the draft.
These players have a Yahoo ECR of 150 or higher and are broken up by their position groups. In parenthesis is their ranking.
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers (165)
The Year 2 leap for a quarterback has been something to watch since Dan Marino blew away the league for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns in his sophomore season in 1984; probably even before then. Pickett has been the darling of the fantasy community this preseason, completing 13 of 15 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. This pass to George Pickens has fantasy managers three levels beyond excitement:
Kenny Pickett to George Pickens: pic.twitter.com/nilLmwVp4n
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 24, 2023
Pickett has two top receivers in Diontae Johnson, who has drawn 460 targets in the past three seasons, and Pickens, another sophomore who is looking toward a leap of his own. Pat Freiermuth saw 98 targets, good for second on the team, and he’s been the target of many fantasy managers looking to wait at tight end in drafts.
Pickett also has Konami Code rushing ability, leaving the pocket 55 times for 237 yards and three touchdowns last year. That was just behind Patrick Mahomes, who played in four more games. The Pickett leap is primed to happen.
Sam Howell, Washington Commanders (169)
The Commanders quarterback is another Year 2 candidate who had a big preseason. Playing in two games, he completed 28-of-37 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. While he showed some issues when under heavy pressure, there is a lot of promise in his game.
Like Pickett, Howell has elite pass catchers in Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel, as well as a good receiving back in Antonio Gibson. He also has running ability, as he rushed for 828 yards in his final collegiate season at North Carolina.
In Superflex formats, Howell shows promise as a second quarterback. Or in single-quarterback leagues, he’s a good backup for fantasy managers who are looking to wait on the position and form a tandem.
Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams (170)
Does Stafford appear to be healthy? Yes, even though he got some veteran rest days during Rams training camp, his arm looked plenty strong after he was hardly seen throwing in practice last year. Is Sean McVay still calling plays? That’s an affirmative. So why is he QB22?
The recency bias of fantasy managers — and some analysts — has focused on Stafford ending last season injured behind a porous offensive line. He appears to be fit, and although the Rams’ O-line is not going to make anyone forget Philadelphia's, there were resources allocated in the draft and free agency toward this unit.
Let’s remember that just two years ago Stafford passed for 4,886 yards and 41 touchdowns. Yes, he had a healthy Cooper Kupp, who had a setback in practice on Aug. 31 and his status to start the season is TBD. That is a concern, but a healthy Stafford will outperform this current ranking and be a solid second quarterback in Superflex leagues.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (243)
Let’s put something to rest: The Cardinals are not going to sit Murray the entire season. He had surgery on Jan. 3, so on opening night he’ll be more than eight months into his rehab and recovery. Nine months is the minimum that teams wait to begin to put players back on the field, according to Dr. Edwin Porras.
With a new regime in place, Arizona is going to want to see what it has in Murray to truly evaluate the 26-year-old quarterback. Even if the Cardinals go to 10 months before playing the 2019 No. 1 pick, that’s early November and leaves about half the season. Murray is still a player who averaged 22.2 fantasy points per game in 2021. To have that coming off the bench at any point is a good option for fantasy managers.
De’Von Achane, Miami Dolphins (155) & Roschon Johnson, Chicago Bears (179)
Finding attractive running backs after the top 150 was difficult, so I’m pairing these two rookies because they were highlighted in my recent Rookie Running Backs feature. For Achane, there is the news that Jeff Wilson Jr. was placed on IR and will miss the early part of the season. As long as Achane is sound after his shoulder injury, a sizable chunk of the rushing offense could be bestowed on him and Raheem Mostert this season.
Johnson is someone I’m targeting because he’s got a complete three-down skill set on a Bears team that, while it is looking to pass the ball more, is not going full-on Air Coryell. Plenty of carries are going to be available, and Johnson has fresh legs in a running back room with a pair of runners with injury histories.
When I talked with Falcons beat writer Daniel Flick of “Sports Illustrated” before training camp, he noted that while Bijan Robinson would get featured in the offense, Patterson would get a fair share of touches.
Last year, in Weeks 11-17, Patterson saw double-digit touches in five of six games. He had nine in the other. Head coach Arthur Smith will make sure Patterson is involved in the game plan. That could be an occasional thorn in the side of Robinson managers, but Smith will keep Patterson and Tyler Allgeier involved in the offense to keep from overworking the rookie.
Jalin Hyatt, New York Giants (161)
Young players with some bravado are always appreciated, and Hyatt switching to No. 13, which was previously worn by Odell Beckham Jr., certainly qualifies. The 2022 Fred Biletnikoff Award winner at Tennessee comes into the league with a reputation for blazing speed (4.40 at the combine) and raw route-running skills.
Paul Dottino of WFAN told me that the Giants were moving Hyatt all over the field during OTAs and mini-camp, which showed growth from the NFL scouting community seeing him as a slot-only receiver. Darren Waller is going to be the top target on this offense, yet Hyatt has breakaway ability that sets him apart from his Giants counterparts:
Jalin Hyatt absolutely TOASTED Sauce Gardner 😳
Hyatt is already proving his pre-draft critics wrong with his advanced route running so far.
Hyatt ended his first NFL preseason with 5 receptions, 31 yards, and 1 TD.
Hyatt is currently listed as the WR4 on the Giants depth… pic.twitter.com/uL7KOOaovZ
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) August 29, 2023
Daniel Jones had a passer rating of 119.4 on passes over 20 yards, which was second to Tua Tagovailoa (Fantasy Points Data). Jones needs a deep target, and Hyatt could be that game-changer. Getting him this late in the draft could be a steal, even if he doesn’t hit early in the season.
Curtis Samuel, Washington Commanders (178)
If Howell makes the leap, can he support multiple receivers? After battling back from injuries, Samuel played all 17 games and earned 92 targets in 2022. With 38 rushing attempts, he also got back into that dual-threat role he excelled at in Carolina.
Samuel appears to be the third option in the passing game, behind Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. McLaurin, however, is currently battling a toe injury, so if that slows him at the outset of the season, Samuel could see extra touches. In best ball leagues, Samuel was a target of mine late in drafts because of his ability to get carries on top of targets. In the 15th round and in leagues with lots of flexes, Samuel could be a startable option at some point.
Justyn Ross, Kansas City Chiefs (231)
At 6-4, 210 pounds, Ross could be the alternative to Travis Kelce when Patrick Mahomes is looking for a big target. Ross has yet to catch a pass in the NFL, though at Clemson he was plenty productive. In 2018, Ross had 1,000 receiving yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman. He eventually was diagnosed with a spinal condition during the NFL Draft process, which, for some, put his career in doubt.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach recently said that Ross is going to have a part-time role in the offense to begin the season. Will it grow into something larger? Hard to predict that. However, Ross is someone who looked like he might never play football again, and now he’s going to catch passes from the best quarterback on the planet. Getting a piece of that offense at almost the 20th round is a dart I want to throw.
Luke Musgrave, Green Bay Packers (166)
Yes, there’s the rookie tight end narrative that says avoid them at all costs, unless it’s 2021 Kyle Pitts. Then Musgrave started to showcase his receiving skills during mini-camp and was put on full display during preseason. He ran 37 routes in exhibition games, with 17 coming in the third and final game. In that same game, Christian Watson ran 18 routes. They’re also splitting him out wide, like on this play:
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 22, 2023
The 6-5, 253-pound Musgrave is off the tight end assembly line and will likely be the third or fourth option in the passing game for the Packers. As the TE22 in Yahoo rankings, he’s someone to keep an eye on as possibly a second tight end in a platoon. The potential for splash games is very real.
Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints (228)
Hill had six games of double-digit points last season. Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts played in 25 combined games last year and hit Hill's mark. Hill is far from a conventional tight end, as he caught only nine passes last year. But he rushed for 575 yards on 96 carries and scored nine touchdowns.
He’s going to get usage and occasional blow-up games for the Saints, though only Nostradamus would be able to predict them. But if you’re looking for a tight end who touches the ball, Hill is a late-round play to pair with someone like Freiermuth or Chig Okonkwo.