This is the home stretch. We are one week away from football. Real, actual football. That means there are only six days — and one weekend — left to draft. It also means there will be no more preseason surprises. Depth charts have been largely settled, while the opportunity for injury has dwindled. What you see is what you get with ADP, and what you get is a bevy of bargains, from the early rounds to the last. Here are 10 players bound to out-perform their draft position.
Last year’s RB13, Gore is being drafted as the RB21. On its face, it’s understandable. Gore is 31, and finished 2013 on a down note. But I’ve participated in four drafts over the past week, and gotten Gore at 57, 64, 57 and 65. The first two were “experts” leagues, the latter two “friends.” That’s far too low for a player who’s averaged 8.3 rushing touchdowns since Jim Harbaugh came to town. Sure, Carlos Hyde is going to siphon work, but who do you think the 49ers are going to trust near the goal line? The rookie or Frank Gore? You won’t regret stealing Gore in the fifth or sixth round.
Editor’s Note: Our 2014 online DRAFT GUIDE is now live! Inside you’ll find exclusive columns, rankings, projections, eight different mock drafts and tons more.
Decker is the WR35 in FantasyPros’ consensus ranks. Is Decker going to repeat last year’s WR8 finish? No. Is he a red-zone threat who’s going to soak up targets from an improving Geno Smith? Yes. Decker’s fall has been one of my summer obsessions. This is a player who caught eight scores with Tim Tebow (and Kyle Orton) under center in 2011. There’s simply no reason for him to be going behind the likes of Kendall Wright, Reggie Wayne, Golden Tate or even Mike Wallace. Decker will help in every category, but particularly where the money is made — touchdowns.
Rueben Randle/Kelvin Benjamin
What Randle and Benjamin lack in NFL track records, they make up for it in mammoth touchdown upside. Erase Randle’s mistake-prone 2013 from your mind and realize that he’s three months younger than Benjamin. Erase Benjamin’s rookie status and realize that he’s literally BFFs with Cam Newton. As the WRs 42 and 43, Randle and Benjamin are going directly behind Dwayne Bowe (WR41). Fantasy football is all about breakouts and upside. Pounce on it with Randle and Benjamin in the 100-120 range of your draft.
Chances are, if you’ve owned Mark Ingram before, you’ve sworn to never own him again. No one could blame you for being scarred. But if you can draft Toby Gerhart, you can draft Mark Ingram. Still only 24, Ingram quietly averaged 4.9 yards on his 78 carries last season, and has seen that number jump to 7.05 across 21 preseason totes. Ingram isn’t suddenly going to be Barry Sanders, but he’s the leader of the Saints’ retooled backfield, one who is going to see goal-line carries. He’s well worth the plunge as the RB42.
Ben Roethlisberger’s security blanket is another year older, but he’s also another year removed from blowing out his knee. Lots of Miller’s looks will be checkdowns, but he should soak up red-zone targets for a team with perhaps the shortest receiver corps in the NFL. Miller does not have monstrous upside, but currently the TE16, he could finish in the top 10. He’s an easy call for one of your final picks, particularly if you’re going with an unproven option like Zach Ertz or Ladarius Green as your starter.
Kelce is going essentially undrafted as the TE26. It’s very easy to overreact to preseason performances, but fantasy owners seem not to have noticed Kelce’s 10-185-2 August. Anthony Fasano isn’t that big of a roadblock. An offense hurting for weapons outside of Jamaal Charles is going to give Kelce opportunities to make explosive plays. He’s a no-risk, high-reward flier at the end of drafts.
The Cardinals have done one thing since drafting John Brown: Talk about him. Bruce Arians’ latest missive was telling The MMQB’s Peter King that Brown could play 60 percent of the Cardinals’ offensive snaps. That would be more than enough to put Brown — who currently doesn’t have an ADP — on the WR5 map. A T.Y. Hilton comparable who oozes big-play potential, Brown and his 4.34 wheels have 10 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown through three preseason games.
The man throwing to Brown, Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald should not be going behind Joe Flacco, but that’s the world we live in. Playing in the brutal NFC West, it’s hard to call a 34-year-old Palmer a “sleeper,” but he’s everything you could ask for in a matchup-play quarterback. Piloting a vertically-obsessed offense with weapons around every corner, Palmer is going to have big weeks more often than he has ordinary ones.
Bradshaw is currently the RB52, or approximately how many yards from scrimmage Trent Richardson will average before getting benched. That’s a joke, but could easily end up close to the truth. With serious neck and foot issues to his name, Bradshaw’s downside is considerable. But there’s really no such thing as downside when 51 other running backs are going ahead of you. There’s a non-zero percent chance Bradshaw starts multiple games, and that’s worth a late-round pick in any format.
When a highly-touted rookie back has the kind of season that Giovani Bernard did in 2013 — 16th in RB fantasy points, 1,209 yards from scrimmage — it’s only natural to assume he’ll take a step forward as a sophomore. But you don’t have to dig deep to find the warning signs for Bernard. The main one is Hill, a back Bengals.com believes could be ticketed for 200 carries — as many as Bernard. Many of those totes should come near goal-line, giving Hill instant fantasy credibility. Out-running Bernard this preseason (4.76 YPC on 21 carries compared to 20/2.45 for Bernard), Hill is easily out-running his 143.8 ADP.