Boom or bust: seven late round players that will carry you to a fantasy football championship

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Jalen Hurts (2) is expected to take a bigger role in the eagles offense, and is ready to shock the league to exceed many people’s expectations

Lucas Quick, Assistant Sports Editor

As the 2021-22 NFL season is underway, the fantasy drafting period is coming to a close. When drafting, your first pick may be important but the most interesting part is in later rounds. In these later rounds, you can find players who may be diamonds in the rough, or have the potential to make a huge impact on your fantasy team this season.

Every year, I create a list of players who I believe are destined to breakout for the purpose of dominating the later rounds of my draft!

In previous seasons, I’ve made some really great predictions, such as expecting the breakout of Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley, along with Washington Football Team’s running back Antonio Gibson. I also made a few bad predictions, as I expected Rams Tight End Tyler Higbee would finish top five and took him in every draft imaginable, and the hype train of Higbee crashed very quickly. 

It’s a new season however, and it’s time to take a deeper look at these seven players who are available as early as the seventh round, and as late as the 13th or 14th round. I believe these seven players will break out to be the next stars of the NFL and be the reason you win your fantasy leagues.

 

Michael Carter (RB – New York Jets):

Michael Carter is heading into his rookie year in the NFL, as the Jets took Carter with their 107th pick in the NFL draft. This 5’ 8” RB played most of his college career splitting carries of playing behind his North Carolina teammate and current Denver Broncos rookie RB in Javonte Williams. Even so, Carter was still able to make a huge impact, making him one of the top running backs going into the 2021 NFL draft. He’s in a very similar position that he was throughout his college career because he is expected to split carries with Tevin Coleman to start the season, which has lowered his ADP.

As Coleman enters his sixth season in the league, the 28 year old must prove himself to be the main RB in the Jets offense. Coleman has been injury prone in the past, and Carter would fill in if he did get injured and would get a heavier workload, which is a very good possibility to occur at some point this season, making that time Carter’s to prove he’s the main guy the Jets have been needing in running back position for years.  

Carter’s situation also reminds me heavily of Antonio Gibson’s rookie season, when Gibson had to fight taking the lead role and was able to get it after a month into last season. He really turned out to be a running back who fantasy managers could rely on week in and week out. As the season progresses, Carter can fit himself in the same position as Gibson was in. With Carter’s ADP (average draft position) heading around pick 92, Carter can become a reliable player in your flex position later in the season, having a huge impact on your team..

 

Antonio Brown (WR – Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Pretty weird to say one of the best receivers in the last decade is in my list for the breakout column. After a season and a half with the whole tension between Brown and the Raiders, then lasting only one week with the New England Patriots, Antonio Brown finally got back in the mindset of taking the NFL seriously, as he signed with his former week long teammate and the Bucs around the halfway mark of last season. 

Brown last year had a slow start with his debut, but picked up in the last few games, as he finished his eight games with the Buccaneers tallying 483 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. Certainly it isn’t amazing stats but for an eight-game span and without being in the league for about a year and a half, it’s certainly a start Brown can build on this season, as he also made an impact in the playoffs as well. 

The Bucs receiving core is pretty busy, and Brady didn’t tend to throw to only one guy last year, as he distributed pretty evenly toward Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, as well with Rob Gronkowski and Scotty Miller. Brown has already easily proved he can make an impact in his career, it definitely will never be the same as before, as the 32 year old heads to his 12th season.

But with Brady’s distribution toward all his weapons, Brown is a reliable player in the seventh and eighth round in your fantasy draft, and certainly can be Tampa’s leading receiver in yards this year. We’ve seen what he can do in the past, he can easily go back to being a player in your starting lineup this season.

 

Jalen Hurts (QB – Philadelphia Eagles)

Last season the Eagles were a mess, and wasn’t the 8-9 win team most of us were expecting, as Carson Wentz took a huge stepback to a point he was benched and the young Quarterback in Jalen Hurts to take over the starting role to finish the last three and a half games of last season. The Eagles unexpected second rounder from Oklahoma did play fairly well with his first three games of his career, finishing with 1,061 passing yards, six touchdowns, and four interceptions, and the stat people are most worried about, his QBR (Quarterback rating) of 77.6. 

As Carson Wentz was traded away to the Indianapolis Colts during the off-season, Jalens Hurts has now fully embraced the starting role of the Eagles. Head coach Nick Sirianni has given Hurts the green light to start week 1.

Hurts in those three weeks of last season showed he can be a reliable QB1, as he finished in the top 10 category in those weeks, showing off his rushing ability and racking up 364 yards and 3 touchdowns with his feet. That’s the main reason why Hurts is a must draft player for your draft. Any Quarterback with a rushing ability is a huge asset in getting a high scoring Quarterback on your team. Hurts would’ve exceeded over 1700 yards if he kept the same pace with his rushing ability for a 17 game span. Hurts can be a major gem, as his ADP is around pick 91, making him a breakout candidate in the 8th or 9th round. 

Although Jalen Hurts’ future with the Eagles is uncertain, he is certainly a player you should snag in every draft. I believe Jalen Hurts will finish as the QB7 overall, exceeding his ADP and your expectations with him on your team. He is a clear player to make an impact on your championship run.

It’s time to take a deeper look at these seven players who are available as early as the seventh round, and as late as the 13th or 14th round”

 

Philip Lindsay (RB – Houston Texans)

A Texans player on this list?! It is a weird sight as the Texans have lost touch with their starting Quarterback in Deshaun Watson, where it’s uncertain whether Watson will start the season or even if he’ll be in a Texans uniform by the end of this season. It’s a bad situation for the Texans, as they currently look like the worst team in the league, with a shaky team in almost every position, including the running back depth.

Lindsay signed a 3.25 million dollar contract with the Texans, with him and along with two other Running Backs in David Johnson and Mark Ingram. The starting role for the Texans RB group isn’t determined just yet, but I think Lindsay can easily show out, turning into the Texans main back. Lindsay took a step back with the Broncos last season, when Melvin Gordon took the role, leaving Lindsay in the dust, forgotten nearly. Lindsay can easily make a statement this season, proving to the league he deserves to have a starting role in the Texans offense.

Lindsay is also a much safer option in your fantasy draft, as Mark Ingram is now 31 years old, which almost all Running backs start to take a step back in their careers when they hit the age of 30. And then there’s David Johnson, who certainly wasn’t a bad player last season, having some solid games. But Johnson will turn 30 as well in December, making the curse of running backs soon to hit him, not to mention his risk of injury. 

All of these traits show the way of Lindsay heading into the role. He has shown he can be a flashy and effective running back in his first few seasons with the Broncos and can definitely carry that trait along with them for your fantasy team this season. With Lindsay’s current ADP heading around pick 149, around the last few rounds of your draft. Lindsay is more of a good bench option, and can fill in your flex or even RB2 position throughout this season. Do not lose hope in Lindsay; he still has a lot of gas left in his tank.

 

Marquez Callaway (WR – New Orleans Saints)

If I had one player that I told you that you absolutely must draft in every league of yours, it’s easily Marquez Callaway. The Saints have a much different look to their offense, as Drew Brees announced his retirement, and with Michael Thomas put on the Saints PUP list (player unable to perform), making him already miss at least five weeks.

This gives Callaway the green light to being the Saints number one receiver to open up this season, and possibly the entire season. As Callaway is heading to his sophomore year in the NFL, he already is in a perfect position to take a huge step forward, especially with him not being used very much last season. 

We were able to get a small sample of what Marquez Callaway’s impact was on the Saints in their second preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the first half Marquez Callaway shined above others, tallying five receptions, 104 yards and two touchdowns, making Callaway’s performance that week being one of the more memorable ones from all the preseason games. 

Michael Thomas’ future is very uncertain with the Saints, as the possibilities of the Saints trading him away at some point during this season is possible. With Thomas’ future not looking the best with New Orleans, that’s where Callaway lands, in your hands in the 11th and 12th rounds as his current ADP is around 130. Callaway will make an impact and is the next rising star. I have Callaway finishing as a top 20 Wide receiver, there’s no reason imaginable to pass on him, he has the golden opportunity, he will be the top breakout of the 2021-22 season.

 

Darnell Mooney (WR – Chicago Bears)

Most known for taking NFL’s top cornerback Jalen Ramsey down on a phenomenal route back in last season, Mooney is yet again, another great receiver coming out of the 2020 NFL draft. Mooney surely didn’t have a flashy rookie campaign, as he finished the season with 61 receptions for 631 yards and 4 touchdowns but it’s definitely a start to build on. 

Mooney was also the Bears third receiving option last season, as he played behind both Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller last season and Mooney outshined Miller by a mile last season. Anthony Miller has now departed out of Chicago and now with the Houston Texans, making Mooney the clear second option for the Bears. 

Mooney has also been one of the Bears highlights in training camp, showing off his phenomenal speed and route running. The Bears also now have two new Quarterbacks who both are expected to start with Andy Dalton and rookie Justin Fields, which both should be fair upgrades for the Bears receiving core after having Mitchell Trubisky under center.

It’s possible that I’m determining for Mooney to breakout a year early, as most young receivers don’t tend to show out to be the main guy after three seasons, but Mooney showed his quick elusiveness and showed everything he can possibly do to take a bigger step forward in his sophomore season. With his ADP heading around pick 135, there’s no risk you are taking on a talented young receiver in the 13th round of your draft. Mooney has already impressed the Bears, as he will do the same thing throughout this fantasy season.

Jameis Winston (QB – New Orleans Saints)

An odd sight isn’t it, seeing Jameis being the starting QB of the team where he made his pregame speech of the Buccaneers with his infamous “eat a W” line as the Buccaneers proceeded to lose that game.

 Jameis Winston hasn’t really been the guy that we thought he was as he had a very successful college career with Florida State, but although Winston doesn’t seem like the consistent, star player you would want in a QB, Winston was actually a really productive QB in his last season with Tampa Bay in 2019, as he led the NFL in passing yards with 5,109 yards, along with 33 touchdown passes. But the one thing that’s always affected Jameis’ play in his career is turnovers, as he threw a league high 30 interceptions that season. 

It certainly is never good to have any more than 20 interceptions in a new season, but Winston still has a lot to prove at a young age as he’s only 27. Winston will take over the starting role in New Orleans as Drew Brees announced his retirement during the offseason and even though the Saints don’t have that flashy offense anymore, there is a lot of young talent now in the offense to prove this season.

We all know the dominance Kamara consistently shows every year with the Saints, but Winston seemed to have a great connection with Marquez Callaway in their first game together as he threw two touchdown passes to Callaway against the Jaguars. In that moment was the possible birth of a strong duo of a QB and WR that a lot of people won’t expect to come this season. 

Winston has a lot to prove, and I’m not one hundred percent confident that he will turn out to be the Saints next guy along with being a game in, game out top 15-20 quarterback. But Winston has shown he can produce a lot in an offense, as he has three seasons with over 4,000 passing yards. 

Winston’s ADP is currently at pick 153, making him a player that no one might not even take in your draft. I highly recommend taking a risk on Winston in the final rounds of your draft, just snag him on your last bench spot and see if he can produce. I still have faith in Winston, but it’s a lot to ask from him this season, but I still believe Winston will at least finish as a top 24 QB, and has the potential of even being in the QB 12-15 category.