With the second round of preseason games wrapped up, fantasy football fans are flocking to their draft rooms, hoping to catch a glimpse of something that no one else in the league has: a hidden gem. Stars drafted in the first couple of rounds will always perform on game day, but what makes or breaks a team is the players drafted in the later rounds of the draft, the always-coveted sleeper picks. Some fantasy owners rely on others to make a mistake in the draft room and then they pounce on the player they have been waiting for to be available, but with this list of players, you won’t have to wait for someone to make a fatal error and draft an oft-injured player.

My recommendations for a good draft are to go in with a plan and follow it. Draft two solid defenses so you can rotate between the two, depending on their opponents. Drafting favorite players will only get you so far. There has to be a time where hometown allegiances fade and you draft an arch rival’s player.

Players to avoid

Quarterback:

Jay Cutler — CHI: He turns the ball over too much and gets most of the blame for the inefficiencies of the Chicago offense. It has been debated as to whether or not he quit on the Bears in their NFC championship game last season. A player like this is not worth drafting.

Robert Griffin III — WAS: Griffin is a talented player that is, unfortunately, frequently injured. The head coach does not seem to respect him as a player, and as a result this reduces his fantasy value.

Running back:

Darren McFadden — DAL: McFadden is a player who is frequently injured, and he has big shoes to fill in the form of DeMarco Murray. Cowboy fans will have a hard time adjusting to the drop in production of the running back position. McFadden is an early candidate of mine to lose his starting job as the season goes along.

Jonathon Stewart — CAR: Cam Newton, the Carolina quarterback, had more rushing touchdowns than Stewart last season. With a weak offensive line, Stewart will have a hard time finding running room this season.

Wide receiver:

Keenan Allen — SD: I don’t hate the Chargers, but I hate how inconsistent Allen was for my fantasy team last season. His yardage totals were down and he only had a few games last season that were worthy of being in a starting lineup. He is their number one receiver, but he needs to be more consistent before I even consider adding him to my roster.

Torrey Smith — SF: Smith is one of the elite deep threat receivers in the game, a fact that has some fantasy appeal, but at times he has trouble getting separation and the difference in offensive production between the Ravens and the 49ers drastically hurts his fantasy value.

Tight end:

Julius Thomas — JAC: With Peyton Manning no longer throwing him the football, I don’t see him getting close to the fantasy value he had when he was a member of the Broncos. If you can draft him in a later round, he may be worth a pick, but the Jaguars’ offense has been anything but impressive in recent memory, so I’d recommend staying away from drafting him.

Defense:

Browns — DEF: Sorry Browns fans, but when you play in a division with three perennial playoff contenders, I can’t trust your defense to get me positive points.

Kicker:

Garrett Hartley — PIT: Hartley was a good kicker for the Saints, but he is now moving to Heinz field which is one of the most difficult kicking environments in the NFL. There are a lot of good kickers in the NFL; I’d stay away from Hartley because he is unproven in the tough kicking conditions of Pittsburgh.

Players to draft:

Quarterback:

Ben Roethlisberger — PIT: As a Ravens fan, it pains me to say it, but Big Ben is the epitome of consistency in Pittsburgh. With a strong offense and his ability to play through pain, Big Ben is a low-risk, high-reward player.

Teddy Bridgewater — MIN: Bridgewater received a great gift this offseason in the form of wide receiver Mike Wallace. Given the talent of Wallace and running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikings will have a very potent offense that can catapult Bridgewater from being a second quarterback on most fantasy teams into a starter.

Running back:

Matt Forte — CHI: One of the most undervalued superstars, Forte has year in and year out been one of the best fantasy running backs. If you have the chance to get him out of the top five players drafted, do it. You won’t be disappointed.

Todd Gurley — STL: Gurley will be a workhorse back for St. Louis, and if he can stay healthy, he will be a favorite for rookie of the year. I’m willing to overlook the injury that he suffered while at the University of Georgia and I’m betting that he will be one of the top performing running backs in both the NFL and fantasy football this season.

Wide receiver:

Mike Wallace — MIN: With Wallace coming to Minnesota, the Vikings now have a deep threat that they haven’t had since Percy Harvin left for Seattle. Wallace is a talented player and having one of the best running backs in the game in the same backfield will allow Wallace to find more opportunities to get open.

Mike Evans — TB: With Jameis Winston now throwing the ball, expect the production of Evans to explode. He was a stud in college, and he performed as a top receiver last season. With a better quarterback, the sky’s the limit for Evans — if he can stay healthy.

Tight end:

Jason Witten — DAL: Consistency is a key aspect of fantasy football and Witten has been a very consistent player throughout his career. With DeMarco Murray gone, expect Witten to have more targets come his way.

Defense:

Ravens — DEF: I’m a little concerned about their secondary, but year in and year out they are always a top performing fantasy defense.

Texans — DEF: Two words. J.J. Watt. One player shouldn’t be able to make that much of a difference, but he completely dominated the opposition last season. If you can draft both of these defenses, you won’t have to worry about picking up a defense week to week.

Kicker:

Justin Tucker — BAL: He is the most accurate kicker of all time. The Ravens score a lot and Tucker has two of the longest legs in the league. I may be biased, but the stats speak for themselves.

Hidden gems

Quarterback:

Sam Bradford — PHI: With Chip Kelly as coach, I believe Bradford will finally live up to his expected potential when the Rams drafted him 1st overall. If he can stay healthy, Bradford could be a fantasy commodity.
Brian Hoyer — HOU: Hoyer looked like the quarterback of the future for the Browns, but then they drafted Johnny Manziel and Hoyer was out of the job. Hoyer played well in the defensively sound AFC North and I believe the Texans have found their franchise quarterback, and that I have found you your backup quarterback for your fantasy team.

Running back:

Doug Martin — TB: With Winston as the quarterback and a more solid offensive line, I believe Martin can be relevant in fantasy again.

Ameer Abdullah — DET: Abdullah was a very dominant college runner. He should have high upside for the Lions and could push himself into a starter role. Stash him in your bench if you can.

Wide receiver:

Davante Adams — GB: With the injury to Jordy Nelson, expect Randall Cobb and Adams to be more involved in the passing attack. Eddie Lacy could steal some touches as well, so keep an eye on this situation to see how the third preseason game goes and if it is any indication on who will be getting more touches in Green Bay.

Nelson Agholor — PHI: Agholor will be the number two receiver in Philadelphia and he has put up a very impressive camp this far. A lot of people are high on him right now because of his tendency to make big plays out of nothing. Keep an eye out on him because he may be the next breakout star.

Tight end:

Maxx Williams — Right now Crockett Gilmore is the starter for the Ravens with the Dennis Pitta injury. It is unclear as to whether or not Pitta will play again. Williams is a stud from the University of Minnesota that has the potential to be the offensive rookie of the year if he can win the starting job. He may not be worth a draft pick at this time, but come week four, he could very easily be one of the top scoring tight ends in the league.

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