In case you haven't noticed, there's a lot of craziness going on in the world right now. Which is why the return of fantasy football feels like a welcome relief. Yes, it's just a silly fictional game about a game, but sometimes in life, we need distractions and pastimes like this to keep us sane and centered. That is of course, until Week 1 when a backup running back is stealing your first-round pick's goal-line opportunities and you tilt right off the planet. But we're months away from that, so fear not. There's still time to enjoy fantasy football.
As you begin the long journey of prepping for your fantasy football draft, you'll undoubtedly read countless strategy and sleeper articles. One thing most will touch on is finding value in the draft and exploiting it to your benefit. That's the whole point of this late-round series we've run for the past two years. Our hopes are that we can highlight a handful of players being overlooked in fantasy drafts who can help you win a championship. With Marcas Grant crushing quarterbacks and Matt Franciscovich dropping knowledge on running backs, that left little old me with wide receivers. While I'm no Matt Harmon, I gave my best crack at unearthing some wide receivers in the later rounds who could pay huge fantasy dividends below. If you load up on running backs, tight ends and a quarterback in the earlier rounds, scooping up one or more of these pass-catchers could help round out a championship-caliber roster.
UPDATE: Meredith suffered a torn ACL in the preseason and will be out for the year.
Often times, some the best fantasy options to target late are over-looked, presumptive No. 1 wide receivers on bad offenses. That's the case with Cameron Meredith falling to the 10th round this summer. Sure, the Bears could be a bit of a disaster this year with questions at quarterback and all of the skill positions (save Jordan Howard), but Meredith proved himself capable of producing in the NFL in 2016 and now should have a wealth of opportunities headed his way with Alshon Jeffery in Philadelphia.
Meredith didn't suit up in the first two weeks of the season, but still managed 888 yards, 66 receptions and four touchdowns on just 97 targets. In fact, from Week 10 on Meredith was the WR12 in fantasy, playing on 86 percent of the Bears offensive snaps during that span. At just 24, Meredith still has time to grow and develop as an NFL receiver but showed progress throughout the 2016 campaign.
Chicago's signings of Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright and Victor Cruz added depth this offseason, but no one from that trio figures to contest Meredith's status as top dog. Kevin White is the big question mark, as many are wondering what the former first-round pick has in store for his third season after two injury-plagued campaigns to start his career. Until White proves himself a reliable option, expect Meredith to lead the team in targets, possibly near the end zone too as he tied for tops on the team with 12 in that space last year. If the quarterback play from Mike Glennon and/or Mitchell Trubisky is even mediocre, Meredith should be able to return great value in fantasy.
UPDATE: Enunwa has been placed on injured reserve with a neck injury rendering him undraftable in fantasy.
Gone with Decker and Marshall are nearly 150 targets, many of which will fall to Enunwa. He already took on 19 percent of the team's passing game last season, and could push into the high 20s this year. The big question for Enunwa will be if he transitions into a true No. 1 role and plays more of the "X" position, or if the team keeps him as more of a "Z"/slot receiver hybrid. Last year, Enunwa lined up tight to the line of scrimmage or in the slot on roughly 77 percent of his snaps, which is also where he accumulated most of his stats (42 receptions, 516 yards, three touchdowns). While more of his stats came inside, Enunwa was quite efficient on his targets when lined up out wide. He caught 75 percent of his targets (14 of 20) for 331 yards and one touchdown, for an average of 23.64 yards per reception.
The Jets really don't have many other options in the passing game after Enunwa at this point (second-year man Robby Anderson is there, as is former Bear Marquess Wilson) so volume shouldn't be an issue. The quality of his targets, however, could be. Josh McCown is the starter, but the team could try to "see what they have" with Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg if the season takes a southward turn in a hurry. Either way, with such a late draft price Enunwa will be hard to ignore.
Before we start, I'd like to encourage all of you who end up drafting Adam Thielen to avoid the soon-to-be-trite "Hooked on a Thielen" fantasy team name. Be different and come up with a more unique pun. For instance, how about "Once more, with Thielen," "Thielen Groovy" or "Thielen and dealing"? Anyway, after an impressive 2016 campaign that netted him a hefty contract extension, Theilen is firmly on the late-round wide receiver radar.
Thielen acquitted himself well last year, nearly hitting 1,000 yards in the Vikings offense despite seeing fewer than 100 targets. Critics will point to the fact that roughly 48 percent of his fantasy points came from just three big games (Weeks 5, 14, 16). However, that also proves week-winning performances are in his range of outcomes. Plus, he saw at least five targets in 11 games last season and was efficient with his opportunities. Thielen was one of only four wide receivers to post a catch rate of 70-plus percent with 12-plus yards per reception in the NFL last year (min. 70 targets). The other three were Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Doug Baldwin. Also working in Thielen's favor should be a more consistent, structured passing attack. The Minnesota aerial game was in flux last season, transitioning to Sam Bradford at quarterback in Week 2 (via an offseason trade) and then later transitioning from Norv Turner to Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator following Week 8. In 2017, a fully healthy Stefon Diggs, Bradford and Thielen should be able to hit the ground running.
Lastly, Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson are no longer with the team, vacating 107 targets, though some of those will trickle over to free agent acquisition Michael Floyd and possibly secdond-year receiver Laquon Treadwell. Even if Diggs receives a bump as well, it's not unreasonable to project Thielen for around 100-110 targets and 1,000 yards this season. In Round 12, that represents a nice WR3/flex option to play in the right matchups at the very least.
To a certain extent, I understand the haters here. Britt has long been a fantasy tease, with only a single 1,000-yard season to his name despite playing in the NFL since 2009. People feel he's old, that we know who he is, and to cap it all off ... he's now playing for the Browns. However, these perceptions have made Britt one of the best fantasy values of the season.
Three of the Browns top five targeted pass-catchers last year are no longer with the team (Terrelle Pryor, Gary Barnidge, Andrew Hawkins), opening up 276 targets. Many of those will filter to Corey Coleman and first-round pick David Njoku, but opportunities will be there for Britt and it isn't crazy to project him for 120-ish looks in the passing game. Britt is coming off a season where he finished as the WR27 in fantasy (standard scoring) with a stat line of 111 targets, 68 receptions, 1,002 yards and five touchdowns. It's worth mentioning too that he delivered this performance catching passes from Case Keenum and a completely overwhelmed Jared Goff. The quarterback play might not be significantly better in Cleveland this year, with rookie DeShone Kizer, sophomore Cody Kessler, and Brock Osweiler duking it out for starting honors, but it shouldn't be worse.
Standing 6-foot-3, Britt will also be a target near the red zone for the Browns. Four of his five scores from 2016 came inside 20-yards, and he could be favored close to the end zone over the 5-foot-11 Coleman. The trio of Pryor, Hawkins and Barnidge combined for 29 red-zone targets a season ago and someone will have to help fill that void. Combining opportunity, an improved quarterback situation, and bountiful red-zone opportunities, it isn't hard to see why Britt is being massively undervalued as the 57th receiver off the board.
I've already waxed poetic about Kenny Stills as a deep sleeper once this offseason, so for the full breakdown click here . DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills posted similar stat lines in 2016, but Parker for some reason is going six or more rounds earlier than Stills in fantasy drafts. That's a steep price to pay for a secondary wide receiver on what figures to be a run-first offense led by Ryan Tannehill. One of these wide receivers could break out, but the savvier draft investment is Stills given his affordable cost. Adam Gase is a big fan of Stills and gave him a $32 million dollar contract in free agency, while he's continually called out Parker, trying to coax the undeniable talent out of the inconsistent youngster. Stills is a far better value than his teammate and could be an absolute steal if Parker fails to deliver again in 2017.
A lot is changing for the Rams in 2017, as Gregg Rosenthal astutely noted in a recent must-read piece. Jared Goff is the full-time starter from Day 1. Offensive wunderkind Sean McVay is the new head coach. Kenny Britt, Brian Quick and Lance Kendricks are gone, taking with them 275 combined targets. And Robert Woods is returning home (he played at USC and is from Gardena, Calif.) as a potential target monster. Maybe "monster" is a bit generous, but Woods figures to fill the Pierre Garcon-role from McVay's offenses in Washington. Over the last three years Garcon cleared 100 targets in each season, with 19.2, 20, and 18.8 percent of the team targets from 2014-2016, respectively. Now, that didn't net him an immense amount of fantasy points, as his highest finish in standard scoring was as the WR32 in 2016. But the point here is that there will be fantasy points to be had in this Los Angeles passing attack, and Woods looks to be the most reliable option of the group. He could at the very least offer a safe weekly floor in PPR formats, or be a matchup-based option in deeper standard leagues when the Rams figure to be in pass-heavy game scripts.
-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar or "Like" his page on Facebook. He'd like to state for the record that he has not had any contact with Russian operatives. And while Alex received an email from someone claiming to have "dirt" on Marcas Grant, he did not respond and forwarded it to the proper authorities ... like any sane person would.