Mid-Draft Targets

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Mid-Draft Targets

Well-known players who can't be sleepers, but will likely have a better season than is assumed by the public. Profiled players include Jay Cutler, Josh Freeman, Peyton Hillis, C.J. Spiller, and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

In this article we profile players that can be had from rounds 6-10 (based on current ADP), but have the upside to surprise in 2012. Many of the players mentioned in this piece might be flying under the radar and can be drafted for pennies on the dollar (which is part of the recipe for fantasy success). Even if one of your early round picks blows out a hammy, gets arrested, or flunks a drug test early in the season, you can still salvage your year if you build depth by accumulating enough fantasy assets throughout the draft. Rather than targeting the over-hyped rookie or paying for a career season, the astute fantasy owner will make a list of potential bounce back players that some might forget about. In this article we list players that are due to provide more value than their current ADP (average draft position). You are better off targeting players with an ADP closer to their expected floor as these undervalued assets with upside are the best way to ensure that you are victorious in your Super Bowl.

The reunion with Brandon Marshall and addition of South Carolina rookie WR Alshon Jeffery should be just what the doctor ordered for Jay Cutler. Cutler missed the final six games with a broken thumb (was averaging 231 YPG) and the Chicago passing game vanished with Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown under center. The Bears QB will also benefit from a reunion with first year Bear QB coach Jeremy Bates. Bates was Cutler's QBs coach in Denver in 2008 when he threw for a career-high 4,526 yards. The stars are aligned for Cutler to challenge for lower end QB1 status (provided his O-line can keep him from getting decapitated).

After tossing 25 TDs and just 6 INTs in 2010, Freeman regressed big time last season finishing with a very disappointing 16:22 TD:INT ratio. His 551 pass attempts were 8th most in the NFL last season, but those numbers will likely decline under run oriented first year head coach Greg Schiano. On the plus side, the free agent signing of WR Vincent Jackson will provide Freeman with the a downfield option he sorely lacked last year. Mike Williams could also bounce back in a #2 WR role, giving Freeman enough weapons to be selected as a QB2 and potential fantasy starter when the match-up is favorable. His dual threat ability is also an added bonus as the Kansas State alum has averaged 62 carries over the past 2 seasons.

The Madden curse reared its ugly head in 2011 as the albino rhino missed six games due to injury and finished with 161 carries for 587 yards and just 3 TDs for a Browns offense that ranked among the worst in the NFL. Hillis signed a 1-year contract with KC and will now be backing up Jamaal Charles (returning from ACL surgery). Hillis is just one season removed from a monster fantasy year (1600+ total yards, 13 TDs and 61 catches in 2010) and he's one of the higher profile handcuffs to own this season. As an added bonus, he'll be reunited with Chiefs OC Brian Daboll who was with the Browns in 2010 during Hillis' breakout season. The 26 year old RB has added value in PPR leagues and should be targeted in rounds 8/9 (possibly even earlier if you draft JC in the early rounds).

Spiller filled in admirably after Fred Jackson's season was cut short by a broken leg suffered in week 11. The second year RB averaged 74 yards per game on the ground over the final six games of the season, including 111 yards against the Broncos in week 16. His dual threat ability was also on full display as he added 187 receiving yards over that period. Spiller averaged 105.5 total yards per game and scored 5 TDs over the final 5 weeks of the 2011 season. Bills HC Chan Gailey said they will use Spiller more this year than they did before Jackson went down but that it won't be a 50/50 situation. Regardless, Spiller's value is trending upward (especially in PPR leagues) and he makes for a solid target in rounds 7/8. This very well could be the year that the Clemson alum begins to justify the Bills taking him with the 9th overall pick in the 2010 draft.

The former #7 overall pick showed flashes in his 3rd NFL season of what led Al Davis to take him so early in 2009. After languishing during his first two seasons, the Maryland alum made a mini breakout in 2011 finishing with 64 catches for 975 yards and 4 TDs. He's locked into a starting role this season; with Denarius Moore's status for week 1 in limbo due to a hamstring injury, DHB could see a major uptick in targets early in the season. Provided he can avoid suspension from an offseason DUI (which seems likely since it is his first offense), he has a solid chance to produce above and beyond his current 9th/10th round ADP.