Just like I featured my 2013 Fantasy Football Draft Day Duds, below are my 2013 Fantasy Football Draft Day Studs. These are NFL players I’ll be targeting in most of my fantasy football drafts this year, either because they are offering great value based on where they are currently being drafted - or because they are poised to have a breakout or big year.
The Draft Studs
Matthew Stafford (QB, DET) - Over the past two seasons in the NFL, no quarterback has thrown the ball more than Stafford, who had 663 passing attempts in 2011 and 727(!) in 2012. Of those 727 passes last year, only 20 went for touchdowns, which was less than half the total number of scores (41) Stafford threw the year prior. It’s a fluky total considering Lions pass catchers were tackled inside the 5-yard line an astounding 23 times last year. Fortunately, that fluky number of touchdowns has caused Stafford to slip in drafts this year. Currently, he’s going in the 6th round or later in early NFFC drafts, which is tremendous value for an elite talent at the QB position. So instead of reaching for Brees, Rodgers or Manning in Rounds 2-3, I’ll be stockpiling the top running backs and wide receivers and targeting Stafford three or four rounds later.
Maurice Jones-Drew (RB, JAC) - Similar to Stafford, I absolutely love the price on Maurice Jones-Drew right now. He’s a Top 12 overall fantasy talent being drafted in the 3rd or 4th Round of early NFFC drafts. Yes, Jones-Drew’s Lisfranc injury limited him to only six games last year, but he’s reportedly “back to normal” again with no pain or swelling in his foot. It’s not like Jacksonville has many offensive weapons. In fact, Jones-Drew is pretty much it, aside from Cecil Shorts and potentially Justin Blackmon if he ever gets his you-know-what together. Also, consider the fact that Jacksonville vastly improved their offensive line by adding Luke Joeckel via the draft. If that’s not enough to convince you to draft Jones-Drew in the 3rd or 4th Round, I don’t know what is. I would even take him in the late-second round.
Randall Cobb (WR, GB) - If last year was any indication, the diminutive third-year receiver can do it all for Green Bay. He can catch the ball, return kicks and punts on Special Teams and he can even run the ball out of the backfield. That type of versatility is hard to find in the NFL and makes Cobb one of my favorite draft targets this year, especially in PPR leagues. It helps that his quarterback is one of the best in the league, and Aaron Rodgers has expressed his confidence and trust in Cobb by saying he could catch 100 passes this year. Cobb has been going in Round 3 in most early drafts, so he might not have the draft value that Stafford and Jones-Drew have at the moment. Still, he should still be a great pick at that spot and have the best season of his young career.
Jason Witten (TE, DAL) - The eleven year pro very quietly had one of the best seasons of his career last season after posting career highs in catches (110) and targets (148). Witten’s performance went somewhat under-the-radar, though, because he only scored three touchdowns. True, he might not be the number one scoring option in Dallas with Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Demarco Murray in town, but Witten is an incredibly reliable - and perhaps most importantly, durable - fantasy option at a weak Tight End position. His value increases drastically in PPR formats.
Houston Texans (D/ST, HOU) - My strategy when drafting D/ST for my team has always been to wait until the second-to-last round (drafting a Kicker goes last, obviously). This season, everyone is excited about the Seahawks, 49ers and Bengals as elite fantasy options, but let’s talk about a serviceable D/ST that might actually be available in the second-to-last round of your draft: the Houston Texans. Anchored up front by the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt, in the middle by now-healthy linebacker Brian Cushing, and in the secondary by Jonathan Joseph and former Defensive Player of the Year, Ed Reed (healthy or not, he’s still a huge addition to this team), the Texans are poised to pick up where they left off last season to finish ranked among the Top 10 fantasy defenses. It helps that a quarter of their regular season games are played against Tennessee and Jacksonville, two of the most anemic offenses in the NFL.
Who are your Draft Day Studs? I welcome your thoughts and opinions in the Comments section, or via Twitter @RyanRufe.
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