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Late-Round Lottery Tickets to Target in Fantasy Drafts

My dreams of playing in a mega-high stakes (jelly beans, of course) fantasy league were crushed when I didn't win the Powerball jackpot. My guess is you aren't that one lucky soul who won either so here you are slumming it with the rest of us. That's ok though, there's always the fantasy lottery. Besides, money can't buy happiness, right? Then again, there's that old cliche about preferring to cry on a yacht.

Anyway, here we'll be taking a look at a few late round fliers, lottery tickets, if you will, that you can grab toward the end of your draft. Some have more upside than others, some are old staples, but all of them come cheap.

As with any sort of "deep round flier" piece, don't reach on anyone listed here. Just bide your time and pounce during the last three or four rounds.

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Late Round Lottery Tickets

Zay Jones, WR - Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills have had a topsy turvy off-season when it comes to their wide receiver corps. Anquan Boldin in, Sammy Watkins out. Then Anquan Boldin out, Jordan Matthews in. Or something like that. It took some note tracking but we know what the two-man show is in Buffalo; Zay Jones and Jordan Matthews.

Considering he's a rookie, the hype on Zay Jones isn't about numbers, it's about opportunity. Even before Watkins got traded, Jones was being talked up as a sneaky sleeper, especially considering Watkins' injury history. The Bills had room for another playmaker and Jones was the best candidate for the job. Now, however, he has a legit chance to be a No. 1 receiver on an above-average offense. Jordan Matthews is the established veteran, sure, but we know what to expect out of him. He's a possession guy who hasn't really been all that healthy as recently as last week. Matthews didn't pan out as a true No. 1 receiver in Philadelphia, leaving the entirety of the upside with Jones.

This is likely the toughest player to acquire on this list. The late August chatter is likely to drive Zay's stock up a bit. We can't really use his ADP as a gauge anymore. That said, you should still be able to get him in the 12th round or so.


J.J. Nelson, WR - Arizona Cardinals

When it comes to establishing a secondary receiving option for fantasy, the Arizona Cardinals have teased us continuously. Year in, and year out, Arizona has some wideout breakout for a game or two, only to fizzle out quickly. As far as 2017 is concerned, most of the attention has been focused on John Brown. Brown is a talented player who has shown he can produce, but he has serious health problems due to a sickle-cell trait. And similar to Jordan Matthews, we've read this book already.

J.J. Nelson is much more intriguing as a fantasy prospect. With Michael Floyd gone, it's down to Nelson and Brown to battle it out for the No. 2 spot. There's more than one way Nelson can win this job. The first is the old fashioned way, outplay your competition. The other is probably more likely given Brown's health. Nelson could become the second receiver by circumstance. His numbers from last year aren't great, but he did have four touchdowns over the last five games. Again, this is an offense that has the potential to produce more than one fantasy relevant receiver beyond Larry Fitzgerald.

Nelson isn't a trendy name so he's basically free in fantasy drafts. Very few folks are buzzing about J.J. Take advantage of that and stash him at the end of your bench.


Julius Thomas, TE - Miami Dolphins

I would like to reiterate some anecdotes I regurgitated during my bold predictions piece a few weeks ago. Quarterback Jay Cutler's best season came in 2015 under offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Now the head coach in Miami, Gase signed Cutler out of retirement to replace the injured Ryan Tannehill. Over the course of 2015, Cutler connected with then tight end Martellus Bennett 90 times on 129 targets, resulting in 916 yards and six touchdown. Bennett finished the year as TE5. It seems like an eternity since Cutler was "fantasy relevant," but the reality is we're only two years removed from that performance.

The takeaway here is that Jay Cutler should make Julius Thomas much better than Thomas was in Jacksonville. Cutler knows how to pepper his starting TE in an Adam Gase offense. This is another player who is completely free in drafts. If you're one of the types that likes to wait on tight end, you could theoretically wait until your very last pick to scoop up Thomas.


Kenny Golladay, WR - Detroit Lions

It is just now dawning on me that Anquan Boldin ended up affecting two important receiver situations in two unexpected off-season moves. Boldin wasn't exactly a dependable fantasy asset last year, but there are a few important aspects of his stat line that apply to the 2017 Lions. Boldin had the third-most targets on the team with 95. He also ranked third in red zone targets in the NFL with 22. He reeled in 14 of those targets, six for a score. Mathematically speaking, there is a ton of production up for grabs within the Detroit offense.

Enter Kenny Golladay, a respectable prospect who could be in line to take over Boldin's spot. Unless the Lions are going to throw to running back Theo Riddick until he throws up, the only true threat to Golladay's target share is tight end Eric Ebron. Ebron has been a sleeper for his entire career, failing to breakout. Could this be the year for Ebron? Maybe. But you're better off shifting your attention over to a receiver who can directly replace Boldin with upside to boot.

Kenny Golladay is unlikely to explode Week 1, so it's a good thing that he too is going for free.


Shane Vereen, RB - New York Giants

Speaking of someone who's been a sleeper for years, Shane Vereen manages to garner late round flier appeal every summer. And yet, I find myself buying into it this time around. The Giants haven't had any semblance of a reliable rushing attack since Ahmad Bradshaw headed off to Indianapolis back in 2013. Since then, it's been a motley crew along the way. There's a ton of hype regarding sophomore RB Paul Perkins, all of which is understandable. Still, Vereen shouldn't just be tossed aside.

When Vereen played all 16 games for New York in 2015, he had 59 receptions off of 81 targets for 495 yards and five touchdowns. You read that correctly. I completely skipped over rushing totals for a running back and went right to his stats as a receiver. That's what makes Vereen attractive. He's got some PPR upside in an offense that is going to throw, throw, throw. Their offensive line isn't good enough to rely on a rushing attack. So if logic holds true, Vereen should be on the field on the majority of passing downs. Plus it's not like the Giants can protect Eli Manning very well anymore so expect some last second dump offs to Vereen.

Shane Vereen is unlikely to lead the team in rushing attempts and that's ok. There's plenty of room for him to be heavily involved in the offense via the passing game. Think of him as having poor-man's Danny Woodhead upside. There's some whispers about him leading the team in snaps in the back field as well. He's worth a flier as your RB5 or RB6 in a PPR league.


More ADP Values & Draft Analysis


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