Fantasy Football Slack and Forth: Who Are the Ideal Late-Round Dart Throws?
So far in this year's Slack-and-Forth series, we've looked at early-round wideouts, mid-range running backs and tight ends. For our last one, it's time to dive into one of my favorite draft-season topics -- late-round sleepers.
Every year, I really nitpick the studs going in the first few rounds while simultaneously falling head over house slippers for late-round players who I end up cutting by Week 4. I'm super good at fantasy. But the allure of finding a late-round gem has a strong pull -- at least for me -- and if you're lucky enough to find solid production late in the draft, it can give you a huge leg up in your league.
I chatted on Slack with Austin Swaim, a fellow editor here at numberFire, about some of the late-round picks we're into for 2022.
We limited it to players going outside the top 120 picks (after Round 10 in 12-teamers), per FantasyPros' one-quarterback, half-PPR ADP.
Here's our conversation.
Austan Kas: Every year, I have a couple of late-rounders who are my guys. I usually get irrationally into them, and by the time the season approaches, I'm convinced that they're destined for a big year; I'm just sure of it.
Looking at the players going outside the top 120 in FantasyPros' half-PPR ADP, who is someone you really like for 2022?
Austin Swaim: Well, I want to make sure I don't miss someone who might not fit this bill for much longer.
Washington's Brian Robinson is all you could want from a late-round dart at the moment. Apparently, due to fumbling issues, Antonio Gibson has been working with special teams, and Robinson's now increasingly in line for the early-down work in this offense.
Anyone who saw Robinson at Alabama isn't surprised he's contributing to the NFL sooner rather than later. He averaged 19.1 carries per game as the Tide's bell-cow, and he's a goal-line type of back with 14 total scores last season in college.
While the passing game work will be limited due to J.D. McKissic, Robinson would be flying up the board as the potential lead guy with goal-line work in most offenses. However, the stench around Carson Wentz has kept his ADP down longer than I'd have thought given the clear-cut camp news we've gotten so far.
Remember, Gibson was the RB12 and RB10 in half-PPR formats the past two years with Taylor Heinicke. Wentz supported Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. just fine last year. This feels like robbery in plain daylight.
What about you? When you scroll down, which name jumps right off the page?
Austan Kas: Robinson is a good call. I can't believe what's happening with Gibson. Dude's stock is cratering.
OK, so I have two, and both are receivers. I'll start with Michael Gallup. In truth, I've always been into Gallup, who came into the NFL as a quality prospect, boasting a 98th-percentile target share in college, per PlayerProfiler. In the 2018 piece I linked earlier, Gallup is in there.
He should get a chance to shine this season. With Amari Cooper gone, 104 targets have opened up in Dallas, and there's a big need for a wideout to step up behind CeeDee Lamb, another guy we both love. Playing in the background of this offense for the past three campaigns, Gallup has managed to post per-game averages of 4.1 grabs and 61.4 yards. He has the chance to take a leap in 2022, and with an ADP of 175th overall, I'm all in, baby.
Of course, the big hurdle here is that Gallup is coming off an ACL injury and probably won't be ready for Week 1. But that's keeping his ADP down, and his overall recovery is reportedly going well. I think he can eat when he gets on the field, and he's someone I'm zeroed in on, even pairing him with Lamb and Dak Prescott in my Scott Fish Bowl draft.
What are your thoughts on Gallup?
Austin Swaim: I'm with you. I don't really understand how Gallup has dropped so far, either.
Think of Chris Godwin, who will undoubtedly miss more time than Gallup now that Gallup has avoided the PUP list. Godwin is going early due to a target share north of 20.0% connected to Tom Brady. Dak might not be Brady, but he's a high-level quarterback.
And give me the proven Gallup over rookie Jalen Tolbert all day. However, Tolbert and Gallup aren't the pass-catcher I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs about in this range. They call that a tease in the business, 'Tan!
Austan Kas: OK. OK. I like it. Who ya got?
Austin Swaim: It's Rondale Moore.
The workout warrior was a massive letdown in redraft formats last year, but he just didn't have a path to the field. Believe it or not, Arizona lost their top wideout this season in terms of targets and yards. Christian Kirk was that, and he's in Jacksonville.
Not only is DeAndre Hopkins suspended to start this season, but he wasn't the same D-Hop in 2021. He actually saw just 6.4 targets per game. Moore barely logged functional snaps and was met with 4.6 targets per game.
Of course, Marquise Brown will fill plenty of Kirk's absence, but I see Moore bursting past 34-year-old A.J. Green for the secondary role in this passing game until Hopkins returns. There's a reason Green ran 80.0% of the routes in this offense a year ago and no one is drafting him in fantasy this year.
So, there's my case. He's a slot receiver in what should be a dynamic offense, and that's what we're largely choosing from in this late-round area. To you, is Moore the best potential slot guy available in this range?
Austan Kas: I like Moore, but K.J. Osborn is my other late-round guy. The Vikings' offense is one I want exposure to this season. I'm buying into this group and how they could perform under new coach Kevin O'Connell. Osborn is a low-cost way to get exposure to Minnesota.
O'Connell is from the Sean McVay tree, and the Rams ran 11 personnel (three-receiver sets) a league-high 86% of the time last year. Assuming the Vikings run a similar offense, that'll get Osborn on the field plenty.
He flashed a bit down the stretch last year, playing at least 79% of the snaps in each of the Vikes' last six games and averaging 5.8 looks, 3.1 receptions and 48.3 yards in that span. He scored a touchdown in five of those six games. For the year, Osborn averaged 52.3 yards per game in the seven games in which he played at least 79% of the snaps.
It's also not unreasonable to think that 32-year-old Adam Thielen could take a step back. He already did last season, putting up 199 fewer receiving yards than he did in 2020. Thielen has missed 11 total games across the last three seasons.
Going at pick 215, Osborn is a real late dart throw who I love as an end-of-bench option.
What say you?
Austin Swaim: The Vikings this year feel like those old Peyton Manning offenses in Denver, man. It feels like there is no wrong answer in the backfield, at tight end, or out wide. Osborn won't require more than a last-round pick if you're really keen on him and want to reach in an earlier round for an elite kicker. Hey, don't laugh!
By the way, speaking of the AFC West, some of the buzziest late-round darts right now are a handful of players connected to Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. Even through a full camp, we're still basically guessing who could produce in KC besides Travis Kelce and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
For the sake of this exercise, I'm going to narrow it to a few red-hot contenders for a significant role. If you could only draft one in the 11th round, would you go with Skyy Moore, Isiah Pacheco or Marquez Valdes-Scantling?
Austan Kas: I think I'll go with Moore. The Pacheco hype is a bit much for me. We've seen MVS with an elite quarterback, and the results weren't that great. Moore intrigued me as a prospect, and while I think Year 2 might be his breakout, he's my pick.
Which one do you like?
Austin Swaim: I would go with Pacheco -- but it's solely based on positional value.
Honestly, a leap from any of them would be an extreme derivation from the norm. Valdes-Scantling catching fire when he was already with a great quarterback -- as you said -- would be odd, and Skyy Moore going from Western Michigan to a 20% target share would be, as well.
Pacheco's college production was super poor, but he's got tremendous speed. Given reports are that he's seen some work with the first team, I imagine he's in line for some of the backfield gadget work Tyreek Hill is leaving behind, and I could see a path to fantasy viability similar to the aforementioned McKissic in PPR leagues.
It feels like there should be an answer here with Mahomes, but we've seen it before in New England -- a good offense might not always concentrate the work enough to be fantasy-relevant. That may be the case with the Chiefs in 2022.
Austan Kas: It might wind up that the ideal way to get a piece of KC outside of Kelce is JuJu, who comes with a pretty fair ADP, rather than any of these guys truly breaking out.
As always, thanks for taking the time to do this. I'm ready for Week 1!
Austin Swaim: Me too! It's so close. We're drafting. I can smell it.