Every new fantasy football draft season ushers in a host of fresh faces, often leaving proven commodities left in their dust of hype. Value picks may not be sexy and are not trend-worthy on Twitter, but they sure can help turn a competitive roster into a championship contender. Blending upside picks with established contributors provides consistency.
Here is a four-pack of my favorite buy-low value plays heading into the heart of the 2014 fantasy football draft frenzy.
RB Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
Someone will catch the ball in Carolina. Stewart -- finally healthy -- is two seasons removed from a 47-catch effort. He is a capable blocker and should see more time on third downs than running back DeAngelo Williams. J-Stew should benefit from a laughable cast of receivers and a shaky offensive line that will protect Cam Newton (ankle), whose trademark scrambling ability may not be up to snuff after offseason surgery. The expectation of Stewart snaring 50-plus passes this year is not unrealistic; he is a no-risk RB4 in the late rounds of drafts that reward catches.
WR Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens
Underrated in PPR leagues
A 35-year-old cast-off typically doesn't have what it takes to warrant fantasy consideration, but Smith is a different breed. He holds grudges and uses that motivation to fuel his game. You can bet sure he has the biggest chip on his shoulder of his entire career. Smith has looked every bit the part this offseason and should be featured as an underneath target, which allows him to rely on his still plus-speed. As long as he can remain healthy, Smith will be a supplier of modest fantasy return. The numbers -- somewhere around 850 yards and six touchdowns -- won't blow you away, but the return on investment will be outstanding. Having an average draft placement of the mid-13th round, Smith is a sound value as a WR4 in PPR leagues.
WR Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
Colston's ankle is fine, after some questions surrounding his status early in the offseason. He is going to see a healthy amount of targets, behind tight end Jimmy Graham, with the loss of wide receiver Lance Moore. Too many owners are unwisely putting faith in rookie receiver Brandin Cooks producing immediately. Quarterback Drew Brees has to build chemistry with Cooks, and the rook needs to learn the speed of the game. If anyone is likely to step up behind Graham and Colston, wideout Kenny Stills is the name to watch. For bargain hunters, Colston in the seventh round is borderline robbery for PPR owners. If he remains injury-free, an 85-reception season is within reach.
WR Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans
Washington belongs on fantasy rosters, should quarterback Jake Locker actually manage to stay healthy. In the past three years, six of Washington's 14 receiving scores have come from Locker. That is particularly notable when you consider just how little time Locker has spent on the field in that time (23 games, 18 starts). Soon to be 31, Washington is the elder statesman of this group. He still has wheels (15.8 yards per reception last year) and is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball (three TDs of at least 71 yards in the last three years). Titans WRs Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter are blossoming players, but Washington clearly has the trust of his quarterback and can be had extremely late in your drafts, because largely goes undrafted.
About Cory J. Bonini
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.
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