July 25, 2012 @ 19:25:42 PDT
Last time I checked in, I shared some of my favorite middle-round values and sneaky late-round picks. I'm back with more buried treasure.
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers - This backfield looks like a summer concert crowd, but Hunter, heading to his age-24 season, just feels like the most complete package of this lot. Frank Gore's workload will be limited so he can make a bigger impact; he tapered off down the stretch, and this truckload of transporters was brought in for a reason - to keep him fresh. It could lead to a bigger loss of work if Gore can't capitalize on his increased conservation.
Hunter boasts receiving and big-play ability that San Fran will hope for from LaMichael James in the coming years; considering his experience in the system last year, Hunter holds the inside complementary track on James and the plodding but sometimes powerful Brandon Jacobs, 30, and apparent outsider Anthony Dixon. Last year, the versatile Hunter, as a rook out of Oklahoma State, proved to be the main Gore handcuff and skills (if not physical) mirror.
Call this a hunch that Hunter will improve his pass protection, Brandon Jacobs will underwhelm, James will merely be a changeup artist/slasher, Gore will lose a step at age 29, or one or more of them succumbs to injury. Or all of the above. Plenty of factors can open up more work for the do-it-all Hunter. In the waning rounds, these are the types of potential payoffs (flex value, at minimum) you should look for.
Robert Turbin, Seattle Seahawks - Contingent on Marshawn Lynch's likely suspension, but Lynch's shaky track record means an injury or plain-old regression could mean more work for this rookie boulder, especially over the first few weeks in a potential starting gig.
"The Turbinator" is a direct handcuff for a run-friendly setup, though that's up in the air for the rest of camp. Seattle might consider a veteran signing for depth.
Leonard Hankerson, Washington Redskins - Cory Bonini aptly dissected the differences between Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck yesterday, but he left out one potential 'Skins weapon. A torn labrum in Hankerson's right hip halted a run that showed his potential in 2011. He'll need to get extended reps in with RGIII, but he now has a more promising slinger and a shaky WR corps ahead of him.
Sure, much of his production came in one game against the hapless Miami Dolphins last year, but at 6-foot-2, 211 pounds, Hankerson fits in the West Coast offense and red zone attack as a potential matchup issue out of the slot. Griffin's big arm should help him do damage, as well.
Watch Hankerson's recovery and how Mike Shanahan tailors the O to suit Griffin. He's not draftable in most leagues yet. The snarer, however, could eventually become another David Nelson, punctuating a few stretches when you employ him against shoddy secondaries.
I dare say that Hankerson is in my discussion to be this year's out-of-nowhere fantasy darling - potentially 2012's Victor Cruz.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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