Despite all our preseason certainty and assuredness, the fantasy football industrial complex is, in fact, fallible. We miss a few things. Sorry to break this news to you so close to your draft date.
Unfortunately, we're not gonna be right about every late-round sleeper and lottery ticket. But the great thing about your end-of-draft moonshot selections is that when they fail — as many of them will —the consequences will be minimal. You can drop 'em and move on. Over the course of your fantasy season, you're likely to drop at least a third or more of the players you originally draft. You can whiff on every late-round pick and still win a competitive league; it's the early-rounders you really need to nail.
But when you actually hit on one or more of your late-draft picks ... well, that's when a respectable roster can become a legendary fantasy squad. A league-wrecking juggernaut. A trophy winner.
Here are a few preferred end-game fantasy picks who fall outside the top dozen rounds in consensus ADP...
Tyler Allgeier, RB, Atlanta Falcons
This will serve as last call on Allgeier, a BYU rookie we've previously hyped based on collegiate production and his first-year opportunity. He gained 1,800 total yards for the Cougars last year, making 23 house calls. Allgeier just delivered a two-touchdown preseason performance for Atlanta, scoring once on a bruising goal-line run and another time on a short reception:
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 27, 2022
We'll remind you that the guy atop the Falcons' backfield depth chart is a 31-yer-old converted kick returner. Without question, Allgeier has a shot to claim a substantial role, soon. He's averaged 4.0 yards after contact per attempt in the preseason per PFF, forcing six missed tackles on 17 rush attempts.
Jalen Tolbert, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Just in case you'd forgotten, Michael Gallup is still recovering from his late-season ACL tear and James Washington has been sidelined with a Jones fracture. Dallas is gonna need some member of its receiving corps to step up in a big way, and Tolbert, a 6-foot-3 third-rounder from South Alabama, is perhaps the likeliest candidate. He was a 1,000-yard receiver in back-to-back collegiate seasons who put up numbers against the toughest opponents on his schedule (including 7-143-1 at Tennessee). If you're a believer in Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense, then by extension you probably have to be in on Tolbert. He's received the Reception Perception seal of approval, just for the record.
Isaiah McKenzie, WR, Buffalo Bills
It's just absolutely wild that McKenzie's consensus ADP remains in the neighborhood of 190 (132 on Yahoo), because he's going to open the season as Josh Allen's primary slot receiver. It's entirely in play for him to outproduce Gabe Davis in full PPR leagues this season, but no one wants to hear it. In the one game in which McKenzie played a majority of the offensive snaps last season — handling slot responsibilities in place of Cole Beasley — he caught 11 balls for 125 yards and one spike on 12 targets. This is a talented player who happens to have chemistry with an upper-tier quarterback. Feel free to draft him well ahead of his ludicrous ADP; you won't be disappointed.
Isaiah Likely, TE, Baltimore Ravens
Likely is a fourth-round rookie from the Sun Belt Conference who plays the same position as All-Pro Mark Andrews. Under normal circumstances, we'd all assume he was headed into a developmental year. Instead, following a flawless preseason in which he's caught all 12 of his targets for 144 yards, he looks like he's going to be no worse than the No. 3 option in Baltimore's passing game. You can't leave a guy on the sideline if he has this sort of big-play ability:
Likely hauled in 59 balls for 912 yards and a dozen scores for Coastal Carolina last year, so his college production matches his preseason performance. He definitely belongs in your keeper/dynasty plans, even if you can't find a spot for him in redraft leagues of standard size.
Nico Collins, WR, Houston Texans
Collins seems like he was built in a lab for the specific purpose of dominating contested catches:
He's 6-4 and 215 with strength, leaping ability and 4.4 speed. Your interest level in Collins may depend on your confidence in Davis Mills, which is understandable. But it's really not all that difficult to imagine Collins finishing with, say, seven or eight (or more) scores in his second pro season. He should only rarely come off the field for Houston.
Zamir White, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
Just in case it wasn't clear to everyone that White will see early action for Vegas, the team recently released veteran Kenyan Drake. It's possible, of course, that the Raiders backfield will be a multi-headed mess for much of the season, but it's not as if you're paying an expectant draft price for the rookie (131.5 Yahoo ADP). White was terrific as a job-share back at Georgia, rushing for 856 yards and 11 scores for the champs last year, including 84 and one spike against Alabama in the title game. He was only rarely involved as a receiving threat in college, but so far he seems perfectly capable of catching thrown objects:
— NFL (@NFL) August 5, 2022
If you're drafting White, you can't reasonably forecast an early-season outburst. Be prepared to hold him and hope his usage increases as the season unfolds.
Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears
Look, we're not gonna tell you that a three-TD preseason performance against a Cleveland defense that sat every key player was somehow irrefutable proof of Fields' ascendance to stardom. But we're also not gonna tell you to completely ignore a near-perfect stat line. Fields was excellent against the JV Browns:
— NFL (@NFL) August 28, 2022
Fields clearly has the necessary rushing ability to offer a fantasy safety net, even if Chicago's passing offense is something less than unstoppable. He and Trevor Lawrence are the two most intriguing young dual-threat starting QBs available outside the first dozen rounds in a typical draft.
Joshua Palmer, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Camp buzz around Palmer was not insignificant and he's certainly flashed in preseason action:
— NFL Canada (@NFLCanada) August 21, 2022
He saw only 49 targets as a rookie, but that number is clearly going to jump in Year 2, assuming good health. Palmer enters the season as the No. 3 receiver for a quarterback who just passed for over 5,000 yards, so his situation is definitely appealing. If an injury hit either Keenan Allen or Mike Williams, Palmer would immediately rank as a must-start receiver.
Danny Gray, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Gray is a blazing fast rookie (4.33 speed) and it appears the Niners are going to take plenty of shots in his direction. His preseason average depth of target is 18.9, among the highest in the league. We should see a few of these deep strikes throughout the season:
Trey Lance hits Danny Gray for a 76-yard TD 👀💨pic.twitter.com/2WY9U3ml4u
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) August 13, 2022
He's been a favorite final-round finishing move for me in drafts, particularly in keeper/dynasty leagues. It's unlikely he'll emerge as a bankable every-week receiver for fantasy purposes, given the quality of the Niners' receiving corps. But his big weeks are going to be all kinds of fun.