No matter what we do, the majority of the picks we make from Round 10 on are not going to pan out. Once the first 110 or so players come off the board, we’re scraping for guys who will likely need a break or two in order to help us.
Most of them will end up on the waiver wire by Week 3, replaced by a hot add. However, when one of them does turn into a difference-maker for us, we’ve struck gold. We pile a guy we got on the 11th round on top of the guys we actually expected to produce and we dominate. That’s why it’s so important to swing for upside with your fliers. Instead of taking a retread veteran in Round 12, take a shot on a young buck who is one injury away from being a top-40 player.
When we do get a hit, we don’t want it to be a single. We want it to be a guy on deer antler spray crushing the ball 400 feet. Last year in this column, we bricked out with the likes of Jake Locker, Dwayne Allen and Brandon LaFell. We also had some big scores with Randall Cobb, Andrew Luck and Kyle Rudolph.
The rules are simple. To be a “flier,” a player has to have an average draft position (ADP) of 115 or greater in our Draft Guide’s ADP report. That means guys like Vincent Brown, Chris Givens, Ronnie Hillman and Josh Gordon are out.
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1. Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, Patriots
Ever since Brandon Lloyd was cut in March, the outside or “X” position in the Patriots’ offense has been vacant. It’s always been a position battle worth monitoring because Lloyd produced a 74/911/4 line on 130 targets last year despite muddled chemistry with Tom Brady. Well, we finally have a firm leader in the clubhouse. Thompkins has been one of the stars of training camp, earning the first-team reps ahead of second-round rookie Aaron Dobson. When the Patriots went two-wide in their second preseason game, it was Danny Amendola and Thompkins. So get the thought that “he went undrafted, so he can’t be that good” out of your head. If Thompkins is good enough for Brady and Bill Belichick, he’s good enough for us.
2. Jordan Cameron, TE, Browns
I was legitimately sad that Cameron busted out for two touchdowns in the Browns’ second preseason game. We’ve been on this guy for five months now because of two things: Scheme and athletic ability. Unfortunately, now the cat is out of the bag to some extent. New Browns coach Rob Chudzinski is a former tight end himself that always designs plays to feature the position in the passing game. He’s coaxed career years out of Antonio Gates (89/1101/10 in 2005), Kellen Winslow Jr. (82/1106/5 in 2007) and Greg Olsen (69/843/5 in 2012). Cameron has struggled through muscle strains during his two NFL seasons, but goes 6’5/254, ran a 4.59 at his Combine in 2011 and played basketball for BYU. He’s up next for Chud.
3. Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals
New Cardinals coach Bruce Arians doesn’t throw to running backs or tight ends. He doesn’t run quick-hitting outs or comebacks. Arians implores his quarterbacks to push the ball vertically down the field to the wide receivers, and schemes as well as anyone to make that happen. He did it with the “Young Money” crew in Pittsburgh, turned around Reggie Wayne’s career arc in Indy and made T.Y. Hilton into a budding star. Next on Arians’ hit list is Floyd, a 2012 first-round pick who struggled early in his rookie year and never truly got past Andre Roberts. That doesn’t take away from the fact that Floyd is a 6’3/220 physical beast who is more than capable of doing what Arians needs. Perhaps more importantly, the Cardinals have ditched their three-headed monster of Kevin Kolb/John Skelton/Ryan Lindley in favor of Carson Palmer. Although Palmer is a shell of his former self, he isn’t afraid to throw a ball up for grabs downfield. With Floyd now running ahead of Roberts all spring and summer, it’s an ideal situation.
4. Michael Vick, QB, Eagles
Owners have a really bad taste in their mouth about Vick and I understand it. He’s missed 13 games over the last three years due to injury and has underperformed in countless others. So what’s different now? First of all, the Eagles’ offensive line is finally healthy and is arguably the most talented unit in the entire league. Second, a pass-happy Andy Reid offense that opened Vick up to unpredictable hits has been jettisoned in favor a run-heavy Chip Kelly scheme. And finally, Vick has been exceptionally sharp in practices and the preseason (13-of-15 for 199 yards with one touchdown and one Hail Mary interception). Note that over the last six years, Oregon quarterbacks have averaged 568 rushing yards and 7.5 rushing touchdowns per season. Vick, who was on pace for 531 rushing yards last year before going down, could push for 700. His athleticism remains elite.
5. Golden Tate, WR, Seahawks
How’s this for a perfect storm: Unique talent, in a contract year, playing every down at split end with a rising young star at quarterback. Tate checks all the boxes on that list. And to top it off, he’s been the unquestioned star of Seahawks camp. Although Tate’s 45/688/7 line last year was somewhat disappointing, coach Pete Carroll has suggested that a full comprehension of the scheme wasn’t there. This year, Carroll says Tate has been the team’s “highest tester in terms of assignments.” Percy Harvin (hip surgery) likely won’t play until after Thanksgiving, giving Tate plenty of time to rack up career-best numbers.
6. Roy Helu, RB, Redskins
You remember Helu. Just two years ago as a fourth-round rookie, he caught 49 balls and averaged 4.23 YPC. He also ripped off this memorable Edwin Moses style run, highlighting his ability in the open field. Helu’s stock proceeded to plummet thanks to severe toe and Achilles’ issues, but he’s back to full health now and it’s shown as he’s ran circles around his competition for the backup job. Through two preseason games (36 snaps), he’s rushed 14 times for 87 yards (6.21 YPC) and caught one pass for 14 yards. Helu is going to be the Redskins’ third-down and two-minute back, giving him some deep standalone value in PPR. If Alfred Morris were to get hurt, Helu would explode in the Shanahan and Son zone-blocking scheme.