Fantasy Football: Winning Lottery Tickets

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 24: Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the game against the Miami Dolphins on December 24, 2016 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. Miami defeats Buffalo 34-31 in overtime. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

With best ball drafts in full swing and redraft leagues starting soon, the 2017 fantasy football season has officially arrived. One of the best ways to get an edge on opponents is by identifying those late round “lottery tickets” that will produce a huge return on minimal investment. These players are often the difference in winning or losing a fantasy championship.

It’s easy to pick lottery tickets in deep best ball formats, since the margin for error is large. However, fantasy owners struggle with the limited amount of bench spots in seasonal leagues. These shallow formats don’t afford the luxury of “buying” multiple fantasy football lottery tickets. Drafters need the specific winning lottery tickets.

Here are the 2017 late round fantasy players that are destined to make a major impact this season. To qualify, the player must be available after round 10 according to current MyFantasyLeague ADP data.

(All statistical data from PlayerProfiler).

QB Lottery Ticket:  Tyrod Taylor
ADP:  125.2 (QB17)
Rationale: Taylor is one of the best values in all of fantasy football. In 2015, he was seventh among all quarterbacks averaging 19.7 fantasy points per game, and last season finished 11th overall (18.3 fppg) while contending with an injured Sammy Watkins. Taylor is the premier quarterback running threat, finishing first at the position in rushing yards (580) and rushing touchdowns (six) last year. Taylor will have Watkins back at full strength in 2017, along with explosive rookie wide receiver Zay Jones. Buffalo could also add a critical red zone asset, as they are meeting today with free agent Anquan Boldin

Taylor is a game script proof fantasy asset. Whether Buffalo is winning or losing, he is always a major fantasy factor because of his versatility. There is no reason to use an earlier round pick on Ben Roethlisberger (ADP 109.9), Matthew Stafford (ADP 115.7), or Andy Dalton (ADP 124.8), when you can draft Tyrod Taylor in round 11 or later.


RB Lottery Ticket:  Darren Sproles
ADP:  140.7 (RB47)
Rationale: Sproles has been one of the top receiving backs in fantasy football his entire career.

Last season, despite suffering a concussion in week 14, Sproles finished as a top ten running back in both receptions and receiving yards. He was targeted 71 times (sixth among all running backs), and in 2015 he was targeted 83 times (fourth among all running backs). Sproles is an explosive offensive weapon that annually finds a way to be either an RB2 (or very close) in PPR formats.

During his three years in Philadelphia, Sproles has battled DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews for backfield touches. This season his playing time path is the clearest it has ever been. Sproles’ only competition is free agent acquisition LeGarrette Blount, whose production outside of New England has been very mediocre. Sproles is an RB2 that is available on average in round 12 or later.


RB Lottery Ticket:  Giovani Bernard
ADP:  168.1 (RB55)
Rationale:  The arrival of rookie Joe Mixon has seemingly crushed Bernard’s ADP, which is a huge mistake by fantasy drafters. Bernard’s strongest offensive ability has always been as a pass catcher out of the backfield; a role that should increase this season. Before suffering through an injury-filled 2016, Bernard was one of the most explosive satellite backs in football. In 2015, he ranked seventh among all running backs with 472 receiving yards, and ninth at the position with 49 receptions. After Cincinnati realized last year that an offense centered around Jeremy Hill simply isn’t productive, the Bengals attacked the NFL draft with a goal of opening up the offense this season. Bernard will benefit from a more up tempo offensive style, with his versatility creating matchup problems all over the field. He is currently rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in week 11 last season, causing his ADP to plummet even more.

Early reports indicated that while Bernard will avoid going on the PUP list, he may miss week one. However, beat reporter Paul Dehner Jr., reported on RotoViz Radio that Bernard will be absolutely be ready for the start of the sason. When healthy, Bernard is a RB2 lock that is currently being drafted behind Green Bay backup Jamaal Williams (ADP 159.5), Buffalo backup Jonathan Williams (ADP 155.4), and his own teammate Jeremy Hill (ADP 164.5).  Giovani Bernard is a great late round pick that will return fantasy starter value, especially in PPR formats.


WR Lottery Ticket:  Cole Beasley
ADP:  203.6 (WR75)
Rationale:  A 28 year old receiver who has increased his reception total and receiving yardage for three consecutive years is the exact definition of a winning fantasy football lottery ticket. Through week 11, Beasley had produced six WR3 or better performances. He then suffered a severe hamstring injury which was compounded by a knee strain in week 16.

Last season, Beasley ranked second among all fantasy wide receivers with a 76 percent catch rate, and had a top ten 16.3 percent Hog Rate (measuring targets per snap). With impending news of a multiple game suspension to running back Ezekiel Elliott lurking, Beasley’s value as a short to intermediate target rises even further. While other fantasy drafters are trying to find their third wide receivers in the middle to late rounds, you can grab Cole Beasley with one of your last picks. A healthy Cole Beasley is guaranteed WR3 production that is currently going undrafted in most fantasy formats.


WR Lottery Ticket:  Kenny Golladay
ADP:  203.6 (WR75)
Rationale: Third round draft pick Kenny Golladay of Northern Illinois landed in the perfect fantasy football spot: a chance to contribute immediately on a high volume passing offense. He is very much in line to be the third wide receiver in Detroit, and has already turned heads after an explosive Lions mini-camp. At 6’4″ 218 lbs, Golladay boasts a 110.7 (92nd percentile) Speed Score while possessing a 10.17 (79th percentile) Catch Radius.

Golladay has expressed being overlooked throughout his high school and college careers as being his main motivating force. This is the mindset a late round rookie fantasy lottery ticket needs in order to make a year one impact. Detroit’s third wide receiver from 2016, Anquan Boldin, had the second most red zone wide receiver targets (22) in the entire league. Golladay is a strong WR3 candidate going undrafted in most seasonal leagues.


TE Lottery Ticket:  Antonio Gates
ADP:  185.7 (TE25)
Rationale: The ADP of Antonio Gates is simply incomprehensible, especially when you consider his sustained success.

While all signs point to 2017 being his last professional season, there is no reason to believe Gates won’t end his career with yet another fantasy TE1 performance. He is currently tied with Tony Gonzalez for most touchdown catches (111) by a tight end, and will continue to be a dominant red zone target for quarterback Philip Rivers. Gates was first among all fantasy tight ends with a 16.9 percent Hog Rate.  When Gates is on the field he always gets the ball, which certainly won’t change in his final NFL season.

While he has missed seven games over the past two seasons, Gates enters the season completely healthy. As a side note, Tony Gonzalez had 83 receptions and eight touchdowns in his final season of 2013. That season he ranked fourth in standard formats, and second in PPR formats in total tight end fantasy points. Gonzalez’s age that season?  37 years old, the same as Antonio Gates at the beginning of 2017.

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