Using positional tiers (here are ours for QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs) as a resource when focusing on the early and middle rounds can help you have a great fantasy football draft. But make sure you don't overlook the opportunities to land value in the later rounds. Some fantasy managers exhale during this stage of the draft, happy with what they already have. You don't want to be that manager. This is the time to land as many bargains, or "fliers," who offer as much upside as possible.
Fliers come with an obvious level of uncertainty, but late in drafts, it's worth the risk to land players capable of making a serious impact if injury strikes a team's depth chart or roles or playing time change. It might not be the most well-known or highly regarded player in fantasy, or it could be a handcuff running back, but the impact if that door opens could be substantial.
I'm looking at quarterbacks outside the top 20 in our draft trends. For running backs, I'm looking outside the top 40. For wide receivers, I'm looking at players outside the top 50, and for tight ends, outside the top 16.
Let's get started.
Below are some QB2 or QB3 targets for superflex formats:
Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 167.3)
Fantasy managers should like what they've seen from Love so far. He has shown Aaron Rodgers-like flashes and has three young receivers to grow with in Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed. The Packers' offensive line should provide Love with adequate pass protection and open up running lanes for Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Just as Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for three years before taking over for him, Love is about to become a starter in his fourth season. In 2008, Rodgers averaged 19 fantasy points per game. There have been eight quarterbacks from 2000 to 2019 who finally got the starting gig during their fourth NFL season. Kirk Cousins and Matt Schaub are the most recognizable names on the list who went on to become reliable fantasy starters.
Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans (ADP: 169.8)
The Titans are not rebuilding just yet, and the offseason addition of DeAndre Hopkins confirms that. Tannehill is likely playing his final season in Tennessee, but I believe he has one more fantasy resurgence left in him. He has Hopkins and Treylon Burks as his top two receivers, a potential breakout tight end in Chigoziem Okonkwo and running back Derrick Henry. Tannehill averaged 19.2 fantasy points per game from 2019 to 2021 before dipping to 13.9 in 2022. But he still ranked fifth in yards per attempt (7.8) among quarterbacks who played 10 or more games, and his deep-pass completion percentage was the ninth highest in the league.
Sam Howell, Washington Commanders (ADP: 169.9)
The Commanders gave Howell a start in Week 18 last season after he rode the bench for 16 games. He finished with 19.3 fantasy points in a performance that gave Washington's coaching staff confidence in him. Howell was recently named the Week 1 starter and will be throwing to two exciting playmakers in Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. Plus, he has as a proven offensive coordinator in Eric Bieniemy. Howell's running ability is also worth mentioning. During his final college season at North Carolina, Howell gained more than 800 yards on the ground and scored 11 rushing touchdowns. He's a value QB to keep your eye on.
Ready for kickoff? Sign up now to play ESPN Fantasy Football with friends and family.
There's a theme here. Running backs tied to a committee who could become even more fantasy-relevant if they outperform the starter or if the starter misses time due to injury. Take note, Zero-RB practitioners.
Zach Charbonnet, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 144.2)
Kenneth Walker III had a superb rookie season. He's a breakaway runner in between the tackles, but he struggled as a receiver out of the backfield. That is an area in which Charbonnet can provide immediate value in the Seahawks backfield. The UCLA product has a three-down skill set, was drafted early and is tied to a team led by Pete Carroll, who isn't afraid to shake things up in the backfield. Charbonnet led the nation in total yards per game in his final collegiate season.
Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 159.7)
Christian McCaffrey has a robust injury history, making Mitchell one of the league's most valuable backups. McCaffrey played in all 17 games last season but played just 10 combined games in 2020 and 2021. Of course, Mitchell couldn't stay healthy last season, but don't forget how dynamic he was as a rookie. He ranked 17th in breakaway runs and 14th in fantasy points per game in 2021. The best late-round targets are lottery tickets, and Mitchell fits that description in a 49ers offense that relies heavily on running backs.
Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: 163.1)
Warren's 62-yard touchdown on his only carry during Saturday's preseason game against the Bills reminded managers not to overlook him late in drafts. Despite being an undrafted free agent in 2022, Warren shined last season for the Steelers when given an opportunity, averaging 0.62 fantasy points per touch and 1.47 yards per route run. There's some standalone value here, as Warren is projected to average around 10 touches per game. Think how productive he could be if Najee Harris were to miss time.
Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: 164.8)
If it's any indication of where Gainwell sits in the Eagles' RB pecking order, consider that many reports suggest he has been the lead back and has seen the most first-team reps in training camp. Also, Gainwell did not play in the Eagles' first preseason game. D'Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny were added to the backfield in the offseason, but Gainwell's reliability and familiarity with the Eagles' offensive scheme are an advantage. Philadelphia led the league with 33.2 rushing attempts per game last season, and its offensive line had the second-best run block win rate. Gainwell has averaged 0.88 fantasy points per touch in his career. And for what it's worth, he's the least expensive of the Eagles' running backs in fantasy drafts.
Tank Bigsby, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 168.0)
Bigsby has amassed 122 rushing yards on 22 carries so far during the preseason. Based on our projections, he will get around 10 touches per game, while Travis Etienne is projected for 18 touches per game. Bigsby's role will expand as the season progresses, according to ESPN's Michael DiRocco, and many expect the rookie to serve as the thunder to Etienne's lighting. At Auburn, Bigsby ran for 2,901 yards for his career, the seventh most in school history. Much like Charbonnet with the Seahawks, Bigsby will vulture touchdown opportunities while cutting into Etienne's early-down work.
De'Von Achane, Miami Dolphins (ADP: 168.2)
It looks like Achane avoided a serious shoulder injury in Saturday's preseason game, which is good news for a Dolphins team that has high expectations for him after selecting him in Round 3 of the NFL draft. Fantasy managers should feel the same way. At Texas A&M last season, Achane rushed for 1,102 yards and caught 36 passes for 196 yards. Given Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson's injury histories, Achane could be a late-season fantasy difference-maker.
Roschon Johnson, Chicago Bears (ADP: 169.1)
Johnson continues to generate buzz, and rightfully so. Despite playing alongside a guy named Bijan Robinson, Johnson finished his career at Texas with 2,190 yards on 392 carries, ranking 18th on the school's all-time rushing list. He has had a great training camp and preseason so far after being selected in the fourth round. Johnson is unlikely to overtake Khalil Herbert as the starter, given how productive Herbert has been the past two seasons. But because of Johnson's skill set, D'Onta Foreman shouldn't feel comfortable with his backup position.
Underappreciated receivers who could get more targets than managers expect.
DJ Chark Jr., Carolina Panthers (ADP: 144.6)
Chark projects to lead the Panthers in targets and finish with nearly 800 receiving yards, and he's essentially free in fantasy drafts. With new head coach Frank Reich's retooled offense this year, Chark should be able to play to Bryce Young's strengths. Chark caught just 30 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns for the Lions last season, but he ranked fourth with an average depth of target of 15.4 yards and seventh with 16.7 yards per reception. Chark has missed 19 games over the past two seasons, but Adam Thielen, 32, who is projected for Carolina's second-most targets, also has a significant injury history. Take a chance on Chark in your fantasy draft.
Nico Collins, Panthers (ADP: 156.6)
Collins is the Texans' lone starter returning from last season's WR group and will have a new quarterback in C.J. Stroud looking his way in 2023. Collins also will have a new offensive coordinator in Bobby Slowik, who takes over after spending the previous six seasons with the 49ers, most recently as their passing game coordinator. Slowik has Collins studying highlights of Julio Jones to try emulate his playing style in the new scheme, which incorporates elements from Kyle Shanahan's system. Collins has been a consistent playmaker since the start of training camp, and we have him projected to lead the Texans in targets.
Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 169.6)
Bateman was on his way to a breakout season in 2022 before a foot injury derailed him. His target share was 18.8%, and he ran 3.14 yards per route from Weeks 1 through 3. Under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, Bateman is expected to play a key role in the Ravens' revamped passing game that now includes Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie Zay Flowers. Among these three players, Bateman has the most favorable average draft position in terms of value.
Jayden Reed, Packers (ADP: Undrafted)
Reed, a second-round pick in April's draft, is a perfect fit for the Packers, who needed a playmaker who excelled in open spaces. For his career at Michigan State, Reed finished sixth in receptions (147), tied for seventh in touchdown receptions (18) and was 12th in receiving yards (2,069). Reed's role as the Packers' slot receiver is safe. Christian Watson is regarded as the Packers' No. 1 receiver, but Reed could get more targets than fantasy managers think, considering how young Green Bay's receivers are.
Greg Dulcich, Denver Broncos (ADP: 160.8)
Broncos head coach Sean Payton has stated that Dulcich's role in the offense would evolve this year and that he could play the "Joker" position. That role in Payton's offense is typically filled by a tight end or running back with exceptional ball skills. Dulcich missed the first five games last season because of a hamstring injury, but he drew eight or more targets in four of his 10 games after returning. It is possible Dulcich could finish this season with the third-most targets because of the Broncos' wide receiver injuries.
Hayden Hurst, Panthers (ADP: 169.5)
The Panthers haven't had viable tight end production for much of the past three seasons, ranking last in the league in receptions (122), receiving yards (1,173) and touchdowns (6) from the position over that span. Enter Hurst, who signed a three-year, $21.7 million deal in the offseason. Hurst had one of his better seasons with the Bengals in 2022, catching 52 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns. As Bryce Young gets acclimated to the NFL, Hurst could serve as a security blanket for the young quarterback.
Follow Eric on X, formerly known as Twitter: @EricNMoody