With the 2011 NFL Draft just hours away, many 2011 fantasy football fans are preparing their notebooks, iPods, and other instruments of record keeping in an effort to track which players go where.
But what many fans tend to overlook is the handful of players who could be significantly underrated; an oversight that could hurt you in your 2011 fantasy football draft.
Let’s take a quick timeout from the normal NFL Draft talk to take a sneak peak at a couple of players who could wind up being diamonds in the rough.
DeMarco Murray – RB – Oklahoma: At 6’-0”, 213 pounds, Murray has enough developmental size to fit right into just about any role in the pros.
But his real intrigue comes from his versatility as a kick return man, and receiver.
Murray is a strong runner with average speed who is not afraid to make contact anywhere on the field, so he is truly a three-down back in every sense.
- Career rushing totals: 759 ATT – 3,685 YDS – 50 TDs
- Career Receiving totals: 157 REC – 1,571 YDS – 13 TDs
- Career Return Totals: 53 KRRET – 1,462 YDS – 2 TDs
Initial Fantasy Analysis: Murray is likely to be overshadowed by several running backs (Mark Ingram, Mike Leshoure and Ryan Williams) but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are better. Remember it’s value that YOUR looking for in a fantasy football draft, and DeMarco Murray is looking like the poster child for 2011 fantasy football’s value RB.
Rob Housler – TE – Florida Atlantic: Looking for a tall, lanky pass catching specialist at TE in this year’s draft? How about a TE with those attributes AND a smidgen of value? Well consider taking a look at Rob Housler.
I’ll make this plain and simple: In today’s NFL, more and more teams are going ala Green Bay and scooping up pass catching TEs, rather than grabbing blocking ends who can play in the trenches. This makes a pass catching TE a hot commodity, both in the NFL draft and in the 2011 fantasy football draft.
At 6’6”, 249 pounds with a 4.55 - 40 yards dash, this is the type of player who will eventually wreak havoc on the playing field. In his four year career he racked up eight TDs alongside 1,228 yards on 78 catches.
Initial Fantasy Analysis: Again, you will be looking for long-term value in your fantasy football draft, rather than fancy names that Mel Kiper is telling you will be “the next great thing”. Lance Kendricks, and D.J. Williams are sitting in the limelight, but Housler is just as good—if not potentially better in my opinion—than these two, and is a great value fantasy draft pick.
Ricky Stanzi – QB – Iowa: Many teams will more-than-likely NOT draft early for quarterbacks, rather, opt to draft lineman and build from within—very good idea.
So when the quarterbacks do go, their rate of protection is significantly higher which bodes well for an underrated quarterback who can manipulate most defensive sets and fire the deep ball while managing the game with the short passes, and personal mobility.
Ya know, like Ricky Stanzi.
Stanzi is one of those guys that you are probably just now hearing about, mainly because most readers—and writers—are sick and tired of writing about Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert—two of the most overrated QBs in recent memory in you ask me.
Here’s a fast track look at Ricky Stanzi:
- Ranked fourth in the Big Ten and 12th nationally in passing efficiency (157.63), setting an Iowa single-season record.
- Finished with a 26-9 record as starting quarterback, ranking second among Iowa quarterbacks in career wins.
- Threw at least one touchdown pass in 21 consecutive games to establish an Iowa record.
- Ranks fourth in career completions (542), third in career touchdown passes (56), passing yards (7,377), pass attempts (907), and total offense (7,373).
- The only quarterback to start three games and win three games Penn State Coach Joe Paterno.
- Only Iowa quarterback, and just third Big Ten quarterback, to start and win three bowl games and one of seven seniors named to 2010 Leadership Group.
- A strong arm quarterback who knows how to play under center and manage any given game.
- Considered a starter-in-the-making-type quarterback with all the right developmental tools.
- Efficient passer and excellent check down passer who knows how to get out of coverage trouble.
- Has been known for spotty inconsistency due to questionable passing decisions.
- Not starter-ready material which has “hurt” his overall draft stock.
- Won’t “wow” anyone with his physical skills, but makes up for it in intelligence.
- Needs to show he can acclimate to the pro level and cut down on interceptions.
- Needs to work on his mechanics to prevent “slowing” on his delivery.
Initial Fantasy Analysis: There is a growing consensus that Stanzi could wind up in Minnesota—hopefully I had a hand in this trend since I’ve been talking about him as a potential Viking draft pick for a month now—which would work out really well for him…down the road.
I wouldn’t expect much out of Stanzi in his first year, but that doesn’t really matter. If you are looking for a keeper quarterback for your own fantasy football future, this is one guy who will come at a huge value simply because he will be treated similarly in fantasy football drafts as in real-time drafts: As the forgotten one.
Make sure you give a hard look at him, and to be honest, I would take Stanzi over Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and even Jake Locker. But not TCU’s Andy Dalton, he’s one of the best QBs in the draft right now.