Chasing upside: three fantasy players worth reaching for (part I)

Will Martavis Bryant bounce-back to 2015 form? (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Scrounging for value is a key component of the fantasy draft process. But sometimes you just need to get your guy, even if it means overpaying. After copious amounts of drafting (mock and otherwise), I’ve compiled a list of six players with intriguing upside and/or high volume potential. The first three are below. They’re my must-haves… ADP be damned!

Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP 64.94 , WR24)
The NFL’s refusal to clear Bryant for practice until he’s fully reinstated is the best thing that could happen to his draft stock. I hope it scares the nervous nellies away. Perhaps my love for Bryant is irrational, but I believe in aliens… especially ones who line up opposite Antonio Brown, work on an offense that averaged the seventh most passing yards per game last year (and the fourth most in 2015), and boast a catch radius in the ninety-fourth percentile.

Two season ago, Bryant emerged as a legit weapon in the red area of the field, posting a hog rate of over 19 percent and averaging 1.2 red zone looks per contest. Hauling in seven scores in eleven games, Bryant produced top-nineteen fantasy numbers in five of his last ten outings. That number could have been more impressive, had the 6-foot-4 and 211 pound speedster not acted like a punk, angered his QB, and, as a result, had his targets syphoned off to the painfully underwhelming Markus Wheaton.

So has Bryant changed? Or are fantasy managers looking for trouble when selecting the Clemson product? I’m willing to overlook the red flags in favor of upside. While the summer is often the season of hyperbole, Bryant’s recommitment to football appears legit. From being talked up by Ben Roethlisberger to adding 10 pounds of muscle to welcoming a son this past March, the 25-year-old, from all accounts, looks to be a changed man. Or, at least, changed enough to avoid a third suspension. FF: 66-1,020-10

Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins (ADP 78.08, WR27)
Despite being a top-thirty fantasy asset in STANDARD scoring leagues last year, Crowder is often dismissed as just a “PPR guy.” That’s bananas. In 2016, he caught the most TDs of any player on the Redskins. Heck, he tied the team’s RB1 for total number of scores. Racking up a 67-847-7 stat line, Crowder was third in total team targets (99) behind Pierre Garcon (114) and DeSean Jackson (100). With both Garcon and DJax off the squad and Jordan Reed already banged up, Crowder is looking at a 100+ catch season.

While Crowder spent nearly 56 percent of his snaps in the slot last season, he’s expected to move outside this go-around, lining up opposite Terrelle Pryor in two-wide sets. That means more opportunities for the long-armed receiver. Of course Pryor and Josh Doctson will be in the mix, but Crowder’s rapport with Cousins is unmatched. Plus, John Gruden can’t stop talking him up, noting everything from his “quickness” to his “jumping ability.” All signs point to a break-out campaign for the “undersized” dynamo. FF: 101-1,212-5

Danny Woodhead, RB, Baltimore Ravens (ADP 102.13, RB35)
I had Woodhead ranked inside my top-thirty players at the position before Kenneth Dixon tore his meniscus. With the younger back out for the season, the veteran dynamo is a sure-fire RB2. A hybrid player who notched 80 catches in 2015, Woodhead will have a prominent role in the Ravens offense. Last year Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Dennis Pitta, and Kyle Juszczyk combined for 306 targets. With all four of those payers missing from the 2017 receiving corps, Woodhead could lead all pass-catchers in looks.

Compared to Ray Rice by Joe Flacco and tirelessly used as a receiver during minicamp, Woodhead is assimilating into his new offense brilliantly. It’s a good thing too, because in 2016 Baltimore’s trio of backs (Dixon, West, and Juszczyk) were targeted 122 times in the passing game. Even after pass-happy Marc Trestman was fired, Marty Mornhinweg continued to utilize the Ravens backfield via the air. In fact, the trio averaged 1.25 more targets per game from Weeks 5 through 17 under “Air Marty.” As long as the 32-year-old can stay healthy, he’s gonna eat in Charm City. FF: 89-356-2 (rushing), 65-563-5 (receiving)

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