Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Bargain is a relative term. You can get a bargain in the first round or in the second round, but most of the "real" bargains and sleepers, come later on in the draft or even after the selection process during waiver claims.
The No.1 fantasy running back in 2010, Arian Foster of Houston, began last summer as a 12th-round selection (ADP 144 according to a July, 2010 fantasyfootballcalculator.com ranking). All he did was rush for a league- leading 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns and catch 66 balls for 604 more yards and two scores. He finished the year with an NFL-high 356 fantasy points, 60 more than runner-up Michael Vick.
Vick was also a huge bargain after beginning the season as a backup to Eagles starter Kevin Kolb. He was primarily a "handcuff' selection in 2010, or in many cases not picked at all and became the No.1 waiver claim after Week 1 following Kolb's concussion in a game against the Green Bay Packers.
At the wideout position, three Denver Broncos receivers were selected in most 2010 fantasy drafts - Eddie Royal (ADP 108), rookie Demaryius Thomas (109) and Jabar Gaffney (151). Of course, as any fantasy owner will tell you, none of the three was the star receiver in Mile High last season - that belonged to journeyman Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd came out of nowhere to lead the league in receiving yards (1,448) and added in 11 touchdowns - well above his previous career highs set a few years ago in San Francisco. Lloyd's opening day five catch, 117-yard game got him some free agent attention after Week 1, but it was his 6-169-1 game in Week 3 against the Colts that got him picked up in every league. The Broncos wideout finished with 259 fantasy points, second best among receivers and 10th overall.
These are just three examples of bargain selections or free agent pickups who excelled in 2010.
The point here is, while most fantasy owners will get solid players early in the draft, it's the guys who pay attention in the later rounds and after the draft that get the best value for their buck.
The question, then, is who could be the best bargains of 2011? Below are 10 players who should be targeted for later rounds of your draft.
Matt Cassel, Kansas City (fantasyfootballnerd.com ranking 105) - When Cassel first came to the Chiefs after a great year substituting for the injured Tom Brady in New England (2008) he struggled with the new offense and lesser talent. That wasn't the case last season as he quietly put together a solid season without much attention from fantasy owners. Check out his improved 27:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In the past two seasons the team has added Steve Breaston, rookie Jonathan Baldwin, Dexter McCluster and improved the offensive line. As a ninth-round selection, he could have excellent value.
Kyle Orton, Denver (131) - New Denver head coach John Fox is a conservative guy by nature and while much attention has been centered around Tim Tebow, Orton is more his kind of guy. Orton is a better passer than Tebow and can manage Fox's offense a la Jake Delhomme did for him in Carolina. Orton has plenty of weapons and will be successful as an 11th-round selection.
LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (27) - Starting just seven games in 2010, Blount finished the season in a hurry rushing for 511 yards and two scores over the final five games. Blount, who before the season was most well-known for a fighting incident in college, was likely a free-agent pickup in most leagues and paid huge dividends. He'll still pay dividends in the conservative Bucs' offense. Note - he's less of a bargain in PPR leagues as he's not very good out of the backfield.
Chris "Beanie" Wells, Arizona (63) - Two weeks ago I wanted nothing to do with Wells. Since then, however, his competition for carries disappeared as Ryan Williams' season ended prematurely (torn patellar tendon). With Wells' backup being unknown Alfonso Smith, Wells will clearly be a "workhorse" in 2011 and easily worthy of a sixth-round selection.
Willis McGahee, Denver (135) - At worst, he'll be the same red zone runner he was in Baltimore behind Ray Rice. But this year, he's backing up the injury- prone and frequently ineffective Knowshon Moreno which makes his upside more fantasy friendly. He could start as many as eight games this year and give you sixth-round value from a 14th-round pick.
Mario Manningham, New York Giants (66) - Manningham filled in admirably when Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks were injured last season, but Smith's signing with the Philadelphia Eagles opens up a spot for Manningham to start every week. Nicks should draw the No.1 defender every time which will leave Manningham the opportunity to shine. The former Michigan Wolverine did just that at the end of last season with three consecutive 100+ yard days. He'll finish the year with third-round value but is currently being selected in the sixth round.
Greg Little, Cleveland (157) - The Browns have been desperate for a receiver since Braylon Edwards left town in 2008. They may have finally found one in rookie Greg Little. At 6'3" and 230 lbs, Little is big enough to go over the middle and possesses the speed to be the team's deep threat. He's a smaller version of Terrell Owens, hopefully, without the TV star aspirations. You can't go wrong if you pick him in the 13th round.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh (173) - Sanders has the hands to eventually replace veteran Hines Ward. Though we don't know about Sanders' dancing ability, we do know that he is faster than Ward and just starting to gain the confidence of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. His current foot injury has left him struggling for the No.3 role with Antonio brown and Jerricho Cotchery, but he'll eventually win that battle and improve upon last year's 28-376-2 totals.
Owen Daniels, Houston (87) - The tight end position is filled with talented players this year, so forcing an early pick on guys like Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark or Vernon Davis isn't necessary. When healthy, Daniels is quarterback Matt Schaub's No.2 target behind Andre Johnson. He was slowed by a knee injury last year, but he started to shine over the final four games of 2010 - posting 22 receptions for 271 yards and two scores. As an eighth-round pick, he'll be a bargain.
Jared Cook, Tennessee (171) - This is the year that Cook comes out of the shadows and becomes a top-10 tight end. He displayed a bit of his talent at the end of 2010, with 12 catches for 154 yards in the team's final two games. With Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, the tight end position should shine. Hasselbeck brought out John Carlson's best in Seattle and he'll do the same with Cook in Tennessee. Cook will be the best player picked in the 15th round.