Day One is for show, Day Two is for the building blocks... and almost two-thirds of the draft takes place on Day Three. These players don’t receive the hype of those drafted before them, but there’s plenty of talent to be found. Here’s a look at five players who landed in favorable situations and could surprise those who base their dynasty rookie draft off only the first three rounds.
ROY HELU, RB, REDSKINS (4.8)
Any fantasy football owner worth his or her salt knows the drill on Mike Shanahan running backs, especially those drafted in the later rounds. So when Shanny trades up in the fourth round to add a back to his stable, you pay attention. Helu was ultra-productive at Nebraska, averaging almost six yards per carry for his career and a gaudy 6.6 ypc as a senior. He’s a home-run hitter with good size (5-11, 216) and breakaway speed; he also has good vision and is quick to the hole, hallmarks of a successful back in Shanahan’s offense. A quality receiver as well, Helu should at minimum supplant Keiland Williams as the Redskins’ third down back. And then of course there’s the upside of him taking over 20-plus carries a game--at least until Shanny has his next whim.
DELONE CARTER, RB, COLTS (4.22)
Despite spending two first-round picks in the past five years on running backs, Indy has finished in the bottom four in the league in rushing each of the past three seasons; Joseph Addai has struggled to stay healthy and Donald Brown has just plain struggled. Last season five different backs took turns being the Colts’ primary back, including undrafted rookie Javarris James, sixth-round pick Mike Hart, and veteran Dominic Rhodes. In other words, there’s an opportunity here for a productive, experienced back who’s drawn comparisons to Ray Rice. One of his strengths is his pass protection, which should immediately endear him to Peyton Manning; he’s also an adept pass catcher as well. His burst, balance and vision make him an ideal fit for the stretch plays that are a staple of the Indy offense. There’s definitely an opportunity; “They said the door is open for me,” Carter told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “But goals are set high, and they look to win.”
GREG SALAS, WR, RAMS (4.15)
The Rams continue their hunt for wide receivers, and if/when training camp opens they’ll have a plethora of warm bodies competing for roles; throw Salas’ hat in the ring as well. But the real opportunity for Salas will come because he projects to be a No. 2/possession receiver—a role that St. Louis doesn’t appear to have a true candidate for. Mark Clayton should be the No. 1 if he re-signs, Donnie Avery (if healthy) and Austin Pettis will battle for the speed role and Danny Amendola should hold down the slot (though Salas would be a fit there as well if needed). That leaves Salas to compete with the inconsistent Brandon Gibson and the oft-injured tandem of Laurent Robinson and Danario Alexander. Given Salas’ productivity—285 career receptions for 4,345 yards and 26 touchdowns—polish, and route running he won’t be all that far behind the competition when it finally kicks off. Imagine how happy Sam Bradford would be with a reliable target—and how productive Salas would be in that role.
JEREMY KERLEY, WR, JETS (5.22)
The Jets entered the draft with potentially a very large need at wide receiver, but they didn’t add a receiver to their roster until taking Kerley 153 picks in. The return of both Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards is unlikely, and versatile Brad Smith is also a free agent. Kerley has the versatility to replace Smith in the slot and the return game; he also hast the speed and playmaking ability to perhaps step in for Holmes should the Jets be unable to retain his services. At minimum he’ll bring a vertical threat to the Jets, either to complement or ultimately replace Holmes. That’s a role no one who’s currently guaranteed to be on the Jets’ 2011 roster can fill.
JULIUS THOMAS, TE, BRONCOS (4.32)
It’s not like John Fox’s teams have been a hotbead of tight end productivity; then again, what do you expect to get out of Dante Rosario, Jeff King, and Gary Barnidge? Thomas is the latest athletic ex-basketball player looking to make the transition to football, and after seeing what Jimmy Graham did with the Saints last season it appears the Broncos are looking for lightning to strike twice. There’s very little blocking Thomas’ path to playing time, and if Tim Tebow moves into the starting lineup he’s the kind of inexperienced quarterback who would lean heavily on his tight end as a crutch. Thomas is still raw, but the situations Denver will put him in will allow him to capitalize on his athletic advantage—mismatches that should result in productivity.