The last four or five rounds of a draft can be stressful for a novice fantasy owner. You’ve already crossed out 75% of the players on your cheat sheet. What’s left is a hodgepodge of second, third and fourth string players—most of them with names you may not even recognize.
Your first inclination will probably be to identify a familiar name. Someone that you may have had on your roster a couple years ago. A player who had a three-touchdown game back in 2001. A QB who made it to the Pro Bowl a couple times in the 1990s. Or maybe a guy who everyone else has passed on because he’s suspended or injured for the first part of the season.
Although you might consider this tactic the “safe” play, in reality you’ll likely just be wasting a draft pick. The reason is that most of the players whose names you recognize late in the draft have gone un-drafted for a reason. They’ve had their opportunity and that opportunity has passed because they’re old or injured, washed up or drugged up, has-beens or never-will-bes.
When you exhaust a roster spot on a player of this ilk you’re bypassing the opportunity to pick the next Marques Colston or Maurice Jones-Drew.
From your kicker to your fifth wide receiver, every pick you make may prove to be the one that wins you your division—or loses it. Treat the final rounds of your draft with respect. And don’t waste picks by selecting any members of the following motley crew.
1. Michael Vick, QB, Falcons
Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of being the leader of a dog fighting ring. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told him not to report to training camp. That mandate will likely be extended, as Vick is reportedly going to be suspended for the year. Cross him off your player rankings. He won’t contribute in 2007 and may never play in the NFL again.
2. Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins
Last time we saw Williams he was playing in the Canadian league, where his season was shortened because of a broken arm. He tested positive for marijuana (again) in April, but is eligible to apply for re-instatement this September. With Goodell’s hard-line stance on repeat offenders, it’s a long shot that we’ll see him back in uniform this season. Even if he does get the green light, his impact figures to be minimal.
3. Michael Clayton, WR, Buccaneers
In 2004, Clayton became one of the NFL’s most productive rookie wide receivers ever, catching 80 passes for 1,193 yards. Since then his career has been derailed. Last year, things got so bad he was actually out-produced by Ike Hilliard. A comeback is unlikely. Word is he’s been passed on the depth chart by Maurice Stovall and David Boston. He may not even make the roster.
4. Steve McNair, QB, Ravens
McNair’s name still has a lot of clout and many fantasy owners are compelled to give him a look late in their drafts. Don’t be one of them. McNair is on the downside of his career and hasn’t thrown for 20+ touchdowns in four seasons. If you think he’ll make up for passing futility with rushing yards, you’re wrong. He didn’t once rush for over 30 yards in a game last season.
5. Chris Henry, WR, Bengals
Though incredibly productive when he’s on the field, Henry isn’t just a waste of a roster spot. He’s a waste of air. Henry’s run-ins with the law are legendary. He’s been suspended for eight games, making him eligible to return in Week 10. That’s assuming he meets all of the conditions of his suspension. Realistically he won’t make an impact until Week 11 or 12, if at all. Look to pick him off your waiver wire a couple weeks before he’s set to return.
6. Koren Robinson, WR, Packers
Ditto for Robinson, who is in the midst of serving a one-year suspension. Robinson is eligible to return September 18 at the earliest. While that’s much earlier than Henry, the bottom line is K-Rob will have missed all of training camp. He will likely become a contributor on special teams right away, but have a minimal impact in the passing game. Remember Robinson for a potential waiver wire pickup, but don’t waste a pick on him.
7. Priest Holmes, RB, Chiefs
One of the bigger stories of the preseason has been Holmes’ surprising comeback attempt. His career came to an abrupt halt after he took a punishing hit from Shawne Merriman. Doctors later diagnosed Holmes with a spinal injury. He has apparently been given clearance to play again, but at 34 years of age Holmes is well past his prime. He’ll likely never take the field again as a Kansas City Chief during a game. Deny yourself the novelty of having Holmes on your roster and look for a younger back with more upside.
8. Troy Williamson, WR, Vikings
Yes, Williamson is entering his third year. It’s the time when receivers are most likely to break out. Put that theory aside and realize that Williamson plays in possibly the worst passing offense in the NFL. Whether it’s Tarvaris Jackson or Brooks Bollinger throwing the ball, Williamson is unlikely to catch more than 40 passes this season. You can do better with your final WR pick.
9. Rod Smith, WR, Broncos
Smith had hip surgery in February. At his age, there’s no guarantee that the joint will ever heal enough to return to the field. Even if he does manage to suit up again (and he hasn’t been participating in training camp), the Broncos aren’t likely to hold his place in the starting lineup. If you want a veteran WR on your roster, look elsewhere.
10. Daunte Culpepper, QB, Raiders
From a fantasy perspective, Culpepper has had two of the most productive seasons in NFL history. So when you’re ready to wrap up your draft, it might be tempting to snag him as your second QB. I wouldn’t advise it. Culpepper is still not fully recovered from his knee injury. The Raiders offensive line is still awful. And the team will want to get rookie JeMarcus Russell on the field sooner rather than later.
11. Ashley Lelie, WR, 49ers
A problem child ever since he came into the league, Lelie was dealt from Denver to Atlanta last season. The change of scenery didn’t help much. He had just 28 receptions. Now he’s with yet another team, the 49ers. True, they’re thin at the WR position, but even if he beats out Arnaz Battle for a starting spot opposite Darrell Jackson, Lelie won’t get you enough production to merit a draft pick.
12. Reggie Williams, WR, Jaguars
Williams began the 2006 season with an outstanding four-game stretch but faded quickly. The Jags spend the offseason revamping their receiving corps. Now Williams has slid down the depth chart and risks getting cut. With Byron Leftwich still at the helm, I have little faith that that Jaguars passing game will come around this season. Williams is a liability.
13. Chris Perry, RB, Bengals
After an impressive rookie season, many fantasy experts speculated that Chris Perry would steal carries from Rudi Johnson or even take his job. That hasn’t happened. Perry’s career has been riddled with injuries. He’s currently on the physically unable to perform list. Yet many fantasy owners continue to hold a place in their hearts for Perry. Don’t be one of them. Perry’s window of opportunity has pretty much closed. If you want the Bengals backup RB, draft Kenny Watson.
14. Mewelde Moore, RB, Vikings
Like Perry, Mewelde Moore is another player whose name gets kicked around with some regularity. Moore made a name for himself a few years ago when he filled in for an injured Michael Bennett and had some big games. But with the drafting of Adrian Peterson, Moore’s value is nil. He just won’t get enough touches—even in the passing game.
15. Musa Smith, RB, Ravens
Smith was a trendy pick last year. He had an outstanding 2006 preseason and many thought he’d see lots of touches with Jamal Lewis fading. The team ended up sticking with Lewis, and Smith carried the ball just 36 times. It’s clear the Ravens don’t view him as anything more than a situational player. Mike Anderson is likely the best handcuff to starter Willis McGahee.
16. Bubba Franks, TE, Packers
Franks used to be good for 5-6 touchdowns per year. But he’s had two terrible years in a row and is no longer a lock to be the Packers starting TE. Let someone else waste a roster spot on this washed up has been.
17. Jerramy Stevens, TE, Buccaneers
The big question with Stevens is whether his head or his hands are made of denser stone. If he’s not dropping passes, he’s running his mouth and getting into trouble. A change of scenery isn’t likely to do him much good. Tampa hasn’t produced a reliable TE, well, ever.
18. Sebastian Janikowski, PK, Raiders
Janikowski is the drinking man’s kicker. He’s the John Daly of football. When the final round of your draft comes, you might be tempted to blurt out “Janikowski” just to earn yourself one last round of chuckles from your league mates, but I urge you to refrain. Get yourself a kicker from a team that will score 20 points per game.
19. Tampa Bay, D/ST, Buccaneers
The glory days of the Tampa defense are long gone. Age, injuries and free agency have sapped this team of any value they had. The Buccaneers are merely average in every key defensive category that is rewarded with fantasy points. They are no longer worthy of a draft pick unless you play in a league with 14 or more teams . . . even then I’d look elsewhere.
20. Antwaan Randle El, WR, Redskins
The Redskins have made a lot of boneheaded free agent signings, but Antwaan Randle El might be the worst of the worst. Dan Snyder ponied up $31 million for Randle El with $11.5 million guaranteed. There’s no doubt that he’s a tremendous athlete and incredibly versatile. But even while he was with Pittsburgh, he didn’t produce consistently enough to be a fantasy contributor. That hasn’t changed in Washington and likely won’t.