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15 intriguing fantasy football options for 2018

Giants quarterback Eli Manning

With NFL training camps in full swing and the preseason games just around the corner, fantasy football is a hot topic on social media and around the football world.

Soon enough, it will be time for the mock drafts to conclude and proceed with choosing players for real.

Obviously, guys like Antonio Brown, Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott will go flying off draft boards quicker than free food would at a buffet. But once all the top-tier players are gone, things start to get tricky. With that said, here are 15 intriguing fantasy options who offer value as later-round picks.

James White, running back, New England Patriots

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and New England Patriots running back James Whilte

It’s a mad science when it comes to Patriots running backs and figuring out how head coach Bill Belichick plans to utilize them. Though, White is a safe fantasy option in formats that reward points for catches. He stands to be the lead pass-catching back with Dion Lewis departed. Even playing with Lewis last year, White tallied 56 receptions for 429 yards and three touchdowns. Despite a crowded backfield, look for quarterback Tom Brady to keep him highly involved in this aspect of the game.

George Kittle, tight end, San Francisco 49ers

Kittle had an inspiring rookie season, catching 68.3 percent of his 63 targets for 515 yards and two touchdowns. Let’s keep in mind also that Kittle ended 2017 with a bang, tallying 100 yards on four catches in the season finale. Entering 2018, he will benefit tremendously with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo under center in Week 1. Those who wait to target a tight end in the later rounds should keep Kittle on their radar.  He has plenty of upside on one of the league’s up-and-coming offenses.

Kenny Stills, wide receiver, Miami Dolphins

Getting quarterback Ryan Tannehill back should be huge for Stills’ outlook. Stills meshed extremely well with Tannehill under center for a majority of the 2016 season. He averaged 17.3 yards per catch and scored a career-best nine touchdowns. This year, without Jarvis Landry stealing all the targets, Stills could emerge as Tannehill’s favorite guy. Yes, that includes DeVante Parker and the recently signed Danny Amendola.

Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Baltimore Ravens

For those fantasy enthusiasts who like to live on the edge, why not take a later-round flyer on Jackson? He is not starting material — yet —  but he is worth a stash spot on a deep roster. The Ravens will utilize him in various ways, keeping quarterback Joe Flacco on a very tight leash. If the offense flounders, Jackson’s name will be called. The young rookie is already garnering praises after being filmed throwing this dime in training camp (watch here.)

Ryan Grant, wide receiver, Indianapolis Colts

At this point, we will assume Grant will be catching passes from quarterback Andrew Luck, who is seemingly 100 percent healthy. Grant makes for a serviceable addition to play opposite of T.Y. Hilton, who often warrants double coverage. Grant recorded career-highs with 45 receptions, 573 yards and four touchdowns with Washington last season. The Colts signed Grant to a one-year, prove-it deal, so he will be trying his best to keep his NFL career on track. He’s worth observing in training camp.

Corey Davis, wide receiver, Tennessee Titans

Davis had a dud of a rookie season after being drafted fifth overall in 2017. He caught a measly 34 balls for 375 yards and failed to score a touchdown. But, forget about that and soak in how well Davis performed in AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. Davis recorded the team’s two lone touchdowns and racked up 63 yards on his five catches. This is the performance fantasy owners should hang their hats on. Hopefully, quarterback Marcus Mariota will hold up his end of the bargain.

Ronald Jones, running back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It should not take long before Jones emerges as the back the Bucs lean on once the season gets underway. The Buccaneers selected the former USC product 38th overall after he rushed for 1,550 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2017. Veteran Jacquizz Rodgers has scored only three times in his two seasons in Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, Charles Sims will remain the Bucs’ pass-catching back. It is anticipated that Jones will receive 15-20 touches per game, which puts him in RB2 range.

Will Fuller, wide receiver, Houston Texans

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and receiver Will Fuller

When it comes to the best play maker on the Texans’ offense, DeAndre Hopkins is the first name that comes to mind. But, Fuller deserves some serious consideration as a mid-round pick entering 2018. He is expected to receive a larger role this season according to the Texans’ wide receivers coach. This would mean more than the 50 targets he received in his 10 games last year.

It is also worth noting Fuller scored seven times in his limited snaps on the field. Look for the chemistry to continue to build between he and quarterback Deshaun Watson during training camp.

C.J. Anderson, running back, Carolina Panthers

The Panthers moved on from Jonathan Stewart only to replace him with the younger Anderson. Even with Christian McCaffrey there gobbling up receptions, Anderson stands to lead the Panthers in rushing yards. He arrives in Carolina after tallying a personal-best 1,007 rushing yards with the Denver Broncos in 2017.

It would be reasonable to expect that Anderson receives the same or possibly slightly more than the 13.2 carries Stewart averaged last season. The goal-line work Anderson will see and potential to score makes him a flex in deeper formats.

Ben Watson, tight end, New Orleans Saints

Watson’s fantasy value is of course tied to him remaining healthy this fall. Provided he stays on the field, Watson could be quite the fantasy gem. When he last played for the Saints in 2015, Watson averaged nearly seven targets per game. This resulted in 825 yards and six touchdowns on the season. We could easily see quarterback Drew Brees rekindling his connection with Watson. Though, it’s Watson’s age (37) that causes him to fall in drafts. He’s a perfect late-round snag who offers a high ceiling.

Matt Breida, running back, San Francisco 49ers

Breida recorded 645 total yards and three touchdowns behind Carlos Hyde as a rookie last season. He will still continue to be the No. 2 guy in San Francisco, but might be up for a slightly larger workload this season.

The 49ers signed Jerick McKinnon, who does not exactly possess three-down back skills. He’s great as a pass-catcher, but could lose some late-down carries and goal-line work to Breida. This makes Breida a flex-worthy pick working in a Kyle Shanahan system inclined to utilize a running back committee.

Eli Manning, quarterback, New York Giants

Giants quarterback Eli Manning

Don’t laugh. Manning is poised to have a much better season than fans witnessed last year. Because of his lackluster 2017 campaign, Manning can be had on the dirtcheap in fantasy football.

Keep in mind, Manning gets Odell Beckham Jr. back, which is a game-changer in and of itself. OBJ, Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram should keep Manning fantasy-relevant this fall. Improvements to the Giants’ offensive line and the selection of rookie running back Saquon Barkley will only help keep Manning in check this year.

Chris Thompson, running back, Washington Redskins

A gadgety player, Thompson should be on course to play a prominent role in the Redskins’ passing game. Prior to his injury last year, Thompson recorded 39 catches for 510 yards and had four receiving touchdowns. He also added two rushing touchdowns. Even though the Redskins drafted Derrius Guice, who looks to earn the bell-cow role, Thompson’s touches should keep consistent.

Jordan Lasley, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens

Lasley is worth a glance in very deep leagues. This comes after the UCLA product recorded 69 catches for 1,264 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017. That equated to a lofty 18.3 yards per reception.

Entering 2018, Lasley will be looking to carve out a name for himself among several other receivers ahead of him on the depth chart. These receivers include the likes of Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, John Brown and Breshad Perriman. Outside of Crabtree, the latter three are hardly a trustworthy bunch, making Lasley an intriguing dark horse fantasy option.

Jordy Nelson, wide receiver, Oakland Raiders

Coming from a terribly disappointing 2017 campaign, Nelson’s fantasy value has sunk about as fast as an anchor thrown overboard. This means he can be obtained ridiculously late in drafts.

The Raiders would not have swooped in on Nelson if they felt he was washed up. It was only two seasons ago that Nelson recorded 97 receptions for 1,257 yards and scored a league-high 14 touchdowns. Remember, Nelson was stuck working with second-stringer Brett Hundely in Green Bay for the majority of last season.