2016 fantasy football draft bargain candidates


There aren't many things that compare to feeling like you've gotten your money's worth for making a smart purchase. Similarly, it's the hallmark of a solid fantasy football manager to be able to find players who will outperform their draft value. Of course it always helps to know where to look. In that vein, we offer up 10 players who could exceed their fantasy draft value in 2016.

Tavon Austin, WR, Los Angeles Rams

I know, right? I've been critical in the past about Austin from a fantasy perspective. But much of that has centered on the Rams inability to find a defined role for the multi-talented Austin. Yet in 2015 it appeared that the team had figured a few things out. Austin didn't dazzle as a wide receiver with just 434 yards, but he bolstered that with 473 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns. With defenses likely to spend so much time focused on stopping Todd Gurley, Austin could play a critical role in the Rams offense. The good news is that after several lackluster seasons, the expectations for Austin are low. Don't look for big receiving totals, but if his overall scrimmage yard can approach 1,000 and he can continue to score touchdowns at a reasonable rate, you could wind up with a mid- to late-round steal.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington

DeSean Jackson is that player that you continually stare at on your draft board and wrestle with when (or if) you should draft him. It's great when you get the 20-point games like he posted in Week 15 last season. But what also sticks in your craw are the myriad games where he fails to reach double-digits at all -- which he did four times in eight contests. But when Jackson is right, he boasts the potential to be a top 10-15 receiver. Getting a fringe WR1 with an eighth round pick? Yes please.

Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots

Lewis was earning a reputation as "The Man Who Slayed Belitricks" until a knee injury cut his season short. Now that Lewis is back for 2016, we expect to see the same dynamic dual-threat player who was adding some much-needed clarity to the Patriots backfield. As with most players who have suffered season-ending knee injuries, plenty of fantasy enthusiasts will look at Lewis with a tinge of fear. Be brave, dear drafter! The ACL tear is not the reason for dread it once was, yet it's still pushed Lewis down the board farther than where he'd likely have been without it. Feel free to scoop him up in the fourth round and know that you could have a RB1 on your hands, especially in PPR leagues.

Julius Thomas, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars

Last season was not a great one for Thomas. He began the year with a hand injury that kept him out of action at the start of the season. Once he returned, he was continually playing catch-up with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, who had built a nice rapport with Blake Bortles. But all that belies the fact that Thomas was having a solid training camp and has spent this offseason trying to built a relationship with his quarterback. The bad taste Thomas left in a lot of mouths last year has him being drafted as a low-end TE1. Yet, if the Jags offense does what is expected of them, Thomas could end up ranking much higher in the stat sheets.

Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Floyd has teased us with his potential for the past several years, but we finally saw it at the end of last season. The Notre Dame product tallied seven double-digit fantasy performances in his final 10 contests and appeared ready to take the mantle of No. 1 receiver from Larry Fitzgerald. This season Fitzgerald is a year older and John Brown remains undersized. With his combination of size and speed, Floyd could become Carson Palmer's favorite target and a bona fide WR1 for fantasy managers.

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants

If you're part of the "wait on a quarterback" crowd, then Eli Manning might just be your guy. While he doesn't exactly move the excitement meter (unless you just get an unending kick out of "Manning Face"), Manning is usually hanging around the top 10 scoring quarterbacks every year. Last season, he accomplished the feat while having little more than Odell Beckham Jr. as a fearsome receiving threat. This year, Manning and Beckham should have some added help in rookie Sterling Shepard. Fantasy drafters still tend to look down their noses at Eli. Let 'em. Just wait until the double-digit rounds and snag yourself a quality starting quarterback.

Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Wheaton's breakout was predicted a couple of years ago. Then Martavis Bryant appeared on the scene ... and that was that for Wheaton. But the tables have turned. Bryant will miss the 2016 season (suspension) and Wheaton will once again have the chance to pick up targets in what is arguably the most potent passing game in the NFL. There will be some competition for targets with free agent pickup Ladarius Green, but Wheaton possesses the speed and playmaking ability to make a big impact. Draft Wheaton as a fourth receiver and you could get WR3 production.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

One of the biggest questions this offseason is what the Falcons backfield is going to look like in 2016. Devonta Freeman took over the gig after an injury to Coleman and turned out to be fantasy gold. But he faded down the stretch, leading many to wonder if Atlanta would put him in a timeshare this season. There's also the matter of Coleman being hand selected by the current coaching staff and being a favorite of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. For now, it's fair to imagine Freeman remaining the Dirty Birds' lead back but Coleman could make this more of a platoon than once thought. And if Freeman goes down with an injury, Coleman is next in line for a big workload.

Travis Benjamin, WR, San Diego Chargers

The Chargers might want to commit to running the ball more in 2016, but ... well, we've seen that movie before. If this offense once again struggles, Philip Rivers will have to go to the air. Enter Benjamin, who ostensibly takes over San Diego's No. 2 receiver role after the retirement of Malcom Floyd and picks up the torch as the team's deep threat opposite Keenan Allen. The upside for Benjamin is that while Rivers and Antonio Gates still have one of the league's best bromances, there's only so much the veteran tight end can be asked to handle in his age-36 season. Benjamin will linger on the board until the late rounds, but could be a nice matchup-based pick-me-up for your fantasy roster.

Theo Riddick, RB, Detroit Lions

The Ameer Abdullah hype train is starting to pick up steam again, which only helps make Riddick more of a bargain. It's certainly believable that Abdullah takes a step forward this season, but don't forget that Riddick was actually the more productive fantasy back last season. With Jim Bob Cooter's offense emphasizing more short throws -- and without Calvin Johnson to stretch the field -- it could mean Riddick sees a few more targets this year. His value will be greater in PPR leagues than standard leagues, but considering how late you'll be able to get him, you might not mind having him in any format.

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Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.